Spotlight on SciGirls

By: Lauren Rivers, Education Director

It’s a fact: careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are seriously lacking the feminine factor. By 8th grade, girls tend to drift away from subjects like computer programming and chemistry. There are various reasons for this shift, from poor public perception (engineering really IS fun!!) to low visibility of women in STEM careers. Whatever the problem is, we at ExplorationWorks think we've found a solution: SciGirls!

SciGirls began as a PBS show with one mission: to get tween girls, ages 8 to 12, interested in STEM. Each episode follows a group of middle school girls who are eager to find answers to their questions while inspiring kids to explore the world around them and discover that science and technology are everywhere. The girls, with the help of scientific mentors, design their own investigations on topics ranging from the environment to engineering and nutrition. From the TV show, SciGirls clubs around the country have developed, including ExplorationWorks SciGirls afterschool clubs and summer camps.

ExplorationWorks has been a champion for SciGirls since early 2015, and we are now in our 10th season of SciGirls clubs and camps. In that time, we've met over 25 female science mentors and learned about their careers. We've talked to chemists, engineers, architects, wildlife biologists, budget analysts, dentists and veterinarians. We've visited chemistry and biology labs, performed dissections and illuminated DNA with lab-grade equipment. Through the SciGirls model, ExWorks' goal is to show young women that there are no limits to their options for STEM careers. If they can dream it, they can do it.

One such young woman has been dreaming and doing from the beginning. Aidan is now in 6th grade, and has been participating in SciGirls since she was 9 years old. Every session of SciGirls is different, so Aidan can return season after season and continue meeting new science mentors and pursuing new challenges. Over the years she has grown from a curious child to a young scientist who loves experimenting with technology, and is always happy to help other girls with projects. Recently, Aidan chatted with SciGirls instructor and ExWorks’ Education Director Lauren Rivers, about what being a SciGirls has meant to her.

L: What are some of your favorite SciGirls memories?
A:
When I was in 4th grade and we dissected owl pellets, I brought the bones in to show my afterschool program. The kindergarteners thought it was really cool, especially the skull.

   Micro-pipetting like a pro at Carroll College biology lab.

Micro-pipetting like a pro at Carroll College biology lab.

I really like all the dissections we do in SciGirls, I think they’re really interesting. We aren’t doing any dissections in 6th grade, I asked my teacher. So it’s cool that we do them in SciGirls.

I also liked making Rube Goldberg contraptions. I liked how different things reacted when other things occurred. As an only child, I’m used to being by myself, but making Rube Goldberg machines was one time I enjoyed working with a partner.

L: Who have you enjoyed meeting through SciGirls?
A:
The cloud scientist and the dog trainers. The cloud scientist because I thought it was interesting that there are so many things you can do to learn about clouds, like going up in a blimp to catch clouds in a jar. And the dog trainers because I learned that it takes a lot to train a dog to do what you want, and I want to be a vet.

L: Where do you see yourself in 15 years? What do you want to be doing?
A:
I want to go into the military and be a veterinarian in the Navy. I want to work with dogs and seals and maybe dolphins, to train them to help people in the Navy.