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Fashion Design: A New Way to Teach STEM to Young Girls

Simon Hopkins, a senior at Park City High School in Utah, loves to teach the history of fashion to students. And believe it or not, his students are learning STEM skills while they’re designing their own clothing brands! How is this possible, you ask?

Hopkins teaches through a program called Zaniac, a STEM enrichment franchise. Now, thanks in part to Hopkins, fashion design is now taught at all six Zaniac campuses. By combining fashion history and an open-source vector graphics software called InkScape, Hopkins can teach his students how to create their own clothing designs—just in time for the Fall season.

In May 2015, the company had only four campuses; at that time, approximately 70 percent of all students enrolled were boys. But now, Hopkins and his staff want to branch out to a wider pool of participants, young girls in particular.

“We wanted to encourage a greater audience for individuals being integrated into STEM, and, particularly, we wanted to cater a course and curriculum that may be more appealing to girls,” says Sidharth Oberoi, president and chief academic officer at Zaniac. “We decided to go down the route of a fashion design course that is much more heavily integrated into technology versus what has traditionally been thought to be fashion design.”

The idea worked. Fashion design is open to all students, but, as of now, all participants have been girls.

“I just think in this day and age where kids are learning about computers so young, it’s easy for them to grasp the concept of how to do these things and it just opens up an entire new world for them,” Ruth Hadlock told USNews. Her daughter, Cate, is a sixth-grader at Canyon Rim Academy in Salt Lake City who says she had been interested in fashion design ever since she was a young girl. That’s why she was so eager to take the class.

Hopkins says he observed the girls in his class work through problems, sometimes talking with their peers or asking him questions; as a result, he thinks they now have more confidence. “They know they can find the solutions and create a piece of visual art,” he says.

Additionally, Zaniac offers many more after-school programs and camps for kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The programs focus on a variety of STEM activities, like robotics and 3-D printing. So there are plenty of opportunities to attract more participants to this exciting new franchise, including more young women interested in technology driven industries.

Zaniac isn’t the only after-school program out there that is attracting young students into the world of STEM. The Michigan Engineering Zone is one such program. And who knows how many more of these programs are out there right now, waiting for you to sign up? Take the first step towards a fun and exciting new future!

Photo credit: US News

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