SPRING LAKE PARK, Minn. – (April 5, 2018) – Stem fields are highly male dominated in today’s work force with women making up less than 24 percent. Park Terrace Elementary School is hoping to change that by engaging girls in STEM education at a young age. second and third grade girls partnered with Spring Lake Park High School girls to expose them to STEM education and mentor-ship through the Voyagers program.
“So the Voyagers program started this school year, this is kind of our first pilot year of a program like this and we just wanted to have the opportunity to expose students primarily female to the world of STEM and science and encourage them to go into things that are math and science related,” said Ann Enstad, a chemistry teacher at Spring Lake Park High School. “We know that in our world there’s fewer women going into those profession than there are men so we thought it’d be a good opportunity at a young age to expose students to that.”
According to the census bureau, women make up 47 percent of the work force but only 24 percent of STEM fields. The program has guest speakers come in throughout the year and the elementary students are mentored by older high school girls.
“I think it’s definitely like a mutually benefiting relationship, I hear great things from the high school students, they love coming over here and getting the opportunity to work with some of the younger kids and seeing their excitement for science and experiments and kind of remembering what it was like to do things for the first time,” Enstad said. “On the other side I think the elementary school girls are getting a good experience as well, just having someone to look up to and kind of teach them some things that they might not be exposed to just in their normal science class.”
For Spring Lake Park High School student, Rachel Jacobsen, it’s been a beneficial experience for what she wants to go into for her career.
“It has been great working with these girls, they’re just so smart and so bright, and I have really liked working with children for years now, and that is actually what I would like to do when I start my career, so working with them has given me the opportunity to get some experience and it’s been a great time,” she said.
The elementary students have enjoyed working with their mentor to solve a problems. The girls in the program got to put their learning to use with an invention to help the homeless.
“So we kind of divided up the year into two halves, and the first half we have them working on some research and some activities and some designing experiments around the idea of extreme weather,” Endstad said. “The second half of the year they’re taking their learning with the extreme weather and trying to apply it to a community project with a STEM focus, so what we’re doing is we’re taking the idea of homelessness and the girls were able to do an empathy map to kind of understand what that would mean when in that situation, things like, ‘what would someone in that situation feel like? What would they think? what would they see? What would their experiences be?'”
They’re able to take their learning from extreme weather and design and prototype an invention that someone dealing with homelessness could benefit from.
“We worked on finding the best idea that we could apply to homeless people and their situations,” said Jacobsen. “We came up with a house separator.”
Jacobsen and her group want to help the homeless have privacy. The girls have high hopes for their creations. As for her, she just wants the best for her younger inventors.
“I hope this project just works out so that everybody is happy in the end, and I hope the imagination that they’ve put into the project comes out and it’ll end up great,” she said.
At the end of the program, the girls get to present their ideas to real manufactures.