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  • “STEAM, career awareness among women” by Myron Curtis – Darkeagle Darkstone

When: 2016/09/24 10 AM SLT (PDT)

Destination: The Science Circle @ Second Life

We’re attending: “STEAM, career awareness among women” by Myron Curtis – Darkeagle Darkstone

Next presentation: 2016/09/01, 10 AM SLT (PDT).  “The Science of Nail Polish” by Paul Doherty Ph.D – Patio Plasma

More information: Science Circle Students in-world group (click the link while logged on in Second Life to open the group profile), The Science Circle website

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The world has changed. A variety of technological and social advances have made it possible for groups of individuals, considered to belong on very particular positions before, to get onto close to any field. Supposedly, the global society is meant to take advantage of the increased potential workforce. A very hot topic nowadays is women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) – due to the well-established stigma that these fields as suitable primarily for male workers, the process of getting women to join these fields is slower than it could otherwise be.

This Saturday, this topic has been brought up in the discussion led by Darkeagle Darkstone, known in the physical world as Myron Curtis, an information technologies instructor working with the Far North California Community Colleges. At 10 AM, the science enthusiasts not indifferent to the destiny of the IT and other STEM fields have gathered at the Science Circle amphitheatre to hear what the educator from the field has to say about the situation – and voice their opinion on it, too.

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Myron Curtis as Darkeagle Darkstone

The discussion has started with a presentation, in which Mr. Darkstone has shared his personal experience with young women and their relationship with STEM fields. It has been identified that the lack of female role models (in brochures about STEM educational programs, in mass media, in television shows and films, etc.), as well as the idea that women do not possess qualities required to do well at these fields – such as analytical thinking, or physical competency – that is still widely accepted as a fact. At some point, women of all ages start to believe that themselves. There are girls who have been doing very well in math class in elementary school, but in middle school, all of a sudden, they decide that they are not good enough in it. There are even female math instructors who genuinely believe that “girls really were not able to understand math as well as boys; they were simply more determined to do their work”. In STEM schools, it is not considered “cool” for ladies to outdo the guys in subjects studied. Public opinion has a strong effect on girls’ willingness to join the STEM.

In Mr. Darkstone’s own words, “Fixing that is going to take much more than just another public awareness campaign. It is going to take a complete shift in our global consciousness.” A brief Public Service Announcement does only so much. However, at the moment, there is a great need in STEM specialists – a multitude of STEM jobs that stay unfilled is a call for action. And Mr. Darkstone has an idea for how to tackle this problem.

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More and more employers are looking for specialists who are not only capable of making an item functional through the use of math and engineering – but also “creative, coherent, personable, and motivated to improve”. Not only a final product has to be functional – it also has to be enjoyable to use. This can be achieved through bringing Art to play. Thus, the traditional STEM abbreviation gets extended to STEAM – with A for Art. In Mr. Darkstone’s words, “STEM must become STEAM to include Art because Art is the fire, the passion that gives us STEAM power.” As women are traditionally encouraged to study art, this is a great opportunity for them to take advantage of their art skills by combining them with STEM skills – which would make them more competitive on the job market and, in turn, propel them right into R&D! Mr. Darkstone believes that with proper media campaigns, proper role models in films and TV shows, educational projects, and other means, women will have a much easier time making a crucial decision about their career path – and will be choosing STEM careers more freely. He himself is involved in the process of bringing girls into STEM through his work, and believes that a shared ongoing effort will bring in much better results than periodical campaigns!

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On this inspiring note the presentation part has ended, and the discussion, which had been ongoing all throughout the conversation, has come in full power. A lot of ideas have been voiced. Featuring inspirational female figures in STEM brochures. Having educational programs in schools designed especially for girls. Educating parents on the idea that their daughters can be in STEM – so parents do not hold them back. A big chunk of discussion had been dedicated to the idea of separate education – so boys and girls, especially during puberty, do not distract each other from learning. How would they learn to socialize with the opposite gender? During breaks between classes? Or joined classes do a better job at preparing them for socializing in a mixed collective?

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Showing examples of how math and science make our lives better when applied on various fields can also help with encouraging young people to pursue a STEAM path. On YouTube, everybody can find videos about pretty much any field they have questions about – as well as videos that get one inspired to join the STEAM. A lot of love has been shared for the Disney cartoon “Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land” – one of the discussion participants has admitted that in the movie theater he used to go to as a child, this cartoon preceeded the movie shown, and he would stay after the movie ended to watch this cartoon one more time. Other videos suggested by participants featured “Chemical Curiosities: Surprising Science and Dramatic Demonstrations” and “Science is Fun and the Joy of Learning”, but an inclined one should not have any troubles finding an educational video or a video series on any STEAM subject.

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The discussion on this topic can go on forever – the ideas kept pouring in, and they were not only considering schools in the physical world, but also the opportunities the digital world provides – like learning math and physics through building + scipting in Second Life. There is so much that can be done to inspire young women to see STEM as a real option that does not make them go against the public opinion. Much more than one can fit in a 1 hour discussion. Nevertheless, this has been a truly informative exchange of ideas and sources, and it is a great pleasure to see that so many people do not stay indifferent to the idea of populating the world with STEAM female specialists who are confident about their choice of career path.

Never stop learning!

K.T. Burnett (KayT Resident)

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