Science adventures at a young age

11 July

Growing up as a little girl with four siblings on five acres of land was fun. I got to explore the outdoors and its intricate surrounds, and was never really connected to social media. Watching tadpoles in our pond change to frogs over time and catching all sorts of insect was all the mind boggling mysteries a young child needed to start to wonder: why did things occur and how does life go on and transform into different things?

At a young age, I was fascinated by how things worked and would pull things apart just to find the answers. This interest was always encouraged by both my parents and, later in school, by my teachers. Great teachers in years 11 and 12 provided me with foundations of chemistry, physics and maths that opened my opportunities for University courses. I ended up studying Biological Science at University, although interestingly I have now found myself drawn back to the field of physics, where I can once again explore the basic fundamentals of expanding scientific knowledge. Whilst high school teachers were the key to keeping me inspired in my teenage years, I think my inspiration and thirst for knowledge started at a very young age.

Today, I see in my own two young children different behaviours. We spend hours outside asking questions on why things are there and what role they play. My son, who is eight years old, is fascinated with how and why things work, and loves experimenting with things, building models and Lego. At a young age, he was clearly science minded. Whilst my daughter, four years old, loves her dolls and playing dress ups. Its only when we do science experiments together, she can see the fun side of how things can happen; whether its mixing densities of sugar solutions to create a rainbow or growing coloured sugar crystals, she is fascinated by how it happens.

Intriguingly, role play and social media for children at a young age is still stereotypical, even in kids’ cartoons. If I think about scientist role models for young girls that are persistently present in social media, it is hard to name anyone. Whilst we see many young women as fashion models in magazines and on TV, and as beauty therapists in shopping centres, who represents female scientists in our everyday lives for our children? Even the majority of the girl toys at shops are dolls with fashion accessories, with the exception of “Dora the Explorer” and “Doc McStuffin” and the science toys are located next to the boy’s toy aisles.

So how are young girls to know that science is a possibility if they are not exposed to the exciting new opportunities at a young age? It’s really only through their parents. If we are to succeed in increasing the number of women in science, especially chemistry, physics and mathematics, should we target younger girls? As once they reach high school, do they already have their own mindset, or is it just a natural evolutionary state of mind that occurs?

 

DR CONNIE DARMANIN

RESEARCH FELLOW

XFEL GROUP LEADER

ARC CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE IN ADVANCED MOLECULAR IMAGING

DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS, LA TROBE UNIVERSITY

http://www.growingtallpoppies.com/ 

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