University of California, Davis, is creating a program to mentor 15,000 11-year-old girls in California during the next year in an effort to close the gender gap in STEM learning.
“Snap the Gap,” a program that will provide mentors and hands-on STEM education tools to 11-year-old girls, was made possible by a $1.1 million grant from the Walt Disney Company.
STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and math — an area in which there persists a gender gap.
UC Davis, which leads California Million Women Mentors and is a national leader in STEM education, is partnering with littleBits, an educational technology company that created hands-on learning kits to “Snap the Gap” in STEM education, engaging girls in STEM at an early age. Girls will have the benefit of a mentor who will guide them through the innovation, prototyping and inventing cycle as well as lead them in career exploration by introducing them to powerful female STEM role models.
(Following is a video shot at a mentor event in Sacramento in May, shortly after the grant announcement.)
As part of the program, UC Davis will recruit 15,000 girls and pair them with mentors. The mentor-girl pairs will spend up to 20 hours together over the course of many sessions. UC Davis will reach out to nonprofit, after-school groups and other girl-serving organizations to recruit girls for the program.
Upon completion of the one-year pilot program, UC Davis will evaluate and analyze the Snap the Gap program.
While 56 percent of STEM students at UC Davis are women, only 35 percent of all STEM students enrolled in higher education nationally are women.
“UC Davis is strongly committed to improving this equation through hands-on STEM learning and mentoring from an early age,” said Beth Broome, senior advisor to the provost, who leads the program for UC Davis. “Research shows that individuals with mentors have improved academic, social and economic prospects — and this becomes increasingly important as young women look to mentors and role models to help gain their confidence and increase opportunities in STEM fields.”
UC Davis will make use of its statewide network of organizations, industry partners, higher education institutions, community-based organizations and private nonprofits to recruit mentors who are vested in assisting young girls chart their path, Broome said.