Guest blog post by Christina Soontornvant, author of the Diary of an Ice Princess series.
When I first began writing the Diary of an Ice Princess books, adding a STEM element to the story was something that came naturally. After all, my main character hailed from a royal family with powers to control the wind and weather. You can’t have weather without science!
But even though it felt natural to me for my tiara-wearing princess to be a science-whiz, I was aware that I had an important opportunity to push back against stereotypes about who is “supposed to” be good at STEM. When I was growing up, I often felt pressure to choose between my femininity and my passion for science. Now that I’m a parent, I see those same pressures being felt by my own young daughters. My girls are like most girls their age: they have a wide range of interests that include traditionally feminine pursuits (such as playing with baby dolls and painting their nails) as well as blowing stuff up in the backyard (yes, we have exploded many a bottle of diet soda using Mentos candies).
As I wrote the Diary of an Ice Princess books, I was thinking of girls like these. My hope with the series is to plant the seed in young readers’ minds that they don’t have to give up who they are to love STEM. STEM is for everyone, including princesses.
Here are recommendations for anyone who wants to keep encouraging the girls in their lives to stay psyched about STEM:
Connect girls to diverse, positive role models in real life, in books, and on screen.
When girls see themselves represented in STEM, it helps make a bridge between who they are now and their possible future. Counter stereotypes of the lab-coat-wearing, “nerdy”, loner scientist by showing girls many examples of the different types of personalities, interests, and cultural backgrounds that exist in STEM.
One great site to visit is This is What a Scientist Looks Like, which features self-submitted photos of scientists doing art, playing with their kids, and rocking out at punk shows. Send girls the message that they don’t have to give up their identity to pursue a future in STEM. If the girls in your life love dress-up and wearing nail polish, they can totally keep doing that AND do STEM!
Show girls that STEM connects to things they already love.
Whether the girls in your life are into music, animals, video games, or high-fashion sneakers, there is a STEM connection to be made to almost everything. If you want to foster an interest in STEM, start with what girls are already passionate about and go from there.
When asked what motivates them, many girls respond that when they grow up, they want to help other people and make the world a better place. Surround girls with books and media that send the message that STEM offers a chance to be creative, make friends, AND change the world.
Offer plenty of opportunities for girls to experience STEM in different ways.
Many young people perceive STEM as something you only read about in textbooks. When girls get hands-on experience with STEM, they gain confidence, deepen their interests, and broaden their notions about the types of activities they enjoy. At-home activities, after school classes, summer camps, and community service projects all offer ways for girls to practice STEM skills. The Diary of an Ice Princess series has science activity instructions in the back of each book so that kids can both read about STEM and then have fun doing it for themselves.
Here are just a few of some of my favorite STEM books and television shows that encourage STEM-loving girls to be keep being their awesome selves:
Shark Lady picture book written by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens
Inspiring picture book biographies of real women in STEM are plentiful, and this is one of my favorites. Pioneering marine biologist, Dr. Eugenie Clark, loved sharks from an early age. Her research helped to demystify and protect these extraordinary animals. This book shows how STEM can help you pursue your passions and change the world.
GIRLS WHO CODE middle grade book series
The Babysitters’ Club meets computer science! This series of books about a group of girlfriends who share a love for coding and who learn how to collaborate together to achieve more than they ever could on their own – just like real computer scientists.
This Netflix series features a diverse, empowered group of girls who use their STEAM smarts to solve big problems (the “A” in STEAM stands for the Arts!). Each girl remains true to her own vibrant, unique personality as she contributes her talents to helping others.