50 Years of Children drawing Scientists

A simple pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world by following a systematic methodology based on pieces of evidence are termed “Science”. Science generates solutions for everyday life and helps to answer the great mysteries of the Universe. The best discoveries of science have simply made human life easier and more convenient. Scientific evolution has led to major improvements in the standard of living of people, public welfare, health, security, and upliftment of the living kinds. Science has provided mankind with extraordinary achievements, yet children nowadays are not as interested in learning the mysteries of the Universe through the field of Science. Science helps children in developing key life skills like communication, technological advances, observational skills, and much more.

One such “Draw-a-Scientist Test” was designed to investigate children’s perceptions and perspectives of Sciences. This test was originally developed by David Wade Chambers in 1983, with the main purpose of what children perceive about Sciences. The major and most important purpose of this test was to learn at what age the well-known stereotypical image of the scientist first appeared. This test was conducted in many schools to promote the importance and to check what the children actually perceive it as.

The typical outcomes at that time decades ago were,

  • Students perceived scientists as males often in their imagination creating a biased result. The depiction of a scientist as a male was around 99% out of 100% of kids who participated.
  • Few girls around 1% had drawn female scientists, creating a shocking revelation at that time. Since then this experiment is well conducted every year and over the years the perspective of kids towards Sciences has also been changing positively.
  • The drawings of children were analyzed for several indicators or signs like a lab coat, eyeglasses, symbols of knowledge, tools of the lab, and a few more.
  • From these indicators, Mr. David Wade Chambers was able to prove or show that children had developed a stereotypical view of a scientist from a very early age, with large numbers indicating scientists as males.
  • According to the test, girls drew female scientists around 45-50%, but boys drew only 1-5% of females as scientists, which was shocking and revealed the preconceived notions that were taught to children.
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Since the experiment was conducted and had provided a shocking revelation, many studies have repeated this experiment with many students across different grades. With advancing knowledge of sciences and technologies and the advancement of social media with time, many female scientists gained the limelight, which helped children to change their perspectives about the stereotypical belief of “scientists as males”. The overall changes in how children portray scientists align with larger trends in women joining science-related occupations. There might be many notable female scientists but children were unaware of them, as they were never taught or acknowledged about them.

Teachers play a crucial role in encouraging children, especially girls in particular to pursue an interest in Sciences. If girls do not see or visualize women as scientists, it is more likely that they would also not see their future selves involved with Sciences either. The stereotypical fact of Science as a male-oriented field, might not encourage girls to join science fields. Girls may certainly avoid activities that are considered or perceived appropriate for boys but not girls. This perspective may only change when the importance of learning Sciences, is encouraged in schools without any gender biases. Even social media, news, and public awareness play an important role in the acknowledgment of female scientists. Discoveries and achievements of the female scientists and their importance in the field of Sciences should often be highlighted on social media and public awareness platforms so that more girls are inspired and participate in learning Sciences without any hesitation.

“Gender Stereotypes of Scientists” not only affects the shaping of perception of boys and girls but also influences their preconceived perceptions or notions of “Who can be a Scientist?” also. Stereotypes can often play an important role in constraining children’s beliefs of what they can do and what they cannot, particularly for girls. If the representation of stereotypes and social identities of scientists are changed, then young girls might more easily envision themselves in the field of Science in the future.

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A few tips or strategies for promoting the participation of students in the fields of Science for parents and teachers are as below,

1. Promoting the books, news articles, and posts highlighting Girl’s and Women’s achievements in the field of Sciences:

Books, news articles, social media posts, and public awareness play an important role in the acknowledgment of females in the field of sciences. Discoveries and achievements of the female scientists and their importance in the field of Sciences should often be highlighted on social media and public awareness platforms so that more girls are inspired and participate in learning Sciences without any hesitation. If the representation of stereotypes and social identities of scientists and people who can learn the Sciences are changed, then young girls might more easily envision themselves in the field of Science in the future.

2. Classroom decorations promoting diversity and gender-free identities:

Bulletin boards, notice boards, or classroom decorations should be made in such a way that promotes real achievements without any gender biases. Decorations should represent diverse genders, interests, and fields of study that encourage the students and help them envision themselves involved in those fields.

3. Organizing seminars

Inviting females involved in Sciences in the real life with achievements should be invited as guest speakers so that girls can find themselves role models, get interested in the field of Sciences and also pursue a career.

Conclusion:

If the representation of stereotypes and social identities of scientists or people related to the field of Sciences are changed, then young girls might more easily envision themselves in the field of Science in the future. Gender Stereotypes of Scientists can affect the shaping of the perception of young boys and girls. This perspective may only change when the importance of learning Sciences, is encouraged in schools without any gender biases.

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