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POPS! The Power of Physical Science: Encouraging Girls to Study the Physical Sciences


Fewer women than men major in the physical sciences. Women make up only 20% of physics bachelors degrees and 40% of geology bachelors degrees in the United States. This disparity does not exist in the biological sciences or in chemistry. Research has shown that gender differences in attitudes towards the physical sciences become more pronounced during the middle school years. Other research shows that "helping others" is an important consideration for girls who are considering their career options.

Through this MSP-Start Partnership, SUNY Geneseo students and faculty from Geology, Physics, and Education have collaborated with local science teachers to develop a pilot study curriculum targeted at middle school classrooms. Special attention was paid to creating group settings that encourage female participation and self-efficacy. The curriculum focused on the societal benefits of the physical sciences. During the spring of 2011, area school districts piloted this unit plan and pre- and post-assessments on student attitudes towards the physical sciences administered in the participating classrooms and in comparison classrooms where the pilot curriculum was not implemented. The results demonstrated that students in the POPS classrooms showed significant gains in content knowledge and in attitudes towards the physical sciences.