Full Steam Ahead: Getting girls into science, technology, engineering, maths… and arts!

Today’s world is so full of acronyms, it can be hard to keep track of what’s what. In the educational world, STEM is pretty well-known these days – but one that we’re increasingly interested in is the newer alternative ‘STEAM’.

There’s no I in team, but there’s an A in STEAM!

There’s no denying the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as core parts of education, especially in this day and age of where the idea of what is possible seems to grow and change each and every day. However, there is a growing movement towards integration of a somewhat surprising subject – the arts!

The STEAM movement has been driven by a group of academics in the USA, with the Rhode Island School of Design’s staff and students at the heart of it. The crux of the idea is simple – creativity and innovation go hand in hand. So while it’s all well and good to cultivate a technical skill set across the STEM subjects, in order to truly allow innovation and new development to flourish in our young people, it’s important to allow those creative juices to flow too.

So what does this have to do with our girls?

The precise statistics differ depending on who you talk to and where the results are coming from, but according to a Go Science Girls article, women make up only 15–25% of the current STEM workforce… and at this point in time, that gap is only getting larger.

With STEM/STEAM-based jobs growing and growing with time, having a level playing field for young people of all genders is critical to ensure that everyone is set up to succeed. There’s also real truth to the idea of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. When the role models in the tech sector are predominantly white men, it’s little wonder that young women may struggle to see STEM-based careers as viable options.

So it’s all the more important to show all our young people the awesome opportunities that the tech sector (and beyond) can hold for them, and celebrate the examples of amazing women in STEAM – so that today’s young people can all feel equipped to succeed and be the next future-thinking superstars. Think… Steph Jobs, Ella Musk, Jess Bezos!

Getting girls engaged

There are some incredible organisations and individuals out there putting in the hard yards to get young women involved and enthusiastic about STEM and STEAM subjects. Dr Michelle Dickinson, AKA Nanogirl, has made waves with her hands-on approach to learning and discovery. A really interesting – and important – observation that she has made is the importance of understanding of science and engineering for all people, not just those with a specific interest:

“Even if you are not a scientist or an engineer, being able to understand their fundamental principles is important. There are many decisions that we each have to make each day which are based on scientific evidence or data. Medicines that doctors prescribe, the impacts of climate change and the importance of vaccinations are just a few of them, and being open to understanding how science is carried out will help you to gather important evidence to help you to make the right decision for your life.”

Another Kiwi making a massive impact for girls in STEAM is Alexia Hilbertidou, founder of GirlBoss. Alexia founded the organisation when she was 16, as a result seeing a real gender gap in her own technology and science focused classes. The GirlBoss mission is “to inspire, empower and equip New Zealand girls to develop their STEM, leadership and entrepreneurial skills in order to become the change makers of the future”. The organisation now has 8000 members in New Zealand, and it’s only growing from there! Alexia herself has been celebrated for her work, including being selected to participate in NASA’s Strategic Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia) project.

Taking flight

Alexia isn’t the only young women from New Zealand to have been rubbing shoulders with NASA. Later this year, Haka Educational Tours is sending a group of young women from Selwyn House School in Christchurch over to the USA for a dedicated STEAM tour.

Upon arrival in the USA, the girls will be headed to a six-day intensive experience at Space Camp Huntsville. This incredible experience will include everything from simulated space missions to critical problem solving development as well as exploration and discovery of the past, present and future of space travel. As well as being an unparalleled adventure into the world of STEAM learning, it’s an amazing team-building opportunities for the Selwyn House girls.

The next stop after Space Camp is Orlando, for a combination of further space-focused learning at Cape Kennedy and some serious Orlando-oriented fun: Walt Disney World Resort and ecological adventuring.

Bringing subjects to life in the wider world is something that we at Haka Educational Tours are incredibly passionate about – and we do truly believe that tours with us help create passionate, lifelong learners. If you’d like to talk about how we could bring STEAM to vibrant life for your girls, get in touch with us – the world is your oyster.

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