Imagining Tomorrow, Reimagining Possibilities
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day 2021 is like no other. Girl Day may be different this year, but it does not have to limit your options.
Engineers are always dealing with constraints. Limited resources, unexpected circumstances, and changes in work orders. Bringing girls to worksites, visiting classrooms, leading in-person activities at an afterschool program may not be possible. Whether you are an afterschool educator, teacher, club volunteer, or parent these restrictions don’t need to hold you back from hosting a successful Girl Day. Instead, redefine your goals and vision. This is the year for innovation.
At STEM Next, we believe an engineering mindset is what will enable girls to innovate and imagine tomorrow. Through the Million Girls Moonshot, a transformative nationwide movement to re-imagine who can engineer, who can build and who can invent, we are building on a robust network of afterschool and out-of-school learning programs nationwide, equipping educators with innovative tools to engage girls in STEM learning. The 2021 Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is an opportunity to imagine tomorrow, today.
We offer six ideas to reimagine possibilities and align with this year’s theme, Imagining Tomorrow. We hope they reset expectations for Girl Day and help you make a deeper impact on girls in your community today and tomorrow.
1. Connect with girls over time. Make Girl Day into Girl Days. Scientific Adventures for Girls discovered that engineers and other STEM professionals want to do more this year. While in-person programs are on pause, role models are helping support an entire series of virtual after-school activities. The virtual format allows them to plan on their own time and jump on virtual Zoom sessions. We love how the virtual format allows role models to go from one day of service to long-term engagement. Imagine the benefits of relationships that develop between engineers and girls over time. Look here for ideas from DiscoverE to be your best (virtual) role model.
2. Amp up the power of your Girl Day by doing more than exposing girls to engineering activities. Enhance their social capital as an informal mentor. Provide advice on course work, offer words of encouragement, and make an introduction for an internship. Read the EngineerGirl Q & A from engineers about the power of networking and networking tips for girls. You have the power of your networks to expand the networks of girls; you can open doors with introductions to influential persons in your network. You can also help girls build their “networking muscle.”
3. Introduce a girl and her family to engineering. Share hands-on activities that girls can do at home with siblings and parents. Be mindful of activities that make use of materials that every household has. You can find ideas for at-home engineering activities from Discover Engineering. Make these activities even more meaningful by introducing girls and their parents to role models. Some of our favorite places to find diverse role models include AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors, FabFems, CareerGirls, and EngineerGirl. For more ideas to empower parents, check out our blog Introduce a Girl (and Her Family) to Engineering from 2019.
4. It is never too early to begin planning for summer. Support girls and their families in making plans that include engineering. What summer experiences activated your interest in engineering? Communicate the importance of summer experiences to parents and go one step further by helping them find summer programs. How? Look for organizations that offer engineering programs that are accessible by public transportation, free or low cost, and are fun and culturally relevant. Check out Girls Inc., SEEK, and Girlstart for summer programs for youth in elementary and middle school. Check out the EngineerGirl website for summer programs hosted at universities open to high school students interested in pursuing engineering.
5. Go big by supporting organizations whose mission is to engage and sustain girls’ interest in engineering. Imagine all the girls in your community who might find a lifetime of passion in engineering if given a chance to meet role models who look like them and experience the power of engineering for social good. Your support can help organizations sustain and expand their engineering programs. Technovation, Techbridge Girls, Girlstart, Girls Inc, Black Girls Code, Girl Scouts, and Scientific Adventures for Girls host awesome programs that connect girls to engineering.
6. Tap into your state’s resource rich Afterschool Network. Resources already exist to help educators, both in and out-of-school, provide more and better quality STEM opportunities. Through the Million Girls Moonshot initiative, STEM Next is working with all 50 statewide afterschool networks to provide resources, training, access to experts and more to programs across the country to help girls develop an engineering mindset. Connect with your state’s afterschool network.
We hope that these six ideas give you inspiration and make it possible for today’s girls to imagine their tomorrow with dreams of engineering.
We would love to hear from you and learn about your Girl Day(s). Share your successes and lessons learned on social media. @STEMNext #GirlDay2021 #MillionGirlsMoonshot
Linda Kekelis. I am chairperson of the steering committee for the National Academy of Engineering’s EngineerGirl and an advisor on The Family Engagement Project and Million Girls Moonshot with STEM Next Opportunity Fund.