Teach your daughters to reach for the stars!

December 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
What can parents do to inspire their daughters' interest in science, technology and math? It may not be as difficult as you might think. Meet Dr. Mae Jemison, our nation's first female African-American astronaut.

About Dr. Mae Jemison:
In addition to being the nation's first African American female astronaut, a physician and a chemical engineer, she is also a leading science educator and the founder of the international science camp for high school students called The Earth We Share (TEWS).

Inspiration to help your girls to reach for the stars in technology, science and math:

Tips for parents:

- Know that interest in science begins early in childhood. The majority of scientists caught the "science bug" while still in elementary school. And, if your four-year old daughter wants a doctor's kit and your son an erector set, don't be surprised: biological sciences first appealed to female scientists, while physics and chemistry attracted the males. For parents, it's up to you to recognize and encourage those interests early on with books, TV. shows and movies, and science toys.

- Be aware that girls like science as much as boys. Mounting evidence indicates that girls and boys typically start out with equal interest in science. Unfortunately, behaviors in the classroom may turn girls off to the subject. When they were in elementary school, the scientists surveyed report that girls were encouraged far less than boys in science class - a situation that grew worse in high school. Make sure your daughters are being treated equally in the science and math classrooms.

- Understand your key role as parents. When it came to igniting their early interest in science, it was the scientists' own parents who were their biggest influences. And, it's not because their parents were professional scientists, but rather because the adults encouraged them to pursue their interests and find answers to their questions.

- Expose children to role models. Mentors are very important to young professionals just beginning their careers. The same is true for students. Exposing students to male and female professionals helps them see that they can accomplish their goals, too. Today, a number of science and technology companies have "Scientist in the Schools" programs that allow their scientists to volunteer time in local schools, helping teachers and students with science learning. Do the research: find out which companies in your area have these kinds of programs.

In the Bay Area, there's a program called Community Resources for Science that matches professional scientists with local classrooms. Find out more by contacting them.

- Check out school science programs. National science education reformers advocate science learning at the earliest elementary school levels through an inquiry-based, hands-on method. Students learn by researching, analyzing, experimenting and testing conclusions, just like scientists do. Talk to your children's teachers. Making sure they're getting a National Science Education Standards-based education. To find out the best Standards-based curricula available, contact the National Science Resources Center in Washington, D.C.

- Nurture their interests outside of school. Science is everywhere, not just in the classroom or laboratory. It's in the fish tank, in the backyard where caterpillars turn into butterflies and in the kitchen where baking a cake is a chemistry lesson. Doing informal experiments at home is not only fun, but effective in helping to develop long-term skills and interest.

- Utilize science resources. From the media and internet to science museums and the public library, resources abound. Visiting science museums and zoos had a profound affect on many scientists early on in their lives. And, with the number of outstanding web sites devoted to scientific discovery and learning, the internet also can play a positive role.

Resource: Bayer's own Web site features a number of these resources for parents, including the Making Science Make Sense experiment guides that offer fun and easy experiments parents and children can do at home together. Also, the Making Science Make Sense audio series is an online radio program that presents mini-science classes in a fun and entertaining way. For example, in two-minute sound bites, the series answers questions like, "Why does popcorn pop?", "Why do golf balls have dimples?" and "Why do cats purr."

To access these resources, please visit www.BayerUS.com/msms.


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