Pakistan's child prodigy, Arfa Karim Randhawa became the world's youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of nine. Her incredible achievements at such a young age prove that given the resources; girls of Pakistan are extremely intelligent, and can succeed in even the so-termed hard fields.
Such was Arfa, with a passion to help promote IT within all social classes of the country. Her brilliance shone worldwide, and Co-founder of Microsoft Mr. Bill Gates met Arfa personally to present her with the certified Microsoft Application Certificate.
Tragically, Arfa passed away on January 14, 2012, after suffering from an epileptic attack.
STEM is a male-dominated area of study and this fact does inspire a lot of girls who want to make a difference. Girls, who look up to defying the odds or breaking stereotypes, will absolutely take up a career in STEM. They do this to challenge themselves with tasks which are presumed to be ‘male-oriented’ and give exceptional performances which are noteworthy.
It is your passion along with creativity and curiosity to do something new which encourages you take up a career in STEM. This curiosity to discover things, taking up challenges and becoming innovative takes its roots from a very young age. People who are part of the girls’ immediate circle that include her family, friends and teachers are the ones who play a major role in shaping her future interests ever since she’s exposed to learning and education. There are various ways in which you can channelize her interest towards engineering, science, mathematics and technology.
Children in their early ages are more attracted towards visuals than reading text or audio. Instigating their interest in STEM at this age through videos might be a fruitful idea because it can help retain their attention for a longer period of time. Videos regarding successful women engineers, their stories, how they started and how they ended up being who they are can be inspirational. Moreover, a few videos from engineering schools alumni can be really helpful.
Site seeing and discussions
Taking your daughters for recreation to places like zoo, science museums, and their teachers can take them to factories, taking them for a city tour and showing them great engineering and architectural wonders can really help. Educating children about a few technicalities of things they see on a daily basis, for example, a bridge, roads, waste disposal facilities, recycling machines, etc. can make a lot of difference too.
Taking to science exhibitions and fairs
Various schools put in an effort to arrange science fairs and exhibitions which is an ardent initiative in itself. If taken seriously, these science fairs can help girls reap immense benefit from it. Girls at early age are enthusiastic about teamwork, creativity and craft, therefore, when these skills are directed towards a science project, they can definitely help in creating a long-term love for the field. These science fairs are not only arranged at the school-level, instead they can be community-based as well. DiscoverE, is one such US- based initiative which helps arrange activities and science fairs for children in order to develop their interest in engineering. They arrange a ‘Girls Day’ where young girls participate in teams to come up with something innovative. Such ideas can be motivating and propagate interest in STEM.
Selection of toys
Choice of toys can impact a child’s behavior, social skills and interest from an early age. Therefore, if parents wish to instigate interest for science in children, they need to change their choice of toys for them as well. There are various options in the market regarding this. Learning maths through legos, physics through experiments etc. can be fun and knowledgeable at the same time.
Making the subject creative
Most of the time children find subjects like mathematics and science boring and complex because of which it is difficult for mentors and parents to direct the girls’ interest towards it. In order to counter this challenge and create interest, they need to make the subjects interesting for them. This interest can be developed by teaching it in a creative way. For example, the class teacher can arrange experiments and design activities which help fun and science go hand-in-hand. Girls will be attracted towards such method of study and will definitely give, opting science, a thought.
Design activities which show immediate results
Building a clay volcano which shows the lava coming out of it, building a parallel circuit which helps light up the bulb, creating any mechanical machine like a pin wheel, etc. gets kids excited and curious about science. They question more about the engineering or science behind a certain result which shows that they are interested in it. Planning more similar activities will undoubtedly provoke them to study science.
Helping others through engineering
Science and engineering has helped save a lot of lives. Civil engineers, pharmaceuticals, doctors, materials engineers, chemical engineers and many more are playing their bit in making the society a better place to live. As you introspect the places around you, you will realize how dependent we are on science. Ranging from the development of a new drug to save human life to conserving the environment, people in STEM are helping others. If this thought is inculcated into girls, they will surely look up to being part of this league.
Not just for Boys
Be the change you want to see