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Meeting with Women in STEM from around Africa April 20, 2012

Posted by Connie Chow in Executive Director Musings, STEM pipeline efforts, women in science.
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Earlier this week, I met with four scientists and engineers from Africa, who were here in the United States for the first time, as part of the Department of State’s International Visitors Leadership Program, hosted by WorldBoston.

They included Ms. Kobamelo DIKGOLA, Principal Hydrological Engineer, Department of Water Affairs, from Botswana; Ms. Ayuni Segum FAI, Operations and Maintenance Supervisor, MTN Cameroon (a communications company); Ms. Josephine Aku Holanyo ECKLU, Teaching Assistant, Department of Food Process Engineering, University of Ghana; and Mrs. Celestina Nkem STEVE-OBIAGO, Founder/ Chief Executive Officer, Sonec Confectionaries in Nigeria.

Sister Ann Fox of the Paraclete Academy, who has been working on a STEM school for girls in Rwanda for the last decade, joined us. Sister Fox and I discussed with them how they can design and adapt similar programs back in their countries.

As a handful of women in science and engineering in their own communities, they were highly aware of the need to attract and mentor more young women into these fields, and were particularly interested in learning about our programs here and in Ghana. In fact, both Ms. Ecklu and Ms. Steve-Obiago already mentor young women, in academics and in entrepreneurship. They were particularly interested in shared curricula ideas and I also shared some books from Sally Ride Science, which they eagerly accepted.

The larger issues of gender stereotyping and class were much more pronounced in their home countries, and formed major barriers to getting girls and young women interested in science and other male-dominated fields. They agreed that building girls’ confidence is a key step in sustaining their efforts, and role models and practical experience are essential in fueling their interest.

Much to my delight, I discovered that Ms. Josephine volunteers with the Ghana Sustainable Aid Project in Pokuase, where we have Science Clubs. We will definitely see each other again!


Out of this world experience at the Museum of Science! March 26, 2012

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Clubs, Events.
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by Kirsten Blancato, former mentor at Myrtle Baptist in Newton

On the morning of March 3rd, I was a bit confused when I woke up surrounded by images of galaxies, nebulas, and planets.  I quickly remembered though that the girls from several different Science Club for Girls groups and I were having an out of this world experience on our overnight stay at the Boston Museum of Science!


Aside from getting to sleep in the awesome Cosmic Light room in front of the Hayden Planetarium, we explored nearly the entire museum, and enjoyed many fun, hands-on activities including:

–          Being fossil and bone detectives

–          Seeing a live turtle, snake, and tarantula

–          The world’s largest indoor lightning show at the Theater of Electricity

–          An amazing show at the Hayden Planetarium

–          And a captivating Omni movie about migration!

The Mathematica exhibit was particularly interactive and really got the girls excited about math!  Here are the girls enjoying a display of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion:


Overall, our sleepover at the Museum of Science was engaging, a great learning experience, and definitely fun!  The girls were exposed to many different exciting fields of science and had a blast!

LEGOs for Girls? February 27, 2012

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Gender differences?, girls in science, Guest Blog.
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Guest Post from our All-Star Vacation Week Volunteer Laura Croal

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about a new line of blocks the company LEGO unveiled this past winter.  Though LEGO’s were originally created as a gender neutral toy, in recent years the company’s has focused on marketing LEGO kits for boys.  However, the new line called “LEGO Friends”, which was unveiled this winter, represents the final product of Lego’s extensive market research efforts to develop…drumroll please…a Lego product aimed at girls!

Hooray you say!!!  I love LEGOs!  What a great educational toy!  You can build such cool things!  Your only limit is your creativity!  Thoughtful pause…but, hey, what exactly does that mean that they made LEGOs for girls?

Well, according to the anthropologists the company hired to study how girls play differently from boys,

“girls wanted more reality-based toys that let them see themselves as the characters. Also, how girls could play with the kits after they built them was more important than it was to boys.”

Ok, this sounds reasonable so far.  As the girl plays with her kit, she wants to imagine herself to be the chief engineer on a big construction project! Or the chemist in charge of building a LEGO chemistry lab!  And then, after she accomplishes her goal, it’s important for her to understand and learn about the applications and uses of her product by playing out scenarios.  But what’s that you say?  The color schemes include pastel pinks, purples, and blue?  Hmm, ok, I can deal with those colors…  The settings of play include beauty shops, cafes and bakeries?   Uh, well that doesn’t sound very adventurous or inspiring…  The accessories designer to fit in the female LEGO character’s hands include hairbrushes and handbags.  Whaaat?!?!?!?!?!  How is a STEM savvy girl supposed to get any world changing work done while holding a HANGBAG!?!? (more…)

Promoting Out-of-School-Time Science at the National Conference on Girls’ Education February 14, 2012

Posted by Connie Chow in Executive Director Musings, Gender differences?, girls in science, Guest Blog, STEM pipeline efforts, women in science.
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I had the pleasure of organizing a workshop, “It Takes a Village: Building Sustainable Partnerships Between Scientists, Community Organizations and Girls,” with Dr. Linda Kekelis, executive director of Techbridge in Oakland, CA and Jameela Jafri, Senior Manager of Curriculum and Professional Learning Communities at Project Exploration in Chicago, IL. It was presented at the first National Conference on Girls’ Education in Washington DC, hosted by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools.

There was much emphasis on building girls’ resilience, their “internal resume” as Rachel Simmons put it, and the importance of practice at critical junctures for the development of the brain “muscles” associated with socio-emotional and other cognitive functions, as preparation for leadership, and for life.

The approaches of our three organizations towards working with girls (and boys) from urban communities, and what we need to do as scientist-educators to meet them where they are were very similar and we each learned from the other groups. I particularly like Jameela’s framing of the collaboration between youth and adults as a community of practice. Since she was swift to produce an excellent summary, I have (with her permission) excerpted her observations below.

“The conference was an opportunity for organizations—particularly public charter and private schools—to share practices and raise issues that are relevant to educating and nurturing young women today. Engaging girls in STEM pursuits and building leadership skills were among the main themes of the conference.

Project Exploration’s presence at the conference was important as one of the voices for effective science education for girls from communities that have been traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. I had the pleasure of co-presenting our model of engaging girls and scientists in meaningful science programming with Dr. Linda Kekelis, executive director of Techbridge in California, and Dr. Connie Chow, executive director of Science Club for Girls in Massachusetts. Our presentation, entitled “It Takes a Village: Building Sustainable Partnerships Between Scientists, Community Organizations and Girls,” was well attended by schools that are developing and growing science outreach programs for their female students and scientist mentors. Many of these schools were eager to identify effective strategies for recruiting and working with scientists who would be able to mentor and provide science activities for their girls.

My presentation focused on two main questions:
  1. What do scientists need for a meaningful outreach experience with youth?
  2. In terms of access, what do youth—particularly minorities and girls—need when engaging with scientists?

I framed these two questions around the social learning theory of community of practice, where people come together around similar questions, ideas, goals, and practices. I discussed how “building a village” with adults and youth is really about developing a community of practice, where both parties are engaged in learning and doing science. This is particularly important, I noted, given that we need to consider normative adolescent development and the needs that young people have from a psychological and developmental point-of-view in order to form an identity in science.

The big take away from the conference was that gender-specific programming (both in and out-of-school) is important for the developmental needs of girls. (more…)

Science Club for Girls selected as Root Cause’s 2012 Social Innovator and for Be The Change Award December 14, 2011

Posted by Science Club for Girls in SCFG News.
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Science Club for Girls was recognized by Root Cause’s Social Innovation Forum as one of six innovative, results-oriented nonprofit organizations in greater Boston on December 9, 2011.

More than 70 social issue experts reviewed over 120 applications to select this year’s six Social Innovators, who will each receive more than $100,000 in cash and capacity-building services from Root Cause and its partners over the next 12 months.

Science Club for Girls also received the Be The Change Award from the MA Conference for Women, sponsored by Canyon Ranch, on the same day

Science Club for Girls was selected for its work to increase the confidence and literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for K-12 grade girls by connecting them to female role models through hands-on explorations and field trips.  STEM track sponsors, the Amelia Peabody Foundation and Microsoft New England Research and Development Center will provide SCFG with a $10,000 cash grant. (more…)