You may have noticed that the previous post is something I wrote over two years ago. I started to write today's post and noticed that it was similar to the older post. The fact that I was writing almost the same thing two years later made me realize that it was time to share both posts.
This month I decided to let my older daughter, who is starting kindergarten soon, attend camps at some of our favorite museums. (As much as she likes hanging out in my office/lab there is only so much time you want to spend with your mom in the summer when elsewhere there are kids to play with!) Based on her interests and schedule we chose two: one that was mathematics focused, and one that was engineering focused. Both classes emphasized fun, hands-on projects and it seemed like a great way for my artistic, science loving kid to meet peers and mentors.
Last week was math camp. She made structures, patterns, cooked, measured, etc. It was awesome! There seemed to be about 10 kids. 2 were girls. She loved the camp, but pointed out to me that she noticed how few girls there were.
This week is engineering camp. So far she's made an awesome motorized pen and a car out of found materials. Morning drop off is a bit tough, though. When she gets there the boys are usually all together playing with the car race track. She likes to start her day building or drawing in the cardboard fort. I guess I should state that that's how all of the girls in the class start their day. Note that it's a one person fort. She seems to really like the class but has mentioned how she's the only girl and that the teachers thought there would be one more but that girl hasn't attended yet.
I thought things were improving.There are amazing groups like DIY Girls, Black Girls Code, andTechbridge. In my engineering classes over the past few years the number of women seemed to be going up. This fall more than half of my teaching assistants, who are skilled students who serve as peer mentors to students in the engineering design courses I teach, are women. However, in my day to day experiences as a parent, it seems that at the youngest level we're missing some amazing opportunities. I wasn't expecting there to be an equal split of boys and girls in these camps, but I'm surprised at just how few girls my daughter is meeting in programs like this.
I strongly believe that a world in which kids, all kids, are given the opportunity to make things (and engage with math, science, design and technology) from an early age, and shown how this knowledge can be used to improve the lives of others, and the state of our environment, is a world that we need to create. Soon.
As the school year approaches, and I prepare to teach engineering undergrads and PK-12 educators, this experience is something that I'm thinking a lot about. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic.