Summer Science for Girls
BY MARY VICKERS
In 1984, The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) presented in Vancouver the first "Summer Science" program for girls aged 9 to 12 years. This initial program was so promising that the project was continued under SCWIST sponsorship for the next four summers. In 1989 SCWIST published Imagine the Possibilities, a resource book for other groups wanting to present similar workshops. The basic program consists of a series of half day hands-on science workshops. The classes are small, about 16 girls in each. The three or four instructors are all women scientists or science students and a high teacher/student ratio allows for a significant development of skill and confidence. Most activities result in a product which can be taken away and shown to friends and family.
At the heart of the program are workshop activities. These have been designed to show the girls that science and technology are interesting, relevant and entirely appropriate for women. When a young girl learns to build a birdhouse, fix her bicycle or mix cement for a flower pot, her confidence and interest in these traditionally male activities increases. And when her instructor is a woman scientist or technologist, she learns about the kind of role she may occupy as an adult.
The effectiveness of the program has been measured by an attitude questionnaire completed by each girl at both the beginning and end of each workshop series. Analysis of these questionnaires demonstrates that the workshops, are indeed achieving their goals. We found that the girls' attitudes towards science/technology careers changed, as did their general sense of self-worth. Highly significant positive changes were recorded in their attitudes towards science/technological jobs as possible career choices, in their interest in non-traditional careers, in their understanding that women can work in non- traditional areas, and in their confidence to build, repair, and to do science. There is a demonstrated overall empowerment of young girls when they assert " I can do any of these careers if I want to."