Getting girls excited about STEM

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By Amy Wallot
amy.wallot@education.ky.gov

A group of girls met on the University of Kentucky’s campus for a day this summer to learn about women in the STEM fields.

They started the morning quietly, paying attention and then moving on the next session. For some, it was their first time on a college campus. By the end of the day they were talking about their expectations for the coming school year, had made friends and were asking the presenters a bunch of questions.

The Girls STEM Day welcomed 75 girls between 5th and 10th grades to speak with faculty and student researchers from nine STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The event was held by the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative.

“Growing up, there was this stereotype that certain fields were meant for boys and others were for girls,” said undergraduate student Elizabeth Farnsworth, who organized much of the event. “By bringing the girls to campus to meet with scientists and faculty who are female, we hope to prove to them that the STEM fields are not limited to their male counterparts.

“As middle and early high school students, they are entering into the career decision period, where they start thinking about what they want to do as adults. We felt that this was an essential time in which these stereotypes needed to be debunked in order to open up these fields to young girls.”

Sue Scheff, co-chairwoman of the Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative, said organizers were thrilled by the opportunity to have the girls visit.

“The Girls STEM Day provided girls with an up-close and personal look at the way scientific research in conducted and how it impacts the world,” Scheff said.

The STEM Collaborative strives to educate girls that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers can be interesting and rewarding.

“The Girls STEM Day was very successful in meeting this goal,” Scheff said.

Beaumont Middle School (Fayette County) 7th-grade student Sophia Price and Boyle County Middle School 6th-grade student Paige Newby react to work extension graduate student Caitlin Stamper holding a hissing cockroach during the Girls STEM Day at the University of Kentucky. "We try to educate people about insects. Even if they are a little scary, they serve a necessary purpose," Stamper told the students. Photo by Amy Wallot, July 29, 2014
Beaumont Middle School (Fayette County) 7th-grade student Sophia Price and Boyle County Middle School 6th-grader  Paige Newby react as graduate student Caitlin Stamper holds a hissing cockroach during the Girls STEM Day at the University of Kentucky. “We try to educate people about insects. Even if they are a little scary, they serve a necessary purpose,” Stamper told the students.
Photo by Amy Wallot, July 29, 2014
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Yinan Wei talked about how chemistry is used in a large variety of professional fields. "For a career in science, I think the important thing is to try it," she told them. Photo by Amy Wallot, July 29, 2014
Yinan Wei, an assistant professor of chemistry,  talked about how chemistry is used in a large variety of professional fields. “For a career in science, I think the important thing is to try it,” she told them.
Photo by Amy Wallot, July 29, 2014
Geology graduate student Carlene Gilewski shows various items, including sandstone, a razor blade and a bee's head, to students under an electron microscope. Photo by Amy Wallot, July 29, 2014
Geology graduate student Carlene Gilewski shows various items, including sandstone, a razor blade and a bee’s head, to students under an electron microscope.
Photo by Amy Wallot, July 29, 2014
Associate Professor Czar Crofcheck talks with students about biosystems engineering. Photo by Amy Wallot, July 29, 2014
Associate Professor Czar Crofcheck talks with students about biosystems engineering.
Photo by Amy Wallot, July 29, 2014

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