Girls-only STEM summer camps: do they “work”?

I just finished reading this article (and the related snippet at the bottom) about single-sex, STEM-focused summer camps:

They’re fun. But can STEM camps for girls really make a difference? by Jeffrey Mervis.

When I hear the phrase “girl-only STEM summer camp,” I get warm and fuzzy feelings. Yay! Camps that expose middle-school-aged girls to robotics and coding and aviation and engineering? And those camps are recruiting from low-income schools? And they’re led by underrepresented women in STEM? And they’re feeding them from gardens? What could be detrimental?

The goal of such programs is to expose girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields and to expand their horizons for potential future careers. This Science article makes the case that it is difficult and expensive to follow-up on the success of the programs. The tone of the story is that we shouldn’t get too excited about these camps, as we don’t even really know if they work. Which is fair.

But I just can’t shake the feeling that these camps, if well-managed and intelligently-run, couldn’t be eye-opening and beneficial to the attendees. The exposure to new ideas, a new community, and the building of new skills must be life-enhancing, even if for two short weeks in the summer. Perhaps the camp doesn’t need to include ultra-fancy aspects like skydiving in a wind tunnel at the Smithsonian. But it feels right to me for girl-only STEM camps to continue.

Featured photo: US Navy/Joe Bullinger.

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