Afterschool programs provide opportunities to broaden children’s ideas about who can be successful in STEM by including students from diverse backgrounds.
Educators should aim to develop an affirming and welcoming environment where ALL learners can flourish as they explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
An inclusive STEM experience sees and values the differences learners bring to the experience. All learners are valued and respected including:
Encouraging learners and families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds to take part in the STEM activities.
We all have many identities, including children. Very young children may be less aware of their gender and how it relates to their identity as someone who “can do” science and math. But by mid elementary school, children start to become aware of common misconceptions and stereotypes about who belongs in STEM programs and activities expressing false ideas, rather than more accurate ones:
|False Stereotypes||Accurate Ideas|
When children start to look at themselves through these lenses, they may feel like they don’t belong in STEM or they do belong in STEM. They may start to see themselves as:
Our goal as educators is to help all children believe that STEM is for everyone! And that doing science and math can be really fun. In fact, anyone can be a scientist if they embody these traits of a constant desire to learn and a mindset that doing STEM requires hard work.
Bian, L., Leslie, S. J., & Cimpian, A. (2017). Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests. Science, 355(6323), 389-391.
Lei, R. F., Green, E. R., Leslie, S. J., & Rhodes, M. (2019). Children lose confidence in their potential to “be scientists,” but not in their capacity to “do science”. Developmental science, 22(6), e12837.
Master, A. (2021). Gender stereotypes influence children’s STEM motivation. Child Development Perspectives, 15, 203-210.
Rhodes, M., Cardarelli, A., & Leslie, S. J. (2020). Asking young children to “do science” instead of “be scientists” increases science engagement in a randomized field experiment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(18), 9808-9814.