Sacred Heart encourages female students to get ‘hands-on’ with science

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 7, 2017

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Sacred Heart Lower Academy is encouraging students at its girls school to get their hands dirty and jump into science feet first with its annual Hands-On Science Day.

The school’s 88 students in grades five through eight took part in Hands-On Science Day Feb. 24, which culminated in a science fair where the students showed off projects they had been working on since November. It is all done to ensure the female students get ample opportunities to get involved in science, and to perhaps spark an interest that could benefit them throughout their lives.

“I think girls often are not given the opportunity to get involved with science,” said Angie Saylor, the director of the middle school for girls. “If this was a mixed class, often the boys would push to the front to do the experiments or build the robots, and the girls would just stand in the back. This way, they only have to compete with each other.”

There were three programs the students took part in prior to the science fair in the afternoon. The first was Science with the Engineers, where students learned about chemical reactions. The second utilized an inflatable planetarium, where students studied astronomy and some of the basics of physics. The third was a robot garage, where students separated into teams, built robots out of Legos and battled them.

“This is the fifth year we’ve done Hands-On Science Day,” explained Michele Allison, middle school for girls science educator. “It started because we wanted to help our girl students make connections in science and spark interest in a variety of science, technology, engineering and math-related subjects.”

The reason the school wants to stress a more personal involvement in science is that it can provide an additional boost to student interest that might not be accomplished through traditional class work.

“Hands-on exploration in a variety of concepts helps connect science to their lives, promotes them pursuing fields in science, and inspires critical thinking, creativity and a deeper scientific knowledge,” said Allison. “For example, when they make water evaporate or freeze by changing the temperature themselves and see how chemicals will change colors when they mix different solutions together, it is an entirely different way of learning than just hearing about those things from a book.”

Several students said Hands-On Science Day helped inspire in them an interest in going into STEM-related subjects.

“It’s really fun, and I feel like it’s an opportunity you don’t get very often,” said seventh-grader Charlotte Carozza. “It was fun to connect what we learned in class to what we do today. It made me excited to learn more about astronomy and physics.”

Even students who said they have never preferred science and math as subjects remarked that they were able to glean something new and exciting from the program.

“I think it’s very helpful to get us in the science spirit and get us excited to show our displays at the science fair,” said seventh-grader Natalia Pinto. “I’m more of a performing arts student, and math and science were never my favorite subjects, but Hands-On Science Day helped me get out of my comfort zone.”

Administrators at Sacred Heart said they have seen great results because of the program, and they think taking this extra step to get students involved in science firsthand is a necessary part of any child’s education.

“We are getting girls excited about science and showing them they can do it,” said Saylor. “I hope the students learn to take chances, get messy and make mistakes like Ms. Frizzle (from the ‘Magic School Bus’ books) says. You need to take the chance. That’s a big part of middle school.”