The Miami Science Museum (MSM) hosted participants from Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida for a one-day regional workshop to share research-based strategies that informal science educators can use to engage girls in STEM pathways. The workshop objectives were to promote awareness among informal educators of girls’ participation in engineering and technology; introduce strategies that use art to engage girls in STEM; and learn about Girls RISEnet resources and mini-grants.
MSM staff presented hands-on learning activities including: Snap into STEM using Snap Circuits®, Tinkering with Electronic Circuits, and Scripting with Scratch®.
“Having attended a number of state and regional conferences in the last few years, I found my six hour workshop with you to be far superior to any previously attended museum education seminars. I have been teaching an “Electricity and Magnetism” field trip program for the last year and a half and while I had a grasp on circuits prior to the workshop, I really feel that I can now put that knowledge into action. I have been so inspired that I bought conductive thread, 3V battery, and a sew-able battery pack to light up my Museum apron, just to prove I can do it! I cannot wait to take on another project. Thank you for the super inspiring introduction to Snap Circuits (I’ve already ordered a set for our Museum Learning Center) and Scratch (I’ve put in an IT request to have it on my computer) – I look forward to spreading the word to the rest of the CFM education unit and looking for ways that we can encourage girls in science, especially engineering and computer programming.” (Wilmington, NC)
“I would like to integrate more engineering into our science curriculum, possibly offering engineering workshops on Saturdays and during the summer. I will use what I learned about engineering and electricity in my summer camps, and put together a science kit that we can use on the floor for demonstrations and hands-on interaction with the public. The computer program Scratch would be a great addition to our Curious Kids room computers, and we could use this in our afterschool program.” (Naples, FL)
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With support from a Girls RISEnet mini-grant, Austin Children’s Museum convened two “Girls and STEM” trainings on January 22 and January 29, which were attended by 19 teenage girls and 9 teenage girls respectively. The trainings were offered by Emily Weerts, ACM’s Technology Education Coordinator, Prinda Wanakule with a PHD in Biomedical Engineering, and Jenny Trawick, Museum Career Ladder Coordinator. Trainings were designed to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers, included an overview and background on women in STEM, tips and strategies for how to engage girls in STEM, and practice for facilitating hands-on STEM activities.
Attendees who received the training then went on to deliver activities at the University of Texas Cockrell Engineering School’s “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” which was attended by over 2,800 families. Teenagers who participated in the trainings will use this knowledge to encourage STEM and Engineering activities during ACM’s planned girls-only “Engineer IT!” summer camp and Young Scientists half day camp (which is currently full).
One of the Museum Career Ladder Trainees who attended the training shared her reaction:
“I was extremely surprised by the statistics. I knew that girls weren't as involved in STEM subjects as boys, but I had no idea that the gender gap was that huge- and that it's so often overlooked, that we're so used to male-dominated careers that we don't even question it. I was incredibly surprised by the Google image experiment, when we typed in certain careers and paid attention to how many more male representatives there were than women. It disappointed me a lot and made me really determined to help engage girls in STEM. I will pay attention to the way girls are participating and make sure to talk to them about it, invite them to help, ask them questions, etc. Girls are often left out of the STEM activities and I will definitely be trying to gear more of the science and math activities to girls to get them interested- and I will show them my passion for the subjects as well.”
Another participant shared with project staff that she signed up for AP Biology and Biotechnology at school. She said that before getting involved in the Museum Career Ladder and attending the Girls in STEM training, she wouldn’t have considered taking these classes. Now she’s inspired to learn more about science and become a STEM role model to museum visitors!
Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo expanded its existing STEM programming to create a girls-only Zoo Exhibit Design course which incorporated STEM learning principles thanks to a Girls RISEnet mini-grant. This hands-on course explored the intricacies of caring for wildlife in a captive setting while also considering factors such as visitor experience, animal needs, and impact on species conservation. This course taught STEM through design and introduced participants to women working in STEM careers. A group of 21 girls from 6-8th grade participated in this course, which was held on-site at the Bronx Zoo over a two-day period in March 2013.
The girls broke into groups to build their own exhibit models reflecting what they had learned and presented them to the rest of the students. The girls presented their design, including the environmental, species-specific, and engineering considerations behind it. This program was really effective and the girls had a great time.
The Girls RISE: Robotics in Space Exploration! program offered 66 local girl scouts and their troop leaders a chance to experience a day at the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, CA while expanding their understanding of space science, space exploration, and the role robotics have played in space exploration.
As part of the program the girls rotated through a four-part activity tour of the Columbia Memorial Space Center which included interactive, hands-on science exhibits, an engaging movie entitled “Rocket Girls and Astronettes”, as well as an inquiry-based Lego Mindstorm robotics lab. Building on their experiences in the Mindstorm Robotics Lab, the girls also participated in a two-hour, intensive NXT robotics workshop in which the girls were trained on how to program, operate, and complete challenges in collaborative teams with their robots. During this student-centered workshop the girls were a part of a small robotics competition.
Between the field-trip and the NXT robotics workshop the girls and troop leaders enjoyed a boxed lunch as they listened to, and interacted with, our guest speaker for the day. Two different women guest speakers came from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. The guest speakers served as a role model and mentor for the participants, and introduced the participants to STEM career options.
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