“In education, it is important to teach that science is learnt from reason and emotion, by formulating questions and finding answers, applying logics, creativity and imagination, individual work and teamwork”. Words by Genina Calafell, UB lecturer of Didactics of Experimental Sciences. She also mentions the importance of “connecting science with the children’s daily life” to share this interest in science. Regarding the girls, however, there is an “identity culture” problem when approaching this. “For instance, textbooks and educational material feature only a few scientific women, and therefore girls do not have enough role models; many science-learning contexts are very male-dominated and come from a very homogeneous culture. We need more diverse contexts in which the interest in science comes from identity plurality”, notes Calafell. Sònia and Maria reflect on these issues.
Boys, girls and science
When you visit a school for a dissemination activity, you see that when children are around six or seven years old, they already have the gender stereotypes very internalized. In a classroom, you see girls are more obedient, they behave better because it is a gender mandate. Boys take more public space. They occupy more space and they are louder. They are allowed to do so.
At school, I have seen the reality Sònia talks about, this starting point, but I have seen another final point. We carried out a project about building a laboratory at school. By the end of this project, girls saw themselves as scientists, and many of them wanted to be researchers. Also, the Committee of Memory and Gender of the Sant Martí district asked us to name a square near the school. Both boys and girls, who had visited CosmoCaixa, and specifically an activity on women and science, said: “We want the name of one of the women scientists we saw at the museum”. Now the square is called Rosalind Franklin.
I wanted women scientists to visit our centre because we need female role models in the field of science. We talked to La UB Divulga and Alba Ortega Gascó, researcher from the Faculty of Biology, came to see us. Alba made the students curious, and the laboratory-building project was born after this. To conduct this activity, we talked to La UB Divulga, and we contacted the UB lecturer of Chemistry Josep Maria Fernández Novell, dean of the School of Chemists of Catalonia. Now our laboratory is named after him.
As a researcher, when you visit a primary education school, the children want to know who you are, they want to know about you. They need to see you are not a very different person. You are someone they could meet any day and someone who works as a scientist, and that this job is fun. It is also important that they see there are many women working on science: young, older, people from other places… I could name a few, but this is not about bring more women to scientists, or more vocations, but about a better science. Currently, the system is not friendly, it is not built for many women scientists.