As a woman, a teacher and a former astronaut, Barbara Morgan has a pretty good idea about what it takes to get young girls interested in STEM careers.
In a recent op-ed for Idaho Statesman, Morgan discussed her opinion on the representation of women and young people in science.
In her piece, Morgan admitted that her perspective on career opportunities for women in STEM has changed considerably over the past fifty years.
"Years ago, long before I was exploring space with NASA, I was like countless other women searching for an outlet for my love of science and mathematics," Morgan began.
"The possibilities, we generally were told, were being a teacher, a nurse, or a dental hygienist. I became a teacher, a job I loved and career choice that eventually led me all the way to the International Space Station."
For decades, Morgan has used her role as an educator to expand the opportunities for women in science. She has dedicated her long and accomplished career to improved education and exposure to science, especially for young girls.
In the 1980s, Morgan became NASA's Teacher in Space Designee, where she was responsible for education consulting and curriculum design, while also serving on the National Science Foundation's Federal Task Force for Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering. Now, Morgan works as a Distinguished Educator at Boise State University.
"Our goal as a state and a nation should be to raise a generation of young people who dream of being astronauts or engineers, or computer or environmental scientists, or STEM teachers," she said.
Morgan believes that the US is well on their way towards achieving this goal.
Her positive outlook on the future of science education is bolstered by Idaho's innovative programs "that encourage and attract students of all backgrounds, including women."
"I'm pleased to say Idaho is at the forefront of STEM education and opportunity," she said.
Morgan believes that one of the reasons Idaho has excelled in STEM education is because the state has gone out of their way to expose young people to science and, according to Morgan, "exposure is everything."
For instance, Morgan applauds the IDoCode program at Boise State, which aims at adding 10,000 well-trained computer science teachers to high schools across the US.
She also places great emphasis on local student projects, which seek to involve students in identifying problems and working in real ways to solve them.
One example listed was a project at Jerome Middle School, where students installed a wind turbine that generates clean wind energy. Morgan believes that these sorts of projects are foundational for science education because they provide a real-world context for learning.
"The best STEM educational programs at any level involve students identifying problems and working in real ways to solve those problems, often by working side-by-side with experts and professionals."