zdi-Girls-Camp: Pupils develop practical approaches to support girls in the STEM field

How can we get girls interested in STEM (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology)? What wishes, requirements and ideas does the target group itself have? And why are some sciences more popular with girls than others? The first zdi girls' camp in Frechen on October 28 revolved around these and other questions: In 11 workshops, around 140 schoolgirls discussed with activists from zdi networks and worked out solutions together. As operators of extracurricular learning locations throughout North Rhine-Westphalia, it is particularly important to them that their courses appeal to girls and young women. The proposed solutions could be implemented directly in practice - for example in test series on the subject of photosynthesis or in the racing simulator. Science Minister Ina Brandes emphasized how important it is from an economic and social perspective to attract young female professionals for MINT professions. District Administrator Frank Rock and Mayor Susanne Stupp also emphasized this in their welcome.

District Administrator Frank Rock, Mayor Susanna Stupp, Minister Ina Brandes, student Lena Engel, chemical laboratory assistant Pia Münstermann and zdi coordinator Axel Tillmanns stand next to each other behind the #zdi logo
From left to right: District Administrator Frank Rock, Mayor Susanna Stupp, Minister Ina Brandes, student Lena Engel, chemical laboratory assistant Pia Münstermann and coordinator of the zdi center Mönchengladbach Axel Tillmanns. © zdi.NRW 2022

Ministry of Science supports the promotion of girls

The joint offensive for the future through Innovation.NRW, or zdi.NRW for short, dedicates October every year to girls and women in the MINT field: in zdi network courses, schoolgirls are specifically addressed and encouraged, role models and mentors receive the “zdi heroines October “ a platform on the various digital zdi channels.

Minister Ina Brandes, who herself has worked in the construction industry for many years, said:
“Role models can play a crucial role for the girls: from schoolgirls to trainees to entrepreneurs and professors. They can all show in concrete terms that women, just like men, can fit very well into the STEM field. The field offers great opportunities for girls and young women, and society urgently needs more young STEM people. “.

"It's not you. It's MINT" - How stereotypes still influence our thinking

dr Anneke Steegh during her lecture "It's not you - it's MINT". © zdi.NRW 2022
dr Anneke Steegh during her lecture "It's not you - it's MINT". © zdi.NRW 2022

“Be aware that there is a social gender imprint and consciously question your opinion on STEM topics. Knowing that this imprint exists can help you overcome it. You don't have to change, I have to change MINT!" Anneke Steegh. In her keynote speech, the researcher from the Leibniz Institute for Education in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics gave insights into the topic of gender imprinting and the effect of stereotypes. Her message to the students: "Find allies and say what you want - traditions can be changed".

The Spotlight discussion, in which Minister Ina Brandes, Axel Tillmanns from the zdi Center Mönchengladbach, zdi alumna and chemical laboratory assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, Pia Münstermann, and the student Lena Engel, provided further impetus about the upcoming challenges exchanged in the STEM girls work. They all agreed that girls and their desires need to be included in order for STEM opportunities to appeal equally to boys and girls.

Direct exchange in workshops

A total of 11 workshops were offered by members of the zdi networks from all over North Rhine-Westphalia, which essentially revolved around the questions: How can current and complex scientific topics be prepared in an interesting way for schoolgirls? How can hurdles be overcome that make access to MINT topics difficult - and which natural sciences are particularly popular with girls?

In rounds of discussions and practical workshops, the answers to these questions were worked out with schoolgirls in grades five and six as well as ten to twelve. In the practical parts, the schoolgirls were able to try things out and get up close and personal with MINT topics. "If we had done as much practical work at school as we do today, I would not have dropped the STEM subjects in the upper grades," emphasizes one student at the final presentation.  

Pupils in the workshop at the zdi girls camp.
Pupils in the workshop at the zdi girls camp.

On the zdi community platform mint-community.de A group was set up in which the participants can continue to work on their ideas and approaches after the event. The complete documentation of the event and evaluation of the results will be published promptly on the zdi-portal.de published.

Successful event with many new impulses

In the end, the organizers of the workshops were able to take many new approaches for their work with them: "It became clear to us that we have to address and educate girls and boys - that's the only way things can change. We picked up a lot of ideas for future formats here!”. The students were also enthusiastic: "It was a lot of fun and above all the practical experiments and exercises "hands on" increased my interest in MINT. It was nice to see so many people supporting girls and asking about our experiences."

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