Monday, December 23, 2013

Encouraging Girls in Math & Science

Yesterday, I ventured off to a particular chain toy store!
Crazy, I know!
There was one particular item I was looking for . . .
Little did I know that I would find the deal of the century for some really great girls.

I'll get to the picture in a minute!

Eight years ago I moved from 3rd grade to 5th grade. In third grade there were a handful of girls that would say . . .
"I hate math and science."

"I'm not good at the math."
"I don't like science."

In fifth grade there were even more girls expressing their dislike and lack of ability for the subjects math and science.

When my own daughter, in second grade, started saying the same phrases, I knew there needed to be a shift in thinking! I needed girls to get excited about math and science. What was creating this surge in thinking? What could I do to create a shift in this mindset? I started searching online.

I was looking for that something that would have a bigger impact than just in my own class.
I found it!
GEMS - Girls Excelling in Math and Science! I started to brainstorm with another teacher on the implementation of our after school club.
  • 1st - 5th grade
  • Twice a month
  • Problem based challenges
  • Connect with a career
  • Use household items so girls can replicate at home
200+ girls and a waiting list later, we had our first GEMS meeting. It was literally one of those moments where time stands still. I stood back and looked at all the eager faces staring back at me, all excited to be part of GEMS. Goose-bump moment!

In GEMS we teach the girls to take risks, that failure really does lead to success and things aren't hard. They might be challenging, but not hard. You see, by definition, a challenge can be overcome. A challenge is a demanding task that calls for a special effort or dedication to the one engaged in it! (In my class, my students weren't allowed to say something was hard. Challenging, yes. I loved when I would catch a student say, "This is soooo har . . .  I mean, challenging.")

In GEMS, we celebrate failure because girls know they can always go back and redesign. Failure really isn't failure. It's a learning experience that helps us grow.
If girls have questions about the challenge, we answer with a question.
We laugh and have fun because math and science are fun!

At the end of each hour, we reflect. What worked? What didn't work? This is the most powerful part of the hour.

Thanks to some really wonderful teacher sponsors and a fantastic school foundation (that helped fund our start up), we are now on our second year and still going strong!

There have been so many projects, but the one that sticks out the most was our Hour of Code day! Another goose-bump moment! Where can you get that many girls excited about coding? Amazing!

What was the deal of the century?  K'Nex kits - Buy 1 Get 1 Free! Kits that teach math, science, engineering and technology concepts! I can't wait to share these with the girls!

Of course, my daughter and I are making sure all the parts are in each kit. (Wink! Wink!)

We are on our second one!         It is . . .  challenging!

I highly recommend starting a GEMS club at your school!

Never found that one item . . . this was even better!


  1. I love it! What a great idea! I would love to start a GEMS club at my school! I may take baby steps and work with just my class and go from there. Thanks for sharing!
    Fifth Grade Wit and

  2. Love this! The Hour of Code was great and I love the Goldibloxs video that Matt from Digital: Divide and Conquer shared with everyone not too long ago. There seems to be a shift for girls which excites me as a Gifted teacher. One thing that really spoke to me when I was getting my Gifted endorsement was the statistic that girls will start to drop out of Gifted because it's not "cool" to be smart and often they will "dumb" themselves down so as to not stick out in teenage years. I always try to let my "nerd herd" know that it IS indeed cool to be successful and bright in all different subjects and areas. We have lots of conversations on this topic. I love the idea of GEMS. I think I've seen you mention this before!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. I love hearing all these stories about girls, parents, teachers and STEM! I just read about Toys R Us's Stockholm store going gender neutral. All of this makes me realize Horse Lover's Math is part of something bigger!