RE: toys and gender - more

Fri, 25 Oct 96 12:23:00 PDT

I also have enjoyed the toys and gender discussion, and the way it has spun
far beyond the original question.

My addition, from the perspective of a science educator with an equity
focus, is that we may as well use everything we know about people when we
teach. Isn t there often a germ of truth in every stereotype? We hear that
girls are overly concerned about their appearance - let s say it is true for
a lot of girls, so let s incorporate the chemistry of cosmetics as a lesson,
right next to the traditional lessons. Yes, it shamefully uses a
stereotype, but so what if it excites a girl about chemistry? And it won t
hurt a boy to learn about what is in cosmetics either. Also, I would
present it straight-forwardly, not referring to it as a "girl's thing."

My related thought is that we have a lot of work to do to bring
traditionally female experiences into teaching examples and lessons. Last
week at an NSF meeting, I heard some interesting research: male and female
students in physics were given word problems. In one version, it involved
the traditional physics example of trajectories of bombs being dropped. In
another version, it wasn t bombs, but food or medical aid needed by people
in trouble. In both questions, the physics content, math and reading
difficulty were the same - the only difference was the situation. Results?
Male students did just as well solving either problem. Females, however,
did much better solving the humanitarian problem than the bomb one. What do
we draw from this? Rather than spend our time trying to figure out if
females are actually more socially conscious than males, (in other words, is
this a stereotype or not) let's incorporate the humanitarian/female view and
experiences for what they give all students. The person I heard this from
was Sue Rosser, author of Female-Friendly Science, which is a great book.

Ann Sigford
PLUS Center Director
The College of St. Scholastica
1200 Kenwood Ave.
Duluth, MN 55811


Promoting Learning among the Underrepresented in Science

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