STEAM has no Gender

This year we decide to participate in the STEM Discovery Campaign with an awareness-raising event on the topic of the gender gap in STEM. Together with my colleague Donatella Sandias organized a multidisciplinary civic education activity focusing on SGDs 5 for all the students from Liceo Manzoni, Caserta.

The activity was presented to Liceo Manzoni teachers that have been involved in training about digital tools in education (Canva and digipad) and was a way to promote the use of this tool in the classes. To make it simple, all the digital tools have been included in a google site,(in Italian) where each page introduces an activity. But the main aim was to create a civic education activity for students to raise interest in STEAM and help them to understand that STEAM is for all!

In the following paragraphs, we will explore all the steps included and the activity.

What do you need to be competent in STEM?

We start the activity with this question, clarifying that there are no right o wrong questions, just opinions. Students have to answer the question on a digipad after a short discussion in class. It is funny that most of the students indicated skills like needed “perseverance”,” motivation“,” being smart“, skills that are not really related to STEM, which means most of them really don’t know what they need to be proficient in STEM. The next question was “Do you think you are proficient in STEM?” here we have different answers depending on the real skills of students, but the answer was also strongly affected by their self-confidence, in particular Girls.

Do you already have STEM skills?

We start the second part of the activity with other questions about one of the most used social media by students: Instagram. Here you have some questions:

  • Do you create stories combining together video and music? (that means they have some basic technology skills)
  • Do you plan what you are going to communicate with the background of your images? (that means you have some Art skills)
  • Do you regularly check how many people have visualized your story and compare data from different stories? (that means you have some basic mathematics skills)

So we introduce to students STEAM showing them these types of skills could be already included in their background, and we can ask them if they think they will be considered STEM citizens. I have to say that most of them were surprised to discover that they already have some basic STEAM skills and they were happy to define themself as STEAM citizens!

Let’s search

This activity starts with one question:

Do you think gender is relevant to defining STEAM skills?

I am so sad I hadn’t a camera to take a picture of their faces when they answer the question because I saw their faces so convinced that gender has no relevance in having or not STEAM skills.

But we would love to share with them what society thinks, to be aware! For this reason, we propose students to make simple research on Europeana, which is a great source of educational and teaching material, and most of them refer to the past, to show them what happened in the last century about the gender gap in STEAM. As in Italian languages we have masculine and feminine, we ask them to search scientist (he/his), and then scientist (she/her). Before to make the research some students were already supposing that we will not find any female scientists, which was really sad for me. On the google sites, they have a digipad where they can write what they have found. It could be an idea to make the research also in other languages to find if the results it is the same.

Take action!

SO we found a problem! and what we can do? I ask students to collaborate to create a campaign to underline that STEAM has no gender! we prepare a template in Canva that they can use to show which skills are important to be proficient in STEAM. In the template, we use a mannequin and let the students free to personalize it and underling or not his/her gender. After creating their artwork they upload these on a digipad, where they can also add votes, so we can decide the best work, that will be printed and posted all around the school.