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Great Science Fair Project -- Do Gender Roles Exist?

Aug 17, 2007
Are men and women different in their tastes of how to spend free time? Are teenagers different? Here's some background information that could be an interesting science fair project to help you find out. If you are not interested in doing a project, you could do this experiment for the fun of it.

Let's begin with some preconceived notions of what we think men and boys like to do. Sporting events of all kinds; car racing, football, baseball, basketball, hockey and wrestling would be among the favorites. Men like to male bond doing things like hunting, fishing, camping, playing golf, playing cards and other forms of gambling.

Some stereotypical diversions for girls and women might include visiting art galleries, spending time with book clubs, shopping and window shopping, charitable work and child care.

These gender-related avocations may seem a bit medieval and chauvinistic. Or are they? We will find out with an experiment to learn the truth.

Gather a list of all of the friends and family that you think would enjoy participating in the experiment. If you are doing a science fair project, make sure you quantify all of your data to make your presentation. Get a good mix of men and women, boy and girls. The more the merrier.

Structure a questionnaire listing activities like those mentioned above and add as many different activities that you can think of. If you wish to focus on high school students, for example, you may wish to include items like school social activities, school trips, athletic events, dances, lectures, seminars, field trips, after-school activities, home work and so on.

If you are working with adults, you might include luncheon meetings, parent-teacher activities, going to the playground with your children, and most anything that you wish to include. You should create a good mix of so called male and female oriented diversions.

It would be helpful to have as many as twenty people on your list, making certain that you have a representative number of people of different genders and age groups. Prepare your questionnaire and ask them to rate what they like on a scale of one to five, with one being something they really like, and five being something they never do.

We all know that Mohammed Ali was one of the greatest fighters of all time, but how many of us realize that his daughter was also a highly rated, first class prizefighter. Women play in the men's golf tour. Michelle Wie does it all the time and even the best women's golfer of our time, Annika Sorenstam has played in the men's tour.

We have women soldiers and women sailers and women marines. We have men who are nurses. At one time, no so long ago, it was believed that the nursing profession which is based on giving care to the sick and elderly was only for women, but not so. Men make very good nurses.

How many other professions can you think of that were once only for men and now attract many women, and how many other which were once only for women now attract men? We may some day shortly have a woman president. At one time there were only men in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, but now there are many women. We also have men who are among the best hair dressers, and clothing designers.

After you have finished your experiment, gather the finished data, reduce the figures, and come up with your answers. What have you found? Where your preconceived notions borne out? Or where you surprised with the results?
About the Author
Mort Barish is co-founder of Terimore Institute, Inc. Terimore provides hundreds of science fair projects with step-by-step guides for children in grades K-12 to help them successfully compete in science fairs. Find fun, easy and award-winning science fair projects at www.terimore.com!
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