From historic accomplishments to modern-day marvels, women have made some of the most monumental contributions to the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Check out six of our favorite “STEM-inists” below and be sure to share with your daughters to inspire them to make some meaningful discoveries of their own!
Jacqueline Jenkins-Nye (1921-2000)
You probably know Bill Nye, the Science Guy. But did you know that his mother was a STEM smarty in her own right? Before Bill was born, Jacqueline worked for the Navy as a World War II code-breaker, helping the Americans translate secret German messages. The translation of these encoded messages helped end the war—up to a year and a half early!—saving many allied lives. If your kiddo wants to try writing her own super-secret messages, check out Nancy B’s Science Club™ Black Light Illuminator.
Jacqueline Jenkins-Nye, photo courtesy of Vimeo
Julia Morgan (1872-1957)
If you’re going to build things, you may as well build big! The first woman to attend the famed Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first female architect in California, Julia is best-known for building the 165-room Hearst Castle, complete with indoor and outdoor pools and a private zoo. Construction of this sprawling estate took 28 years! Julia also designed more than 700 other buildings AND helped to rebuild many historical buildings after the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
Julia Morgan, photo courtesy of Metropolis Magazine
Susan Kare (1954-present)
If you’re a Mac user, you know Susan’s work, even if you don’t know her name. Susan is responsible for many of the computer interfaces you use every day, including the trash can icon, the command icon, and the Happy Mac greeting. After working with Steve Jobs to develop Apple’s iconography and typography, she moved on to Microsoft to work on Windows 3.0, was one of the founding members of Glam Media (now Mode Media), and now manages her own design firm in San Francisco.
Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)
A self-proclaimed Cinderella, Caroline left her parents’ home in England, where she did all of the chores and housework, to do the same at her brother’s house– ugh! But when her brother began to study astronomy, so did Caroline, who went on to discover never-before-seen nebulae (clouds of gas and dust in outer space), star clusters, and comets. Before her death at the age of 97, Caroline became the first female scientist in England to be paid for her work. Her employer? None other than the King himself. If your daughter loves star gazing, too, the Nancy B’s Science Club MoonScope™ and Sky Gazers Activity Journal will help encourage her interest in astronomy.
Caroline Herschel, photo courtesy of Hawksmoor’s Bazaar
Joy Crisp, PhDA planetary geologist, Joy studies everything from lava flow and volcanic eruption clouds on Earth to actual rocks on Mars! Since 1987, Joy has worked for one of the largest space exploration agencies in the world – NASA. Currently a Principal Scientist and theDeputy Project Scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Joy has participated in the successful landing of four different rovers on Mars.Since she can’t travel to Mars to study the geology there, Joy studies images and data sent by these “roving” vehicles. To learn more about Joy’s work, visit the Nancy B’s Science Club website.
Maryam Mirzakhani (1977–present)
Maryam is a female of many firsts. After discovering her aptitude for math in middle school, thenow-Stanford professor became the first female member of Iran’s Mathematical Olympiad team, the first Iranian team member to achieve a perfect score in that competition, and, much later, the first woman to win the Fields Medal (the most prestigious award in mathematics). Maryam’s work in hyperbolic geometry helps mathematicians understand the volume and symmetry of curved spaces. Challenge your mini-mathematician with Math Trekker, the portable math game that’s way more fun than flash cards.
If you’ve enjoyed learning about some of the STEM-inists who’ve made significant contributions in the fields of science, technology, math, and engineering, watch for part two of our STEM-inist series, coming soon!
If you’ve got school-aged children or follow educational news, you’ve probably heard about STEM. But what IS STEM, exactly? And why is it suddenly so important? Read on for answers to some of your most pressing STEM questions and ideas for simple STEM activities you can do at home with your kids this STEM-tember.
What IS STEM?
STEM is an American educational curriculum implemented in 2009 by President Obama, emphasizing Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering in public schools. Rather than teaching these subjects individually, STEM is a blended approach that integrates the subjects into single lessons in an attempt to teach real-world, scientific, problem solving and strategic thinking skills.
Why is STEM important?
America grew to be a global super power based, in part, on our superior science and engineering skills. The role STEM careers will play in our country’s continued success is growing exponentially. However, the number of students interested in and qualified to pursue these fields has diminished drastically over the years. By the year 2018, the U.S. will need 8.65 million workers trained in STEM fields*, but currently, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16% of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career. As a result, there is a push to increase the number of teachers trained in STEM instruction and to encourage students’ interest in pursuing STEM careers, in hopes of enabling America to continue to compete in the future global marketplace. This effort is so important to the U.S. government that the President’s 2015 Fiscal Year Budget Proposal included $170 million in new funding just to support the STEM initiative.
What can I do to reinforce STEM learning at home?
There are tons of fun ways you can support STEM learning at home, with FUN being the key word. Introducing the STEM subjects in playful, real-world ways increases the chance that your kids will want to continue to study them through school and beyond. Think scavenger hunt—not flash cards! Below are 10 ideas to get you started:
Block play—Building with blocks is a great way to introduce key STEM principles. How many bricks will you use? Why did the tower topple? How can you build a bridge? An arch?
Baking—Whipping up a sweet treat isn’t just together-time fun—it’s also an easy way to slip in a yummy lesson on measurement. How much is a tablespoon? A cup? What units do we use to measure liquids? Solids?
Kitchen chemistry—Kids love to measure, pour, mix, and add some more. Explore the basic principles of chemistry with a kit designed just for little ones, like the GeoSafari® Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set including 10 hands-on activity cards.
Active math—Make math fun with movement! Take turns counting your steps or hula hoop spins and timing your races. Subtract to see who wins and by how much.
Nature collections—Take a walk and collect natural fall objects, like leaves, grass, nuts, and seeds. Discuss where they came from, why they look the way they do, and what purpose they serve. Google any unanswered questions when you get home.
Board games—Card games are a great way to hone strategic thinking skills. Koala Capers is a fun strategy game for younger kids; Crowded Waters develops problem solving skills and teaches older kids to think a few steps ahead.
Coding games—Introduce the basic concepts of coding with fun on-line games designed just for kids. Websites like Code.org feature games with familiar characters like Anna and Elsa and tutorials starring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds, and Plants vs. Zombies to lure in older kids.
Upcycled art—Engineering meets art! Provide a pile of recycled materials and let your kids go crazy building upcycled structures. Be sure to include a variety of materials, from egg cartons and empty milk containers to paper scraps.
Jennifer Jens, Educational Insights’ eCommerce team member, chose the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, a cause close to her heart, to receive EI’s monthly charitable donations in August.
Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event, occurring annually in communities around the world to celebrate those who have survived cancer, remember those we’ve lost, and fight back for a world with more birthdays. Participating teams take turns walking or running a track or path at local high schools, parks, and fairgrounds. Because cancer never sleeps, Relay for Life events last up to 24 hours, with at least one participant per team on the track at all times.
Funds raised at Relay for Life events fund cancer research; the Hope Lodge, a free and comfortable place for patients and their caregivers to during treatments; Look Good… Feel Better, a free service that teaches women battling cancer beauty techniques to help them improve their appearance and self-image during chemotherapy and radiation treatments; the Road to Recovery, a transportation program for patients; and Reach to Recovery, a support program for breast cancer survivors.
Having beat Hodgkins Lymphoma more 14 years ago, Jen participated in her first Relay for Life in 2005 – the year shelost her father to pancreatic cancer. Impressed with the organization and results of the event, Jen joined the team and has been a part of the event planning committee for the last nine years.
Nancy Balter is our math and science product developer here at Educational Insights. Not only is she brilliant in developing educational toys and games in her area of expertise, but she was also a teacher for 11 years! Today she has graciously shared with us a very helpful worksheet to help your kids learn their metric system.
A word from Nancy: This fun worksheet helps students learn the Metric System. The Optical Illusions worksheet has students using a ruler to practice measuring in metric (using centimeters and millimeters). Kids love optical illusions so it’s fun to do.
A sincere compliment, a kind word, a pat on the back… a little bit goes a long way toward motivating grown-ups. The same is true of kids! Everyone likes to be acknowledged (and rewarded!) for their hard work and contributions. Whether your kids are acing their homework, showing real improvement on that big test, or trying their hardest to tackle a challenging new concept, the final installment of our ABC’s of Back to School series features three easy incentives to—“C” celebrate— and reward kids’ academic efforts and achievements all year long.
Stickers and Stamps – Who doesn’t love stickers? A silly sticker or positive stamped message means a lot to kids. Check your local big box store, teacher’s supply, or dollar store for some fun stickers and stamps. And don’t forget to share our Facebook post for your chance to win one of our Positive Reinforcement Stamp sets with a new stamp pad!
Points System – Institute a points system and post it at your designated homework spot. Offer points for whatever you want to encourage – best handwriting, completed homework, improved test scores – and track them toward goals you and your child set together. Your child’s points might earn him a trip to the ice cream shop or movies, a special toy like our Design & Drill® BrightWorks™, or an end-of-year day at the amusement park!
Cold, Hard, Cash – By second or third grade, your child may become especially motivated by money they can spend any way they choose. Work together to set up clear expectations and exact amounts earned when those expectations are met. This is also a great lesson in financial responsibility and literacy.