Getting our girls into STEM: Introducing the STEM Society
To empower female pupils to pursue STEM subjects, last year our Physics Department conducted a survey of over twenty female Sixth Form students to discover why they chose to study or drop Physics at school.
Whilst our school already ranked above average for the proportion of girls studying Physics, according to data from the Institute of Physics, “we were keen to get as many girls as possible interested in STEM”, says Alex Wilson, Physics Laboratory Technician at Berkhamsted. Alex, who has a background as a Physicist working within an engineering firm, has been instrumental in the Physics department’s efforts to address the gender imbalance in STEM subjects, particularly Physics.
The result? The STEM Ambassadors: a group of female Sixth Formers who demonstrate that STEM subjects are as suited to them as their male peers. “The Ambassadors provide our younger pupils with visible female role models in science, who can encourage and develop pupils’ confidence in STEM,” Alex says.
Berkhamsted’s first STEM Ambassadors are current Year 13s, Eleanor T, Ella N, Amelia M, Emilie P. F, and Olena T. These remarkable students set up a range of clubs and initiatives to help their younger peers learn content while reminding the younger girls that STEM careers are an option for both genders.
After being the only few girls in their physics classes, the girls were determined to change this for future female Berkhamstedians. “In our Physics classes, there are usually only two or three girls, so getting more girls into STEM was our main motivation behind becoming STEM Ambassadors.” But Berkhamsted isn’t alone in noticing a gender discrepancy. Just 35% of females continue to study STEM subjects after GCSE nationally. That’s why it’s important to pique female pupils’ interest in these subjects early, says our STEM Ambassadors. “We want to make sure the younger girls are interested in STEM early in their school career so that they can develop their interest over time”.
Eager to get more students involved, our STEM Ambassadors encouraged four Year 12 Physicists and another four female Biologists/Chemists to form the STEM Society. This society aims to provide more visible female role models in STEM by leading interactive sessions with pupils from a range of year groups.
This term, our STEM Ambassadors are assisting Mrs Briggs with the STEM club at the Prep school. STEM Ambassadors will introduce pupils to basic scientific principles through interactive sessions. Thereby providing the younger pupils- especially the girls– with some role models in STEM.
One of the STEM Society’s most popular initiatives has been the Physics Fun Club. This club sees our Sixth girls serve the younger pupils by leading exciting interactive sessions with Year 8 girls every Friday lunchtime. The club is a chance for the older girls to show the younger pupils just how fun Physics can be!
“We make a PowerPoint presentation about a different topic every week. For example, on the first week, we made and tested parachutes. After that, we give instructions for the pupils to make something, we will then get pupils to test what they have made and make it a playful competition so that the session feels fun!” explains STEM Ambassador, Holly G.
But the sessions don’t just benefit the younger pupils. Our ambassadors were quick to emphasise the skills they learned from leading sessions with the younger pupils. “Being a STEM Ambassador has taught me so much about leadership and teamwork; it’s great to know you’re having a real impact on younger pupils,” says STEM Ambassador, Ellie T.
Our STEM Ambassadors show that studying and enjoying STEM subjects as a girl is possible. We are confident that their excellent work in the STEM Society will make a great difference to the younger girls, inspiring even more female pupils to pursue STEM subjects through GCSE, A-Level, and beyond.