It’s crucial that young women have mentors in STEM, whether that’s a teacher, a parent, or someone in the workforce. So here comes the Dell Technologies Girls Who Game (GWG) – a program designed for young girls and underserved students across North America that helps them learn more about gaming and the use of Minecraft as a learning tool.
Katina Papulkas, an educational strategist with Dell was a key component in getting the pilot off the ground, which gives girls a personalized, safe and supportive community. Access to practice with coaches, mentors and role models is also available. The adults engage the players and build their self-efficacy and confidence.
“By the end of the club term, the players have a greater self-awareness of their improved knowledge, skills and dispositions, and are empowered to become leaders in [STEM] related fields and the growing esports movement across the education landscape.”
Katina Papulkas also added:
“Girls Who Game is an after-school program for young girls and underserved K-12 students across the US and Canada. The program provides them with the opportunity to learn more about STEM through gaming. We use Minecraft Education Edition as a fun learning tool to help students develop real-world skills like communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. By engaging successful women in STEM as coaches and mentors, we hope to create a safe and supportive girl-centric ecosystem that enables girls to become autonomous and confident. Less than half of high school girls know a woman in a STEM career, and we know how important representation is. These relationships give girls amazing role models and show them what is possible. By the end of the club term, our goal is to help students build a network of long-lasting relationships and develop greater self-awareness while empowering them to continue growing in STEM.”
Girls Who Game has been in 130 school districts across the United States and Canada. COVID-19 presented a major challenge for them but they are agile and have been able to meet the needs of the club virtually. Papulkas also noted:
“We focus on underserved students and ask district leaders and teacher champions to connect with girls that might not usually have the option to participate in a STEM activity or camp and those that would benefit from this type of program.”
Katina also cited that last spring, GWG shifted to a successful fully virtual model, which evolved into the fall/winter. There was a combination of on-site, fully virtual and hybrid models, depending on each district’s guidelines in compliance with the CDC. To accomplish this mission, the GWG program focuses on three main approaches:
- Provide authentic applications and engage female students in learner-driven experiences that broaden their knowledge, skills, and dispositions within STEM-related fields.
- Develop mentorship by fostering the pursuit of academic and career aspirations for young women.
- Build a community of learners by using gaming to build relationships, amplify success, and promote reflection for continued growth and ongoing feedback.
GWG’s website revealed that, even though women constitute 50% of the overall workforce, there are only 28% of them in the science and engineering workforce. Female minorities are gaining traction, as 11% of STEM jobs are held by female minorities. This is notable because the report found that less than 50% of high school girls know a woman in a STEM career.