Monday, November 22, 2010


Hello SmartGirls!

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the USA, and to celebrate the national holiday, our office will be closed down on Thursday and Friday. We will be back on Monday!

However, in the month of December, our site will only be updated once weekly. You may continue to submit things as usual with the understanding that turn-around may take longer than normal. We will return to our usually daily updates in January.

Thank you for understanding!

The SmartGirl Team

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Life of a Teacher, by Katie J.

This guest blog to "SmartGirls Get Real" was submitted by a SmartGirl! If you would like to guest blog for SmartGirl, please contact us at Thank you!

Many of us don’t realize how important teachers are, but I’m a trainee teaching assistant and have been training for a whole year. I think I may have insight into what important work teachers do!

As a trainee teaching assistant, I have been helping the teacher make sure the class runs smoothly as possible. I work with certain groups of children, run errands, photocopy, and sometimes I even get to take over the classroom for her. But there is so much more I am still training for.

With all this experience, I thought I would write an article for those of you who are curious why a teacher behaves in different ways.

When someone studies to be a teacher, they have to pick a specific age they want to work with. Different age groups need different teaching methods. For example, if you are working with students between 4 and 7 years old, you should avoid shouting unless as a last resort.

A teacher’s tone of voice is very powerful in a classroom. They might use their tone to indicate that they aren’t happy and you think, “Oh, I’ve done something wrong! Her tone of voice has changed!” Another technique they use is to talk really quietly. Children will have to listen more closely, and it reduces the noise level in the classroom. If your teacher is talking quietly, she might actually be trying to get your attention! So listen carefully.

When students are older than age 7, shouting becomes more common. Usually it’s because the teacher can’t be heard. She will shout to those who are being rude and talking over her, or if some members of your class are doing something they shouldn’t be doing!

Sometimes it can be annoying how bossy our teachers seem to be, but trust me, they have a good reason! If you’re teacher says, “tuck in your char” or “stop swinging on your chair,” it’s actually part of health and safety to keep you out of danger. Chairs that are left out can get tripped over and cause serious injury, or you might fall backward and hurt your head.

In my studies, the the safety precautions that are most common are:

Chairs tucked in at all times
No swinging on chairs
All equipment be put away
No jewellery worn to school
No open toe shoes
No running in the corridors
All doors be shut
No rough play

They may seem silly, but these rules are made up to keep you safe! Think about it: running in the corridors, you could collide with someone. I’ve actually seen this happen, and two students were seriously injured!

No open toes in case a chair or someone steps on your toes!

No rough play... well, quite often it turns to real fighting, which can get out of hand.

All doors be shut for the health and safety of children.

All equipment should be put away. For example, if you had a pair of scissors lying down on a chair and you sat down without looking, you could get injured.
So next time your teacher prompts you, remember why!

Most of all, every teacher has a different teaching style. All teachers are different. Some may be more strict than others, but it all depends on the teacher. But every teachers two most important questions are: are you learning new things, and are kept safe? So if she seems more strict, she is just doing her job.

Teachers are very wise people and often can teach you things your parents can’t. So we should praise them!

However, no teacher for whatever reason is allowed to man-handle a child. This is not right!

There’s so much to learn as a teacher, isn’t there? It’s not just about teaching subjects, but taking care of a lot of students.

From being a TA I have learnt all the above. If you have any more questions I would be happy to answer them!

So happy learning everyone, and remember: respect your teacher like I am sure she respects you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The SmartGirl Pledge

Recently, we crafted a SmartGirl Pledge. We made it because we're opening up SmartGirl to a lot more discussion, adding comments everywhere and just really encouraging everyone to speak their minds. That being said, we still want SmartGirl to be a safe place where everyone can feel welcome. If we disagree on something, we want to be able to talk it out and learn something about each other and why we feel differently about the same thing.

So we wrote this pledge. Here's what we got so far:
  • I promise to keep an open mind and withhold judgment
  • I promise to learn more about other people's experiences and ideas
  • I promise to share my own opinions, even if someone will challenge them
  • I promise to ask for support when I need it
  • I promise to be supportive and encouraging when I can tell others need it
  • I promise to make my own decisions by being informed
  • I promise to take responsibility for the choices I've made and the future I'm making
What would you add to this pledge? What other promises would you make so that SmartGirl is the best that it can be?

SmartGirls Get Real

Hey Volunteers!

We're looking for some opinionated SmartGirls to write essays on important topics that today's girls care about. We'll publish them in a new article section called "SmartGirls Get Real."

The idea is to get girls talking about things they don't usually get to talk about with other girls who really care what they have to say. We'll all have our voices heard, our opinions challenged, and hopefully we'll learn something, too.

So. You've been in this world for a long time. What do you stay up late thinking about? Contact Boowee at with your SmartGirl Gets Real topic idea, and soon you might see your first or fake name as an author on our new blog!

Friday, July 30, 2010

SmartGirl Reviews

More changes are happening on SmartGirl! As things with the Real Life section are coming together (we just updated SmartGirl Boy Advice to look like the Issues section so now you can leave comments), we're starting on the Reviews section.

The reviews section has been broken for a long time. You can submit reviews, but the way to publish them stopped working. We're finally rewriting this section so that your issues can make it out to the world! So, over the next few weeks, we'll be adding several new reviews every day, both classic reviews and new reviews with our brand new questionnaires. There's new categories that cover more things, new pages to sort through the reviews, and new looks to the review pages themselves. Right now it's in a draft stage, so check back often to see how things progress!

Most importantly, if you are messing around in the reviews area and you think something could be improved -- or if you love it A LOT -- leave us a comment and let us know! We love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

SG Reviews

We overhauled SG Authors. Then we overhauled SG Peer Advice. Now we're working on SG Reviews!

It's been a long time coming, and it's about time. We're rewriting the surveys to take out the silly questions that no one ever answers, we're updating the formatting so it's easier to read, we're condensing some categories that overlapped, and we're adding new categories so you can speak your mind on new stuff!

So, expect to see some new reviews posted on SmartGirl (finally). If you want to help out, submit a review today so we can tweak the new template for published reviews!

While we're working on them, do you have any suggestions? Have you ever used SG Reviews before? What's missing? What do you love and don't want taken away? We're listening.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Look for SG Peer Advice

SG Peer Advice is one of the newer areas of SmartGirl. First, SmartGirls apply to be mentors. Then I send them issues that were submitted by other SmartGirls and they respond. Our SG Peer Mentors are dedicated, thoughtful, caring, and really want to help.

However, after a few months, we realized that the way we were running SG Peer Advice just wasn't good enough. SG Peer Mentors felt disconnected from SmartGirls even though they were responding to real questions. The problem was that there was no interaction. There was no way to know if what they had to say was helping anyone at all.

Now, if you've ever read one of our Advice Polls, you know that if an SG has an issue, there's another SG out there who can totally relate and has something to say to help. That's because even though all these issues are unique and special, the feelings are universal. That's why even though our submission form is anonymous and we may never know how the person who submitted the issue feels about SG Peer Mentor advice, their advice can still help tons of people who relate to it.

So how could we connect to all those people who felt touched by a certain issue, had something to add, or wanted to offer advice of their own? We wanted these issues to start discussions, share knowledge, be supportive, and all that great stuff. Our current format wasn't going to cut it. It was too rigid. We needed something brand new.

So we built it! You can see it, right now! Renamed Issues, it's based off of our SG Authors book structure. Each issue has its very own page and comments section, so you can leave comments on questions. Offer your advice and your support and get to know other SmartGirls who care about the same things.

We hope you like the changes!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Designing a Webpage

Have you ever tried to use our HTML Tutorial to learn how to design a webpage? What did you think?

Today going through our "Contact Us" mail, we got a letter from Juliet, aged 10, that said our HTML Tutorial was confusing. We're sorry that this happened, and we would love to fix it!

So we're wondering: what could be improved? How far in were you when you got confused? We'll go back and try to fix it up and make it easier to understand.

You can leave your comments here or email us with your suggestions directly to

Also, here's a shoutout to Sifi, age 18, who said our website was fun! Thanks, Sifi!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It's the week of the interviews, I guess. Erika's book, Beneath the Cobblestones, is finally available to purchase on Amazon. It's been a long time in the works, and we can't wait to read our very own copy!

But what's super cool is that Erika is willing to let SmartGirls ask her lots of questions about her success as a writer getting published at such a young age. We set up a page so you can submit your interview questions:

Next week, we'll send her your questions and she'll pick some out and answer them for you! Send her serious ones, fun ones, and whatever you're curious about.

Also, we didn't tell you this, but we've been interviewed, too! Amiko from My Unfastened Diary (M-U-D) has a blog where she is interviewing web designers and giving advice and sharing stories submitted by tween girls. You can check out her blog and our interview here:

We had never done an interview like this before, and it was actually pretty fun. I tend to like to talk a lot though, so it was hard to keep things short!

Have you ever interviewed someone or been interviewed by someone? What was it like? Any especially memorable moments?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our New Contact Form

Recently on SmartGirl we added a Contact Form. There were lots of reasons to do this, and two of our favorite reasons are:
  • This is a safe way to contact us without revealing any more information than you want to
  • It's a more convenient way to contact us so that you don't have to go and open up your email client just to send a simple message
Already we've had several messages from our contact form, and I'd like to address some of those concerns here!

  1. We change our site layout too often without giving any warning
  2. Everyone should be able to be a SmartGirl Author without having to submit an application

First, I'm sorry that you've been feeling left in the dark with some of our site changes! I realize now that there's only one link on the site to this blog, and it's hidden at the bottom of the Real Life page. To help give visitors more notice when we make site changes, I'll add more links to this blog and try to put more notices up on Facebook.

Second, I also believe that anyone who wants to be a writer should get that chance. However, there's a lot of work that goes into being a SmartGirl Author and I can only take on so many at a time! When the new site gets up and running we'll be able to take on more SmartGirl Authors, but for now, unfortunately, we have to limit the number of applications we accept.

In the meantime, new SmartGirl Author positions open up all year round. If you make sure that your author application is well-written and original, you might not hear from us immediately, but you will probably hear from us eventually as soon as a position opens up!

Keep sending us your questions and concerns. If you are over 13, we can respond to you directly. Otherwise, you can look for responses here on our Development Blog!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

SG Authors Got A Makeover

If you've been watching our Facebook feed, then you've probably seen post after post about the SmartGirl Author pages: "check out the new design!" "now look!" and "even more improved!"

Well, it's finally done... at least, as much as it will be for now. Here's a list of the changes:

  • Reading the chapters is more like a book, now. They're in paragraph format on a little yellowed page, about the right width.
  • You can flip between chapters "next" and "previous," plus there's a REALLY handy (really!) contents box on the right so that you can go directly to whichever chapter you want.
  • We installed Disqus so that you can leave comments on every single chapter AND have the thread emailed straight to your inbox in case someone replies! Oh, the convenience!
  • Installing Disqus also means we have the super handy (again with the handy!) "Recent Comments" box on the SG Authors main page. Now you don't have to flip through every story to see if there were comments. You can just know.
  • Done with your favorite story? Still want to read more? Now we've made it even easier to switch between authors by adding a little library of every story on SmartGirl below the Table of Contents. It's so easy!
Plus, we added in the pictures where they're supposed to go and spaced things out to look pretty.
Oh, and we finally connected the Short Stories and Real Life content.

And we made it easier to submit everything by putting a Submit button on every single page.

Aren't you happy?

... Are you NOT happy?

Anyway, now we can finally get around to responding to all your author applications. Hehehe...

Monday, March 29, 2010

I missed you, SmartGirls!

The weekend is finally over, and I admit that I really missed you all! I love checking my email when I get back in. It's especially fun now since I've met a lot more of you through the SmartGirl Peer Mentor program. Remember that anyone can email me at any time, just send your messages to I try to get back within 48 hours, but I'm out for the weekends Friday through Sunday.

We now have 9 official SmartGirl Peer Mentors answering questions every week. Plus, we have two SmartGirl Boy Mentors who will be making their debut in April, and a bonafide SmartGirl Mentor who is a graduate student at the University of Michigan who can help answer your health and body questions. Fun fun fun!

Also, people have been asking: WHEN ARE YOU ON THE CHATTERBOX? The answer is: MORNINGS. I'm on The Chatterbox off-and-on Monday through Thursday at all times, but I make sure that I'm at least on for a little bit in the mornings, so check The Chatterbox 9am-11am and you'll probably see me.

Check back soon when I will post screenshots of how our new design is coming along!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Direction for SmartGirl: Career Development

For a long time we've known that we wanted to add new content to SmartGirl. One of the great things SmartGirl has going for it is that it already attracts a large audience of tons of girls from all over the world. Here at the Women in Science and Engineering Program at the University of Michigan, we wanted to provide information that could help all those girls consider these careers in which women are traditionally underrepresented, such as careers in science, math, engineering, and technology.

First, we had a User Survey. This survey told us that girls were interested in homework help, career information, information on summer and after-school programs, surveys and quizzes, personalization, and more.

We considered all of their suggestions. At first we were really interested in providing homework help, but there are already great sites for this, like, InfoPlease, HomeworkHelp, HomeworkSpot, and more! If we were going to provide a really good homework help service, we'd have to employ tons of tutors with tons of different specialties and try to have someone around all the time just in case someone had a question. It just wasn't the right direction for us.

We started to consider career information more seriously. This was much more promising! Most career information out there is aimed at much older audiences, such as college students and recent college graduates looking for their first job. The profiles tended to be in all text and were organized by college major -- something most middle-schoolers are still undecided on! The truth was, there was a lot of great information out there, but it didn't seem to be exciting or accessible to our audience.

And that's worrisome, because research on career development suggests that boys and girls start limiting their career options by middle school. For example, young students are more likely to limit career interest to those careers which they have had the most exposure to, such as parent's careers and common jobs like police officer, teacher, and "the boop-boop person at the check-out line." Additionally, students are likely to "know" how careers are gender-typed by middle school, and are likely to foresee themselves in careers in line with their perceived gender identity. Such passive career interests at this early age can influence which high school courses and electives students decide to take, which in turn affects college major and real career opportunities down the line.

In light of this research and our users' interest in career information, we've decided to add career profile information that is media rich, interactive, and aimed at middle-schoolers. In addition, we hope to increase middle-schoolers' active participation in their career development by encouraging them to explore and get to know their own interests. Then we'll help them relate those interests to different careers and hopefully introduce them to careers they might never have considered otherwise.

For example, did you ever consider that scientists write books, too? You might be surprised how far your interests can take you, if you just take the time to look!

SmartGirl Peer Advice

Hi SmartGirls!

We added a new section to our website not long ago called "SmartGirl Peer Advice." What was happening was that we had tons of emails and messages asking for advice, but not enough people to respond to all of them! At the same time, we knew that there were lots of SmartGirls out there who like to help out and would jump at the chance to be a listening ear and give advice.

So we put up applications. And we got a great response! Right now we have two wonderful SmartGirl Peer Mentors and we will have more on the way. They answer questions regularly so check their page often:

We're also working on setting up some SmartGirl Boy Advice, so stay tuned!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SmartGirl Staff

There are a lot of bits and pieces to keeping up a website, especially one like this where so much of the content is submitted by the people who use the site.

Someone has to set up the form for the submissions.
Someone has to sort through the submissions and delete spam.
Someone has to proofread all the submissions and decide which ones to post and which ones not to post.
Someone has to format the submissions for the webpage and publish the page.

Then there are other staff who write content for the site, like SmartGirl Suggests and the SmartScopes.
There are staff who write the surveys and the survey reports.

And, of course, there's the staff who figures out how to pay for it all and what to do next!

How do we do it?

First and most important, we have lots of visitors who love SmartGirl and submit things to share with other visitors to the site. This is some of the best content on the site! So, thanks SmartGirls for sending in your submissions!

Secondly, we have lots of students from the University of Michigan who help out with the site. These are the people who are writing your surveys and survey reports, the staff reviews, and other content! They spend hours and hours going to class, and with their free time, they work to make SmartGirl better. We really couldn't  stay afloat without our volunteers!

Our latest volunteers are our SG Peer Mentors. For the past couple of weeks we have been submitting them questions to answer and compiling them all. Pretty soon we'll post it and have tons of new content! SmartGirls can submit all their questions and get responses a lot faster, and from people their own age who know what it's like. Plus there are still all the other ways to get advice, like the Issues posts and emailing me, Boowee, at

Of course, that's the last person who contributes to the site: me, the administrator. I do whatever needs to get done, whatever is left over after in the end.

It's a really small staff, but we like what we do. Have you ever thought about running a business?