Engaging Girls in STEM

On November 4, 2017, the Sarah Wise Wooten Young Ladies Academy (SWWYLA) embarked on an engaging tour of the Maryland Science Center, located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. In an effort to foster continued interest in the academic disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), committee members led participants through three levels of exhibits that encompassed a wide variety of STEM related research and activities. The first stop of the tour began in Newton’s Alley, a collection of interactive exhibits designed to reveal the wonders of matter, energy, force and motion. In the words of Sir Isaac Newton, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This law of physics was illustrated by the center’s pulley chair and water vortex stations, both of which were a huge hit among the participants. Not only did the activities generate fun and excitement, they helped participants understand the science behind the physical occurrences. Next up was the SciLab, where committee members and participants alike were challenged to conduct real laboratory experiments. With protective googles and lab materials in tow, the participants rotated through four self-guided experiments, each focusing on a different set of tests and hypotheses. The girls followed step-by-step instructions and watched in awe as the chemical reactions took place; performing a DNA extraction and creating a model cell membrane proved to be the most fascinating. The participants rounded out their Science Center experience by putting their creativity and engineering skills to the test. The last stop on the tour was The Shed; there, the girls’ ingenuity shined through. Divided into three working groups, the participants were challenged to design and construct a three dimensional, free standing structure using only PVC piping and perforated wood panels. In true SWWYLA fashion, the participants welcomed the task willingly and completed their structures in record speed. The Shed staff members were thoroughly impressed and did not hesitate to applaud the SWWYLA group; one even stated that the girls’ work was the “best she had ever seen.” It is certainly safe to say that the participants left their mark on a place where the inner workings of the STEM academic disciplines coincide.