How to Get Your Girls Psyched About Science? Tips from Top 'Girl' Scientists

iVillage heads to the White House Science Fair with one goal in mind -- finding out how we can get our girls interested in science.

When my five-year-old shouted “science” after a friend recently asked what her favorite subject happened to be, I practically jumped through the ceiling with excitement. YEESSSSSSSS!!! I know all too well how few girls and women end up pursuing classes and careers in science, technology, engineering and math, what we’ve now come to know as STEM. So if my daughter and her seven-year-old sister are excited about science and math and technology, then I have reason to celebrate.

But before I start imagining science fair competitions and math team meets in my daughters’ futures, I need to figure out how to keep them as pumped up about science as they are now. Who better to ask how to do that – and how we as parents can encourage our girls to pursue the sciences – than some of the top young female scientists in our country. They are among the winners of the most prestigious science and technology competitions in the U.S. who gathered in Washington Monday for the White House Science Fair.

Here are their tips that you should definitely consider trying at home:

Take Them to Places to Show ‘The Wonders of Science’

Kiona Elliott, 18, Overland Park, Florida: “I’ve been able to go to different labs and talk to different professors and it’s not just a guy thing. There are girls there who have created amazing things...If all girls were able to go to these labs and see these places and meet these professors and talk to them and combine it with whatever they are passionate about, then I think there would be a lot more girls in science.” (Check out President Obama trying Kiona and her partner’s bicycle-powered water sanitation invention, which can purify water in the developing world during natural disasters.)

Find Magazines That Make Science Fun

Julie Xu, 17, Williamston, Michigan: “When I was small, I still remember getting, I think it was, National Geographic Kids magazines, and they always had a science feature, and this new stuff that made it very accessible to me.”

This school seems to have figured out how to get girls interested in science and math!

Don’t Take No for an Answer

Emily Marie Ocon, 13, Miami: “I would say like, don’t let your kids say, ‘Oh no, I don’t like it. I don’t want to try it.' Just make them do it and then if they don’t like, they don’t like it but at least they had the experience of trying it and they might end up loving it."

Check Out a Cool Web Show

Sylvia 'Super Awesome Sylvia' Todd, 11, Auburn California:  “I make a web show where I show people how to make cool things…I think that would be cool to show your girls.” (You can catch Sylvia’s web show, 'Super Awesome Sylvia,' on YouTube. So far, it has more than 200,000 views!)

Consider the iPad for More Than Games

Catherine Rousculp, 12, Los Alamos, New Mexico (pictured above on the right): “(There are) a lot of programming apps on the iPad so if they are playing (on the iPad), maybe have them play something that teaches them how to program because it can be a lot of fun to figure out that you made that thing move into a different spot all by yourself.”

Encourage Your Daughter to Enter Competitions

Deepika Kurup, 15, Nashua, New Hampshire: “There are so many that are out there (but) I had to go and find these competitions. I think they need to be publicized more to get others involved." (Deepika is the 2012 winner of The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.)

Hands-On, Not Textbooks

Meghana Rao, 17, Portland, Oregon: “I think you have to introduce a lot of hands-on activities at a young age or (during) elementary and middle school because that’s where I really got interested. It was because my school, my teachers really emphasized seeing experiments and touching and feeling and then asking questions...That really helped me get involved." (So involved that Meghana directs a student-run nonprofit she founded called Portland Junior Scientists, where she and other high school students go to underprivileged schools to lead hands-on experiments.)

Kelly Wallace, a mom of two, is chief correspondent at iVillage. You can follow Kelly on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).

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