Brooklyn Pregler, Emily Ronald, Lauren James and Mckenzie Leal learn a lesson about gravity from Kristina Karschnia, of Ford Motor Co., during the Michigan Science Center’s STEMinista program.

Brooklyn Pregler, Emily Ronald, Lauren James and Mckenzie Leal learn a lesson about gravity from Kristina Karschnia, of Ford Motor Co., during the Michigan Science Center’s STEMinista program.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


Michigan Science Center invites girls to become ‘STEMinistas’

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 12, 2018

 Daphne Frisen, of Troy; Valentina Mansour, of Sterling Heights; and Julianna Boufford, of Troy, all members of Girl Scout Troop 75834, build some new creations at the Michigan Science Center’s Sparklab during the science center’s monthly STEMinista program.

Daphne Frisen, of Troy; Valentina Mansour, of Sterling Heights; and Julianna Boufford, of Troy, all members of Girl Scout Troop 75834, build some new creations at the Michigan Science Center’s Sparklab during the science center’s monthly STEMinista program.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

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DETROIT — The Michigan Science Center in Detroit is reaching out to girls in the fourth through eighth grades in the metro Detroit area to encourage them to explore different aspects of science, technology, engineering and math with its monthly STEMinista program.

The purpose of the STEMinista initiative is to bridge the gap that might discourage young girls from exploring or pursuing interest in STEM-related fields. The hope is that a fun, hands-on program will help foster a passion for future careers that the girls might not consider otherwise.

On Oct. 6, the science center staff invited Girl Scout troops from the area to take part in the program. Although usually open to any girl who wants to participate, this particular day was set aside for the Scouts.

“We hold workshops once a month. This time, we partnered with the Ford Motor Co. and the Girl Scouts (of Southeast Michigan),” said Lisa Reynolds, the vice president of marketing and audience development for the Michigan Science Center. “We not only want young girls to have good experiences with STEM subjects, but we want them to meet women in those fields who look like them.”

Shannon Snideman, the camp and Scout program manager for the Michigan Science Center, said studies show that girls often outperform boys in science and math in fourth through eighth grades, but that interest can fall off due to a lack of encouragement or role models.

“It rolled out in the spring of 2014,” said Snideman. “We try to be the STEM hub not only for Michigan, but for the whole Midwest. Because we have that passion, we know there’s a pipeline for kids, especially girls, into STEM, but it can taper off and cause them to lose interest. Initiatives like this keep them interested and in that pipeline.”

Children from various Girl Scout troops across southeastern Michigan gathered at the Michigan Science Center and examined different scientific demonstrations and took part in experiments.

“We started off with an introduction,” Snideman said. “The girls had roundtable discussions with a role model at each of their tables, with about eight girls per table. We had lunch and then we let them look and take part in different stations with hands-on activities talking about subjects like gravity, alternative energy, circuits and chemical reactions.”

The Michigan Science Center frequently partners with businesses and other organizations to provide volunteers and role models for the program.

“We began supporting the STEMinista program when it was formed three years ago,” said Yisel Cabrera, manager of community relations at Ford. “This is our future workforce, and we want them to meet people who are already (working in STEM fields) and who can share their experience so they know they can do it too.”

Cabrera said working with the science center is one of the best ways they’ve found to form a connection with the public.

“The Michigan Science Center is a wonderful resource for the community,” she said. “It has so many exhibits kids can touch and feel. They have so many programs like the STEMinistas that engage with kids and engage with companies like ours who can give them different insights.”

Several parents who accompanied their children expressed how impressed they were at the extent of the program.

“It’s really opening them up to different areas of science that they might not get in school,” said Kelly Leal, the mother of Mckenzie Leal, who attended the program Oct. 6. “It shows them women succeeding in fields they don’t always see a lot of women in. … My daughter actually pulled me away to show me some of the stations she had already done that she was excited about.”

Scouts themselves said they had a great time at the program.

“My favorite part was seeing all the different experiments and trying to figure it all out,” said Valentina Mansour, from Girl Scout Troop 75834. “We don’t do very much stuff like that in school.”

“We learned about how the gravitational pull of the sun holds the planets in orbit at one station, and water molecules at another,” added her fellow Scout, Daphne Frisen.

The Michigan Science Center staff feels it is seeing a difference in the girls who take part in the STEMinista program and hopes other young girls will take advantage of the initiative.

“We haven’t been running the program long enough to collect data proving it has a long-lasting impact, but I can say for certain that the experiences the girls are having are overwhelmingly positive, and that is a crucial aspect in keeping kids interested,” said Charles Gibson, the director of innovation and outreach for the Michigan Science Center.

The STEMinista program is hosted once a month at the Michigan Science Center. The workshops typically cost $20 and include lunch. More information can be found on the STEMinista page at mi-sci.org.

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