The Play's The Thing

The second line of that quote, you know is "Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King".

At the Frontiers in Education conference held in San Diego at the end of October, there was an interesting work-in-progress titled "Evaluation of Canadian High School Girls' Perception of CSET Using A Play" by Anne-Marie Laroche and Jeanne d'Arc Gaudet. (CSET = computer science, science, engineering, technology) The authors developed a new play that

present[ed] different professions which are linked to CSET in a humorous manner, using everyday language and representations of several historically significant Canadian women.

The play was presented to 9th and 10th grade students. The students were surveyed prior to the play to assess their pre-existing knowledge of CSET careers. After the play they were surveyed again to assess if viewing the play had any impact on their perception and interest in CSET as a career option for women.

Prior to the play

The students interviewed showed minimal knowledge about science and engineering. They could not think of an example of a career in biology or chemistry, and they did not know what engineering is.

Some girls believed that CSET careers were "male" careers. After viewing the play, both girls and boys had greatly increased interest in CSET careers. The play changed attitudes about women and CSET careers not just among the female students, but among the male students as well. Female and male students alike reported increased belief that women could have successful careers in CSET and should go into these careers. They had not previously known about any of the historical Canadian women mentioned in the play. The presentation of these role models was cited as a positive influence for both girls and boys.

If you want more information about the study or the play you could contact Anne-Marie Laroche, who presented the work at the conference. Her email is:
larocham AT unomcton DOT ca.

I think it's nifty that just having kids watch a play can have such a large positive impact, on girls AND boys. Because remember folks: it's not just about encouraging girls to go into science and engineering. We need to be encouraging their peers to grow up and be good colleagues who believe in their capabilities and think it's natural and normal for women to pursue scientific careers. It rocks that one event can address both issues.

Well, suppose you are inspired by the idea that presenting a play to young kids can open up the idea of science and engineering careers for young girls and change attitudes in young boys about girls' ability to do science and engineering. But you can't write a play. What do you do?

Why, you call Jane Curry. That's what you do. Jane will bring Miz Wizard's Science Secrets right to your home town!

  • Join Barbara Knight, aka Miz Wizard, as she prepares for and tapes the premiere show of Miz Wizard's Science Secrets for public access cable tv, channel 82.
  • With a sense of history and humor, she tells stories about women's contributions to science, engineering, invention, and math... about revolutionary research and media portrayals... about theories of sex difference over time... about obstacles faced and overcome by women whose passion is discovery.
  • Meet women Nobel Prize winners and girl inventors.
  • Miz Wizard even conducts a few simple demonstrations of physical and chemical principles. Most of the time they don't explode.

I've seen Miz Wizard and she is good. I once ran an event similar to what is described in the Canadian study, where I hosted Miz Wizard's Science Secrets for a group of 9th grade students. I did not do a pre-evaluation but I did do a post-play survey asking students what they liked about the play, what they found most memorable, and whether the play increased their interest in science and engineering careers. My results were very similar to those obtained by Laroche and Gaudet in their post-play survey - increased interest in science and engineering careers, many students remarking on the female role models presented in the play as being inspiring.

Introduce A Girl To Engineering Day is sneaking up on us sooner than you Miz Wizard would be a great event. I'm sure that Canadian play was great but I bet they didn't have a song about ovaries in it.

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What a fantastic,simple idea. I remember watching countless plays by visiting folk when I was little but of course not one was about science stuff! I guess that similar notions can be introduced in younger children through better selection of toys: what about research lab barbie complete with white coat and safety goggles or engineering barbie with tool belt and hard hat...