Girls and Technology
Girls and shop don't necessarily mix. The Minot (N.D.) Public School District transformed its stereotypical 'guy zone' vocational building into a more equitable space by launching programs to recruit girls for nontraditional programs like auto tech, welding and information technology. In 2000-01, four fearless females entered the vocational building all year, says Pam Stroklund, career and technical education coordinator for the district. By 2004-05, that number swelled to 20.
Divas take on tech: Define Your Dreams was the district's initial foray into gender-based career programming in 1999. This awareness day motivates 7th and 8th grade girls to explore careers like veterinary medicine, engineering and firefighting. Local professional women share education and salary information.
Gender encouragement: Stroklund encourages presenters to weave gender issues into their talks by focusing on how their gender helped them achieve success and discussing barriers.
Giving guidance: Counselors help girls merge dreams and reality by developing a four-year, high school plan.
DIVA Tech: This Saturday program is designed to recruit 8th to 11th grade girls into the district's trade and technology classes. Girls gain firsthand experience with welding, auto tech and construction as they rotate through several hour-long sessions designed to kindle nontraditional fires by giving girls a taste of shop.
Getting hooked: Sophomore Alexis Cook admits she did not buy the hype about hands-on activities. But the skeptic was sold after creating welded figures and book shelves to take home.
Reaching out: The district taps into female volunteers to lead sessions, host a Q&A lunch and offer insights into pay, perks and preparation. The day is timed so that a career counselor can steer students toward appropriate courses in the upcoming school year.
Technology on the go? This three-day summer techsploration, transports 8th to 11th grade girls into the community to interact with female professionals in coal mines, manufacturing plants and entrepreneurial businesses.
The trickle-down effect: "There are efforts like this going on across the country. The Perkins Act requires states to make progress attracting and retaining girls in nontraditional programs," says Alisha Hyslop, assistant director of public policy for the Association for Career and Technical Education.
Finding the funds: In 1998, the district applied for and received a $4,500 grant and converted the dollars into Define Your Dreams, the district's first gender equity offering.
More money: The district continued to apply for and receive annual grants and by 2000-01 funding jumped to $7,500, enabling it to expand to three programs annually.
Crucial partnerships: Local partners chip in as well, covering additional costs like food and resource materials.
Clever marketing: The career team promotes gender equity programs in every science class and guidance counselors reinforce the pitch. Every educator/salesperson advertises the programs as free, complete with hands-on activities, lunch and door prizes.
Keeps them coming back: Students also pitch in, recruiting friends for a day of fun and learning. "Kids keep coming back and the programs are filled every year," reports Superintendent David Looysen.
Not a one-woman job: More than 200 community partners, including the National Guard, local phone company and small business owners, have loaned hands and minds to the Minot district to support its gender equity endeavors.
Boys are not overlooked: DUDE Tech introduces male students in grades 8-11 to careers in culinary arts, horticulture/floral arranging and child care/education during a one-day career awareness program.
Indicators of success: Minot's programs garnered national recognition, winning the Association for Career and Technical Education's 2005 Programs that Work: Preparing Students for Nontraditional Careers Award.
Lisa Fratt is a contributing editor.