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Monday, November 29, 2010

Helping Girls Succeed in Math and Science

As a mother of two bright young girls and a woman in a technical field, I have thought a lot about ways to encourage girls in math and science, and to avoid the traps that lead to the gender gap that still exists today. I strongly believe (and research suggests) that family support is a positive factor, and that making science and math fun and relevant goes a long way toward fostering interest.

I have heard some colleagues suggest that girls are simply less analytical or less interested in science than their male counterparts. Studies suggest that - at least initially - this simply isn't true. A recent study found that boys and girls were equally interested in science in the fourth grade, but by the eighth grade boys were twice as likely as girls to still be interested in science. I was shocked by the drastic shift - something (more likely many things) is definitely causing the steep decline in female interest. With the obvious barriers of entry a thing of the past, it is difficult to identify the causes. Some suggest that a lack of support at home, a lack of female role models, and a difficulty relating to common examples used in the science classroom (such as a car engine) may be at work.

The Department of Education released a practice guide for teachers in 2007, aimed at assisting educators in encouraging girls in math and science. The guide was developed by a panel of experts who were tasked with providing evidence based recommendations, and here are the five recommendations they came up with:

  1. Teach students that academic abilities are expandable and improvable
  2. Provide prescriptive, informal feedback
  3. Expose girls to female role models who have succeeded in math and science
  4. Create a classroom environment that sparks initial curiosity and fosters long term interest in math and science
  5. Provide spatial skills training
In other words, we need to reinforce the idea that girls are capable and can thrive in technical pursuits AND maintain their interest while teaching math and science.

Parents can implement these recommendations as well, and today I want to focus on numbers 3 and 4. I will follow up with information on the remaining recommendations in another post.

3: Expose girls to female role models who have succeeded in math and science

There is a significant lack of female role models in the science classroom. Why the emphasis on classroom? The book Failing at Fairness highlighted that even as recently as 1994 women were significantly underrepresented in textbooks. With a little research, I found there have been an abundance of female role models in math and science throughout history, but few of them make it into science and math textbooks. The National Science Foundation and the Department of Education both think this has an impact on girls' attitudes toward science, and that increasing exposure to female (and minority) role models can encourage everyone in the classroom: "When girls are shown images of women scientists and given a greater sense of possibility about the person they could become, the boys get the message too - I can do this!"

Some studies have shown that girls tend to be more critical of their skills, and/or more easily discouraged by a failure or perceived failure. Providing role models and examples of women who have succeeded throughout history can help reinforce self confidence and invalidate the stereotype that men are better at math and science than women.

Where can a parent go to get information on women in science throughout history? Here are a few resources that can help.

Women's Adventures in Science

Historical Women in Science

Great Science for Girls - role models

4: Create a classroom environment that sparks initial curiosity and fosters long term interest in math and science

This goes back to what I said earlier about keeping learning fun and relevant. Engaging activities - those that girls can easily relate to and that don't reinforce stereotypes (back to the car engine) can increase the interest of all students and help everyone succeed. By encouraging your child's natural curiosity, relating her interests to science or math, discussing current events as they relate to science and math, and encouraging your child to ask questions and seek out answers, you are fostering your child's interest in learning and building her self confidence.

Here are some links that can help you get started:

Science News for Kids

Mad Science

Resources for Families Taking Action

Exploring Science Resources

If you didn't find what you were looking for, don't be afraid to simply Google a particular subject of interest -investigating with your child reinforces the idea that research doesn't have to be a daunting task, and provides an opportunity to discuss appropriate resources.

What do you think - is there still a gender gap in technical fields? Is it inherent, or is there something else at work? I'd love to hear whether you were encouraged in math and science, and see any links that can help encourage all students in technical pursuits!

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stay organized this holday season - Holiday ePlanner giveaway!

*Extended due to my computer crash*
Since I couldn't promote this giveaway like I normally would, I'm extending the deadline until midnight December 2. With the holidays right around the corner, don't miss this great planner!

It is always my goal that our holidays be relaxing and enjoyable, but without a lot of planning and careful execution, that dream will quickly turn into a nightmare! I'm a list mama by nature, but by no means am I a big picture organizational type, which is why I'm a big fan of the holiday ePlanner by ListPlanIt. You can read my full review here. I love how this planner helps me get all my lists in a functional, working order, and helps me figure out when I should be doing what...

Jen from ListPlanIt has graciously offered to give her wonderful planner to two lucky Problem Solvin Mom readers! To enter, visit ListPlanIt and let me know what planning feature you like best about the holiday ePlanner, or any of the other lists or planners available on the site.

For added entries, you may do any of the following (be sure to leave a separate comment):

Tweet about this giveaway and leave a direct link (1/day)

Visit Jen's blog 100 days to Christmas and subscribe to the feed

Subscribe here at Problem Solvin Mom

Spread the word about this giveaway on your facebook page

Like ListPlanIt on facebook

This giveaway will close at midnight on November 20. Good luck!

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Saturday, November 27, 2010


It's been a long time since I've shared my gratitude list. I know that actively capturing moments in my mind and my journal helps my entire outlook, and yet it's easy when things get hectic to fall out of the habit. As the holidays approach I'm reflecting on my goals, my core values and the habits I need to get back to in order to live intentionally. This is one of those habits...

Sweet little hands to hold

Sister hugs

Fishy faced baby kisses

A beautiful day in late November for exploring the park with GaSue, GuBob and the girls

Plate licking good food at Thanksgiving dinner

Tea time with my two little princesses

Forgiveness, extended time and again

What are you thankful for this week?

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Make your own art smock in less than 5 minutes! {my 1st vlog!}

Does your child love to do art projects and crafts? Cook in the kitchen? Get messy indoors or out? Then this super simple upcycled art smock is the perfect 5 minute project for you! I tried several different things to keep my 3 year old clean while she was crafting (or even just digging in the dirt) but nothing seemed to be quite right. Then I realized the solution was in my t shirt drawer. It's quick and easy to make your own art smock from a t shirt, and I'll show you how.

If you're like me, you have a big stack of t shirts you rarely ever wear. I love to take shirts from that stack and upcycle them into something I will actually use. One of my favorite new t shirt projects is this child's art smock - and since you're using an adult t shirt, this project can work for your littlest artist through the early teen years. This is my first vlog, so please be kind ;) And since the camera view isn't up close enough to really see where I'm making the cuts, I've included some sketches below for added clarity. If you have any questions, please ask!

Here is a sketch of the template. Make your cuts along the red lines, starting with the vertical red line. The pink areas will be cut away, leaving four straps that are sized specifically for your little artist.
And here is a rough sketch of the finished product!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beautiful & Sustainable - Holiday Photo Cards from Cardstore.com

Our Christmas cards and gift tags this year - could they be any cuter?

Are you looking for beautiful holiday photo cards (or thank you cards, stationary, announcements and business cards!) from a company that is focused on sustainability and great customer service? Look no further than cardstore.com!

Cardstore.com is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and partners with Carbonfund.org to offset its carbon footprint. With more than 7,000 designs featuring many well known artists, you're bound to find something you love.

I received a $25 credit to cardstore.com to review their products. I had in mind a picture from our vacation that I wanted to use, and thought it would be a quick and easy process. The actual process of uploading my photo and personalizing my card was very quick and easy - the time consuming part was deciding which card to choose!

Here are a few of my favorite things about cardstore.com:

The huge variety of designs available

The unique products that are available in addition to photo cards - have you seen the personalized gift tags? You can see the ones I ordered in the lower right of the picture at the top of this post - I can't wait to start attaching these to gifts this Christmas!

The ease of personalization - If you choose a photo postcard, you can add a personal message on the back of the card and even upload your address book to include the addresses!

No minimum order - while increasing your order quantity can reduce your price per item, there is no need to order 20 cards of each style. With the option to order just one card, it's possible to create a truly personal card for any occasion!

In addition to all that, the site is quick and easy to use, and my cards were delivered quickly. The quality of the cards exceeded my expectations. I will definitely be using cardstore.com again and again!

New customers can save 20% on their first order by using the code CSHOLIDAY20 at checkout.

*disclaimer* I received a $25 credit to review the products of my choice at cardstore.com. This review was otherwise not compensated, and all opinions are my own. For more information on my review policy, see my disclosure statement.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall Flavored Brussel Sprouts

Do you love brussel sprouts? I do! If you don't, chances are you haven't had them made correctly...just like greens, they can be rich and delicious in the right recipe. I first fell in love after trying this recipe from Rachel Ray. While I still love that recipe, I like to mix things up a bit and try new flavors. Last night I wanted something with a bit of fall flavor to it, and this fit the bill just perfectly! If you are looking for a fast, frugal and healthy side dish, this is it!

The key is to start with fresh brussel sprouts. I've never been able to get the texture right with the frozen variety, and texture is so key in a dish like this. I like small to medium sprouts, so that when cut in half they are roughly bite sized. Cut off the bottom "stem" area if necessary and rinse the sprouts well. Cut them in half unless they are particularly small.

1lb brussel sprouts, small to medium in size
2 cups broth of your choice (I usually use chicken broth, but beef or vegetable is tasty too)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
salt (I prefer course) to taste
pinch of dried mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tablespoons apple butter

Heat a pan on medium high with a tablespoon of olive oil. Place the sprouts in the pan so that they are in roughly a single layer. Allow them to cook a minute or two to caramelize before stirring. While you're waiting, add the salt and pepper. Stir the sprouts and add the mustard, nutmeg, apple butter and broth. Cover, reducing heat to low. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste one to make sure they are cooked to your preferred texture, and serve!

This amount of brussel sprouts will likely serve eight to ten people - great for holidays, parties, or leftovers!

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Have Breastpump, Will Travel

When Sweetpea was born, I was a gold elite member with Northwest Airlines. I somewhat naively thought that when I returned to work after maternity leave I would be able to ease back into travel mode, and con some of my less maternal coworkers into taking some trips for me. I might as well have slipped that gold elite identification tag right on my pump, because we were going to be spending a lot of time together.

Overall, pumping has gone pretty well for me. I've always been able to collect enough milk to keep up with demand and then some, donating the extra to a milk bank the first time and a private donor this time around. The difficult part turned out to be finding a place to pump and making the time for it during my many trips. Before baby, I could tell you which airports had the best restaurants and window shopping. After baby I could tell you which ones had private bathrooms with a lock and a plug!

Here are a few of the more (or less) exciting places I've had the chance to pump:

various parking lots
many a restaurant bathroom
airport bathrooms
in the passenger seat of a car on the highway
in the medical department of a manufacturing plant in Mexico
in the office of one of the managers at a Mexican supplier's facility (they had to hang posters up over the windows so I could have some privacy...hi everyone, don't mind me...)
Walt Disney World

And what I think is the strangest place of all: while drivingl (stuck in traffic) in the line to cross the border back into Mexico between Matamoros and Brownsville - thank goodness for my battery backup! (and yes, this was at the urging of my friend/coworker Tom, who really wanted to go straight to eat dinner when we finally got back into Texas, thanks again, Tom!)

After pumping in so many public-ish places, I've gotten pretty good at being discreet - or at least staying covered. (there is something about that pump noise that invites people to stare, trying to figure out what you're doing) I find with a nursing tank and a long shirt I can get situated to where I feel comfortable. In areas where there isn't a table, I've hung my pump bag over my shoulder. Disinfecting wipes and the microwave steam bags are great for when you're not in a place where washing is easy, like when I was in Mexico.

As challenging and stressful as it was at times to plan my travel around making time to pump, it was comforting to me, reminding me of my little one and helping me to feel close to her even when I was very far away!

Where are the strangest places you've pumped? Come join the conversation at the Motherlove Facebook page!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Tradition - Punkin' Lovin

Each year we head over to the pumpkin patch and explore, take pictures and pick out a few things to take home with us. My favorites are the gourds, with their unique shapes, bright varied colors and interesting textures. This year Sweetpea liked the pie pumpkins best, as they were perfectly round and just her size. Sugar Plum was a big fan of the corn stalks!

I love this tradition not only because I love fall, but because it's such a fun way to get outside and soak up the last remaining fall weather, and to document how much the girls are growing. I'll be the first to admit, I'm pretty terrible at keeping up with regular photo sessions. I do take a lot of pictures, but I have to depend on the date stamp to try and figure out how old the girls are sometimes when I finally have a chance to organize and print pictures. {hangs head in shame}

This is one of the last pictures of Sweetpea with her vacation braids! (and an actual smile, while looking at the camera!)

Sugar Plum was a bit too interested in the gourds to look at the camera. So most of her pictures are like this one...love those eyelashes!

And the pictures where she isn't looking down? She's practicing her exit strategy! Since learning to walk, she loves to be on the move!

Here is a picture from last year...wow!

And one more from this year - happy fall, everyone!

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