Mary J. Blige is partnering with NASA with the objective to encourage girls and women of all ages to take up careers in science. Cited in a recent article.

NASA released two public service announcements featuring Blige and space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin this week on NASA TV online. In addition, Blige, who cofounded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now in 2008, has made several television appearances in the last week to talk about the program.

The goal of the collaboration is to gather attention for NASA’s Summer of Innovation, a multiweek, intensive STEM program for middle school teachers and students during summer 2010. Coordinators hope the program, which is in support of the US President Barack Obama’s Educate to Innovate Campaign, will counter the “summer slide” (loss of academic skills over the summer) and other issues facing students who are underrepresented, underserved, and underperforming in STEM. SOI programs will take place in several states in the US including Idaho, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Wyoming, and students will learn about and develop projects involving wind turbines, weather stations, engineering in suborbital space, robotics, astrophysics, and space exploration. This, oneday should be made a global initiative!

The are a few things parents, teachers and society can do to encourage girls to pursue an interest in science.

Expose them to female role models. Find other women in science who can tell  them, what they did in science when they were young girls.

Use role models who can demonstrate that you can be attractive, wear nice clothes, have children, and get married–all while being successful in science. “That may sound a little bit sexist, but it turns out this is what little girls think about early on, and even the young girls you meet today in schools across the world [think you can’t be involved in science and still be feminine],” Quote “If you can expose them to role models who have these characteristics, it is positive reinforcement for them.”

Relate science to activities that girls, in particular, will understand. Tell and teach them about the chemistry involved in cosmetology or the scientific processes involved in cooking. There is an entire discipline of science devoted to food science. Show them that bread is made from yeast rising, that pickles are made as a result of the fermentation process, and explain to them the role of microorganisms in yogurt and cheeses. “Explain science so that children can see how it is used in their everyday experiences. Then it will help them to be more engaged and empower them.”

Build their math skills early. “Make sure they have a good foundation in math because math is fundamental to science,” If they have a good background in math, science will come easy.”

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