Black Gold Regional School students participate in special Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Day to gain exposure to non-traditional career fields.
On March 23, 2018, a total of 67 students in Grades 6 – 10 from across Black Gold Regional Division No. 18 (BGRD) took part in the Division’s first ever Girls in STEM Day. STEM is short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
The event, held at West Haven Public School, was established as a direct result of the disconnect between women entering into a career related to the field they are interested in, versus following societal norms. Tarynne Angell, lead event organizer, instructional coach, and technology integration facilitator with BGRD, explained that research shows that when asked, seven out of 10 girls will say they are interested in STEM education, but only two out of the seven will eventually enter a related career choice. “Big companies have begun to invest in combatting this stigma, understanding the advantages of promoting non-traditional STEM fields for women, and Black Gold felt it was just as important to support this work,” stated Angell. “Overall, the main purpose of developing the day was to encourage our female students to explore these non-traditional areas and gain exposure, they might not otherwise receive, to the many potential career opportunities linked to STEM.”
Participants were captivated by the keynote speakers including Trisha Roffey, a technology lead and educator who gave an inspiring talk about empowerment and dreaming big. Students also heard from world famous Alice Keeler, who connected via Google Hangouts from New York to talk about her experiences working for companies such as Google, Microsoft and YouTube. Participants were able to ask questions about their experiences and the challenges of being a woman in a male dominated industry. Both speakers highlighted the growing need for women in STEM fields and opportunities that will be available to the students in the future. “It was exciting to see the eyes light up on each of these young girls as they listened to all that is possible for them,” Angell stated.
Throughout the day, small group sessions were held for students to learn how to code robots and microchips, create a digital community and fly drones. Female aerospace engineers from HATCH Engineering and Edmonton International Airport had participants constructing planes for different types of flight and scenarios. WISEST (Women in Scholarship Engineering, Science,and Technology), which is a division of the University of Alberta, created to empower and guide women pursuing careers in STEM fields, was on hand giving interactive demonstrations of what a materials engineer does. Students learned about digital footprints and online safety from Carmen Pezderic, BGRD’s communications coordinator, and Cst. Neil Muz, Leduc RCMP school resource officer. The school foyers were taken over by green screens that students used to learn about media and create their own interesting videos. Grade 6 student, Annabelle shared that this was her favourite activity because she made friends with other girls and created a story from just one background.
Students were also asked to design websites throughout the day by uploading codes, pictures and videos, creating a personal portfolio highlighting their learning experiences, activities and reflections regarding the career connections presented. These sites have been entered into a Division contest and one lucky student will win a set of pocket sized codable computers called Microbits for their school.
Girls in STEM also served as a professional development opportunity for teachers in the Division as they learned along with the participants in their role as teacher supervisors. One supervisor and principal of Ecole Corinthia Park School, Shelly McCubbing said, “As a supervisor, I was able to go in and observe all sessions that were offered throughout the day. The level of engagement by the girls was truly sensational as was the collaboration that was produced through conversation and hands-on activities. I appreciated the different facets to STEM that were highlighted throughout the day, as well as the knowledge that each presenter brought with them. It was an enlightening day, and opened up a whole new world of possibilities for our girls.”
2018 marks the inception of this event, with hope from event organizers that similar Division supported initiatives will continue as long as challenges remain around women entering into STEM related career fields exist. Calli, a Grade 9 student summarized the inspiration and importance of the Girls in STEM event by stating, “It was so important to let young girls like me see what it was like for other women in the science field. I want all girls to know that there are opportunities for them no matter your ethnicity, age or looks. You can be whoever you dream and aspire to be.”