Girls must learn to see themselves as scientists

Olivia Murray, junior majoring in biology- neuroscience in Arts & Sciences


I recently visited an elementary school to lead a neuroscience demonstration for fifth-graders. The activities were going splendidly: my station demonstrating the brain’s plasticity (its ability to change and adapt with the environment) saw enthusiastic students who were also able to learn about proprioception (knowing where your body is in space) and see and touch a real human brain at the other stations.

During the transition from activity cleanup to neuroscience Q&A with myself and the other college students, one fifth-grade girl approached me and said she and her friend, Shannon, absolutely loved all the activities we had put on that day and that “Science Hour” was their favorite time of the school day: “Shannon even likes science so much she drew a picture of a scientist!”

I was intrigued. I approached Shannon and asked if she would show me the picture of the scientist she drew. I, too, think science time is the best time and was excited to see how this young girl’s interest in science showed in her depiction of a scientist. Shannon led me over to a file cabinet near the door where her drawing was hung. The drawing was on a folded piece of paper, the outside flap read “Science Hour!”

When she lifted the top flap to expose her drawing my heart sank as my fear was confirmed: Shannon had drawn a male scientist wearing a lab coat and holding a beaker surrounded by other science-related objects and symbols. I turned to Shannon and asked, “Why did you not draw yourself as the scientist? Why did you draw a man instead of a woman?” She replied, “I just drew a scientist.”

Read the full piece in the Times of Northwest Indiana.

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