You might not think it would matter who our scientists are. As long as they are solving our world’s problems, that should be enough, right?
But girls and boys are different, just like kids from one part of the country can be different from kids from another part.
For example, an educator at Saint Louis Science Center challenged students to come up with a new source of fuel that was:
• able to heat a box oven to a temperature high enough to cook something.
The students were all inner-city kids, many of whom didn’t have a washer and dryer at home. Many of the girls were used to taking their family’s clothes to a laundromat to wash and dry them.
The girls thought about the large trash cans full of dryer lint at laundromats. They wondered if the lint could be used as a fuel source.
The kids in St. Louis made briquettes, or small, dense bricks, out of clothes dryer lint. They used the briquettes as fuel to heat their box oven – and it worked!
As experts pointed out, though, the idea of using dryer lint might not have occurred to the boys in the class, since they might not do as much laundry. And a student who lives in a home with a washer and dryer might not have thought about the huge amounts of lint that are available as a free, renewable source of fuel.
Meeting a mentor
A group called the Expanding Your Horizons Network is working to help girls keep their natural interest in science and engineering. The network organizes conferences where girls can meet adult female scientists, or mentors, and do hands-on science activities. (A mentor is someone who advises or counsels another person.)
By questioning and talking with mentors, young girls can imagine themselves in a scientific career. For example, girls may want to know if women scientists have time for friends and families.
The network also provides girls and their families with information about local resources, such as science centers and other science activities in the area.
Science can be found in the most unexpected places!