FIRST® Launches "More Than" Campaign to Dismantle Labels for Kids and Promote Self-Esteem Through STEM
Today, FIRST ® announces the launch of More Than, a campaign to dismantle labels for young people and promote self-esteem through STEM. The campaign launched with a new, emotive PSA and an open letter in the New York Times calling for adults to encourage the young people in their life to engage in new opportunities that might seem outside their comfort zone.
The campaign centers around a new PSA, produced by Nation of Artists. The creative uses the voices of students ages 6-18 to demonstrate to viewers that they are "more than" the societal boxes designated to them. The drumbeat of young voices reminds parents and educators to see beyond their perceptions and to encourage self-discovery by participating in self-esteem building activities this school year, especially those that are in science, technology, engineering and math-based (STEM). The new PSA will run nationwide from September 26 through the end of November.
The concept of More Than is rooted in insights gathered by listening to students, educators, and experts about barriers to success kids face. Findings revealed American children are learning to doubt themselves because of fear or shame from the judgment of others. These feelings hold them back from exploring their interests, passions, and potential at a formative age. Sometimes, and often by accident, children are made to feel like they aren't good enough or the "right kind of kid" for a certain academic subject or extracurricular – negatively impacting their self-worth for a lifetime.
In fact, a recent survey* found when it comes to extracurriculars in STEM, 29% of kids don't feel smart enough to join a STEM-related program. This comes despite 54% of students stating they did, or would, want to join a STEM or robotics extracurricular to learn a new skill.
"We must refrain from defining our children before they have the chance to define themselves. Instead, we need to enable new opportunities that enhance their self-esteem. At FIRST, we believe a catalyst to this is encouraging involvement in STEM-related activities at an early age," said Chris Moore, CEO of FIRST. "As a child, I was discouraged from pursuing STEM fields by a teacher, and this mislabeling caused me to doubt myself and in turn, sacrifice my own potential. Parents and educators should not underestimate their power over a young person's decisions and self-worth. We must provide students the opportunity to discover their passions and explore activities outside of their 'box' to help them and others see themselves as 'more than' they are today."
Parents and educators play a critical role in building kids' resilience, self-worth, empowerment, and academic interests; in fact, 77% of kids aged 13-18 say they would turn to a parent, teacher, or school counselor for advice if they were considering joining an extracurricular activity. Yet, many do not understand the power of their influence, nor how to enable the opportunities for self-discovery and self-esteem building. Diana Lockwood-Bordaña is one of several experts who provided research insights to help inform More Than. Diana is a teacher, researcher and consultant who helps organizations create pathways for students, as well as the author of a children's workbook that teaches kids how to embrace a positive mindset in STEM. Some of her key recommendations for bolstering confidence through STEM this school year include:
- Offer enrichment activities that connect to real-world issues , which can help motivate students and understand their power to affect the real world through academics.
- Teach students about role models – in STEM or otherwise – and expose them to mentors from the community so they see inclusive examples of success (e.g., women) and grow up with an understanding of what's possible for them in STEM and life.
- Evaluate students from an asset-based mindset rather than a deficit-based one. An asset-based mindset teaches kids and educators to recognize their strengths and use them to understand new, hard concepts as they are introduced.
In turn, the campaign highlights real-life cases of young people who have surpassed expectations. An example is 21-year-old Alyssa Carson, former FIRST participant, author, space enthusiast and youngest person to graduate U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Advanced Space Academy.
"I live by a motto: 'always follow your dream and don't let anyone take it from you.' For me, many tried to sway me from my dream of going to Mars – stating I was 'too young,' and it was something that can wait until I'm older. They underestimated me," said Carson. "However, despite my own nerves, fears, and others' skepticism, I persevered. Working together with FIRST, I want every young person to be encouraged to pursue the activity that is deemed 'too hard' or 'not for girls,' and to be encouraged by the mentors in their lives to say, 'yes' to opportunities outside their comfort zone."
Learn more about the campaign at www.morethanrobots.org and learn how you can become involved in esteem-building activities through FIRST. You can follow along with the conversation on social media via #IAmMoreThan.
*Allison+Partners Performance + Intelligence surveyed 1,003 individuals aged 13-18 years old in the US. The survey was fielded using the Qualtrics Insight Platform and panel was sourced from Lucid. Fielding took place in August 2022.