200 3rd to 8th-grade girls attend day of engaging STEM activities and conversations
On Saturday, Oct. 28, UMass Dartmouth hosted the 11th STEM4Girls Day for roughly 200 girls in 3rd to 8th grade, half of whom were from New Bedford, MA. The sold-out event, which began in 2010, strives to inspire girls from disadvantaged communities to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by presenting these subjects in an engaging and enjoyable manner.
"We aim to bridge the gender divide in STEM professions by reaching out to girls at a young age, with the intent to shape their understanding of science and the role of women in these careers," said Shakhnoza Kayumova, associate professor of STEM education, and recent Fulbright award winner. "Through our events, we link girls with STEM role models and offer hands-on activities that enhance their abilities, inspiring them to visualize the limitless opportunities in STEM in their future."
Attendees first attended a skit performed by students from Our Sisters' School in New Bedford, followed by a keynote address from Stefanie Milam, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who serves as the James Webb Space Telescope deputy project scientist for planetary science.
Following the keynote, attendees participated in STEM workshops hosted by UMassD faculty, graduate students, and local STEM teachers from the community, before a complimentary lunch at the Grove, UMassD's dining hall, where girls interacted with Norbert the turtle from the Lloyd Center for the Environment and played with photons and other robots. The day ended with a presentation from STEAM the Streets, a nonprofit that motivates under-connected youth to pursue 21st-century career pathways through innovative and culturally relevant youth engagement platforms.
"Research shows girls' interest in math and science appears to wane from 4th to 8th grade," said Kimberly Welty, grant support specialist in UMassD's Kaput Center. "While women occupy 47% of all jobs in the country, a mere 24% of them hold positions in STEM fields. Drawing more girls into STEM is a pivotal step towards leveling the playing field in the workforce and ensuring a diversity of perspectives."