Girls and Science: Changing the Stereotype One Book at a Time by Cindy Cipriano
When I think back to when I was in middle and high school, science wasn’t exactly my favorite subject. The words in the textbooks were hard to read, much less pronounce. Not to mention maths’ ghostly shadow always played a part in most any science concept I studied. It wasn’t until college, when I had the opportunity to take a class under a professor whose passion for science spilled over into his instruction. The course was Anatomy and Physiology and his experiential way of teaching gave me enough hands-on practice that I finally thought, “I can do this.” Since that time, science has been a real favorite for me.
Who knew that girl who was so afraid, yes afraid, of learning science would grow up to teach middle and high school science, teach science instructional methods to graduate and undergraduate students, and write books for kids that blend science and fantasy? If I could go back and tell that 12-year-old girl all of this would happen, she never would have believed me because at that time, she never believed in herself.
In college, I discovered my experience as a science learner was not uncommon. Many girls tend to drop out or lose interest in science around the age of 12, which also happens to be the time when many kids are getting regular doses of hands-on learning in their science classes. While some girls, like me, may have been overwhelmed with the idea of looking “stupid” in class with all the complicated labs and equipment, I learned that many girls were simply choosing to go underground with their knowledge and abilities. These girls were worried about being seen as smarter than their male classmates.
When I began writing the Miller’s Island Mystery series, I wanted to create a role model for young girls to show them that being smart is not only cool, but also a sign of strength. I think I’ve done that in the character Grace Brooks. Grace is an eighth-grade student who leaves her hometown, Columbia, SC to move with her family to a small island on the North Carolina coast. If that weren’t stressful enough, Grace, an unabashed nerd, is thrown into a science class where the other girls haven’t yet acknowledged their potential. She’s quickly given the nick-name IntelliGrace, which she secretly thinks is a compliment. Things are not going well at Miller’s Island Middle School (MIMS), until she meets Jack. She finds in him a fellow nerd with whom she instantly bonds as the pair finds themselves accidentally swept into the world of time travelling.
In real life, there are several summer programs which focus on girls and science. I encourage my readers to investigate these opportunities where they will gain hands-on experience. These science camps or institutes can be a real boost for girls’ confidence and may encourage girls to seek out science-related careers. The extra summer experience will help them be more willing participants when they return to the school setting. Not to mention they are a lot of fun!
While the Miller’s Island Mysteries series is fiction, the stories are liberally sprinkled with real science concepts, some of which I learned as my time as an NSF teacher-researcher. I also run the science in my stories by a friend of mine, Dr. Samuel Wheeler just to be sure I’ve explained things correctly. Sam holds a PhD in Physics Education and is a high school physics instructor. I feel the extra step is important in authenticating the science in the series. My hope is that my readers, boys and girls alike, will enjoy how the stories weave science through them, and I also hope Miller’s Island Mysteries will inspire my female readers to step out of their comfort zone and embrace science. #BeLikeGrace
(c) Cindy Cipriano
Cindy Cipriano lives in North Carolina with her husband, son, three dogs who think they are children, and three cats who think they are raccoons. When Cindy isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and the avoidance of cooking. Her latest book is Miller’s Island Mysteries: The Case of the Magnetic Rocket Fuel, book three of the fantastic science series. www.vulpine-press.com/millers-island-mysteries
About Miller’s Island Mysteries: The Case of the Magnetic Rocket Fuel
heir last time-travelling mishap still fresh in their minds, Grace and Jack are on edge about what might happen next. Grace’s memories of her solo trip to the future are never far away. When the future begins to seep out into the present, they must stick to the rules or risk the consequences. They set themselves the task of finding out more about the mysterious ink, ending up in the past in a mysterious science lab. Could their new discovery also shed some light onto their mysterious friends at 21BUT22?
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