Engaging young girls in science so they can explore opportunities

Former pupil Holly Giles spoke to Year 5 pupils at Portsmouth High School
Former pupil Holly Giles spoke to Year 5 pupils at Portsmouth High School
Vice-Chancellor Professor Graham Galbraith
. Picture by Helen Yates

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Staff at Portsmouth High School are keen to get girls interested in science

At Portsmouth High School we try to foster an enthusiasm and passion for science from an early age, writes Portsmouth Junior School’s Head of Science, Mohammed Rahman.

Throughout history women have made such valuable contributions in science yet a recent statistic states that only 13 per cent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers are women.

Not only does science help us to understand the wonders of the world around us, but provides us with the tools necessary to make progress.

Girls need to understand that science is fascinating, relevant and ultimately leads to many exciting real world opportunities.

We encourage visits from professionals in all subject areas, and Holly Giles, an alumna of the school, recently came to talk to Year 5 about what it is to be a woman in science today.

Holly is returning for her second year at Cambridge reading Natural Sciences.

She started by asking the girls to name a few famous scientists and had expected to hear a stream of well known, and male, names.

Instead she received an impressive list of female scientists like Jane Goodall, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and Marie Curie.

With those role models in mind, the girls went on to discuss women in science, medicine, engineering, mathematics and astronomy and how girls might make a difference in those fields, should they choose to pursue them in the future.

For each subject, she paused to talk about an inspiring woman, who had made great contributions in her area of expertise.

The class looked at how Rosalind Franklin helped make the revolutionary discovery of the structure of DNA, and how Dr Roberta Bondar initially trained as a doctor and later travelled into space to study the effect of space travel on an individual’s brain.

She also gave a good shout out to mathematics, so often undervalued.

Finally she talked about what the girls could do next, to explore their interests in science further and see where it takes them.

Suggestions included reading, visiting local museums and attractions and entering competitions. As young girls interested in science, there are plenty of options and opportunities to explore.

It is in participating in activities such as these, that an interest and an engagement in science is cultivated and maintained.