In March, the Patterson School of Natural Sciences hosted an event for local fourth through sixth grade girls called Girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The Saturday event was led by our class, Science for Elementary Teachers, and was an awesome chance for us to engage girls in the community and to help them feel empowered in male-dominated STEM fields.
We led the girls through different stations, teaching them about health, chemistry, geometry and other STEM subjects using activities such as an escape room and nurse training. The event was set up in a Doctor Who theme where the girls had to solve a crime mystery to help save the Doctor’s companion. Each station was designed to teach the girls something that would ultimately help them solve the final clues that led to the culprit. As the girls rotated through each station throughout the day, they learned new skills and were involved in creative experiments that expanded their knowledge.
It was so exciting to watch the girls go from station to station with their Doctor Who notebooks, taking down notes and yelling with joy whenever they finally understood what the station was all about. It was even more thrilling watching the girls answer the clues and put the pieces from each station together into this giant mind-puzzle that ultimately helped them solve the case. At the end, they were shouting and running with excitement to find the kidnapped companion, which sounds crazy, but was so much fun. Even the college students got really into this part of the Doctor Who story. The girls were even eager to continue to investigate once the event was over – they didn’t want the day to end!
As a future educator, I appreciated seeing how excited these girls could get about STEM subjects. My experience in school growing up led me to dread anything that had to do with science or technology because I felt completely inadequate in those areas. But our education classes here at Ouachita have been teaching us how to teach science using inquiry-based instruction (a student-driven form of teaching that is centered on a main question). All of the stations we made for the STEM Saturday had to be inquiry-based. Seeing the girls’ positive reactions to this format was groundbreaking for me. To me, it is one thing to hear about a new teaching method and another to see it in action successfully.
STEM Saturday showed me a new way of teaching that can empower and inspire students in areas where students traditionally tend to feel insecure. Not only do I feel more positively about teaching science in the future, but I am actually excited to do it now, too.
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