My personal WOL Moment: Getting interest of primary school children in STEM-related subjects

My personal WOL Moment: Getting interest of primary school children in STEM-related subjects

The Idea: Defining a personal Goal

I was born in Brazil. I live already 17 years now in Germany. I am a woman, I am an engineer. I am a mother of a 9 year old girl.

As I first arrived in Germany people used to ask me what did I do for a living? They tried to guess and always came up with something like: English or German teacher, Social Assistant, or something other related to teaching, languages or social services…

When I replied: I am an Electrical Engineer, they always replied: “Oh, I wouldn’t have guessed. It is very unnatural for a women, don’t you think?” I hate this stereotype… Especially since I came to Germany due to the high standards in Technical fields. I wondered: “Why is that?”

I started thinking: What are the factors that made me pursue a career in this field and have kept me there on the long run?

A very important factor was having an engineer as a father and major role model! Another one was having very positive STEM-related experiences already in an early age with wonderful teachers and interesting science projects.

Now I have a daughter in the last year of primary school. She, like the rest of the german primary school children, is, at the age of 9, faced now with the challenge of choosing the school form to take for her further education. At the primary school itself, children are solely exposed to their teachers as role models, experts in the field of education, a field which is mainly dominated by women. I wondered how many of my daughter’s classmates has a chance to have role models in the science and technology areas. How many of them will choose to be teachers, or hairdressers only because they were not exposed to positive STEM role-models or had any positive STEM-related experiences (at an early age) during primary school?

Working out loud and finding a concept

Then I participated in my first WOL-Circle. As I went on my journey of purposeful discovery, the idea of finding ways to awaken the interest of children for science and technology at an early age wouldn’t leave me alone. But what could I do about it?

With that goal in mind, I started working out loud and actively building my network: I joined the Association of German engineers (VDI). Where I purposefully joined the work group “Women in Engineering” in Göttingen.

There I heard about their successful implementation of the project “Magical Physics” / Zauberhafte Physik (* in Primary schools in Göttingen. I thought: That’s exactly what I am looking for!!

The project “Magical physics with reading boxes” promotes at the same time language and fine motor skills and increases the understanding of physics for primary school children in a fun and practical way. In small learning groups of 4-5 children, a voluntary STEM professional coaches the children through a physics experiment within which they are able to explore their skills of reading – understanding – implementing – experimenting – observing – explaining and presenting. By enabling the broader contact to role models in STEM areas and increasing the attractiveness of STEM-related subjects by performing fun experiments the project aims to inspire children to pursue a science and technology education and path, independently of their social background.

Making my work visible and starting the implementation

Ok, goal project was found, then how to implement it? I had to make myself and the project visible for schools and for possible physics-coaches. I started with my small informal network, friends, friends of friends, and so on. I got the support of one teacher in the school my daughter attends and got to present the idea to the school principal. The idea was sold! The school was very grateful for not only they would have external support for STEM issues, but also the project helps to bring fun and variety in the normal school day. As a by- product, the teachers are being momentarily released of the burden of an ever increasing lessons plan…

The Idea was sold on March 20th. Now I have a project and I am the project leader, but what about my volunteer Physic-coaches?? My volunteers, mainly Engineers, would have to take time from their working hours to go to the schools and coach the children. I continued my search via informal ways, but I also started contacting local companies, the city council and so on. Financially I did not have to worry, as I managed to get VDI (Association of German engineers) as major project sponsor.

In May, I had finished furbishing the reading boxes based on the information made available by Mrs. Heinzerling and her project team, on their homepage. By the way, Mrs. Heinzerling was WOLing before the word got out: since her aim is to expand the project to a nation-wide level, she has gladly made all the necessary information available free-of-charge to be used by any interested project multipliers!

I was getting better and better in my purposeful networking and by the mid of May I managed to get my volunteer Physic-coaches together: Engineers from several companies from the city and surrounding areas: Microsoft, Ottobock, Sparkasse FinanzIT, Bosch, Technical School, KG Construction Group… Our Kick-off was topped by a nice barbecue on a warm may evening, as we got together to try out the experiments and prepare for the project start after summer vacations.

Collecting the fruit of our work: shining children eyes, inspired little scientists

Our first event took place on August 21st. We were greeted at the school by very curious and excited children. We experimented with fourth grade children on the subjects of Magnetism, Acoustics and Equilibrium were the children worked on creating a magnetic race track, a rotating disk siren and a tumbler toy. We were 5 engineers present as physics-coaches: myself as electrical engineer working on automotive mobility, a civil engineer designing bridges, a mechanical engineer designing a Rocket turbine, another one that designs prosthetic legs and a transport engineer that designs train-beds.

Experiment 1: Acoustics – disk siren

Experiment 2: Magnetism – race track

Experiment 3: Tumbler Toy

It was a great experience for all involved.

1. The children could find out how diverse and interesting the engineering field is.

2. The teachers realized how much deeper the subject could be worked on with the help of STEM experts.

3. The STEM volunteers felt motivated by the positive responses to come again. They expressed the need of the industry to start such initiatives as soon as possible in order to assure the future of german technological workforce.

4. I myself profited a lot from the experience.

a. I rediscovered my passion for inspiring children, and specially girls to follow STEM fields.

b. Since participating in my first WOL-Circle I feel connected, I feel that I finally learned what networking is all about and I was able to find similar thinking individuals to start a movement.

c. I feel motivated to contribute leading with generosity for creating a better and inspiring world to our future generations.

I will be working on expanding our physics-coaches network in order to enable the participation of other schools in our district and beyond! In addition to that I am already starting to plan my next project: Robotics! Don’t ever forget what Walt Disney once said: “If you can dream it, you can do it!”

Das Artikel ist im Eichsfelder Tageblatt am 22.08. erschienen.

Erwähn sind wir auch beim VDI TECHNIK UND LEBEN, Ausgabe 1/2017, Seite 10:


Zuerst erschienen auf LinkedIn