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Stuart Launches Group to Help Conquer “Girl Gap” in Education January 31, 2012

Posted by The Raise Project in Women in Science.
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Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart announces it has assembled a task force of some of the nation’s leading thinkers to help conquer the so-called “girl gap” in the disciplines collectively known as STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.

According to a recent New York Times article, women earn only about 40 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in the physical sciences and math and when it comes to engineering and computer science, the fall-off is even more dramatic –women earn only 17 to 18 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in those fields.

“While we already have strong math and science programs in place, studies show that the drop-off – when girls start tuning out—begins as early as third grade,” said Dr. Patty L. Fagin, Stuart’s head of school.

“Our challenge as educators is to figure out why that is happening and what we can do to motivate, lead and teach girls that science, technology, engineering and math are cool and can open doorways to endless possibilities. So we asked ourselves this question: what if you could assemble a dream team of some of the best and brightest minds in their fields and ask them what would you do to change the way girls are taught science and math? And that’s exactly what we did.”

Stuart’s STEM Task Force Membership list includes national leaders in STEM education, policy makers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists, as well as men and women in science and technology-related fields who stand out as role models for girls.

Members include Naomi Leonard, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University; Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist; Bonnie Bassler, a recent presidential nominee to the National Science Board; Ed Felten, the Federal Trade Commission’s chief technologist; and New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt, who was a physicist before he became a politician.

STEM education leaders include Tony Murphy, Ph.D. who led the formation of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Stacy S. Klein-Gardner, Ph.D. who is Director of the Center for STEM Education for Girls at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee.

The task force recently met for the first time at the Princeton campus of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart – most in person but others – in a nod to technology—through videoconference. The discussion centered on this key question: if money were no object, what should a STEM program at Stuart look like, in terms of curriculum, mentoring programs, architecture and learning spaces?

“We have to show students that science is an adventure and the most important thing we can do is to help girls understand that doing science is the most fun job,” said Bassler, professor of molecular biology at Princeton University. “We don’t work. We get to play all day. Our job is to simply imagine the unknown and figure out how to get there.”

Rose Wong, Stuart’s director of curriculum and faculty development, said it was exciting to have so many leading experts and innovators in one room to focus on how we can influence the mindset of our girls to consider careers in math and science.

“It is an awesome responsibility, but by partnering with some of the most brilliant minds in these areas, we have the power to make Stuart a national leader in STEM education for girls and to develop women who will lead our country in science, engineering, math and innovation.”

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