Educating Girls in Math and Science

For my practicum project I worked with a program called GEMS which is an acronym for Girls Excelling in Math and Science. I heard of GEMS through various e-mails and publications on campus. I sent my application to the program director Mrs. Eddie Crocker, was accepted and began my work as a mentor. As a program we work at three different schools William Wirt, Hyattsville Middle School and Nicholas Orem. I felt that it was very important to get involved with a group that is educating young women on the importance of science. I believe that a women’s perspective is very important in this field although it may not be seem like that at the moment. These girls will enter high school with a broader view of science. Although they may not explicitly remember all the topics we covered, they will be better able to handle the subjects in the future. My greatest hope is that they see the mentors and I as regular people who are working hard to achieve their goals as college graduates, doctors, engineers and intelligent young adults.

Each Monday as a large group of mentors we work on the plan for the upcoming session. Together we find ways to make the sessions run more smoothly. Every Wednesday afternoon the site supervisor, Mrs. Crocker, three mentors and I work alongside 10 – 20 middle school girls at Hyattsville Middle School. To have an organized Wednesday session lead mentors and time keepers are assigned weekly. The lead mentors work on directing the students and other mentors in the daily activities and managing time. During the second semester we realized that this would be a lot of one person so we decided to appoint time keepers for each week. This individual is directly responsible for keeping every mentor on track with our premade agendas and making adjustments to this agenda if necessary. Some weeks as lead mentor I was required to do a presentation on the topic at hand. For example my first presentation included a power point on “Kitchen Chemistry”. That week we were working on the pH of certain household items such as baking soda, vinegar, ammonia, bleach, lemon juice and several other items. Lead mentors are also responsible for doing the small demos before the main activities. The demo for that week included testing to see which vegetables had starch. My favorite activity as lead mentor was working with the scientific method with bubbles. Our question was how many drops of glycerol are necessary to make the largest bubble? As lead mentor I talked about surface tension and adhesion then I had the chance to make the first bubble with the glycerol solution. The girls had a blast with the experiment! Surprisingly I had more fun working with one girl who was having trouble finding the mean size of her bubbles. I never thought I had the patience to teach loud preteen especially teaching topics I find so simple.

Hyattsville Middle School is a school that has been at times forgotten. The girls are all over the place all the time but that’s one reason I love them. I love walking into that school and seeing so much excitement, life and diversity. I love that they can’t remember my name half the time but oddly they remember my birthday, the shoes I wear, and even my major. They have made me rethink my negativity towards a career as teacher.

Although we are working with middle school students, we covered the topics that they will be seeing in high school. I love that the topics covered in GEMS quite frequently correlate to topics in my current classes. The little acronyms and tips used for GEMS definitely help me remember the basics of acids and bases or electricity. Most importantly I remembered to have fun with my education again!

So my new career plan is to teach abroad before I go to graduate school. From one practicum project and one group of girls I have decided to alter my career plans. I have this urgent feeling that there is not enough work being done to bring diverse groups of women into the science field. If these girls are anything like the girls from Hyattsville Middle School then I have completely faith in them. All they need is a role model so that they can understand that this is a possibility, it just takes work.

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    Last modified:
    11 April 2010