Women’s History Month is a wonderful time to honor the stories, achievements, and legacies of the amazing women who shaped STEM fields as we know them today. By educating ourselves about the past, we can create a bright future for women and girls to follow in their footsteps and forge new pathways to innovation.
Too often, the contributions of women are overlooked in the annals of scientific, mathematical, and computing history; too often, girls are not given the support and encouragement they deserve to pursue engineering, computer science and other exciting careers.
We need to change that.
A key ingredient to increasing women’s representation in tech? Role models. Mentors are incredibly powerful in any industry, but they become particularly crucial in fields that lack diverse voices and leadership.
In a world of social-distancing, mentors can be difficult to come by! Finding an inspiring experience designed for girls, a virtual enrichment program or online tutor is one option, and learning more about inspirational people is another!
Hence, this post: hands-on activities that will educate and engage kids with the journeys and discoveries of amazing women who changed STEM forever. Read on for the techiest, most math and science-centered ways to celebrate Women’s History Month and stay learning all year-round.
10 Activities that Celebrate Women In STEM
1. Explore the Apollo lunar landing
Meet Margaret Hamilton, the programmer and mathematician who saved the first lunar landing. She led the team that developed the software needed to land on the moon, contributed significantly to MIT, the Air Force, and NASA; plus, she is credited with coining the term “software engineering!”
To celebrate Hamilton’s achievements, kids can do a range of Apollo mission STEM activities, and elementary students will love this book and partner activity. To learn even more about the women who saved the “Space Race,” check out this video.
2. Design a video game like Carol Shaw
One of the first and most successful female video game developers, Carol Shaw’s career at Atari was marked by her brilliant video games. She created the first console game to be designed by a woman and was an early trailblazer in the burgeoning gaming industry.
Why not have kids follow in her footsteps and learn to design a video game? Shaw famously retired at the age of 35 thanks to her successes, and it’s never been easier to monetize video games and other online channels. We can’t guarantee the same level of success that she experienced, but game design is a creatively and intellectually rewarding endeavor regardless.
3. Tap into the inner workings of the human brain
Temple Grandin has gained international recognition for her work in neuroscience, particularly in understanding Autism. Thanks to her research, we have a better understanding not only of how the brain works. Grandin also advocated strongly for embracing differences and treating others with empathy, a valuable and timeless legacy.
4. Understand computers inside out like Grace Murray Hopper
It’s hard to imagine a world without personal computers, and that’s thanks to innovators like Grace Murray Hopper.
She worked on the first commercial computer and was instrumental in devising computing and programming systems that made technology more accessible. In fact, she wrote the world’s first computer programming manual. Explore the world of computers with low-tech activity or project- based deep dive.
5. Launch into space with NASA mathematicians
Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan were pioneering Black mathematicians whose work was critical to space exploration. Check out these activities from NASA and Scholastic to learn more about their courage and contributions to science. For a movie night and family discussion, the film Hidden Figures is based on their true stories!
6. Celebrate the first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace
As one of the first people to ever recognize the infinite potential of code, it’s no wonder that Ada Lovelace has her own holiday, October 13th.
From making binary bracelets, to themed coding projects, there are lots of ways to celebrate her visionary ideas.
7. Delve into dark matter
This former mystery of the cosmos was unlocked by Vera Cooper Rubin, whose remarkable discoveries in astronomy forever changed our understanding of space. Her work corrected a false assumption of the Big Bang Theory, and she was the first woman ever to use the prestigious Palomar Observatory—that’s right, women had not previously been allowed inside their facilities.
To step into her shoes and understand the vastness of her discovery, give these activities a try.
8. Code like Sister Mary Kenneth Keller
Sister Keller is known for creating the coding language BASIC, a forerunner of the programming languages we know today. She was also the first woman to earn a PhD in computer science. The best way to celebrate her? By learning to code, of course!
9. Take a closer look at fiber optics
Shirley Jackson’s work led to the invention of not just fiber optic cells, but also the fax machine, touch-tone phone, solar cells and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting. Needless to say, she was a very busy woman at AT&T and Bell Laboratories.
High school students will enjoy learning about the far-reaching impacts of her research in this hands-on activity.
10. Connect with Bluetooth technology
Actress and prolific scientific thinker Hedy Lamarr introduced revolutionary ideas within radio technology that led to today’s WiFi. Bluetooth technology also would not be possible without her discovery, so get kids learning how these staples actually work!
Building a Future of Gender Equality in STEM
At iD Tech, we work every day to close gender representation gaps persistent in STEM education. The numbers don’t lie: there’s a lot of work to do to level the playing field.
True to our roots as a mother-daughter founded company, gender equality advocacy is at the forefront of what we do. Over half of of first-time iD Tech campers are young women, and we strive to create experiences that encourage confidence and spark an interest in STEM.
There’s a long way to go, but we are celebrating wins along the way. To date, more than 60,000 girls have attended iD Tech programs, many of whom go on to be changemakers in STEM like Jessica, Rebecca, and Mwana! Over time, we hope to see that number continue to grow, and for women and girls to have the voice and seat at the table they deserve in tech.