Suggestions for parents
Encourage girls' interests in science
Parental encouragement is positively correlated to children's participation in
science activities.19 Encouragement can take many forms. For instance:
• Parents can encourage their daughters' interest in science by asking about
the day's science class at school or in the childcare setting. By discussing
their children's science lessons, parents show their approval of the children's
• If a child shows interest in learning more about a particular subject, parents
can show encouragement by making plans to go to the library or to visit a
relevant website for more information.
Parents of high-school girls can encourage them to take science courses. If
the child is hesitant or lacks confidence in the subject, parents can offer to
provide a tutor.
• Parents can provide opportunities for daughters to meet women scientists
and hear about their career paths.
Engage in science-related activities
Co-activity (especially mother-child co-activity) is positively related to children's
participation in science activities.20 Joint activities between parents and daughters
expose children to more opportunities to hear cognitively demanding language, in
turn fostering more developed scientific thinking. Here are a few suggestions:
• Parents can give their daughters early science experiences, such as visiting a
local science museum.
• Parents can take advantage of the attractiveness of television for young
viewers by watching a science-related program with their children.
• Parents can also take advantage of visitor tours offered by some
manufacturing and engineering plants to expose their children to the
applications of science in such settings.
Provide science-related games, toys and books
Children's participation in science activities is positively related to the provision of
science materials in the home.21
• Parents can provide girls, as well as boys, with chemistry sets and
• Parents can capitalize on girls' interest in reading by encouraging them to
read science-related books. Studies show that although parents encourage
girls to read, they do not typically encourage the reading of science books.22
• The internet provides hundreds of sites where kids and parents can learn
about various science subjects or play science-related games (see below for
a sampling of links).
Programs for girls in science
Sisters in Science Program
The Sisters in Science Program is an after-school intervention implemented and
tested in a Philadelphia school district (Hammrich, 1997).23 The objective was to
give girls experiences in cooperative, exploratory, and hands-on science (and
mathematics) activities. In addition to active involvement with science, the girls
participated in self-reflection and discussions promoting female role models,
demystifying science, and career choices. Fourth-grade girls participated in 20
weekly 90-minute after-school activities, ranging from developing a community
environmental awareness campaign, conducting surveys of the school's and
neighbourhood's recycling programs, testing for levels of pollution in their school
and homes, identifying pollutants found in garbage, air, or water, and creating
an environmental newsletter for distribution to the school. The reflection and
discussion activities were designed to help the girls better understand their
personal learning, challenge stereotypical notions about science, and develop
better thinking skills. At the end of the intervention, pre- and post-tests showed
positive changes in the girls' interests, attitudes, and awareness of science and the
possibility of pursuing a science career.
Girls in Science
For three years, the San Diego Zoo has been running an after-school Girls in
Science mentoring program for girls between 12 and 14 years of age (McLaughlin,
2005).24 For part of the program, the girls visit the zoo where they can see the
zoo's operations from behind the scenes, meet with female scientists who talk to
the girls about their careers and interests in science, and speak with various field
researchers, behaviourists, geneticists, veterinarians, and zookeepers. The girls
get to try out the scientists' equipment and learn its significance. Following each
scientist's presentation, the girls are asked to review the concepts they learned
as well as examine the scientists' careers and how they might fit into their future.
The program ends with an overnight camping trip to the desert or the mountains
where the girls meet more female scientists who introduce them to careers
outside of the zoo. On these occasions, the girls get to participate in hands-on
activities such as tracking endangered species and learn about environmental and
Alberta Science Literacy Association
Although not geared specifically to girls, the Alberta Science Literacy
Association is a program that links scientists from industry, government, and
post-secondary institutions to students and communities across Alberta.
The scientists address scientific disciplines from aeronautical engineering to
zoology and use hands-on activities, show and tell, questions and answers, and
discussions to deliver their message.
Canadian Association for Girls in Science (CAGIS)
CAGIS is geared towards girls aged 7 to16 who meet regularly to explore science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics with women (and men) who have
chosen careers in these fields. The girls are given opportunities to talk about
school, careers, and other issues that concern them when they think about their
futures. Since 1995, CAGIS has a number of chapters across Canada, with new
chapters in development. Chapter events are held on weekends or after school
and last about 1 to 2 hours. They usually take place at the workplace of the
scientist and consist of a mini presentation introducing a science, technology,
engineering, or mathematics concept, followed by hands-on activities to
consolidate the learning and make science fun.