First week of Girls Inc. camp at Richland gives girls inspiration, opportunities in STEAM fields
Girls to experience more learning, campus life at UT Dallas during second week
Twenty middle school girls explored science, technology, mathematics, arts and engineering (STEAM) concepts and discovered the joy of learning this week at Richland College.
These Dallas-area 8th grade girls were selected to participate in Girls Inc. SMART Summer College Camp, a two-week learning experience designed by Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, Richland College and The University of Texas at Dallas – Science and Engineering Education Center (SEEC).
The first week of camp, held June 16-20 at Richland College, focused on “Water: Ubiquitous and Unique.” The girls learned about the various properties of Earth’s most important resource in the contexts of sustainability and ecology. The curriculum included experiential learning activities in the sciences as well as in 3-D art, learning strategies and college readiness skills. Each afternoon, the girls experienced the physics and fun behind the hula hoop.
Sherry Dean, Richland College speech communication professor and Girls Inc. board member, says the week was an amazing success.
“We saw the girls grow a lot,” Dr. Dean says. “It was a very intense learning community. This week sets the stage for thinking routines and helping the girls see connections. The girls created ePortfolios to showcase their experiences. They will be able to look back on this week and realize how they’ve become stronger, smarter and bolder.”
Dr. Dean said another important goal was achieved — introducing the girls to a pathway more and more students take to pursue higher education: the community college experience. Richland has some 20,000 credit students and offers Richland Collegiate High School (RCHS), a dual-credit charter high school.
“We planted important seeds for them,” she says. “The girls really enjoyed being on the campus and we introduced them to RCHS. They were excited to consider options. I believe we had a positive influence on their aspirational goals for higher education.”
Next week, June 22-27, the girls will experience campus life at UT Dallas, living in dorm suites, finding out what it takes to apply for college and participating in learning activities in bioengineering, nanotechnology, forensic science, robotics and space science.
At UT Dallas, the girls also will have the opportunity to connect with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals from the university and Dallas’ business community. Evenings will be filled with fun activities such as karaoke, Zumba and movies. The week culminates with a field trip to Texas Instruments.
Expanding the horizons of the young women selected to participate is a significant goal of the camp, says Lori Palmer, CEO of Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas.
“Girls Inc. SMART Summer College Camp will awaken the potential in middle school girls as they explore the life of a full-time college student and discover opportunities in STEM fields,” Ms. Palmer says. “We encourage girls to explore STEM fields because research demonstrates that women employed in STEM careers earn an average of 33 percent more than those employed in other fields.”
Bernine Khan, UT Dallas’ SEEC director, says UT Dallas is thrilled to host week two of the camp because while the university is distinguished for its strength in STEM education and research, females make up only about 43 percent of the student body.
“Females, in general, represent a hugely untapped resource of potential STEM professionals in our nation, and when compounded with low socio-economic and cultural issues, the pathway to a successful STEM career is stymied,” Dr. Khan says. “The program introduces these girls to the flavors of STEM careers through interactions with female STEM professionals. If the girls ultimately choose a non-STEM field, it will be an informed choice with the full knowledge that their intrinsic ability had no bearing on their decision.”