A big question for expanding our future STEM talent pool is how to engage girls in K12 and help them become successful in a lucrative, fast-growing field. In her 2016 TED-ed speech, Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, said that “we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave.” This difference is harming girls and their ability to take necessary risks while learning to program. How do we teach bravery and help girls succeed in STEM in school and beyond? By giving them the confidence to experiment—and fail; essentially teaching them that reiteration is natural part of reaching success. Below you’ll find 4 STEAM tools that can give girls (all students really) the confidence to experiment.
Giving girls the confidence to experiment
By providing outlets for STEM experiments and creativity, we help girls appreciate that risk-taking is necessary in Design Thinking. Both K12 schools and universities have worked Design Thinking into their STEM lessons to teach skills that leading brands, including GE and Apple are using to create their products. What is Design Thinking? It’s a way of organizing the creative process.
The Interactive Design Foundation defines the 5 Phases of Design Thinking as:
- Empathize – with your users
- Define – your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
- Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
- Prototype – to start creating solutions
- Test – solutions
The key takeaway is that Design Thinking is reiterative – experimentation is required. In a 2019 CNBC article on women entering STEM careers for the first time out of college, prototyping was outlined as a tool to overcome the crisis of confidence that many women face. To teach girls to be brave and succeed in STEM, we need to teach them experimentation and prototyping. Below are the four STEAM tools that can help.
4 STEAM tools to build confidence
Glowforge 3D Laser Printers – Glowforge offers fast and affordable prototyping for STEAM projects. Students can choose from dozens of materials, wood, leather, paper, and cloth for their creations or even recycled cardboard for affordable and rapid prototyping. If students use recycled cardboard to build their designs, they shouldn’t feel pressured to get the first design right. Instead, students can have the freedom to play with different ideas and use recycled cardboard for their prototypes. Then when students are ready, they can move on to the final material and create the final product.
- Mayku – Another STEM solution that works well for prototyping is the Mayku Formbox. This hands-on STEM learning tool lets students use any object they find or make to create unique molds. If students are not sure what to make, there is a library of K12 projects that can help. Since it only takes a matter of seconds to vacuum-form a mold, it’s easy to experiment and make new versions. Mayku is compatible with most pourable materials, from soap and wax to plaster, jesmonite, and concrete.
Makedo – This STEM option is great for engaging kids even at the pre-reading level.You can start building girls’ confidence at an early age by letting kids do what comes naturally: playing and creating with boxes. Makedo is a simple to use, open-ended system of tools for creative cardboard construction. Upcycling cardboard makes this an affordable STEM learning solution.
Makey Makey – Another amazing open-ended STEM learning option that doubles as an assistive tech tool is Makey Makey. Students truly become inventors with this product because Makey Makey lets students combine tactile materials with coding projects they’re creating on the computer. Watch the video below to see Makey Makey in action. Makey Makey regularly posts new projects to help inspire students and teachers alike. Makey Makey encourages students to push their imaginations which is great for boosting confidence.
We’d like to know what you think of these STEAM tools. Share with us in the comments below.