Saturday, November 14, 2009

Teaching Girls to Tinker By Lisa Damour

Encourage girls to tinker so that they can participate in greater numbers and at a faster pace in earning computer science and engineering degrees. Males are ahead by more than 75%. One explanation is that girls are not encouraged enough to tinker. Teachers allow the boys to struggle with mathematical problems and machines in the classroom. Adults need to give girls more opportunities to investigate and experiment when the successful outcome is questionable. After school Lego Leagues, videography, and tech clubs just for girls should be encouraged. Parents should ask daughters to join in for repairing items around the house, even it is only to see what is inside and the item is unrepairable. Designing sustainable models for animal (chicken coops) or human habitats have been successful in high school engineering classes for tapping into girls' collaborative and helpful natures.

Teaching strategy: My daughter was encouraged to tinker by her father and stepfather both mechanically inclined. She worked on car engines, yard irrigation systems, dishwashers, etc. Twenty years ago she graduated from ASU with a mechanical engineering degree, but was one of only 5% of the women graduating engineers. Today that is improving, but too slowly. She taught at the high school level for a couple of years when engineering jobs were scarce and mentored girls who were needing encouragement in math. More girls today need mentors at a younger age in elementary school so that they know all the possibilities for STEM occupations. In my classes, I have found the girls enjoy setting up the science experiments and want to take part in tinkering. They are adapt at technology, but need more encouragement and opportunities to use the tools in the classroom.
Plumbers could be asked to come and talk to the class giving them simple tips on how toilets work. At $60 to $80 per hour fee for plumbers, the economic need for students to know simple plumbing repairs is paramount. Setting up stations with simple tinkering opportunities and enlisting parents' help could be an interesting strategy that I plan to implement.
Taken from but I couldn't get back to the original free print so use the link below:


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