How Are We Helping Move More Girls Into STEM?

Posted by Kambala

What in the world isn’t Chemistry? I remember staring at a poster asking this question throughout my four years of university. The poster was hung on a wall outside of Chem Stores, a place I would have to visit to collect chemicals several times per week. I took the question as a serious one and I wracked my brain trying to think of something that isn’t Chemistry. Students in Years 7 and 8 may answer with “energy” but by Year 9, girls will see that chemistry makes energy, and energy drives chemical processes.

By university, the only thing that I could think of was “love.” Yes, I was naive but to be fair, neurochemistry was in its toddlerhood at the time. In asking the question “what in the world isn’t Chemistry,” I am not advocating for a reductivist view of nature or human experiences. Rather, by asking such a provocative question, I was stimulated to think deeply and creatively for an answer. I thought about the world, and nature and people and food and materials and consumer products and transport and communications and I began to see connections and complexities (and Chemistry) in all these things.

So, we ask ourselves: why should girls study Science? I would hope that in contemplating this, people come up with many answers. Some may be boring: “I get good grades in it.” Some may be pragmatic: “I want to study medicine.” However, I think that a good answer is: “I like it.” An even better answer would be: “I love it.” When girls ask me if they should study Science in Year 11, I always answer the same, “if you really want to.” We have so many engaged and truly curious girls at our School, and if they feel a spark and are drawn to Science to feed their curiosity and know more about this wonderful, beautiful and nearly perfect universe that we live in … I say go for it! For some girls, secondary school may be their last opportunity to formally study Science. Every bit of knowledge and understanding and opportunity to solve problems and analyse data will feed their curiosity and improve their thinking for years to come and hopefully, for their entire life.

When I was asked to write this blog, I was meant to write about the important role of Science at Kambala, how we’re shaping tomorrow’s women in STEM, and why we need more women in STEM. However, these themes have been fully explored over the past half-century and the answers have not changed. In school, in the 1980s, girls in my generation were always told to study Science. I don’t even need one hand to count the number of girls in my friendship group who did not study STEM at university – it was zero. Women should be represented in every career and every area of Australian society and economy. So, the question really is: how are we helping to move Kambala girls into STEM?

We do this as teachers, by living our passion every day, nurturing curiosity in the girls, listening to them and providing opportunities. We are fortunate at Kambala to have a dedicated Director of STEM Strategy, with whom we work synergistically to give our girls additional opportunities, to live their passion and nurture their own curiosity. I would say that Kambala girls love Science. We know this because we see their engagement every day in the classroom. Outside of the classroom, the STEM clubs and STEM Industry Immersion are over-subscribed. In Years 11 and 12, at least 70 percent of girls choose Science. With Science Week coming up, I would like us, as a community, to be thankful that we are part of a School that cares deeply and works with true passion to give every girl the opportunity to shine, especially in Science.

 About the Author

Dr Kathryn Hillier is a Chemistry Teacher and Acting Head of Science. Her PhD is in the History and Philosophy of Science and before moving to Kambala, she worked in academia and museum studies. Her favourite expression is “the struggle is the learning”.

To learn more about Kambala, download our Prospectus, or contact Tracy Mulligan, Director of Enrolments on 02 9388 6844.