Middle school girls from the Abilene area gathered for an event called STEM for Girls at ACU’s Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center April 21. This program brings middle school girls and primarily female ACU faculty together for a day dedicated to studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Dr. Sarah Lee, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, associate professor of psychology, coordinated the event. These women saw a need in the Abilene community for young girls to be exposed to STEM last semester, so they worked together to make that happen.
Dr. Shewmaker mentioned how middle school girls are easily influenced by either positive or negative things in society, and with this event, they wanted to change the way girls think.
“These STEM areas give girls a different way to look at themselves. While they’re getting messages through the media or their peers that who they are is all about what they look like, focusing on something they’re really interested in a strong field like STEM gives them a different identity. Things they know, what they learn and what they do, bring them back to real value and worth,” she said.
Lee said the girls toured booths and activity areas where they interactively learned about STEM subjects.
“Projects in all subjects were there, including robotics from ATEMS High School, and several microscopes from ACU’s biology department were available for the girls to use. Faculty made sure to have creative, hands on activities at every station the girls went to. She said they were able to spend about 20 minutes at each station.
This event was the first of its kind, however the overwhelming positive response from teachers and students around the Abilene community was encouraging to Dr. Lee and Dr. Shewmaker.
“We designed this program to be a pilot project, but it really grew. From the response of ACU faculty wanting to join in, to teacher’s around town sending positive feedback in letters, we were really excited to see it come together and we’re excited for future events like this”, said Lee.
Shewmaker said with a day full of fun educational activities, along with campus tours and interactive studies, the middle school girls were not only exposed to a positive learning environment, but a new way of thinking of their own self esteem.
“We had two important goals we wanted to accomplish for this weekend. First to expose the girls to subjects that they may not really know or experienced before, and to give the girls female role models who are successfully pursuing careers in these fields. I think we are going to do that through this and in the events to come,” she said.