Serving as a presenter at the College of Lake County's 10th annual STEM for Girls Day on February 29, biology teacher Kirsten Bartlett experienced a bit of a flashback to her days as a student at Zion-Benton High School.
Mrs. Bartlett was joined by fellow science teacher Marcella Linahan and international student Louise Ly '21, leading a pair of sessions challenging middle school and high school students to design custom bird beaks to discover which performs better with a variety of food sources and changing environmental conditions.
I do see myself in these girls and recall how I had the same interests when I was their age, said Mrs. Bartlett. The way they were excited and eager to learn more, that was always something that was my passion and why I pursued the field of science, specifically biology. I knew that there was going to be so much more to learn because science is always changing and there's always new material to explore.
Sponsored by CLC and supported by a Perkins Postsecondary grant, this annual event has grown from 30 attendees at six workshops in 2010 to more than a dozen workshops and 200 participants in 2020. Held each year on the CLC Grayslake Campus, STEM Day is a free event for girls in grades 7 through 12 who are interested in STEM programs (Science - Technology - Engineering - Math).
According to event coordinators, the overall vision of STEM for Girls Day is to motivate middle school and high school girls interested in STEM careers to become innovative and creative thinkers and to pursue careers in this area by introducing them to college life at CLC through a series of hands-on activities and inspiring presentations.
"What makes this event special is the joy that each presenter brings to their hands-on activity, whether it's solving mysteries using X-rays to making lava lamps to learn principles of biology, plus seeing the excitement in the girls' faces," said Lynn Wiechert, Ed.D., chair of CLC's medical imaging program.
The event featured fun, hands-on science, technology, engineering and math sessions; informative career advice from successful scientists and engineers; and presentations on chemistry, lasers, medical imaging, surgical technology, robotics, electronics, computer science and more.
This was a really good experience to see how other students participate and created things, said Carmel Catholic junior Louise Ly, an international student from Vietnam who lent a hand during the morning CLC sessions and who hopes to study astronomy in college. I was impressed with the types of beaks these girls were able to build. They were incredibly creative.
It's my hope that the girls came away with a greater understanding that STEM fields aren't just related to robotics and technology, but that it can be incorporated into the life sciences as well, specifically the environment, added Mrs. Bartlett. I was inspired by what I saw today. The science and engineering fields have come a long way in allowing opportunities for girls. As a presenter, it makes me very proud and very inspired to see so many young women that are interested in pursuing this career.