“Conformity to social expectations, gender stereotypes, gender roles and lack of role models continue to channel girls’ career choices away from STEM fields,” said psychology professor Martin Bauer of the London School of Economics, who helped coordinate the survey of 11,500 girls across 12 European countries. from CNN
I’m a big fan of picture books with STEM concepts whether it’s a picture book biography, narrative non-fiction, lift-the-flap with facts, or about a science concept. These books can also spark an interest in STEM subjects at an early age.
A new study commissioned by Microsoft found that young girls in Europe become interested in STEM subjects at around the age of 11 only to lose interest by the time that they are 15. “The survey also found that girls’ interest in humanities subjects drops around the same age but then rebound sharply. Interest in STEM subjects does not recover.” from CNN
“Microsoft admitted it doesn’t have a comprehensive explanation for why 15-year-old girls lose interest in science and math. But it has uncovered some strategies to keep them engaged:
Promote female role models in STEM subjects: It’s much easier for girls to imagine a career in STEM subjects if they see successful examples.
Microsoft also found that girls are more likely to pursue a career in this area if they think men and women will be treated equally in the workforce.
“Perceived inequality [in the workplace] is actually putting them off further STEM studies and careers,” Microsoft said.
Six in 10 girls admitted they’d feel more confident pursuing a STEM career if they knew men and women were already equally employed in these fields.
Offer hands-on STEM exercises: These experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, can bring the subject to life. About four in 10 girls say they don’t get enough practical experience.
Microsoft said it’s also important to show girls how the material can be applied in real-life situations, giving the topics more relevance in their lives.
More mentors: Having teachers who mentor and encourage girls in these subjects can have even more of an impact than parent encouragement.
It also helps if this teacher is female.”
As parents and educators, our work is clear. Let’s support women and girls in STEM!
New STEM Picture Books
Hello, Bear!: Full of Flaps and Facts! by Sam Boughton
This engaging board book series uses friendly illustrations coupled with loads of animal facts to introduce young children to animal species. The flaps are the icing on the cake to draw kids in! Hello, Bear! introduces the animals in a forest. [board book, ages 2 and up]
Hello, Whale!: Full of Flaps and Facts! by Sam Boughton
The fun continues in this introduction to the creatures that inhabit the ocean. Young kids might recognize octopi, seals, whales, seahorses, jellyfish, lobsters, and more! Interesting facts permeate this lively board book with comparisons that are sure to make an impression such as “a blue whale’s heart is the size of a small car!” [board book, ages 2 and up]
If You Take Away the Otter by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
I love everything about this picture book from the gorgeous watery illustrations to the compelling message of how delicate and interdependent ecosystems are. The story of the otters is also one of hope, demonstrating how it is possible to turn things around as in the case of the kelp forests on the Pacific Coast of North America when the otters became protected animals under law. In the endnotes, the book also notes the devasting impact of the international fur trade both on the otter population and the Indigenous Peoples of North America. This book helps illustrate the human impact on our environment and the consequences of that. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Grow: Seeds of Our DNA by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton
Nicola Davies breaks down how creatures grow in this introduction to DNA. She does a great job explaining that DNA is the biological alphabet that writes the genetic code to determine how things grow and develop. Read this book to a girl to get her interested in STEM subjects! [picture book, ages 5 and up]
You can use several of these books for a STEM unit on the ocean ecosystem: Hello, Whale!: Full of Flaps and Facts!, If You Take Away the Otter, and this book, Beneath the Waves! This book is a nonfiction text about the creatures in the ocean ecosystem from estuaries, sand dunes, salt marshes, and coastal habitats. You can also use this book for an ocean-themed art project. The illustrator uses hand-pressed seaweed and coastal plants to create stunning collage art creatures. [advanced picture book, ages 6 and up]
Nature’s Light Spectacular by Katy Flint, illustrated by Cornelia Li
For kids who like to look up at the sky and enjoy nature’s light shows, this book showcases all the upcoming events from double rainbows to super blood moons to the firefall in Yosemite, and more. The illustrations project this light activity with drama and energy. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Darwin’s Rival and the Search for Evolution by Christiane Dorion, illustrated by Harry Tennant
Most of us have heard of Charles Darwin and his theory on evolution, but we might not be aware of his contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace, who also developed the same idea of the survival of the fittest. While they were “rivals” in the same scientific field, Charles Darwin wrote to Wallace about how amicible they were were. It was in part, perhaps, to Wallace’s modest nature and less financially secure career. What I found most fascinating is how Wallace’s humble background helped him develp the tools that he needed to be a naturalist explorer. Working as a land surveryor and collecting and preserving nature from those expeditions sowed the seeds that would lead him all over the world.
Pair this book with Grow: Seeds of Our DNA as a way to discuss genetic mutation and Darwin’s theory of the evolution. [middle grade biography, ages 11 and up]
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.