Dirt Girls is an empowerment program dedicated to exploring scientific habits of mind through garden-based learning. Grounded in research-aligned approaches to identity development and environmental education, Dirt Girls has the potential to inspire dozens of girls to pursue STEM careers. Outdoor sessions engage youth in authentic projects that teach how to care for plants, ourselves, and each other. Cross-age interaction and mentoring promotes relationships that grow long-term resilience.
In the United States, women make up only 29% of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) workforce. The underrepresentation of women in STEM careers can have deleterious effects on the applicability of science for women in society. For example, climate change is one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. Although climate change disproportionately affects women worldwide, only 20% of scientists in climate-change-related fields are women. We need to close this gap.
Motivating young women to pursue science careers requires contexts in which they can engage with peers, interact with mentors, and practice scientific thinking. Youth scientists may not be able to solve climate change, but they can investigate solutions such as regenerative agriculture or carbon sequestration through gardening and environmental horticulture. Dirt Girls develop scientific identities that entice them to consider the scientific enterprise, thus potentially closing the gender gap.
Dirt Girls aims to close the gender gap in STEM. Women are more likely to consider a STEM related career tomorrow when they feel empowered to be part of the solution of solving scientific problems in gender-specific ways today. In addition to introducing basic gardening skills, which empowers women to grow food, spend time in nature, and practice healthier habits, this project will invite female mentors to share their work in hopes of inspiring dozens of girls to pursue science as a career.