“Hi I’m Rose and I’m a mechanical engineer, and my job is really cool!”
That’s how I started every ‘Mission to Mars’ and ‘Don’t Wake Mom!’ workshop I facilitated this March for National Engineering Month 2015 – with the aim of inspiring and empowering girls of all ages to be as excited as I am about a career in engineering.
Currently in Canada just 11.7% of Professional Engineers are women. That’s a shocking number that, while on the rise, still isn’t growing fast enough. As a shiny new Brownie Guider, I instantly saw a great opportunity to tackle this problem head on, while giving girls a chance to earn some STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) badges, by creating workshops that pair Girl Guide units, from Sparks to Rangers, with real engineers during unit meetings, to learn about engineering in a fun and hands on way.
As a the geographically largest National Engineering Month program in Ontario and with over 1,800 Girl Guide members taking part through 75 sessions, my team faced a rollercoaster of highs and lows this year. Managing an extended team of 85 volunteers was certainly a first for me, and a challenge that gave me a whole new appreciation for the Administrative Community Leaders and staff within Guiding!
Still, the moments that make the sleepless nights all worth it for me are the ‘Oooohs!’ and ‘Aaaaahs!’ that happen in every session; that light bulb moment when a girl’s expression changes and you know she gets it.
There’s no perfect recipe for engineering excitement for STEM, but some of the best way’s I’ve found are:
- Tell a story to capture the girl’s imagination and provide motivation! There’s a huge difference between ‘build the tallest tower you can’ and ‘pretend you’re the evil witch and need to build a tall tower to trap Rapunzel in, so that the prince can’t climb up to save her.’
- Encourage teamwork! Two heads are definitely better than one when working to a tight deadline and the discussion and idea sharing is a great indicator of how real engineering teams work.
- Allow rule bending (with justification). Flexible interpretation of the rules helps avoid girls giving up in frustration and empowers them to find innovative solutions.
- Trial and error. Encourage girls to be patient if something doesn’t work as they expected and try again – the added challenge will give them a greater sense of reward when they do find a solution!
Want to have a go at doing some Engineering in your unit meeting? All our ‘instant meeting’ resources are available to download.
Guest post by Rose Almond. Rose is a Brownie Guider from Toronto and a program lead for Engineers of Tomorrow. She loves finding new ways to make STEM program fun and engaging for girls.
What’s your Guiding story? We’re on the look out for guest bloggers! Send us your idea – ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.