WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2015-2016

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

Issue link: http://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/596643

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Page 105 of 211

are some girls who can't sit still or do fine motor work in the early years and some boys that can. What might gender adjustments look like? Consider that girls often show a decline in performance and interest in math and sci- ence in middle school, even if these were areas of strength before. Project Lead the Way (PLTW) has developed a gender-oriented STEM curriculum to sustain students' inter- est. To engage female students, PLTW teaches math and science by solving real world, humanitarian-type projects such as exploring techniques for turning non-potable water into drinkable water. At Dana Hall, teachers are encouraged to pause longer in class to give girls the chance to speak up. A math lab is open before, during, and after school so that students can get the assistance they need to be successful. Do these adjustments work? Research shows that girls' school grads are six times more likely to consider majoring in math, science, or tech- nology than their coed peers and three times more likely to consider an engineering career. Erisman will tell you that girls' schools also build a strong sense of self-confidence during the precarious period of adolescence. "Everywhere they look there are female role models at Dana," Erisman explains. "We don't have equal opportunity; we have every oppor- tunity! We teach girls how to be leaders and how to advocate for themselves and give them plenty of opportunities to do so while they are here." Margaret, a recent Dana graduate, remem- bers, "When I was at Dana, I felt I could do anything I set my mind to, and learned to be a leader in all facets of my life." Without the distraction of boys, girls can focus more on their academic selves. Some Is the Durants' Work Done? 104 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | w i n t e r 2 0 1 5 / 2 0 1 6 What is happening to our boys? "Girls are so outperforming boys in school right now… at the present trend, the last man to get his bache- lor's degree will do so in 2068,"explains Dr. Michael Thompson, a leading child psychologist who works with schools in the Wellesley and Weston area and the coauthor of Raising Cain. What's behind this trend? "We ask too much of boys developmentally in the early years," explains Thompson. An earlier focus on academics, such as teaching students to read in kindergarten, whether motivated by a test-based school culture or precocious girl classmates, sets boys up for failure from the beginning. Eliminating or reducing recess, and a lack of hands-on learning, adversely impacts boys' abilities to focus and achieve. As a result, boys end up tasting too much failure and frustration in school. Thompson believes that as a culture, we overvalue boys' athletics and undervalue their academics, "Every small town in Texas turns out on Friday night to watch boys play football, and it's lacrosse in Maryland, and it's ice hockey in Minnesota and Massachusetts. Boys are demagogued, but not for their academic work." In Thompson's experience, boys fare better when their fathers are interested in their sons' academic achievements, not just their success on a field, court, or rink. For more information on Dr. Thompson's work and books, visit www.michaelthompson-phd.com.

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