School for Girls Tackles STEM Enthusiasm with Interactive Monsters

Garrison Forest School (GFS), an independent K-12 school for girls, has teamed with a private partner to immerse girls in grades 4-5 in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for one week using an MIT Media Lab-created course.

Over the course of the week, the students will combine crafting with circuitry and Arduino programming to create an interactive monster.

To prepare for the week, students have been practicing basic sewing techniques and learning how to work with GUI programs such as Scratch and Blockly. Their teachers received a day of training, working through the steps of the project the students will undertake, from i2Learning.

"It was intense, exciting and at times frustrating, as we pushed ourselves in skills which for many of us were completely new," said Christine Shriver, digital learning specialist at GFS, in a prepared statement. "Through our roles as students that day, we will bring with us a stronger understanding during the STEM week as we coach our students through these very same experiences."

To begin the week, the students will create a bookmark light, allowing them to continue practicing their sewing skills while learning the basics of circuits as the connect LEDs to positive and negative tabs. Next, they'll develop a LilyPad Arduino SimpleSnap to learn programming basics and troubleshooting with the C programming language.

From there, students will begin working to create their interactive monsters using felt, LEDs, speakers and a LilyPad Protoboard before presenting their projects to their families Friday afternoon.

"The girls have an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in a project-based learning experience," said Reneé Hawkins, director of libraries and instructional technology at GFS, in a prepared statement. "This means that they'll practice patience, perseverance, self-directedness, collaboration and teamwork. This is what 'making' is all about."

"The week is part of an initiative at GFS designed to educate girls to become leaders in STEM fields, addressing disparities that begin in education and continue through the workforce," according to a news release. Other STEM initiatives at the school include a preschool "Imagineering" class, an ongoing Imagineering program for K-5 students and a research partnership with Johns Hopkins University, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).

More information about STEM initiatives at GFS is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].