Magazine article Momentum

GirlTalk Science Expo Encourages STEM Careers for Young Girls

Magazine article Momentum

GirlTalk Science Expo Encourages STEM Careers for Young Girls

Article excerpt

Ursuline Academy, a Dallas preparatory school for young women, recently partnered with the University of Texas at Austin (Jackson School of Geosciences and Cockrell School of Engineering) to host "GirlTalk: Energy, Climate & Water in the 21st Century." This special event included a science education workshop and expo open to all Dallas area middle school girls to explore topics related to geology, energy, water resources and global climate issues.

We believe the event was a great success, with more than 140 middle school girls and their mentors participating. We are proud to report that the girls were engaged and excited as they talked about science in the hallways with their parents, teachers and friends. Many of the teachers, who attended as mentors with their students, asked if we would hold a similar event next year.

"GirlTalk" was designed for middle school girls because studies have shown that interest among girls in the sciences diminishes dramatically during the middle school years. With this age group, relevance is the key factor that can help spark that interest. More so than boys, girls need to understand the real-world applications that can come from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers and particularly how they can help other people and feel the rewards of making a difference in the world. Faculty participation with students helps grow the importance of science in the eyes of the students. It also helps broaden the perspective of the non-science teachers.

During the "GirlTalk" event, Ursuline faculty members and educators from the University of Texas were on hand to answer questions and encourage participation among the attendees.

The science expo featured activities such as:

* A day in the life of a petroleum engineer: Dr. Jon Olson from the University of Texas at Austin led the discussion on managing the planet's oil and gas resources in a time of heightened environmental awareness. Participants divided into teams to solve problems related to energy supply and demand, testing their energy awareness.

* The energy crisis- fact or fiction, and what you can do about it: This activity addressed common misconceptions related to energy and how students can make a difference, along with career paths young girls can choose within the energy industry.

* What to do with C02: Participants and educators discussed issues created when carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, new technologies for storing carbon dioxide deep underground and options for reducing our carbon footprint.

These types of discussions are increasingly important as we live in a time characterized by more technology, more science and more math. As the world moves forward in developing new (and cleaner) energy technologies, there will be a need for more trained professionals to ensure that the United States retains its position as a leader in the energy industry.

Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, of the 20 fastest-growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation for graduates to compete successfully for the job. Unfortunately for young girls, STEM careers are not a widely sought after career path. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), by the time young women enter college and/or their careers, science fields become highiy male dominated. …

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