Last week during one of my classes that I teach at 212 STEAM Labs we began working on coding with Arduino. In this class I have students from grades 5-8. It is a small, but mighty class. We have two girls and three boys who are in this particular class. Last week I had something very powerful happen that I believe is worth sharing that goes beyond any infographic, trend data, or research that is often shared about women in STEM.
Since starting this nonprofit, 212 STEAM Labs, I have had several people who have provided amazing work, dedication, and energy to making this vision a reality.
During class last week I had a young woman who has been helping me write grants and find resources come to class. She wanted to check things out and see how classes operate and flow. When she came to class the girls instantly transformed. They started hammering her with questions. They kept an eye on her as we worked on learning how to program a LED. They would go to her to show her their work. They wanted her to acknowledge them.
They were excited to have a female lead(no pun intended) in this STEM field. As much as I talk about the importance of women, minorities, and basically just all types of people(do we really need labels?) I was watching with my own two eyes the power in having kindred spirits and the power in being able to relate to an adult who is like you.
As we were cleaning up and closing up for the night the one student just could not get enough of the fact that we had an adult female in the class. As she was leaving, the young girl asked if she could give her a hug.
This was when I realized the power and impact of having more than middle aged bald white dudes in STEM.
This same situation holds true in any situation. How would things change if my daughter had a chance to be coached by a female who played college basketball instead of men? How would things change if we had more women teaching STEM classes? How would things change in general if kids could see leaders in their passion areas who looked liked them?
When I spoke at the DALI STEM conference a few weeks back I shared an insight that is something we should consider – kids can’t be what they don’t see.
Kids often say they are going to be a professional athlete or TV star or musician because that is what they see all the time. What opportunities are we creating as educators and parents to help kids begin to see other options in life? Are we bringing them to businesses? Are we connecting their learning to what others are doing in the field now? Are we providing opportunities like the other night where we had an adult woman doing coding?
This is what we need to focus on. This is the awareness we need to be building. It is hard to set goals for things we cannot see in our mind.
I have not been able to stop thinking about this class. As I prepare for another night of class with this group this week I continue to think about how to make more of these opportunities happen down the road.
As you know as well as I do, all it takes is a spark. It takes a human connection for us to realize what is possible. When those sparks fly as they did last week nothing can stop a person from achieving what they put their mind to even if it is turning on a LED on a small breadboard. Creating that simple circuit is no different than the circuit between two people to realize the potential of what could be.