Last weekend at the AAUW of Florida state convention in Gainesville, more than 30 AAUW women built green homes with nontraditional materials. Graham crackers with frosting mortar formed the main structure, green sprinkles stood in for native plants on a green roof, and a stack of small marshmallows on a toothpick represented a cistern to catch storm water. Others placed solar panels on the roof or built native plants in the yard with toothpicks and gum drops.
Anyone can do hands-on activities like these with girls to show them how much fun science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can be. The aim is to expand girls’ minds about science and engage them in designing and creating an edible green home. The parts may be edible, but the concepts are sound: in the course of the fun activity, girls learn about the science and engineering that go into building a green home, as well as principles of water and energy conservation. In Gainesville, the ladies took it one step further and discussed hosting a green conference for girls to encourage them to care for our environment.
Activities like the workshop in Gainesville are essential for spreading the message to young girls that STEM is a viable career path. Out of the more than 3.25 million Americans employed in math and computer science, only 27 percent are women (U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 2007). We need more women in STEM fields, and you can make a difference. The most important thing you can do is spread the message that STEM is fun and that it provides opportunities for ingenuity, invention, and innovation — exciting, coolstuff that can transform life as we know it. Start early by encouraging the girls in your life to do puzzles, play with Legos, or take things apart and put them back together again. Plan a trip to the science museum, talk about how things work, and encourage participation in science fairs. Parent and adult encouragement really works, and Earth Day is a great time to show girls how much fun science and math can be.
This post was written by Jennifer McDaniel, AAUW National Girls Collaborative Project South Atlantic regional liaison to the Florida Girls Collaborative Project.