Tag Archives: STEM activities

Encourage Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

Last October, American astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch made history when they left the International Space Station (ISS) to perform a spacewalk. It was the first time a spacewalk has been conducted by two women. Last Wednesday, the pair stepped outside the space station again for the first of their two scheduled January spacewalks. (Follow along in the embedded livestream here). Meir and Koch are replacing nickel-hydrogen batteries with “newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries” as they upgrade the power systems on the ISS Port-6 truss structure.

Both of these remarkable women have a strong background in STEM-related areas of study, coming up through the ranks when there were even fewer opportunities for women to find careers in science and engineering. 

Koch is an engineer with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and physics and a master’s degree in electrical engineering, both from North Carolina State University. Meir is a physiologist with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University, a master’s degree in space studies from the International Space University, and a doctorate in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

Women represent a mere 26% of the STEM workforce, so when women like Koch and Meir make history, it’s a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the doors STEM education will open.

Technology is constantly evolving and it’s impossible to anticipate what innovations and inventions will drive our culture in the next five or ten years. An education in STEM will help prepare your daughters for possible opportunities and put her in a position to work in a career she’s passionate about while earning a higher than average salary.  Employment in STEM occupations is expected to increase much faster than the overall growth rate for occupations in other fields. 

If your daughter is interested in STEM, encourage her questions. When you think about it, research and innovation begin with scientists and engineers asking questions and then looking for solutions. Choose toys that help develop STEM skills and encourage your kids to explore and be curious about the way the world around them works. Creative, imaginative play is highly effective as a teaching tool and can help build confidence in STEM fields from an early age. 

It’s important to encourage your child to pursue STEM opportunities while they’re still in elementary and middle school. Laying that foundation means that once they reach high school she’ll feel confident choosing STEM-related classes and start refining her career choices. 

One of the most effective ways to encourage girls to pursue a career in STEM is to connect them with a mentor, specifically a woman who has succeeded in a science, technology, engineering, or math career. Have a role model not only open their eyes to who can do STEM, but it also expands their vision of possibilities in their future.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Easing In to Summer Vacation

Easing In to Summer Vacation

 Many of us hear the words “summer vacation” and immediately think of carefree days with ice cream, lemonade stands, and tire swings, bare feet and picnics, but the reality is, that’s not how those months or weeks play out for most families.

For some, the end of the school year brings significant change to their routine. Not every kid transitions into camps, daycare, or summer school, and for children who crave that structure, the end of the year can be very unsettling as they search for their new “normal.” They miss their friends, the consistency of knowing what each day looks like, or maybe even the familiarity of Taco Tuesdays in the lunchroom.

For these children, the thought of endless days with the freedom to choose how to spend their time can be overwhelming. Use these tips to help your child make the transition from school to summer as smooth as an ice cream cone.

Give them a heads up. My friend Brenda’s son has autism. Brady loves a lot of things – his family, Sprite, ketchup, his iPad, football, and his church. He does not like milk, loud noises, or cats, but what he dislikes are surprises. Brady lives for structure and order and can tell you what’s happening every hour of every day. That’s not to say he can’t handle change, but it’s all in how it’s presented. His mother starts talking through what summer will look like weeks before the last day of school. As a result, when he gets off the bus that last time, he’s ready because he knows what to expect. They follow the same routine at the end of the summer as he transitions back to school.

Celebrate change. Our children pick up our attitudes, and if you’re dreading the end of the school year, your child will likely see that and begin to dread it too. The ability to adapt and change is part of the maturing process, so give your child the tools they’ll use the rest of their lives. One way is to celebrate the transition with a special lunch, trip to the zoo or movies, a picnic in the backyard, or a playdate with the friends they’re worried they won’t see all summer.

Don’t completely give up on your routine. If your child is an early riser and used to being out of bed ready to roll by 8 am, let them stick to that schedule. It may not work every day, but it will also put you in good stead at the end of the summer when you need to get back into your routine. Put a few events on the calendar – day trips to the zoo or the park, play dates or shopping trips, or even something as simple as “Wednesday evening we’re going out for ice cream!” For a child who loves structure, seeing there’s a plan – even a very loose one – can ease much anxiety.

Add a little structure of your own. If your child is a do-er and loves to be busy, the National Education Association has tools like math worksheets, STEM resources, and reading activities, many of which are free. Don’t forget your local library. They often host summer reading challenges, events, and book sales to motivate and inspire young readers.

 Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.