Last night my friend Sherry shared a photo from the Carnegie Science Center on Facebook. It was a picture first shared by Tishka Miller of a museum flyer noting the Center’s workshops for Boy Scouts:
And Carnegie Science Center’s workshops for Girl Scouts
- Science with a Sparkle
“Egad!” I commented. And then I thought, maybe this is a photo from 2001 or something because nowadays Girl Scouts are huge proponents of STEM. So I checked the Carnegie Science Center website and YIKES! It’s true. Hardcore STEM classes for boy scouts (with prerequisites, even) and *sparkle* for girls.
This was no throwback photo. It was no joke.
After a bit more poking around, I noticed the that the photo had some traction and people were not shy about venting on the Carnegie Science Center Facebook page. The Center responded. They noted that the Center has a division specifically geared toward girls in STEM, but that’s separate from the Scouting programs.
As far as the Scout-specific programs, they wrote
…we have struggled when it comes to enrollments for our Girl Scout programs. In the past, we have offered engineering, chemistry, and robotics programming for Girl Scouts. We created programming to go along with the new Journeys that Girl Scouts use. Unfortunately, no troops signed up for these. The programs that consistently get enrollments are “Science with a Sparkle” and our Sleepovers at the museum.
You want outrage? See this post at Wonkette. No doubt there’s a snarkier one at Jezebel.
Here’s my take
On the one hand, I get it. I can see this happening. For the most part, Maker Mom readers and many women I know in real life would attempt to stir up interest in real science programs, but I can imagine some other moms- maybe because of their own lack of experience with or interest in robotics or chemistry or engineering- assume the girls lack interest, too.
I can also picture some groups of young girls who really would prefer making sparkly lip gloss to building a clunky robot. (Interestingly, Pittsburgh, the Center’s home, is also the birthplace of girl-friendly robots like the Finch and Hummingbird thanks to the folks at Carnegie Mellon University.)
Not everyone is into girl power. Sigh.
I’m happy to report that the 8-year-old interviewed above is now 13-year-old entrepreneur with a booming jewelry business.
As for the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, they pledge to take this opportunity to reach out to the Center and work to provide more STEM programs to the Girl Scouts. However, it’s not the lack of available programs, it’s the lack of interest.
So the museum says the troop leaders aren’t interested, the moms say they girls aren’t interested. This cycle will continue unless action is taken to disrupt it.
Here’s one suggestion:
Invite all the Girls Scout Troop Leaders to a free STEM play day.
Provide lunch, snacks, childcare, transportation and parking vouchers. Let the moms
see experience the STEM programs. Ask them to provide feedback on what they think will appeal to their girls and what might turn them off. Use that advice to refine the marketing and the programs themselves.
This got me thinking
The Carnegie Science Center is being shamed across the intern for separate and unequal STEM programming (for Scouts), but are other institutions doing any better? Here’s what I found in my very.small.sampling.
An organization may offer girl-only classes, but with the exception of scouting, I haven’t seen boy-only classes. This give parents (and their daughters) a choice. For some girls, girl-only is the right choice.
Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History offers a handful of Scouting programs open to boys and girls.
Milwaukee’s Discovery World Museum, a relatively small museum that’s packed with hands-on STEM fun, offers a robust range of programs for boy scouts and girls scouts. And yet, the girls’ programs seem to be STEM lite. at least in comparison. Many of the workshops are designed to help the kids earn merit badges, so maybe the fault lies more with the Girl Scouts of America than with the host organization.
Take a look at the science or technology center near you. Do you see a gender gap?
I think I “met” the Yellow Scope folks during the September STEMchat. I was intrigued by their concept of “rigorous science kits for girls” if only because I had never heard of such a thing. Upon learning about the Carnegie Science Center’s programming fiasco, I immediately thought of Yellow Scope’s video and their description of the girls’ kits that are currently on the market as “pseudo-science spa kits.” Hmmmm. Keep an eye out for them. The kits will be out in Portland soon and a I hear a Kickstarter campaign is coming, too.
There is chemistry in cosmetics
Sparkly lip gloss aside, there is a lot of high level chemistry in the cosmetics field. Same for fragrances. Scientist, mom, and STEM advocate Joanne Manaster has an informative series on the Science of Beauty.
Be sure to report back on what’s happening at science museums in your area!
Read more posts about STEM Girls, including The Maker Mom’s STEM Girl Friday Features by clicking here.