Video Games and STEM: Engaging Girls through Innovative Play
“You’re going to stink at this, Danielle. You’re not good at science or math, remember?”I wasn’t supposed to hear this whispered insult, but I did.
It was a gray morning, and I was visiting an all-girls charter school in the heart of the city of Rochester. I had just introduced our Martha Madison physical science video games to the class.
The mere mention of the word science created an instant buzz, and it wasn’t a positive one.
The girls in this eighth-grade class, all age 13, and all from low-income households, had already shown me in earlier surveys that they were losing faith in their own abilities. Most indicated that they not only performed poorly in math and science, but actively disliked both subjects.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.
Our girls are turning away from STEM, many as early as in elementary school. By middle school, boys are twice as likely as girls to report interest in STEM and STEM Careers (National Science Foundation, 2007, 2015). Studies have found that this gap is even more significant in low-income areas and among minority students.
The consequences are real: women remain significantly underrepresented in many STEM professions, especially in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences. As educators, as parents and as citizens, it is our duty to help our nation’s girls not only find their way back to STEM, but to actually become excited about it!
Games are one way to do this, as I saw this firsthand that gray morning. When the girls took up the game controllers and entered Martha Madison’s colorful world, I witnessed a transformation that I have seen time and time again in our game testing. While these students watched the opening animations, chose avatars, and began playing…scorn turned to childish joy, boredom gave way to laughter, and they became interested in science in spite of themselves.
Twenty minutes in, their eyes bright, these previously disengaged students were solving intricate science problems, debating over scientific concepts, designing new solutions, and formulating new questions. They had forgotten about me entirely, which I found wonderful, but even better was the whisper I was waiting to hear: “Okay, Danielle. Maybe you’re not so bad at this stuff. ”
According to the National Math and Science Initiative, more than half of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. are math, science or technology related.
With women making up approximately half of the workforce, why do women only hold 25% of STEM related jobs?
Join us in this important conversation and help us to motivate girls like Danielle and her classmates to take active roles in changing the world!