For over 20 years, Techbridge Girls has worked tirelessly to engage girls in STEM and bolster their interest through hands-on education experiences like the organization’s yearly stem booster packs, which seven Colorado-area programs recently took part in.
“We received science-based projects for our students to learn different science-based elements based,” Sarah Weimer, Meadows Park Community Center Youth Programs Director, said. “Many of our students were very excited about the projects.”
The booster packs equip educators like Weimer with a curriculum that includes pre-kitted materials for hands-on, experiential activities that teach broad STEM content. The students at Meadows Park Community, which is in Colorado Springs, CO., participated in projects like showcasing the concept of surface tension by making bubble wands using washers and string.
“For many of our students this was their first experience with STEM outside of a classroom,” Weimer said. “It was a great way for us to show them that science can be fun and engaging.”
STEM engagement is a goal for Techbridge Girls and their booster pack partners STEM Next. Over the years the organizations have updated their mission to also include “gender-expansive youth, with an emphasis on engaging BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) girls from under-resourced communities” – an important aspect for Weimer.
“I think this is a great opportunity to introduce girls to STEM, but I appreciated that Techbridge Girls also included that the booster packs are also for kids who aren’t necessarily on the binary,” she said. “It is pretty awesome for the young population to understand that and to have access to science projects that they can learn about.”
By exposing BIPOC girls and gender-expansive students to STEM education, Techbridge Girls hopes to bolster their future numbers in the STEM workforce and economy. And, West Grand Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Courtney Frazier, who led students through the booster pack projects at the Colorado Aerolab Afterschool Program, helped students see how many career paths can include STEM elements.
“One thing I added to the lessons was having my students research STEM-based fields that they could do in the future,” she said. “Some students were so surprised that fields they were interested in, including cosmetology, had anything to do with STEM.”
The booster packs don’t just build excitement around STEM for students, but teachers like Frazier were also able to get in on the excitement.
“It was easy to follow and very student-led. It was challenging for the students, but they worked hard to overcome those challenges.
“And even though it was very individualized, it was exciting to watch the students come together, follow the scientific process, and bounce ideas off one another to solve whatever problem they were working on,” she said. “Overall, it was an amazing experience.”