Mythbusters’ Kari Byron Dishes on Girls and STEM

Kari Byron (Mythbusters, Head Rush) is incredibly passionate about science, and she’s joining an increasingly large number of educators, parents, and celebrities in urging young girls to brush aside “nerdy” stereotypes that have plagued them for years — and get them to explore STEM opportunities and careers. We caught up with Kari at SXSWedu this past March and asked her a few questions on the topic.

What is the key to getting young students, specifically girls, interested in learning about STEM?

I think that the most important thing to getting kids, girls especially, involved in STEM is being excited about it yourself, as a parent. When I ask successful people what got them involved with STEM, they always talk about a strong role model in their parents — especially father daughter relationships. That’s what got me more interested in science. It wasn’t necessarily something I learned in the classroom… it was seeing how passionate my dad was about it.
I think it’s very important for kids to be able to connect the dots to STEM careers, what’s accessible and how they get there. Mentors can play a really powerful role in helping girls with this.

Can you tell us why you think math has this reputation and speak to why it’s not only important to learn but also pretty cool to use?

I know within the STEM acronym, “math” has been the hardest to get the kids excited about because they have a hard time connecting the dots with how math is going to help them in the real world. I say we find role models…like Tony Hawk – “Do you know that it takes math to create a skate ramp?” We just have to figure out new and interesting ways for them to understand how math is actually going to help them as a grown up. If we can make connections with someone cool like a skateboarder to show it to them; hey, even better!

Is there still a stigma that exists with girls in science and math?

I definitely still see a stigma with girls in science and math. They have a harder time finding peer support. Because of that, the internet has become so important. Nobody wants to be seen as a nerd but if you go online you can find an entire community of girls who are very intelligent and can support each other. I’ve found that community blog style support has gotten more girls to stay interested.

What message do you have for middle and high school girls regarding the importance of STEM education?

The toughest thing for me in middle school and high school was my confidence. I was extremely shy and I had a hard time raising my hand. I just say go for it. There really are no dumb questions. If you need a little encouragement, look for it at school… or if you’re shy, find support outside of the classroom. Your interest in STEM will introduce you to the most interesting and diverse careers you can find and the only way you’re going to get there is by trying now.


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Discovery Education offers a variety of STEM Resources for K-12 school districts. To learn more, visit DiscoveryEducation.com/STEM.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Theresa Yob said:

    Nicely stated for girls who are good at Math and Science. Enjoy your mental gifts and insights because they will keep on giving your whole life long.

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