On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Kym Amimo Lusiola, ￼a teacher from Qatar Academy for Science and Technology, talks about the role the school has in raising young scientists.
If you want your child to excel in engineering and design, bring her LEGO blocks. If you want her to be a chemist, let her play with food. If you want her to be a biologist, teach her how to garden and also train her to practice quantitative thinking through cooking and baking activities.
This is how Kym Amimo Lusiola, a teacher at Qatar Academy for Science and Technology (QAST) – a school under Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Pre-University Education (PUE) – talks about how to make science exciting and fascinating to little girls.
“Reinforcing ideas that jobs and careers are not gender specific, and that as a girl you are not limited to traditional jobs, will go a long way to raising confident, driven and open-minded young girls,” Lusiola says.
Raising a generation of women who are passionate about science starts at home and continues at school. At the school, her interest in science must be further piqued, and this is where a school like QAST plays a critical role.
It is imperative we show children that science is everywhere, and that people who work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics come from different backgrounds
“It is imperative we show children that science is everywhere, and that people who work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics come from different backgrounds.
“In QAST, we do not have a particular way of teaching girls science, but we do show them the numerous real-world applications of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] subjects, as well as showing them the people making a difference through their scientific efforts – those who can become their role models,” ￼Lusiola says.
This approach has contributed to enhancing a love for science among the students of QAST, especially among girls – about 38 percent of its students are girls.
Lusiola advises that just as the school stimulates students' curiosity that allows them to explore science, parents should also provide them the environment and tools which help them on their scientific journeys.
If a daughter shows interest in space or the solar system, encourage her by getting her visual book on space or help her build a cardboard rock from another planet
“Ensuring that girls have access to a variety of toys at home which are not presented as ‘girly’ or ‘for boys’ is important. If a daughter shows interest in space or the solar system, encourage her by getting her visual book on space or help her build a cardboard rock from another planet,” Lusiola says.
Buying books such as Ada Twist, Scientist; Izzy Gizmo; will immensely help children in fostering a love for science, according to Lusiola.
“We are seeing more of these kinds of books being published and parents should ensure both their daughters and sons read these types of books to start shifting stereotypical perceptions of male and female roles from an early age,” she says.
Also, LEGO and other toys such as geometric cubes are fun educational tools to use at home. They encourage creativity and build on skills such as early literacy and numeracy, as well as motor skills and spatial awareness.
We encourage our girls to look up to women STEM students in the partner universities at Qatar Foundation, as well as women who are working hard within the field of STEM around the world
“These types of toys also encourage and support the development of cognitive skills like concentration, flexible thinking and problem solving – all of which are very important and useful for life-long learning, it’s also important to note that this message should not be coming just from mothers to daughters, fathers and sons also need to re-enforce and be exposed to this message of equity,” Lusiola says.
And when it comes to role models,￼ Lusiola emphasizes that in science both women and men are celebrated because of the inspiring and innovative work they do. “At QAST, we encourage our girls to look up to women STEM students in the partner universities at Qatar Foundation, as well as women who are working hard within the field of STEM around the world.”
Lusiola highlights though, that the girls at QAST are driven and confident, and are on their way to becoming leaders in the future. “I believe that our girls will grow to be innovators in their fields, who will serve as inspiring role models for future generations of women students in Qatar.”