Elementary Science

Gender Biases in Science

Hello! I am a preservice teacher in college and often times the topic of boys being more dominant in science than girls comes up in class discussions. When it comes to the classroom and doing experiments/activites, what are some effective strategies to move past the biases and get both girls and boys excitied and motivated to learn science? 

Kerra Harmon
Kerra Harmon
190 Activity Points

Hello! I am also a preservice teacher in college, and I have also heard many of these stereotypes around science and the gender biases that go along with them. In my class, we have been talking about addressing the students as scientists as a whole. Talking to them about the different scientists that are in the world, both females and males. By showing them the different scientists, you can hopefully lift some of these stereotypes around science. To get both girls and boys excited and motivated to learn science, create very engaging activities for all of the students. Give the students choice so they can choose what they want to learn about/experiment with that day. This will in turn become motivational for all of the students, not just the boys or girls. By creating motivational activities for all students they will in turn learn that science can be fun, and that they will hopefully  become excited to participate in the science lessons!

Becca Schouten
Becca Schouten
2730 Activity Points

Hello Kerra-

I have had guest speakers visit my classroom. A meterologist from a local TV station and a field biologist from the area cooperative extension service - both women - have spoke to my students this year. I have also Skyped with astronomers at UC Berkeley and NOAO in Tucson with my students. Seeing women in these roles has had a positive impact on my students. One young lady went on to pursue a career in marine sciences and now lives in South Carolina. She was part of a group that did research on solar magnetism at the National Solar Observatory at Kitt Peak while in high school.


Cris DeWolf
Cris DeWolf
11905 Activity Points

Hello Kerra! I am also a persecitve teacher in my last year at college. I am currently taking a methods of science class and one thing we talk about alot is misconceptions. Boys being better in science that girls is a misconception. This is something you need to stop right away during the first week of school. Show students videos of girls being successful in science, have them do research projects of the successful women, and maybe even show them videos of different women. Addressing these misconceptions right away will show girls that they can be successful in science too. Girls will be more willing to learn and participate throughout the year. I hope this helps!

Cami Scovill
Cami Scovill
1940 Activity Points

I am also a preservice teacher in college. We talk about engaging students in topics in all classrooms, one strategy we have talked about a lot is activating students personal connection to the topic. Why should the student be learning what they are learning? What benefit does it have to them? How does what their learning apply to their current life and their future goals? 

There are many ways to do this, but our focus has been student-directed learning, or constructivism (Dewey). By allowing students to meet a standard through their own exploration and own interests, it allows for a deeper connection to the material, which in turn will help with student excitement/engagement and motivation to learn the subject. 


Hannah James '20Elementary Education
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Hannah James
Hannah James
115 Activity Points


Many universities and cities have a Women in Engineering group. In fact, where I live in Rapid City, our engineering school, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology hosted a Women in Science and Engineering STEM night for girls in elementary and high school. They called in STEMinist night. (love it!) There's also mentoring opportunities for girls who want to go into the STEM fields.  Next week I'm having a scientist from Sanford Underground Research Facility come to speak to my students about what scientists due underground in the lab. A lot of my students just assumed it would be a man who's coming. When I told them it was a woman, the girls were so excited. There's lots of women in science and engineering out there who I'm sure would love to speak to students, or even offer class field trips of their labs or facilities if possible. If we have programs here in South Dakota, I'm sure they are available in other places too.

Brenda Velasco Mizenko
Brenda Velasco
2585 Activity Points

I'm also a preservice teacher and have thought about the gender biases in STEM a lot. When I read your post it reminded me of a lesson my professor had us bring to our elementary school students last semester. Each student was given a blank piece of paper. They were instructed to draw a scientist and write the scientist's name on the front. Then on the back side of the paper, describe your scientist in 3-5 sentences. I then evaluated the students' work to see the age, gender, appearance, activity, and character traits of their scientists. The next lesson I shared the results with them and challenged them to think of a scientist in a variety of ways.

This lesson can easily be modified. I actually saw it presented differently when I was helping with the Girl's in STEM club during student teaching this semester. The lead teacher asked all of the girls to close their eyes and think of a scientist: what they look like, what are they wearing, what are they doing, etc. After the girls had a few moments to think, the teacher told them to open their eyes. She opened the floor to hear what kind of scientists our girls thought of. Then she said, "By show of hands, who thought of the scientist as a woman." Not surprisingly, very few girls raised a hand. She then asked, "why" and showed them a video clip about the amazing discoveries and work women have done in the STEM field and challenged our students to be curious and pursue what intrigues them. 

This, "Think of a scientist" prompt is so simple and effective. It may not be a grand solution, but it gets everyone to start thinking about misconceptions and possibilities. 

Katie Manta
Kathleen Manta
2543 Activity Points

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