Girls and STEM: One School District’s Success

Editors Note: This is an excerpt from the article “She Believed She Could” featured in Tech & Learning.


By Ellen Ullman | Tech & Learning


If you’re the parent of a girl, you probably tell her she can be anything when she grows up—even President of the United States. Somehow, though, a lot of girls don’t hear or believe this message. Women are underrepresented in all of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields, and many girls believe they are not as smart as boys in these areas. That’s why it’s more important than ever to encourage girls and young women to pursue STEM opportunities, just like these schools and districts are doing.


When Stephanie Miller became superintendent/principal of Congress (AZ) School District #17 in 2011, the preK-8 rural school was high-performing but she felt it needed more STEM development. She secured a three-year grant from the Science Foundation of Arizona to increase project-based learning (PBL) around STEM and develop STEM career paths.


To shift the culture, the district embedded LEGO WeDo 2.0 into classroom instruction, integrated STEM learning throughout all grades, and started an after-school STEM program. “With after-school programs, you get a lot of ‘I wouldn’t be good at that,’” says Miller. “If you put programming into class instruction, you reach the children who were too shy to sign up or didn’t know they had a natural ability.”By developing their own curriculum with LEGO WeDo and incorporating a lot of engineering and programming components, students got a broader understanding of STEM fields.


They used Defined STEM, an online curriculum that uses project-based learning to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to help students learn and discover STEM careers. “Defined STEM has lots of women in their videos. When students see that, it’s eye-opening,” says IT Director Suzanne Sims.  Teachers focused on social and emotional learning, helping students learn how to get along with others and work with different people to find answers to problems. Teachers created STEM-based units that are taught in core subjects.

Now they are starting to do passion projects in the new makerspace. Every week, a community volunteer comes to the makerspace to help with woodworking projects; there’s also a deconstruction station where children take things apart. All students, even kindergarteners, build things so that girls don’t think of construction as a male job. “Through all of this exposure, girls are becoming interested in STEM careers. They are empowered and believe in themselves,” says Miller.


Defined STEM
Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11e Laptops
Makey Makey
Microsoft Office 365 4 MIT Scratch
Pearson Digits 4 ST Math
Wonder Workshop Dash & Dot Robots


Click here to read the full article in Tech & Learning.

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