Girls in STEM: A Superhero Origin Story

Posted by Alex Podchaski on Dec 5, 2018 8:32:38 PM
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As I write this blog, we are midway through celebrating 2018 Computer Science Education Week. Nationally there are workshops, webinars, coding challenges, and all kinds of events geared at getting kids interested in computer science and computational thinking. Many articles have been written about the need to get the next generation of students interested in computer science as they will be competing with robots and artificial intelligence for jobs, and that without understanding computing this next generation will fall behind. We are all searching for that one activity that will set off the light bulb for our students, granting them access to a new world of understanding.

Captain Marvel_Oak Knoll School

(Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

Education is about those a-ha moments. That split second when the concept moves from abstract thought to understanding, and through continued exploration, mastery. Those moments have a lot to do with thorough planning, curriculum guidelines and even the right selection of technology for use in a given situation. But there is something more that is needed. A hero’s mindset.

I have always loved superhero stories. There is something special about their mindset, an air about how they carry themselves. If they have limits, they don’t acknowledge them, they just accept the risk and keep going. Being a father of girls, and working in a school with an all-girls’ division, I have been particularly drawn to Captain Marvel, the newest face of the Marvel Superhero Pantheon. In the recently released movie trailer, she has a great line: “Heroes. Noble Warrior Heroes.” She is not just from a race of noble warriors, but noble warrior heroes. It’s a distinction that is at the heart of the STEM challenge we face today.

As I sat and worked with our students today, I saw that mindset. When presented with the challenge of facing a device that was unfamiliar, using a programming language they had never seen before, to solve a puzzle that was interesting yet complex, I watched for their reaction. As I explained what we were doing with our different displays, I could see the assessment taking place. It wasn’t about how difficult this could be, or how they didn’t know where to start. It was an attitude of, “I got this.” Why? Because we are helping our students get ready for whatever challenge they face. They are being prepared to rise up to challenges. They are not just about checking off boxes, or letting things pass them by. They are ready to take on challenges. They are preparing for a computational future that they will work in, develop and maintain. They will become the ones that determine how computers will affect their lives. Like Captain Marvel, they are the next generation. The future. They will be the ones to be … “Heroes. Noble Warrior Heroes.”

Topics: steam, STEM, technology, science, Math, education