Mother-Daughter Event Develops Role ModelsApril 28, 2011
In February, Miriam Keller and the AAUW Fremont (CA) Branch hosted their annual Mother/Daughter Math and Science Discovery Day to develop mentors to encourage young girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). AAUW research shows that when girls are exposed to a “growth mindset” environment by teachers, parents, and mentors, they have the support and drive that they need to pursue careers and education in the male-dominated world of STEM.
The event — which the branch launched in 1995 — gives third through sixth grade girls in the Fremont, California, area an opportunity to discover STEM fields alongside their mothers or another adult in their lives. “The only important thing is that the person is someone from their family or community who will keep up the motivation to do good schoolwork and hopefully keep the young girl interested in STEM,” says Keller. “Twice, I’ve had single fathers ask me if they could attend, and I have said yes.”
Keller insists that each of the eight or nine presentations that the girls attend be hands-on with instruction from women STEM professionals. One of the most popular workshops allows the students to lift their mothers with one hand using the concepts of simple machines and a wood board with a fulcrum. This experience is fun for both mothers and daughters — the girls feel empowered, and the moms are impressed with how quickly their children have picked up on the ideas. Another workshop teaches the girls about forensic techniques like fingerprinting to solve a mystery: Which parent stole a cookie from the cookie jar?
The Fremont branch members are greatly involved with the program, doing everything from getting the word out to schools to organizing door prizes. Without the support from members, Keller says she would never be able to distribute flyers to the several dozen schools in the Fremont area. And the members’ work is paying off: The program regularly hosts 80 pairs of women mentors and young girls. The event has grown so popular in the last 16 years that Keller had to split it into two nights — one for third and fourth graders and another for fifth and sixth graders.
Keller hopes to keep the program going and spread the word that the fun the girls have with their moms is more important than learning hard facts from the presentations. “We want to give them something to look forward to and to aim for and hope that they spread this attitude around to other girls,” she says. By showing parents and mentors the many opportunities their daughters have in STEM, the Mother/Daughter Math and Science Discovery Day educates role models as well as young girls.
This post was written by AAUW STEM Intern Gabryel Obedoza.