I’m happy to be raising a little science girl, and I’ve previously talked about PBS playing a large role in that development. Now, PBS has a show for older science girls, aptly named SciGirls. Geared for ages 8-12, each show features the scientific discoveries of real life girls in the topics of science, technology, engineering and math. (If you’ve ever heard the term STEM, this is it.)
What’s remarkable about the show is that these aren’t just girls doing a project at school. The experiments are tied to the day-to-day need for science, and the girls are given access to experts, materials, and wildlife that make science seem extraordinary.
One of the most interesting episodes so far as been about the self-awareness of animals, using dolphins as a test subject. The goal was to see if dolphins could recognize themselves in a mirror. Apparently elephants can, as shown in footage on the show. Two girls recorded dolphin behavior in an ethogram, setting up different experiments and a control test. They even got to swim with the dolphins. I asked Olive if she could ever imagine swimming with dolphins and her reply was, “Phineas and Ferb swim with dolphins.” I said, “Yes, but they’re cartoons, and these are real girls. This is something you could actually do.” And I think that’s the magic in the show. Girls: this is all possible.
Some of the episodes have the girls working in groups of four, like an episode where girls work with mechanical engineers to build an animatronic May Day parade float. This is when you get into the interesting dynamics of what a group of four 8-12-year-old girls is like. The conflict and resolution is almost a science unto itself.
Each show is bookended with two characters, Izzie and Jack. Izzie asks Jack for help with a problem, and when he can’t help her she turns to the SciGirls for help. I understand the need for the bookends to unify the episodes, but honestly, this is my least favorite part of the show. Izzie always seems helpless, and Jack is a bit of a doofus. He also highlights how boys are left out of the equation completely, which, while the point of the show, is starting to get under my skin now that I’m going to be mom to a little boy. It’s a conundrum.
There’s also a great website that promotes some pretty cool science projects, and allows all the SciGirls out there to upload their own. As a kid, I remember not having any interesting ideas come science fair time (my lab partner gets all the credit for our hydroponics entry). It was always like, “Hmmm, I wonder what will happen to this plant if I pour Coke on it.” This site is a great resource for ideas that are both interesting and accessible.
SciGirls is great for science girls, both in the 8-12 range and for the younger ones alike. Because of their interesting topics, Olive stays focused through each episode. Go SciGirls!