Science Heroes Association (Bilim Kahramanları Derneği) is receiving grant support from our Meltem Göçer Fund for the fourth phase of its project “Girls Meet Science”, which we have been supporting since its inception in 2018. The project, in its fourth year, aims to enable girls to gain science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) skills as well as gain experience in areas such as coding, project development, teamwork, and making presentations.
Read below our interview:
Civil society organisations need to ensure the continuity of their activities to enhance impact. Girls Meet Science project, which you have been running since 2018 with the support of Turkey Mozaik Foundation and the Support Foundation for Civil Society, is a significant example. Can you tell us about the impact of long-term support and the highlights of your relationship with beneficiaries and donors to ensure this continuity?
With our Girls Meet Science project, we have been bringing together girls living in different cities of Turkey and attending public schools with STEM practices for three years. With the grant support, we reached 52 teams, 309 children, and 100 teachers from 20 cities.
We launched our Girls Meet Science project for the first time in 2018. With the project, we support girls to participate in the FIRST LEGO League Explore Program, which we run under the name Little Science Heroes Meet. In the project’s first phase, we supported 12 girls’ teams. In the second phase, we prepared an impact report with the Bahçeşehir University BAUSTEM Centre, according to the results of which, students had the opportunity to develop an interest in STEM fields, STEM identity, STEM understandings and careers.
We have seen that 50% of the public schools that participated in the 2nd phase with a team, and 55% of the team coaches and counsellors who collected data continued in the 3rd phase of the project. Public schools that received funding for their basic needs upon their first application, continued participating as their expenses decreased in the upcoming phases of the project.
With the grant support, we reached 52 teams, 309 children, and 100 teachers from 20 cities.
Sustainability is crucial for disseminating STEM practices, ensuring equal opportunities in education and realising change through education. For this reason, we are trying to expand our capacity with each new application and improve our practices with the experiences we have gained. We aim to reach more girls more effectively. In line with this purpose, we have developed the scope of our project over the years, added teacher trainings, and measured the project’s impact using qualitative and quantitative methods. Every year, we support public school team coaches (teachers) who, in the end, gain experience in scientific awareness and thus provide more effective trainings and increase the impact of our project.
The most significant reason for applying for the 4th phase of the project was to ensure the sustainability of the impact of the previous years. Our goals were to ensure that more girls’ teams are interested in science and engineering and to continue advocating for equal opportunities and gender equality. We support public schools with our international and national projects and programs and try to eliminate inequality of opportunity. As you can imagine, through sustainable projects, it is possible for girls to be interested in STEM careers, develop digital skills and be among the leaders of the future.
At the end of each year, we aim to increase the project’s visibility and contribute to its sustainability by sharing the feedback and stories of the girls and team coaches with our donors. We find it valuable that you see our endeavour to increase the impact we have created and that you have been walking with us on this journey for years. In our 4th year, we would like to thank the Support Foundation for Civil Society, Turkey Mozaik Foundation and all their donors for allowing us to reach more girls, support equal opportunities in education and contribute to the promotion of gender equality.
Through sustainable projects, it is possible for girls to be interested in STEM careers, develop digital skills and be among the leaders of the future.
Considering the previous phases of the Girls Meet Science project, how much knowledge did the girls know about STEM? How do you observe the transformation of the girls in this sense?
We had the chance to see how our support made a difference with the feedback we received from the girls’ teams at the end of each season. At the same time, in the impact report, based on a comparison of the preliminary and final tests, we found that girls’ interest in career opportunities in science, technology and engineering increased by 6%-34%. Girls’ self-confidence increased, they saw that they could succeed when they didn’t give up, and their dreams for the future began to include careers in engineering and positive sciences. The team coaches and the administrative staff indicated that the children improved, learned a lot from the process they were involved in, and their dreams changed. You can visit our website to review the Impact Report we prepared at the end of the 2nd phase.
You are now implementing the 4th phase of the Girls Meet Science project. Can you tell us about the project’s activities?
In addition to ensuring the sustainability of the impact we have created so far, with the 4th phase, we will realise our goals such as gender equality-themed trainings, preparation and distribution of materials for girls, a digital newspaper to increase visibility and awareness, and an impact report.
This year’s theme is “CARGO CONNECT”. 20 girls’ teams will research logistics and transportation, and develop project ideas to solve different problems in these areas by exploring how cargo is transported, sorted and delivered. The teams will create a model from LEGO pieces in the Discovery Set, which will be provided as part of the project, and improve their coding skills by adding moving parts using the “LEGO Education” robot sets. In this process, we plan to encourage the girls to meet with experts from different disciplines to make them understand the importance of thinking more holistically and interdisciplinary way when solving problems.
Girls’ self-confidence increased, they saw that they could succeed when they didn’t give up, and their dreams for the future began to include careers in engineering and positive sciences.
This year, we will prepare the Girls Meet Science Set, including inspiring communication materials, with an expert working actively in STEM to increase girls’ interest in engineering and basic sciences and their awareness of gender equality. We will conduct workshops to introduce these sets, promote STEM education and raise awareness about gender equality and discrimination.
In the final stage of the project, the teams will participate in festivals and share their work with their peers, independent observers and volunteers. Children will receive individual medals, and teams will receive an award in one of their strongest areas (moving model, project or teamwork).
To increase visibility, we will prepare a digital newspaper with the girls and their teachers at the end of the project. We will also prepare a publication where we will get to know the girls participating in STEM and follow their studies (projects, coding and self-values). By sharing this catalogue with CSOs, supporters and volunteers in the field, we aim to create awareness and disseminate the knowledge and experiences that will emerge at the end of the project.
Finally, we will prepare an impact report on the change in the experiences of girls, team coaches and consultants in the STEM field after the project is completed.
In this phase of the project, you aim to raise girls’ awareness of gender equality. Can you tell us why this is important for you?
UNICEF’s 2020 report Towards an Equal Future: Reimagining Girls’ Education Through STEM states that girls’ access to STEM will greatly improve gender equality and equal opportunities in education, economics and technology. However, it is also suggested that although girls perform better in STEM subjects, they are underrepresented in the STEM workforce, which means that there is a significant loss of talent and human potential. It is also added that school closures and quarantines caused by COVID-19 diversely affected girls.
UNICEF’s 2020 report states that girls’ access to STEM will greatly improve gender equality and equal opportunities in education, economics and technology.
The first reason why girls are lagging behind in STEM is poverty and limited access to educational materials, while the second reason is the impact of gender roles on girls. We are working to minimise the effects of these two reasons.
This year we included gender equality-themed workshops and activities in the project because we want to raise awareness in girls and strengthen their belief that they can succeed in STEM regardless of gender.
Gender-sensitive STEM education for girls will support the elimination of gender-based stereotypes and gender norms, and girls receiving quality and age-appropriate education will not be excluded from professions related to the digital world in the future. As you know, STEM practices in our country are not accessible to all and have low sustainability. Considering all these reasons, we care about and support the girls’ teams in public schools and bringing those girls together with STEM practices and the sustainability of these activities.
Science Heroes Association’s mission is to promote science and scientific thinking at an early age for children and young people by using innovative methods. The association works to overcome several problems such as the lack of high-quality education and technological infrastructure, the lack of role models in the scientific fields, or the inadequate introduction of existing role models, the common belief that science and mathematics are difficult, and the stereotype that science, technology or mechanical works should often be done by men.