It is important to help children build fluency in STEM, but it is just as important to help them discover that they enjoy STEM. If children enjoy STEM activities from an early age, this can spark life-long interest. It is particularly important for girls to get positive experiences in STEM from an early age.
Why should we focus on girls in particular? There are beliefs in our society called “stereotypes” that girls may not like STEM or be as good as boys at STEM. These beliefs can prevent girls from pursuing opportunities in STEM. For example, girls may not attend STEM summer camps or do extra STEM activities. They may not choose to enter technology fields when they grow up. But scientific research reveals that, if girls are given the same opportunities, they enjoy STEM just as much as boys. In one study at I-LABS, we gave some 6-year-old children a toy robot to program with a smartphone app. For comparison, other children either played a game not related to STEM or did not complete an activity at all. The girls in our comparison groups reported being less interested and confident than the boys in STEM. But we found that girls who got the programming experience were just as motivated and confident as the boys!