Women in STEM club engages young girls in science


Lilly Coe

Lower school students Olivia Sanders, Abbie Ott, Lola McInerney and Gabriela Lastra conduct an experiment designed by members of WiSTEM on Oct 13.

Colin Leslie, Assistant Editor

Liquid densities measured, origami engineered, eggs fit into bottles and balloons inflated with baking soda and vinegar. These were some of the experiments girls ran on Nov. 13 in a U-High biology classroom. But the students experimenting weren’t in high school. They were lower school girls participating in the first Science Saturday of the year.

Facilitated by the Women in STEM club, the Science Saturdays program introduces lower school girls to STEM concepts with the goal of encouraging younger girls to continue pursuing STEM.

According to WiSTEM club president Jana Reiser, the board plans the experiments and presents them to the rest of the club, which then tries the experiments themselves. Parents of elementary students are notified through the lower school principal and their teachers. This year, WiSTEM raised funds for the materials needed through a bake sale.

“​​We basically take very basic concepts from STEM fields that can be explained,” Jana said. “I know this year we had more kids on the older side, so we were able to explain a lot more of the science.”

According to junior Serena Thomas, a member who organized her first Science Saturday, the support of experienced WiSTEM members was essential for her to manage the responsibility of spreading the word about the event.

“It was kind of hard to reach out to different parents and get the word around about what we were trying to do,” Serena said. “Talking to people who were part of Science Saturday in the past and helped spread information about it was really useful to me.”

Serena said designing experiments so that they are interesting to younger students poses a challenge.

“I think at first they were a little hesitant since it was a new environment being in the high school,” Serena said, “but a few of them were with their friends and once we did the first lab, which was the liquid density lab, they all thought it was really exciting. A big part of it was just getting them engaged, asking them questions, what they think is gonna happen, so by the end, they were really excited about each individual activity.”

Jana said one of the goals of the Science Saturdays program is to introduce younger girls to a STEM community.

“There’s like this leaky faucet theory with women in STEM, which is basically that the higher you go in education of STEM, the more women fall out and stop doing it,” Jana said. “One of the ways to combat this is to create a strong network, so to have people you can rely on, and so that’s basically what we’re trying to do is just foster their own community.”

With this goal in mind, Serena said the feedback she received after the event was encouraging.

You basically have to teach young kids, and that in itself is a whole experience because you really have no idea what they will understand and what they won’t understand.

“A bunch of the parents actually emailed back, saying the kids had just hopped in the car and said that they loved it and want to do it again,” Serena said.

According to Jana, Science Saturdays also provide valuable experience for WiSTEM members.

“You basically have to teach young kids, and that in itself is a whole experience because you really have no idea what they will understand and what they won’t understand,” Jana said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn how to handle teaching.”

The Saturdays provide valuable experience through teaching, collaboration and preparation for the high schoolers, and liquid density, balloons and origami for the younger girls.