This year I got a great opportunity to work with a unique group of students in an after school program at St. Bonaventure University. I am fortunate to work with Dr. Anne Foerst, a computer science professor at St. Bonaventure. Together we applied for and received a grant from National Grid to teach STEM to a group of middle school girls who applied to our program from area school districts. Inspired by my mother’s struggles to break the glass ceiling and reach out to girls who are an underrepresented group in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
My Mom graduated from D’Youville College in Buffalo magna cum laude in 1947 majoring in science and mathematics. She returned to her native New York City and applied for teaching jobs but was told she couldn’t get one because she was a woman. Then Mom went on to get her Masters in Mathematics and Science at Fordham University. Mom worked her way through Fordham as a graduate assistant. She eventually returned to Buffalo and got a teaching job at D’Youville College. I told Mom recently that she was part of my inspiration for getting involved with our efforts to promote STEM skills to these girls at St. Bonaventure.
I spent the summer learning how to work with and program Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots. Our grant enabled us to purchase seven complete kits and to invite fourteen girls to the St. Bonaventure campus for a two-hour class that meets once every three weeks. We’ve been meeting since late August with these girls and they are making great progress. I’ve seen them blossom as learners and leaders and they come to our sessions with a great enthusiasm for learning. At this week’s class we taught the girls how to program the color sensor. One the girls solved a problem I hadn’t assigned but by doing so showed great insight and application. She was clearly operating at the higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy. I asked her about her thinking and application and how she arrived at this unique solution to the problem. She replied, “I figured it out last time by just tinkering.” Then she said, “Is this science, because i’m failing science in school.” Dr. Foerst said, “This isn’t science, this is FUN.” It was a poignant moment and it really warmed my heart because this girl now knows she is a scientist and a successful one too.