From my recent post for the Redleaf Press blog …
In many early childhood classrooms the block area is perceived to be the domain of boys only. Girls often need extra encouragement from teachers and parents to engage in block play. The experience of young girls in the block corner is similar to what many female students experience in STEM classrooms. Unfortunately, many girls and young women with an early interest or ability in science, technology, engineering and math do not continue studying these subjects at advanced levels. According to the American Association of University Women: “At almost every step of the STEM education ladder, we see girls walk away. By seventh grade, most girls have lost interest in these fields, and few high school girls plan to pursue STEM in college.” (AAUW, Spring 2010)
If we’re going to reach girls before they turn away from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) it’s clear we need to start young — in early childhood and the primary grades. Girls need support and encouragement to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence that will lead to success in STEM classrooms and careers.
One strategy I suggest is using open-ended construction toys to challenge and inspire girls to experiment and innovate. Parents and teachers must take an active role in encouraging girls to build with toys that develop children’s understanding of engineering, geometry, physics and math. In addition to wooden unit blocks, one of the most versatile and open-ended construction toys, girls can be encouraged to build with toys like Magnatiles or Straws & Connectors, as well as household objects like cardboard boxes and plastic bins.
You can read more about girls and STEM in my previous blog posts here: