The Walt Disney Company today announced a program in collaboration with littleBits, the educational technology company that is reinventing the way kids learn, with the aim of closing the gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) starting at the point of highest leverage: 10-year-old girls.
Snap the Gap will kick off with a year-one pilot valued at $4 million, for 15,000 girls in California. Participants will receive a littleBits STEM Starter Pack with an estimated retail value of $300, funded by The Walt Disney Company, along with a one-year immersion in an inventor community and mentorship by an inspiring adult in STEM. UC Davis, which leads California Million Women Mentors, will help recruit participants and mentors and measure the program’s impact. With this launch, Snap the Gap is calling on STEM professionals to join the movement and volunteer as mentors or partners; additional information can be found at SnapTheGap.org.
Data shows the gender gap in STEM appears around the fourth grade and continues at various milestones in a girl’s school and career trajectory. For the past seven years, littleBits has been capturing girls’ interest in STEM and will use its insights to equip girls with tools to propel their interests further and provide a support system to help them withstand cultural and systemic forces they may encounter.
The Snap the Gap Program features three key components:
- Hands-on Learning: A uniquely branded littleBits Base Inventor Kit or littleBits Electronic Music Inventor Kit encourages girls to learn through physical play, turn their ideas into inventions and solve problems they care about.
- Immersion in a Safe Community of Inventors: Participants will be enrolled for one year into JAM.com, the largest paid subscription course platform for kids. This is a safe space for girls to feel as though they belong and meet like-minded peers with whom they can invent and share their work.
- Mentorship: Girls who have mentors are 2.5 times more likely to be confident in their ability to succeed in school and careers. UC Davis and CA Million Women Mentors will pair girls with mentors and will also provide technical assistance to those mentors, as well as to site coordinators, to allow girls to experience a deeper level of engagement while growing a strong STEM identity.
After the first-year pilot, Snap the Gap plans to add five new states to its continued efforts, with an eye toward reaching all 50 states—and the roughly 2 million 10-year-old-girls who live in them—over the next decade.
“Our goal is not for every 10-year-old girl to grow up to be a programmer or an engineer,” Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO, littleBits, said. “Snap the Gap is about exposing young girls to the power of STEM in an environment full of creativity and free of stereotypes, so they can grow up to be confident change-makers.”
“We have a history of successful collaboration with littleBits, pairing our beloved characters and stories with imaginative, interactive technology to inspire children, especially girls, to embrace and explore the power and possibilities of STEM,” says Christine McCarthy, senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, The Walt Disney Company. “With Ayah’s passion and her company’s innovative approach to education through play, we believe littleBits is uniquely positioned to help close the gender gap in STEM. Disney is proud to support this groundbreaking effort to create new and engaging opportunities for girls to develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed.”
For more information, please visit SnapTheGap.org.