As part of my masters program, we run an after school science club for girls at a local inner-city high school. I think the beauty of this is something that I want to bring into my classroom - it’s not suggesting a career for students, but rather making science accessible, which is something that students of any gender struggle with.
I’m not sure exactly what to do to ensure gender equality in the classroom. My idealist teaching says teach to individuals, not groups of people. That is, I won’t teach boys a certain way and girls a certain way just because they identify with a male or female gender.
That being said, a cool activity may be to have students draw/sketch what they think a scientist looks like on the first day of class. Most students will draw a man with glasses, a lab coat, and glassware. Use this as a ticket out the door. Throughout the course, work on breaking down these misconceptions. Scientists are not always male, nor do they always wear lab coats. Try to use unconventional examples too. (Name a female scientist. Now name one that isn’t Marie Curie.) By the end of the course, students should feel comfortable drawing someone in the lab or in the field, someone working with DNA or observing animals, etc.
Basically, it’s not about making girls comfortable in the STEM world, it’s about making sure that they know that they are a scientist, whether they take a STEM job or not.
I absolutely agree with all of this! I think that a big reason more girls don’t choose the STEM field is because they can’t create that vision of themselves as a scientist. There is a typical view of what a scientist looks like, and I think your idea is a great one to start breaking the stereotype of scientists.
I think that providing a wide variety of accomplished scientists to students is important as well, to show that you don’t have to be a white male to accomplish great things. I got a deck of cards from the NSTA conference that are almost like baseball cards, but with scientists. I’m hoping to blow them up and display them in my classroom to show that science isn’t driven by a certain gender or ethnicity, but rather a desire to answer the questions of the world.