When you visit SEA LIFE Aquarium and talk to the almost exclusively female marine biologists who work there, you may “swim” away assuming that women are widely represented in science careers.
Lauren, SEA LIFE’s senior marine biologist, and her female colleagues provide incredible care for over 250 marine species including rescued sea turtles, 6-foot sharks and exotic eels. So, other scientific organizations & industries must be spoiled with talented female experts too, right?
Sadly, reality doesn’t paint as pretty of a picture. In 2021, fewer than 30% of science professionals are women according to UNESCO.
That’s why the United Nations declared February 11th the International Day of Women & Girls in Science — to help empower & encourage young girls to pursue opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics).
To celebrate, Metro Detroit Mommy has partnered with Lauren and her colleagues to explore different ways that parents can get their daughters interested in STEM. They’ve shared their collective personal experiences & these 11 tips to help the next generation love science as much as they do.
1. Join School Clubs, Afterschool Programs & Summer Camps
Research the science programs at your school and with local organizations like the city, Parks & Recreation and library. Often times they’re free or very low-cost for local residents and students.
“I’m originally from the downriver area, and I remember Carlson High School putting on a World Wetlands Day celebration. I visited it on a whim – I thought it looked fun. People of ALL ages were checking out the different booths and chatting with local organizations who had the same conservation goals in mind. It was an amazing way to celebrate our local watershed and learn about the careers that exist to protect them!” –Lauren M., Senior Aquarist at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium
2. Volunteer with Environmental Organizations
One of the best ways for girls to get their feet wet (sometimes literally!) in scientific arenas is to volunteer with local environmental organizations. The people who work for these associations are treasure troves of knowledge about the natural world and the scientific principles that make it work.
“When I was younger, I lived in Wisconsin near Lake Michigan. Every spring and summer I would volunteer with my dad and help clean up the shoreline. It was equally incredible and infuriating to see firsthand how much garbage would wash ashore in just a few months. It’s one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in marine conservation!” –Grace S., Aquarist at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium
3. Read Fun Science Books
Reading genres of all kinds is important, but consuming books with science themes is a fantastic way to normalize these topics with young girls. It’s even better when the protagonists in the story are female so they can identify with the characters!
Some of our favorite books are:
- ‘Cece Loves Science’ by Kimberly Derting & Shelli R. Johannes
- ‘Shark Lady’ by Jess Keating
- ‘Mary Had a Little Lab’ by Sue Fliess
- ‘Audrey the Amazing Inventor’ by Rachel Valentine
4. Visit Local Zoos & Aquariums
Trips to your local zoos and aquariums are one of the best ways to inspire a love & appreciation for the natural world. There’s always a ton of neat facts to learn about the creatures and their habitats from the exhibits and staff.
Did you know that members of AZA-accredited Zoos & Aquariums like SEA LIFE often receive 50% off admission to other AZA-accredited institutions? Learn more HERE >
5. Shadow a Female Science Professional
Once your daughter is a little older, let her shadow a science professional and get a taste of what it’s really like to work in STEM. Be sure to let her shadow people in non-science careers, too, so she can compare and contrast. What a perfect opportunity to make a Venn diagram!
“When I was 12, I shadowed a marine biologist who worked with rescued green sea turtles for a day. It was a life-changing experience to learn the process of rehabilitating and saving these incredible creatures and I knew that someday, I wanted to be part of it.” –Brittany P., Husbandry Assistant at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium
6. Visit Local Science Museums
Like visiting zoos & aquariums, taking a trip to your local science museum is a fun way to introduce your daughter to different science concepts that may be hard to visualize in a classroom environment.
“Growing up, one of my favorite places to visit in Chicago was the Museum of Science and Industry. I was fascinated by what humankind could accomplish when we put our minds to something.” –Brittany P., Husbandry Assistant at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium
7. Explore Nature
In addition to the positive psychological effects of being outside, exploring nature can be a stirring scientific experience. It helps build an appreciation of the world’s many landscapes, habitats, creatures and how they’re interconnected.
“I was inspired to pursue science by hiking, skiing, snorkeling, and turning over rocks in the forest to find salamanders!” –Grace S. Aquarist at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium
8. Connect with a Female Role Model or Mentor
Having someone to look up to and act as a guide is an important part of every girl’s journey into the sciences. Her role model could be a teacher, club leader, friend or family member – as long as they take part in STEM in some way.
“My Aunt Nancy took me hiking in Montana every year when I was little. We’d explore everywhere, wandering off hiking paths and wading into cold rivers just to satisfy our curiosities! She is one of the best role models I had growing up because she was strong, adventurous, and always made sure her voice was heard. I remember thinking she was the coolest for scuba diving with sharks in Fiji!” –Lauren M., Senior Aquarist at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium
9. Encourage Her Curiosity
When they’re toddlers, we joke about how they ask ‘why’ all the time. It’s a cute (sometimes frustrating) habit that most kids grow out of, but it’s the best thing a budding scientist can do! Encourage your daughter to express her natural curiosity because grown-up scientists get paid to ask questions and solve problems. We should all be so lucky…
“My mom and dad entertained my endless questions growing up and, while they didn’t always have the answers, encouraged me to keep asking. These little nudges gave me the confidence to indulge my curiosity in my adult life. It serves me really well in my career!” –Ashley D., Aquarist at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium
10. Praise Her Good Grades in STEM Classes
Everyone loves a pat on the back for a job well done, right?! Positive reinforcement is a powerful way to encourage your daughter to learn STEM concepts in school and build a strong foundation for her future career.
“I always tell kids at the aquarium to pay attention in science class if they want to be a marine biologist like me! It sure helps to have some prior knowledge when you take Bio 101 in college… take my word for it!” –Ashley D., Aquarist at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium
11. Build Her Up
Perhaps the most important thing you can do for young girls is to give her the confidence to take any challenge head-on. There are barriers that sometimes hold women back from pursuing STEM-related professions, but no obstacle is too great for a young girl to overcome when she believes in herself.
SEA LIFE Michigan is the state’s largest aquarium with over 250 species and 2,000 creatures including sharks, rays, green sea turtles and more! Journey through the freshwater lakes of Michigan all the way to the depths of the ocean and meet the amazing creatures that live there. Then, visit the Interactive Touchpool and learn what it feels like to pet a sea anemone, sea star and other rockpool creatures. Finish your adventure by strolling through the Underwater Ocean Tunnel and watch as thousands of tropical fish swim overhead. To get any closer, you’d have to get wet!
Amber is the proud Homeschooling mother to four beautiful children, Damian (24), Rosaleigh (10), Carlyn (7), Naomi (4), and a wife to her loving husband, Chancellor. Her family also includes three cats.
She loves being a stay-at-home mom and feels blessed to be able to care for her children full-time and provide them with so many opportunities through Metro Detroit Mommy.