Have you ever heard anyone say that there are no good science role models on TV for girls? Those people have never seen some of the shows that we watch in our house. These shows that I talk about below inspire my daughter, and son, to get creative outside of simply watching. So here are seven TV shows that are great inspirations for STEM for girls (and boys).
This is an Amazon Prime show that is now in its second season. The show centers around Annie, a girl scientist that lives in a junkyard with her father. She has created a bunch of Androids to help her around the place. Her love for robotics and science has pushed her to create. She is joined by a couple of friends, Nick and Shania. They help Annie and also get into some shenanigans. The show has that DIY can do spirit that inspires kids to get going creating things.
Project MC2 is a program that is all about science in various disciplines. The show centers around McKeyla McAllister, a young spy with a mission to protect a prince. She piques the curiosity of the three smartest girls in her new school, Adrienne Attoms (Chemistry), Bryden Bandweth (Technology), and Camryn Coyle (Engineering). The girls use their smarts to save the prince and become great friends. This series also stars Danica McKellar as the head of the spy organization. Danica, who is most well known for portraying Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, is a great role model for smart girls everywhere. She's written several very popular Math books and co-authored a math theorem, the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem. The only drawback to this show is that it only has 3 episodes.
For your younger viewers there is the PBS Kids show called PEG + CAT. This is a show that teaches children math and has a female lead, PEG. She is joined by her ever helpful CAT in solving "Really Big Problems" using math. The show is entertaining and informative, and it teaches children many concepts about mathematics in simple ways.
This is also a PBS show but for slightly older kids, think pre-tween. This humorous show depicts a world where children are part of a secret government organization that solves odd problems all over the world. Any child can be an ODD SQUAD agent and that includes your own kids. The two main characters are Olive and Otto. They are partners who work for Odd Squad and solve those odd problems using mathematics. They're joined by a cast of other characters who also work for ODD SQUAD. This is an entertaining show that teaches kids important math lessons pretty much without them knowing it because the show is so funny. But the concepts stick - even my three year old remembers and applies them.
This show about anthropomorphic monster trucks who solve problems using science and engineering can be found on Nick Jr. The Main character is Blaze, a monster truck who works with his partner AJ, a young boy who is his driver. Blaze and AJ are joined by a cast of good guy monster trucks, as well as some mischievous monster trucks. The main mechanic for the trucks is Gabby, a 9 year old who can fix anything. Each episode teaches kids about engineering concepts like Adhesion, Friction and Momentum.
This PBS show follows real life tween girls who are interested in areas of STEM, and focuses more on science in real life than entertainment. The show is deeply connected to its website - in each episode Izzie (an animated character) has a challenge and she searches her website for archived projects that will help her overcome that challenge. That video is the live action segment of the show that follows the groups of real life tween girls who are working on their science projects.
While this show centers around adventure seeking Miles it also has a wonderful family dynamic that shows women in roles typically depicted by men. The Callisto family consists of Leo, the Dad and the ship's mechanic; Miles, the son, youngest boy and adventure seeker; Phoebe, the Mom and the ship's captain, and older sister Loretta, the ship's navigator and computer genius. This series was developed with NASA and Google and the goal was to break the gender stereotypes that you see in science fiction and inspire young girls.
Each of these shows play at my house and inspire my soon to be 8 year-old daughter to build with LEGO, or dig through the recycling to create her next ThinkFun Maker Studio creation. It is inspiring to see that children's media is making an effort to encourage girls to be interested in STEM. It's also encouraging that my daughter is always eager to have Science day with my sister, a scientist in her own right. My daughter's love for science was started by our family, especially my sister. My sister wants to encourage my daughter's love for science so much that she sent my daughter to three weeks of Science School this past Summer. The Children's School of Science in Woods Hole, MA was something that impacted my sister's life in such a positive way that she wanted to make sure that my daughter had access to that same sort of experience.
About the Author
Special thanks to Drew Bennett, who runs BenSpark.com and writes for Cooper & Kid. He can be found in many places on the web writing about toys and movies and TV shows, or on his Twitter account, @BenSpark.