Okay, let me just preface this article by saying that I will probably be dating myself with the examples I use here. But, I guess it’s worth the risk. After all, I do have two plus decades in the educational system and I am a mom to three very active kids. It’s safe to say I’m not in my 20’s anymore. Because of this, I think I can reflect back and have a unique perspective on what motivates our youth to become interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Now, don’t get me wrong…I was always interested in these topics, I just didn’t know it. Like most kids growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I watched in awe as Wonder Woman saved the day or as the Bionic Woman (a.k.a. Jamie Summers) leaped tall buildings in a single bound. They were strong, independent and motivated women proving that it takes not just brawn, but brains to rid the world of evil. And believe me, there was nothing I wanted more than to be like these women. In her “down” time, Jamie Summers was also a teacher…showing students the importance of math on the chalk board in her classroom. Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) used current technology in everything she did. She even had that really cool invisible plane. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that these women were role models, whether they realized it or not. To young girls like me, they were “real” superheroes, even though they only played them on television. And then…just as quickly as they dominated, they disappeared for a time.
As a parent, I’m here to tell you that the power of the superhero as a role model is back. It doesn’t take much to realize this. Simply take a look at the hottest movies playing theatres, on video or the comic book shelf. Thor, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Jean Gray…take your pick. Our kids dress like them for Halloween and want to “be” them. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) teaches boys and girls alike that science is as cool as it gets. My nine year old daughter watches intently on how he manipulates science and technology to improve his suit and arsenal of tricks. And Iron Man surrounds himself with smart people who also use technology, like his assistant Pepper Potts. Even at a young age, she knows that STEM is cool and it is the wave of the future.
The Obama Administration has taken notice of how our young people learn and their top interests which include comics and gaming. Their program, Educate to Innovate, is trying to bring more students into STEM fields. General Electric (GE) had a similar idea back in the 50’s when they started running comics in their advertising to try to promote science to kids.
Twelve years ago, unbeknownst to me, I married “Mr. Superhero”. My husband is the ultimate super hero fan. He was that kid that had every comic book and read it cover to cover, over and over again. The Big Bang Theory is watched as a family and rarely missed (these geeks make science and comics fun for all of us!) Comics and gaming (within reason) are alive and well in our home. And hopefully (even if unknowingly) my kids are learning that STEM is cool – regardless of their gender.