ROSEDALE –Young girls designing, taping, building and constructing was the scene at Rosedale Park Thursday as Golden Ring Middle School girls took part in science, technology, engineering and mathematics challenges for the school’s inaugural “STEM Day” for girls.
The nearly 250 pre-teen and teenage girls participated in two 30-minute team challenges covering STEM subjects. The challenges required the girls to use their skills to construct floating devices that can hold the greatest amount of mass and cases to prevent a raw egg from breaking when dropped. The Baltimore County school will be holding a STEM Day for boys in May 2013.
The students, all volunteers, were divided by grade into teams, with the most successful slated to receive recognition medals next week.
Although it was a competition, beating an opponent was not the chief objective.
“They’re not really competing against each other, they’re competing against themselves,” Science Department Chairwoman Amy Wesloski said.
Activities like STEM Day give students the confidence to tackle something on their own, with no instruction, and make it work, she said.
STEM education has become a national focus to fill a gap in qualified candidates for high-tech jobs. The Maryland State Department of Education accepted the definition of STEM education in April 2012 and defined the goal of STEM education as “to prepare students for post-secondary study and the 21st century workforce.”
Wesloski, who also teaches sixth-grade science, organized STEM Day after assigning STEM projects in her classes.
Golden Ring has about 600 students, with about 70 percent receiving free and reduced-cost meals, Assistant Principal Lakecia Hines said. STEM Day was created to expose students to STEM learning and hopefully intrigue the girls, who are underrepresented in tech fields.
“This is a really crucial age to spark that interest,” Hines said.
The event coincided with the first International Day of the Girl, proclaimed by the Obama Administration to promote gender equity in STEM education.
Golden Ring Principal Kandice Taylor said early exposure is key to getting girls interested in the science and technology fields.
“I felt like our girls needed to see the cool side of science, math, technology and engineering,” she said. “It’s these types of events that spark the interest, opposed to someone coming and talking.”
It seems to be working, according to the middle-schoolers participating.
“I think it was really fun,” said Troi Jones, 13. “Especially trying to construct out of basic materials like sticks and stuff. It’s really a challenge.”
Taylor wants STEM learning to become school-wide.
“I want it to transition into all my classes. In each class that we have there is some element where STEM can get in.”
Wesloski agreed, saying, “Every teacher should be a STEM teacher.”
“A lot of people think STEM just means science,” she added, but her job as a teacher is “to get students to realize that there is science and technology in everything that they do.”
The school will survey the students and talk with the teachers to determine whether the STEM Day program will continue, Hines said.
However, Taylor is already planning for the future.
“My brain is always thinking, ‘How do we take it to the next level?,’” Taylor said. “And there’s always a next level.
STEM Day is already a success, she said.
“As I hear the voice, the cheers, the laughter—yes. Success,” Taylor said. “They’re learning and they’re having fun. How is that not a success?”