Girls as young as four can overcome educational disadvantage and feel empowered to participate in STEM activities in Australian classrooms, through an emphasis on play-based learning.
The latest study by Monash University shows girls' thoughts and actions are endorsed when engaged in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) play and exploration in the classroom.
Research by Foundation Chair in Early Childhood Education and Development at Monash University Professor Marilyn Fleer shows even when teachers design spaces for STEM activity, such as an engineering setting where craft, blocks and the home corner are combined, girls appear to be as interested in being in the new space as boys.
But, when girls have access, boys have been shown to persuasively ask girls to give up building materials or equipment, or they take those construction products out of their hands.
Professor Fleer has created an Australian-first initiative called the Conceptual PlayLab to investigate how play-based education can deliver essential cognitive and learning outcomes for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, especially young girls, in STEM.
As part of the $3.2 million Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project, Professor Fleer will test this new model through a purpose-built app which supports teachers and parents to create a world that helps children use their imagination to solve problems.