As parents, we encourage our children to explore the world around them. By developing a child’s curiosity in STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — we give that child the building blocks of a lifetime of learning.
That’s why STEAM subjects are part of the Primrose® exclusive Balanced Learning® approach. By integrating STEAM throughout the day of learning, teachers are helping children in each age group grasp these core concepts in fun and exciting ways.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of five women who have made monumental achievements in STEAM fields. We hope you share these inspirational women with your children.
Click these links to jump to each section below:
- Rachel Carson, nature writer and environmentalist
- Shirley Jackson, physicist and inventor
- Clara Barton, nurse and humanitarian
- Katherine Johnson, mathematician and aerospace pioneer
- Marie Curie, discoverer of radioactive elements
Rachel Carson, nature writer and environmentalist
What you can tell your children about her: She was a scientist and writer who helped save birds from bad chemicals.
Why we’re celebrating her: Rachel Carson (1907-1964) is one of the premier nature writers of the 20th century. Her poetic style compelled people to call for change, igniting an environmental movement that led to the prohibition of the pesticide DDT.
Her life’s work began as a child. Carson’s mother loved nature, and she passed along that passion to her daughter. Carson created pamphlets and articles for the government to educate people about nature and conservation.
In Carson’s personal time, she wrote articles and books — such as her 1962 book “Silent Spring” — in which she questioned the damaging role of humans in the ecosystem. DDT was banned in 1972.
Shirley Jackson, physicist and inventor
What you can tell your children about her: She invented technology for the telephone, and she is a leader of important science groups.
Why we’re celebrating her: “Time” magazine called Shirley Jackson (born 1946) “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science,” and we couldn’t agree more.
She has been interested in science since childhood. Her mother read her books about scientists, and her father helped her with projects at school. She earned her Ph.D. degree in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology — the first African American woman to do so. At AT&T Bell Laboratories, her research in optical physics led to the invention of the touch-tone telephone, fiber-optic cables, caller ID and call waiting.
Jackson has counseled presidents about public health and nuclear energy, and about how science and technology policies can help the economy. President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Science for her distinguished career in research and development.
What you can tell your children about her: She was a nurse who started the American Red Cross, a group that helps people in emergencies.
Why we’re celebrating her: Clara Barton (1821-1912) had compassion, grace under pressure and persuasive abilities to initiate change, enabling her to make significant strides in humanitarian efforts around the world.
She became a teacher at age 15 and founded a school before age 30. During the Civil War, she gathered provisions for soldiers near the front lines and spent time with the wounded, nursing them back to health. Her tireless efforts helped change people’s perception of women as leaders. President Abraham Lincoln put her in charge of responding to inquiries about missing soldiers.
After the war, Barton discovered the Red Cross in Europe. She brought the society’s humanitarian mission back to the U.S., founding the American Red Cross and leading the organization for more than 20 years.
What you can tell your children about her: She was a math expert who helped astronauts go into space and land on the moon.
Why we’re celebrating her: Before there can be astronauts who fly in rockets and go to space, there must be people like Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) who help them get there. Johnson made critically important contributions to the country’s most historical achievements in spaceflight.
Growing up, Johnson had parents who encouraged her abilities in math and sent her to a school where she could excel. She graduated from college at age 18 with highest honors. When the U.S. entered the space race in the 1950s, NASA hired Johnson and other math experts to make complex calculations. She calculated the path for the ship that would take the first U.S. astronauts to space and was part of the team that sent the first people to the moon.
For her extraordinary contributions to our country, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. She is one of the characters portrayed in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures.”
What you can tell your children about her: She was a scientist who figured out radioactivity, which is used to make X-rays, kill germs and create electricity.
Why we’re celebrating her: Marie Curie (1867-1934) followed her curiosity into unknown territories of science, which led to foundational discoveries for modern medicine and industry.
Both of Curie’s parents were educators who made sure their four daughters had the same access to learning as their son. She excelled in physics and math. Through her work with uranium, she coined the term “radioactivity” and helped create the field of atomic physics. She and her husband, Pierre, also discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium.
In 1903, Curie shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Pierre and another scientist for their work in radioactivity. She became the first woman to win a Nobel, the highest honor in her field. Continuing her work with radium, she alone earned the Nobel Prize in chemistry, in 1911.
If you ever wonder whether childhood exposure to learning and critical thinking matters, these amazing women, who all had an early interest in STEAM subjects, are proof that it does. If we could talk to them now, they might say they asked lots of questions, used tools such as rulers and microscopes, tested solutions to problems, pursued creativity, and explored numbers, patterns and shapes. It sounds like a typical day at Primrose Schools®, where the next generation of STEAM thinkers is developing.
For more STEAM inspiration, check out these resources:
- STEAM Learning at Home Without Trying
- Understanding STEAM in Preschool Classrooms
- Incorporate STEAM Concepts Into Everyday Experiences for Young Learners