A big part of what this blog is about is my wish to help out people who want to enthuse kids about STEM subjects and highlight useful new products and ideas, so I’m glad to spread the word about the inaugural issue of Smore, a new kind of magazine for girls. There’s no glitter lipstick on the cover, no fashion advice, no advertising, no ponies and no other stereotypical girly things (which I am in no way against if that’s what your kids enjoy, but shouldn’t be all that is available).
I’m a little wary of any resource that is aimed solely at a specific section of the population, but after scanning the shelves of the Supermarket today to see what was on offer for girls, it seems that with the exception of a few things like Nat Geo kids there was an overwhelming separation of ‘girl’s mags’ and ‘boy’s mags’ and the offering for girls was limited to sparkly things. There are some good mags that avoid these traps available here in the UK on subscription, such as Aquila and WhizzPopBang, but not much written mainly with girls in mind.
So that’s what Smore is not, but how about what it is? Smore is aimed at 7 to 12 year old girls, but my youngest son is 5 and enjoyed me reading the articles to him too. Available as a subscription, in print in the USA and online to anyone that has a device which can download the app, Smore aims to bridge the gap between the 74% of middle school girls who say they enjoy science and the fewer than 15% of them who actually enter the workforce in science subjects. The authors of the magazine want to inspire more girls to stay interested in science and debunk the message they seem to be picking up that science is not for them.
The magazine is bi-monthly, and has 50 pages of great content which will appeal to all children who enjoy STEM subjects. The inaugural issue came out just this month It has a lovely mixture of materials including short pieces on cutting edge science, longer articles on topics including space science, and sections on women and teens in Science. The gender bias is very subtle – this mag aims to encourage girls to continue to enjoy science but in a gentle way that doesn’t exclude anybody. The online subscription works out less than the kid’s magazine that makes me weep every time Toby insists on spending his saved up pocket money on it (naming no names but it involves a small packet of building bricks), and Smore is a better value read as it has far more content.
We particularly liked the mixture of shorter and more in depth articles, so we could dip in and out depending on how long we had available to read together during the day. I liked the focus articles on important women in science as it’s necessary for my boys to learn about inspiring female scientists alongside the usual list of famous movers and shakers such as Einstein. Even at their young age they are starting to pick up some odd ideas about gender stereotypes. I decided not to review another book on here this week because although it had good intentions of increasing kid’s knowledge of scientists, it never stepped beyond the usual role call of old white guys.
For people who don’t believe there is a need to actively promote women in STEM and that there isn’t a gender gap any more, here’s a simple test you can do to see if your family and friends have a skewed view on job roles and gender. Tell them the following story: A man and his son were involved in a car crash, both were seriously injured and required surgery. When the surgeon saw the boy the surgeon said that they couldn’t operate on him because he was their son. Who was the surgeon?
Overwhelmingly most people will struggle to come up with some scenario in which the surgeon was the ‘real dad’, the step dad, or the second dad in a same sex marriage (my kids asked if the boy had two daddies). It’s shocking how few people, including girls, say the perhaps more obvious answer, that the surgeon is his mother (especially surprising to me in my own kids who by chance have mainly seen female doctors themselves, and Ollie knows that the surgeon who delivered him was a woman). If nothing else this demonstrates that gender stereotypes are widespread and that we need more resources to address the issue.
With the well thought out and balanced approach that Smore takes I hope that it really takes off and helps us to see a generation where STEM careers are a popular option for everyone who loved science as a child.
Notes: I have no affiliation with Smore, they kindly allowed me access to the online version for the purpose of a review, all opinions are my own, images are taken from the magazine with permission. I viewed the magazine using an Android phone.