<p>Introduction (Alisha/Althea/Zara) · Define innovation: rhetorical question/give a scenario · Introduce ourselves: Cape Town, etc. Alisha’s contribution :)) We live in a fast-changing world. We often hear that innovation is what’s needed to address the global and local challenges that we’re facing in order to make our world a better place. But what is innovation? Well, here at Protea Heights Academy, we believe the short version is a new method, idea or product. SUGGESTION FOR ALTHEA: Like we said, that’s only the short version. There is so much more to innovation than most of us think. (just a suggestion lmao) [insert Althea/Zara’s talk on innovation] Alisha again :)) We are the students of Protea Heights Academy, a high school based in the northern suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa, and, through doing this project, we hope to enlighten you on how we are combatting current issues in our local community and country through the use of innovation. Body #1 (Jana) · South Africa’s drought history My part- Body 1, The history of drought in South Africa is complex and interrelated. The main reasons for the water crisis affecting Southern Africa today, are the heated band of oceanic water in the Pacific and the poor management/distribution of resources over an ever-increasing population as recorded by a group of government census officials “Cape Town's population has grown from 2.4 million residents in 1995 to an estimated 4.3 million by 2018, representing a 79 percent population increase in 23 years whereas dam water storage only increased by 15 percent in the same period. The possibility of the city exceeding its water supply was highlighted as early as 1990.From 1950 to 1999, the city's consumption of treated water grew at 4% per year in line with the city's population growth. Periods of low winter rainfall in 2000/2001 and 2003/2004 resulted in the first water restrictions being imposed. In 2007, the city implemented a 10-year water demand management strategy, which has successfully kept the annual consumption at or below the 1999 level despite ongoing population growth.”. However, the drought crisis that affects us today began in April 2014. This crisis was caused by a ‘band’ of oceanic water that was negatively influenced by global warming and began to heat up to an average above o.5 C, which then caused massive effects on the climate/weather of many Eastern countries, causing daily weather forecasts to reach new maximum heights, while slowly moving horizontally towards Southern Africa. This climate change was named El Nino (Spanish for male pronoun). El Nino had a sibling named La N/Lina (Spanish for female pronoun) for the opposite effects (cooling). The major effects of the ‘heated’ water was not felt by Southern Africa and only came as a small drought in the 1980’s. When the heated band did not subside, only worsened, another drought hit the entire African continent in the early 2010’s. This drought was prolonged to such an extent that the storage of water in the Western Cape, and the rest of the country, were promoted to ‘level 1/2 water crisis status’. Due to the fact that little money was spent on water storage, but on social infrastructure, because of our history of racial segregation and undermanaged social infrastructure, there was little preparation for another massive drought that hit the country in 2014. Most Northern provinces were affected first, losing substantial harvest produce and affecting the many rural communities. This drought still affects us today, as my fellow member will explain to you know. Body #2 (Jonathan) · Current drought · How it’s affecting us Body #3 (Cloé) · A few examples of innovation in SA ( linked to drought of course) The drought as bad as it is has its benefits. It has forced us to adapt to our circumstances, and now we have more experience for if another natural disaster or drought comes, we will be ready. Social and communication benefits: Throughout the community homes have shared and communicated their ideas and because of that we have many different ways to save water.’-(still a bit unsure on this part) For example at our own school. A very bright young lady has shared with us an innovation project that is significantly responsible for the amount of water we have saved. She …………………. by not using our clean municipality water. This could not have been possible if she did not share this idea with us. Emotional benefits: Because of the scarcity of water I would like to believe that all South Africans have now realised how much we have taken water for granted. We are now more likely to be to their attitude be thankful and appreciative of the little water that we still have I overall I think the only way South Africa has been able to make it through the water crisis is because of our people. We have all put our innovative minds together and do our little bit to save water. And that is the biggest benefit of Conclusion · Brief</p>
The Innovation Project Week 2:
This week was challenging, because there was just so much to talk about within a small video/presentation. However we managed to group a few innovations/ innovative projects from households, communities, provinces within Southern Africa that have proven to, not only aid in lowering the country’s water consumption levels, but have also contributed to nation building and a more widespread “eco-friendly mindset”.
Firstly, how can innovation, applied, offer solutions to a dangerous and economically, socially and environmentally damaging problem?
Innovation is the the action or process of innovating and changing an old idea into a new, more beneficial one. This already solves many issues regarding the water crises and drought. When we think/change ideas we improve and develop, thus we ‘make it better’. This would aid in changing the distribution and management of water as an economic resource, due to the fact that there is enough water in the country, it is just not allocated properly or in the correct proportions. When we think innovatively, we as a people could change how our country’s water infrastructure operates, just as we had changed how our country’s social infrastructure operated in 1994. If we implement innovative ideas we could decrease water consumption, increase water infrastructure maintenance, increase sustainable consumption in other areas besides water and sanitation and even decrease our carbon footprint and negative influence on the environment. These goals are not out of reach, as innovative thinking has changed the lives of individuals or the better many times, for example: the invention of steam power increased the income, lifestyle and education levels, thus the HDI and GDP, of many countries, similar to the invention of modern computer technology and the invention of many new water saving methods that have increased environmental sustainability, allowing our future generations to continue thriving and improving, because that is the main goal of innovation, to develop, to improve to achieve, is it not?
Chosen SDG/s (Sustainable Development Goals):
Number 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Number 12: Responsible Consumption and Production Patterns
Number 13: Climate Action
These Goals were all chosen based on our ‘South African Water Crisis’.
Innovations Regarding Clean Water and Sanitation:
UN Goals Related to Water and Sanitation:
By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management
Facts and Stats (Statistics):
2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without
At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated
Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 percent to 91 percent
But water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the global population and is projected to rise. Over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge
2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines
More than 80 percent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal
Each day,nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases
Hydropower is the most important and widely-used renewable source of energy and as of 2011, represented 16 percent of total electricity production worldwide
Approximately 70 percent of all water abstracted from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation
Floods and other water-related disasters account for 70 percent of all deaths related to natural disasters
On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights, however By 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water, according to UN (United Nations) and private studies conducted in 2017/2018.
Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in. There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. But due to bad economics or poor water infrastructure,poor management and distribution of water and lack of resources to provide within the basic needs of an ever-growing positive population growth, every year millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, ill-sanitation (due to forced use of unclean, unpurified and contaminated water) and hygiene.
Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world. Drought afflicts some of the world’s poorest countries, worsening hunger and malnutrition.
There are many private/public organisations and scientific communities/fields that are determined to finding innovative solutions:
Innovations Within the Country:
Through the passing/implementation of water restrictions (intensity by level) and policies aiding in water saving.
Improving ‘bore-hole water technology’
‘Digitising our water supply or control purposes.
Using various water filters, such as the ‘PuffPastries’ water filter
Using sustainable energy sources to power water filters(solar power)
Collaborating with overseas scientists to increase sustainable infrastructure and to decrease water consumption
Education is the key for positive development. Educating people on safe water consumption will rapidly decrease waterborne disease infection and increase water supply/efficient water usage.
The ‘Hippo Roller’. Two engineers from Gauteng designed Hippo Roller to create easier access to water in impoverished communities. Many of South Africa’s communities lack basic access to clean drinkable water, and instead have to travel long distances and then carry the heavy buckets back. These buckets usually hold around 18 litres each. In response, the Hippo Roller can carry more than 90 litres at a time, which means fewer trips to collect water, and less strain on the physical condition of women. With more free time, children can attend school more frequently.Initially, the design was structured as a wheelbarrow with a low centre of gravity. However, the wheel was too expensive. This led them to reducing the design down to the wheel alone, so that it could contain the water and be pushed or pulled on the ground. The durable wheel has a lifespan of between five and seven years. The Hippo Roller initiative insists the government provides these communities with water on tap. However, acknowledging that this will take years to materialise, the initiative is distributing Hippo Rollers to make their lives easier. Although they have already distributed more than 27000 rollers to date, they have hardly covered a portion of what is needed.
Lastly, the ‘AquaTrap’. Mark Algra created Aquatrap to save water, by using recycled tyres. The Cape Town based creator did not come up with the idea entirely on his own, instead he credits an edition of Popular Mechanics. In the magazine he read that golf courses in the USA were taking tyres, cutting and splitting them open and then burying them. By doing this, golf courses were saving around 60 per cent of the water they normally used.Algra was able to get hold of the sidewalls of recycled tyres. Since the tread section was being used for making shoe soles, the entire product was being up-cycled. Algra constructed the Aquatrap by gluing an inner tube to the inside of the sidewall, creating a dish. Once buried beneath the soil, the trap collects excess water that has trickled down, which then lies available for the plant to consume at a later stage. The traps also make the soil warmer, which means that crops are more comfortable and so that they yield larger produce. Aquatrap has proven to double, and even triple, growth rates.Algra has been implementing his design at local schools. It assists in educating children on how to save water, providing them with knowledge that they then take home and share with their families and communities.
Innovations within the community:
A group of UCT (University of Cape Town) students have developed a way to make collecting water from a shower easier, says eNCA (also referred to as eNews Channel Africa) . Their in-shower water saving device has four interlocking flat containers that form a platform that sits at the bottom of the shower. The device collects 40 litres of water and the creators made it available on February of 2018.
IOL (Independent online) reports that three Stellenbosch University masters students in chemistry figured out how to eliminate water waste from their lab’s various systems. Before they created the Closed Cold Water Recycling System, their lab would waste perfectly potable municipal water when it cooled down the machines and washed all the equipment.
CapeTalk reports that 100 Cape Town schools are set to save thousands of litres of water, thanks to Dropula. The new device, designed by Professor Thinus Booysen of Stellenbosch University, combines a metre and an electronic dashboard to monitor water usage. The smart-meter attaches to a municipal metre to alert the dashboard of increased usage. The dashboard can identify where and why there was a spike, and the school administration can investigate and decrease the usage accordingly.
Garden ResQ Grey Water Systems, a Fish Hoek-based company, have designed a simple system to quell your domestic water wastage. This simple garden greywater system connects to your showers and sinks, collects the greywater and distributes it in your garden.
Due to the water crisis, a public Facebook group called Water Shedding Western Cape has cropped up and we found some pretty amazing ideas. One user designed a series of interlocking pipes as a water storage device for people who don’t have the yard space for a water storage tank. It uses plastic piping, and for every 10 metres of pipe, it can store up to 78 litres of water. Some fellow enthusiasts have suggested painting the rig black and having it in the sun, meaning the water would warm up. Hook it up to a rainwater collector and you’ve got yourself a handy storage device.
Mistifi. Available in Cape Town, Mistifi is a mist nozzle that can fit onto most taps. The product is incredibly easy to install and doesn't require a plumber. The device dispenses 800 ml of water per minute (compared to the average tap that dispenses 9L of water per minute!), which is roughly nine times less. The nozzle sells for R95 each.
Innovations within the household:
The successful implementation of boreholes for underground water
The use of greywater throughout the household/community
The phrase ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, i it is brown lush it down’ has saved much toilet water (6l/flush).
Reusing wasted shower water.
Household brands such as ‘Loomy’ have allowed us as consumers to continue living hygienically by neutralizing urine, and killing the harmful bacteria in the urine, that lays dormant in the toilet, until it is flushed
It is save to infer that we, as South-Africans, have learnt how to save water and live more sustainably the hard way, but we as a group, as a unit, as the rainbow nation, have achieved what only few other countries could. South African citizens, especially those of the Cape Town region, epitomise the phrase ‘reuse-reduce-recycle’.
Responsible Consumption and Production Patterns:
Sustainable consumption and production is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all. Its implementation helps to achieve overall development plans, reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.
Sustainable consumption and production aims at “doing more and better with less,” increasing net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the whole lifecycle, while increasing quality of life. It involves different stakeholders, including business, consumers, policy makers, researchers, scientists, retailers, media, and development cooperation agencies, among others.
It also requires a systemic approach and cooperation among actors operating in the supply chain, from producer to final consumer. It involves engaging consumers through awareness-raising and education on sustainable consumption and lifestyles, providing consumers with adequate information through standards and labels and engaging in sustainable public procurement, among others
If South Africa fully implements sustainable and effective methods of consumption, production and trade, our negative impact on the environment will decrease, we will move from an industrialized nation to a technological nation, trade/foreign investments will increase, employees/employers will earn more, pay more tax and increase the GDP/capita, increased effectiveness will lead to focus on social aspects, increasing education to increase the level of skilled and qualified individuals, thus further improving work productiveness, health and welfare(HDI) of the workforce and the country.this will lead to an increase in development and power in the global economy.
UN Goals Related to Sustainable Production and Consumption Patterns:
Implement the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, all countries taking action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries
By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses
By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment
By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse
Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle
Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities
By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature
Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production
Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products
Rationalize inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by removing market distortions, in accordance with national circumstances, including by restructuring taxation and phasing out those harmful subsidies, where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts, taking fully into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries and minimizing the possible adverse impacts on their development in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities
Facts and Stats:
Each year, an estimated one third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion – ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices
If people worldwide switched to energy efficient light bulbs the world would save US$120 billion annually
Should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles
Less than 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), of which 2.5 percent is frozen in the Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers. Humanity must therefore rely on 0.5 percent for all of man’s ecosystems’ and fresh water needs.
Man is polluting water faster than nature can recycle and purify water in rivers and lakes.
More than 1 billion people still do not have access to fresh water.
Excessive use of water contributes to the global water stress.
Water is free from nature but the infrastructure needed to deliver it is expensive.
Despite technological advances that have promoted energy efficiency gains, energy use in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries will continue to grow another 35 percent by 2020. Commercial and residential energy use is the second most rapidly growing area of global energy use after transport.
In 2002 the motor vehicle stock in OECD countries was 550 million vehicles (75 percent of which were personal cars). A 32 percent increase in vehicle ownership is expected by 2020. At the same time, motor vehicle kilometres are projected to increase by 40 percent and global air travel is projected to triple in the same period.
Households consume 29 percent of global energy and consequently contribute to 21 percent of resultant CO2 emissions.
One-fifth of the world’s final energy consumption in 2013 was from renewables.
While substantial environmental impacts from food occur in the production phase (agriculture, food processing), households influence these impacts through their dietary choices and habits. This consequently affects the environment through food-related energy consumption and waste generation.
1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year while almost 1 billion people go undernourished and another 1 billion hungry.
Overconsumption of food is detrimental to our health and the environment.
2 billion people globally are overweight or obese.
Land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing and marine environment degradation are all lessening the ability of the natural resource base to supply food.
The food sector accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption and accounts for around 22 percent of total Greenhouse Gas emissions.
Increasing sustainability is mutualistically beneficial, yet it requires much effort, a generous amount of cheap resources and development in many fields, including technology.
Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and its Impacts
Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow.
People are experiencing the significant impacts of climate change, which include changing weather patterns, rising sea level, and more extreme weather events. The greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are driving climate change and continue to rise. They are now at their highest levels in history. Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century and is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius this century—with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most.
Affordable, scalable solutions are now available to enable countries to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies. The pace of change is quickening as more people are turning to renewable energy and a range of other measures that will reduce emissions and increase adaptation efforts.
But climate change is a global challenge that does not respect national borders. Emissions anywhere affect people everywhere. It is an issue that requires solutions that need to be coordinated at the international level and it requires international cooperation to help developing countries move toward a low-carbon economy.
An example of addressing climate change on a global scale:
countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015. The Agreement entered into force shortly thereafter, on 4 November 2016. In the agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.Implementation of the Paris Agreement is essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and provides a roadmap for climate actions that will reduce emissions and build climate resilience.
UN Goals for Addressing Climate Change:
Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible
Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities
Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.
Facts and Stats:
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, from 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C. To put this into perspective, for each 1 degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by about 5 per cent. Maize, wheat and other major crops have experienced significant yield reductions at the global level of 40 megatons per year between 1981 and 2002 due to a warmer climate.
Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. The Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 million km² of ice loss every decade
Given current concentrations and on-going emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century, the increase in global temperature will exceed 1.5°C compared to 1850 to 1900 for all but one scenario. The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted as 24 – 30cm by 2065 and 40-63cm by 2100. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions are stopped
Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990
Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades
It is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behaviour, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
Major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold
ICT (Information and Communications Technology) tools are an important part of any mathematics and science focused school, such as PHA (Protea Heights Academy), however many other schools in South Africa, and in many other developing countries, are not as privileged, thus many scholars lack the necessary technological skills required for a rapidly developing global economy.
Therefore, we decided to make an introductory tutorial using a very simple coding program/s that is perfect for beginners and is also fun/entertaining or people of ALL ages, including scratch, minecraft:education edition and codecombat (a personal favourite)
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thbgMU5oo-U (SCRATCH)
We have also added a link of an extremely helpful and educational website that allows anyone to go through several courses of a variety of coding languages, in order to prepare you for application of that code, for free. Sololearn also includes challenges, chat groups, polls and ‘code playground’ to test your new coding skills.
Girls in STEM:
Firstly, what is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. It’s an acronym that was coined to address the current and future shortage of skilled workers in high-tech fields, and the inadequate education of students in these areas. It’s believed that, by teaching these subjects together, in an interdisciplinary cohesive approach, STEM education will be more relevant and fun (and thus attract more students), and will develop the sort of critical thinking skills needed in the high-tech workforce, both now and in the future.
What about women in STEM?
The shortage of skilled workers and students in STEM is only half of the story. More alarming is the shortage of female skilled workers and students in STEM. Stats vary by country and by discipline, but generally speaking, women make up only 15-25% of the current STEM workforce, and the gap is broadening.
Why does this matter?
Well, firstly there’s no evidence that girls are less capable in these fields, but rather that they often ‘feel’ less capable, partly due to stereotyping.
Then there’s the tendency for STEM jobs to be higher paid, meaning that the lack of women in these roles is contributing to gender salary gap.
A lack of women in these fields means fewer female role models, both for current female STEM employees, and for girls still forming career choices.
And what about the whole growth of STEM jobs in the future thing, which is expected to skyrocket…
There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes by policy makers and educators to remove barriers and encourage women to work and study in STEM fields – which is awesome, but we think it needs to start earlier than that. Much earlier than that.
Why is STEM for young girls important?
Did you know that research has shown that science achievement gaps emerge by kindergarten , and these gaps continue until at least the end of eighth grade?
So, if kids don’t get enough exposure to science concepts and informal learning opportunities in preschool or earlier, then they’ll be starting kindergarten with relatively less knowledge about the physical and natural sciences. And this gap will likely haunt them for the next nine years or more.
Now if we look at STEM for young girls in particular, what’s alarming is that even where there is no difference in STEM ability, a large divide in ‘perceived competence’ for girls can start as early as age five. (This article on the way society treats boys and girls differently, and how boys and girls view themselves even when STEM abilities are equal, is very interesting.)
If you add in the lack of female role-models in the STEM workforce (both in real life, and in the media), the distressing stereotyping and dumbing-down of many ‘girl’ toys, and the often subtle (and not so subtle) marketing of STEM concepts to boys…
See where we are going with this?
We all concurred with Tom MacInnes when he said“I am loathe to allow gender distinctions to limit intellectual and personal freedom. I want my daughters to grow up knowing that they have the right to chart their own course when it comes to pursuing their interests and dreams.”
We are not trying to dictate which career direction all females must end up taking. We just want them to follow their dreams and to know that they have the right to pursue ANY dream that they want
How to encourage girls in STEM
Ok, so hopefully we have got you a little ramped up about the importance of encouraging girls in STEM, from a young age.
You might be wondering – how exactly do I do that?
It will differ for each child and each situation, but here are some general tips:
Surround your kids with positive female role-models
The old adage is that you can’t become what you can’t see. Take your kids to female doctors and dentists. Find out if any of the mums at school work in STEM, and then point this out to your child. Seek out books and movies that feature strong female STEM characters. If you’re a mum or female teacher reading this, don’t forget that you can be a positive female role-model too. Next time you need to drill a hole in the wall, do it yourself, and let the kids catch you doing it.
2. Help them find the answers to their questions
Science is all around us, and preschoolers are great at asking science questions. Sometimes they can ask dozens! Try (your hardest) not to dismiss their questions, and instead help them to
3. Watch your words
Research shows that people tend to speak more often in terms of numbers, quantities and science attributes to boys than girls, from as young as babies and toddlers. So make a conscious effort not to dumb down your conversations with your daughters. Speak less of what girls look like, and speak more of what they are interested in.
4. Follow their interests
Kids can often become ultra-fascinated with a particular topic, and that’s really cool! Encourage them to go down that proverbial rabbit hole, and learn as much as they want to about the subject. Borrow books, consult subject matter experts, do fun activities at home. It doesn’t really matter what the actual topic is, it’s more about encouraging their desire to learn, and learn deep! (But at the same time, if kids decide they aren’t interested anymore, let them move on to the next topic. That’s cool too. Let their interests be the guide.)
5. Provide ‘some’ construction and science kits
It’s also handy for kids to learn how to follow instructions and build something really cool. That’s where kits come in handy. My only caveat is that this should be in addition to, instead of a replacement of, more open-ended construction play.
There are a few really awesome kits out there that are gender-neutral, or marketed towards girls, and we are a big fan of these companies! Unfortunately (and frustratingly) many of the cool kits are still heavily marketed towards boys – but don’t let this persuade you. At first, if your kids are sensitive to the marketing, you could rebox the kits into a plain cardboard box. After a while, as their confidence grows, you can start to present the kits in their original packaging, and talk about why companies might package toys in this way, and the effects this has on society etc. You might even fire up a new advocate for the gender-neutral marketing of toys movement!
6. Follow the Scientific Method and view failures as discoveries
In science, finding out that something doesn’t work is just as important as finding out that something does. Persist. Tweak your hypothesis, adjust your experiment, and see if you can come up with a way to make it work.
7. Encourage a growth mindset
We’re firm believers in our house that if you say you can’t do something, then you’re missing the word ‘yet’. If you want to be good at something, then you need to practice. At first practicing can be hard and frustrating, but if you keep trying, then you can develop the skills to be able to do it more easily, which in turn makes practice more fun. Praise effort over results, because yes, they may need to do some hard yards first.
8. Use big words in context
Kids are masters of decoding. If you regularly use big words correctly and in context, they’ll quickly work out what they mean and they’ll become part of their everyday vocabulary. If preschoolers can pronounce ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’ then they can certainly pronounce ‘dehydrated’, ‘asteroid’ and ‘nocturnal’.
If we all work hard we can make STEM fields more available, not only to girls, but or any/all genders.
More reading on STEM for girls:
State of Girls and Women in STEM – National Girls Collaborative Project
Bridging the Gender Gap: Encouraging Girls in STEM Begins At Home – Huffington Post
Science Achievement Gaps Begin Very Early, Persist, And Are Largely Explained By Modifiable Factors – Educational Researcher
Why girls need STEM and why STEM needs girls – Today’s Parent
Why is STEM for girls important? – Mama Smiles
You might also like to follow the STEM for Girls board on Pinterest.
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga4Gh36dnfU