How to direct more girls towards STEM professions

I recently attended an excellent event Stand Up for Passion, at the Crystal Theater. The evening was organized by Cornerstone Economics which proves that people are busy changing the world in many different ways, on their own, without fanfare.

One of them was a young woman, Thersa Montenarello, a math teacher, originally from NY, who now works at the International School of Aruba.

She’s been at ISA for five years, and got married last June when cupid struck her, right here on the island.

Together with Peter, her tall and handsome husband, also a teacher, who redesigned the makerspace at school, they run workshops for kids, 4 to 6 graders, even younger, to teach them how to be handy around the house.

Well, that’s an oversimplification.

A makerspace is an old concept, only Theresa & Peter dusted it off. It just an ordinary space inside the school, reserved for making, learning, exploring and sharing with the help of high tech and no tech tools, yes, saws, hammers, drills, glue-guns besides a 3D printers and computers.

The kids work on projects every Friday from 3 to 6pm, they make bird houses, toys, robots.

They often refuse to go home at the end of the session. Time flies when you’re having fun.

So, what’s the logic behind it?

Theresa explains everybody always assumed she taught reading or writing. A woman teaching high-school algebra and calculus?

She always wanted to break down this gender bias – girls play with Barbies, boys get fire engines – which later on in life discourages women from picking any STEM profession, in science, technology, engineering or math.

Theresa and Peter expose kids to tinkering, and by doing so kids gain confidence with their natural curiosity empowered. They learn to trust their instinct, without mom complaining about the mess they make.

Theresa & Peter are looking for more partnerships on the island, to perhaps organize a camp, explore theme subjects, and bring craftmanship into classrooms, reach more kids, create new opportunities for girls, opportunities which will have to be sponsored by different organizations.

I loved listening to Theresa. She said it was nerve-wracking, but it was great.

When I went to school 150 years ago, girls were sent to a makerspace designed to teach embroidery, knitting, and sewing, while boys enjoyed woodwork, and mechanics.

We were doomed from the get go. And I have never again picked up a knitting needle, but my education remained in the girlie regions.

I heard the MinPres talking about the need to direct more girls towards STEM. It is an issue. ISA found a way to deal with the challenge thanks to Theresa & Peter.    

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April 17, 2019
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