Early this fall, I was contacted by one of the organizers of the Science Symposium for Girls here in Honolulu. She had seen me on the local news talking about my Arctic expedition as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, and she asked if I would be willing to present about the Arctic at this year's symposium. I could not pass up the opportunity to work with 5th-8th grade girls from island schools in the 2015 Science Symposium for Girls. The symposium, now in its 21st year, is presented by Sacred Hearts Academy in partnership with Bank of Hawaii Foundation.
Females are often discouraged from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects in school and are still underrepresented in potentially lucrative STEM careers. But why? While inherent gender differences have been ruled out by science, multiple environmental and social barriers influence the complex issue of female participation and achievement in STEM subjects. According to current research, these factors include persistent gender-bias about traditional male and female fields, a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset for intelligence, lack of spatial skills training for girls, and a lack of confidence and feeling of isolation for girls in STEM subjects.
I believe events like the symposium can not only boost girls' confidence in STEM but also help them develop relevant skills. Moreover, girls interested in STEM gain a sense of community through collaborative work. If we are going to increase our nation’s STEM participation and achievement, we need to support all learners! Therefore, I was honored to be invited to participate in today's symposium. As a featured presenter, I delivered a workshop to two different groups of 20 girls.
For my workshops, I decided to focus on sharing about my Arctic expedition with a Prezi for the first half of the session and use to second half for an ice inquiry investigation. First, I introduced how I was able to travel to the Arctic through a teacher fellowship through National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Next, I defined the Arctic region and pointed out some facts about Svalbard, the land of the Ice Bears. I shared the Arctic scenery and wildlife through my expedition photos.
Next came the hands-on part of the session! The ice inquiry allowed the girls to practice making predictions and then collecting data while investigating if an ice cube (dyed with blue food coloring so water is easier to observe) melts faster in fresh or salt water. We then discussed how temperature and salinity each affect density and related the concepts to the ocean conveyor belt. The girls in each session asked a lot of thoughtful questions about the Arctic and were really engaged in the lab portion as well. It was an awesome day of learning!
Meeting Miss America
The Science Symposium's keynote speaker was Nina Davuluri, who was Miss America 2014. In fact, she gained international acclaim by becoming the first contestant of Indian descent to win the title. Ms. Davuluri, a University of Michigan graduate, has always excelled in science and her platform was improving STEM education across the nation. In her keynote address, she shared her experience as Miss America and compelled the educators and families in the audience to support girls in STEM. Later in the afternoon, I could not pass up the opportunity for a quick chat (and a selfie) with an actual Miss America!