Jacqueline Means, also known as the “STEM Queen” is a 16-year old from Wilmington, Delaware, a city which has been nicknamed “Murdertown, U.S.A.” But Means isn’t letting that moniker hold her back.
As the founder of the Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative (WUSI), Means is providing girls in her community with a place to go where they can experience science. She’s taking her love of STEM studies to show kids in her community that when it comes to learning, anything is possible.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Introducing STEM topics to kids encourages them to think through and solve problems using the basics of these four disciplines. STEM can provide students with the tools they require for any job, setting them up with skills such as problem-solving and being able to creatively think outside the box.
This is especially important for girls. Even though it’s 2019, statistics show that gender stereotypes continue to influence how girls and boys are treated in the classroom, from early grade school through to higher education.
“STEM for girls is important. And they often do better with a different approach and exposure to STEM than boys,” Amy Braun tells Parentology. Braun is head of marketing and communications for Pai Technology, a company that combines educational toys with technology, many which promote STEM learning. “Girls seem to learn more effectively by asking and needing to know the ‘why’ behind things like science.”
Whether it’s toys to promote STEM learning with play, or unique programs such as Mean’s Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative, Braun says, “It’s about introducing kids to science and engaging all learners with STEM, letting them know about all the different possibilities.” And Means does just that – making science interesting, fun, and interactive while giving girls the opportunity to ask about science with hands-on experience.
Why Mentors Make a Difference
There’s been a lot of attention in the last couple of years on STEM for kids – and even more so when it comes to STEM for girls. Girls need to know that a career in a STEM field is just as accessible to them as it is for boys. Even though there’s been a lot of progress made, girls and young women are still lagging behind in science.
Many educational classes and programs treat girls and young women differently in the classroom, often by expecting less of them. Because of this, girls often fall through the cracks. By the age of 6, research shows that girls start to doubt themselves and their own intelligence, which can significantly impact their confidence and inclination to pursue subjects such as science.
One of the ways to encourage girls to get involved with science is through mentorship – having someone in their life who stands out and makes a difference. For girls in Wilmington, Means is that mentor. Means is a role model for young girls, and her age is a huge bonus. It helps local kids see that if a 16-year-old can do science and be recognized for her contribution, so can they.
Mentors can inspire girls to dream big and reach for goals and opportunities they might not think possible. Through her STEM education program, Means boosts the confidence of young girls in her community and shows them that a career in STEM fields is attainable for anyone.
Jacqueline Means STEM Queen — Sources
Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative
Mashable: Teen’s science organization brings STEM to ‘Murdertown, U.S.A.’
National Girls Collaborative
Amy Braun, Head of Marketing and Communications at Pai Technology
Science Mag: Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests