This afternoon, David Roger from STEM Outreach spoke about the increasing importance of inspiring children to take STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. He stated that 42% of firms requiring STEM skills have difficulty finding STEM-skilled staff. So why are children not interested in science?
Over the last half a century, the “draw a scientist” test has shown that when children are asked to draw a scientist, they produce something like this:
A white male with unruly hair, glasses and a lab coat. Quite scarily, when asked to draw a second picture, connotations of danger and threat emerge with drawings containing bombs, poison and even Frankenstein. Furthermore, a team from Leicester University found that “many children say they do not want to be a scientist because scientists never have fun”!
It is hardly surprising that children do not envision a career as a scientist when they have such negative stereotypical views; after all who would aspire to become a mad, crazy haired, short sighted male in a lab coat?
To get children interested in science these stereotypes need to be disproved. Scientists need to engage with children to show they are as interesting and “normal” as people in other professions. After being introduced to a “real” scientist, 64% of children recognised scientists to be normal people with friends, family and “a life”, compared to only 29% before.
So why not step out of the lab and into the classroom and show children scientists really do have fun!