10 Simple Things Parents Can Do to Encourage Their Daughters' Interest in the Sciences

(Or, How a Nice Italian Girl from the Bronx Became a Geoscientist)

  • Visit your local museums and aquariums. See an IMAX movie. Check out the dinosaur fossils. Visit the planetarium or observatory (some schools have telescopes). Use what you learn there to observe the night sky and the constellations. Look for comets (whenever they appear), eclipses and meteor showers, and pay attention to space exploration. Read the newspaper's science page.
    Benefits: Cultivates curiosity about the natural world. 
    1. Cook. Cooking involves careful measuring, following instructions, attention to detail and a bit of chemistry. A kid's cookbook is great but any cookbook will do, and kids of all ages can help out with safe, age-appropriate tasks.
      Benefits: Kids can get their hands dirty, and the family can eat the results!
    2. Fix or build things around the house.
      Benefits: Teaches measuring, planning, engineering and problem solving.
    3. Play a wide variety of music at home. Music has been conclusively shown to enhance mathematical ability, and music lessons have recently been shown to increase IQ by an average of six points. Nature sounds are also available on CD.
      Benefits: Sharpens the mind, and also teaches a great outlet for stress release.
    4. Take the vacation of a lifetime -- go to a national park, where you can run on giant sand dunes, experience total darkness in caves, touch glaciers or see lava flow from a volcano. Nothing beats the grandeur of unspoiled nature (but please don't feed the bears, deer and squirrels).
      Benefits: Stimulates the imagination and the senses; encourages physical fitness and inquisitiveness.

    Marguerite Toscano is a practicing geoscientist who lives in Maryland with her 7-year-old daughter. She is currently working on sea-level changes, carbonate geology and coral reefs at the Smithsonian Institution. She also edits the newsletter for the Association for Women Geoscientists.

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