Guess who’s just as interested as grade school boys in building and programming robots (and the underlying STEM subjects-- science, technology, engineering, and math)?
Not surprisingly (we hope). . . grade school girls!
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, and a number of other recent studies, have found that student interest in science and mathematics was about equal for boys and girls at the fourth-grade level.
Not only are girls interested in being active STEM learners, according to a 2012 study by Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., but those girls who maintain this active passion through high school are “significantly” better students across all subjects, more engaged, confident problem-solvers, and “significantly more inclined to grapple with adversity and overcome obstacles than non-STEM girls.”
However, while girls remain generally interested in learning about how things work, collaborating with others in problem-solving, as well as in building and putting things together, it seems that between 4th grade and the middle school years, boys quickly begin to eclipse girls in pursuing their interest in STEM subjects and careers.
“Girls need more exposure to and better education about what STEM careers are and what they can offer if such careers are to gain priority status, “ the Girls Scouts’ Generation STEM study concluded.
Thankfully, a number of national efforts are beginning to emerge to expand STEM learning opportunities for our children Just last year, the Girl Scouts of America launched a major STEM program initiative to help close the gap between girls’ general interest in STEM and their ability to more actively pursue their interest throughout the lifetimes. The Boy Scouts of America also launched a similar initiative to spur more active interest in STEM careers among its members while the Obama Administration announced its plan to create a national STEM Master Teacher Corps.
“Providing elementary school girls and boys with opportunities to imagine themselves as real engineers, real scientists by actually building things that work, using their ideas to take things apart and rebuild them into something that works better than the original is so important in developing STEM and critical thinking skills,” said Little Ivy Academy Director Erich Bassler. “Robotics learning enrichment labs are a great way to provide these opportunities,”
Offered after-school and on Saturdays on its Ridgewood campus, as well as a growing number of local elementary schools, “The Robots are Coming!!!” is a sequence of four, seven-week learning enrichment labs where students use LEGOs and related building materials, as well as simple, age-appropriate programming languages and other STEM concepts to design and build their own robotic creations.
“Girls, as well as boys, from the youngest age, are interested in learning about how things work and then experimenting with what they’ve learned by putting it to the test,” Bassler said. “So the students’ enthusiasm level is typically off the charts.”
Each lab course utilizes a collaborative, hands-on “lab team” approach, building upon the STEM skills learned in previous course(s). Led by both female and male instructors, Little Ivy Academy’s robotics program provides an active lab environment where their students’ skills and imaginations engage in real, hands-on engineering and programming each week.
“It’s a rewarding moment, but a typical one, when a girl, dressed in a pink princess t-shirt, comes up with more elaborate, more interesting concepts and revisions for a robot project than her lab partner in his LEGO Ninjago t-shirt, and the two of them agree to give it a try, ” Bassler said. “These girls are capable of great things and the color of their shirt doesn’t preclude them from using their knowledge and imagination to engineer and program something awesome.”
The next session of Little Ivy Academy’s Robots in Motion! enrichment labs on Little Ivy’s Ridgewood campus and afterschool at several local schools are starting as soon as next week. Programs are available for kindergarteners-6th Graders. To learn more, you can visit the Little Ivy Academy’s robotics program webpage at: www.littleivyacademy.com/robots.html or call them at 201-444-8400.
For more info on the importance of STEM learning for girls, take a look the 2012 Girl Scout study, Generation STEM: What Girls Say About Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.