STEM Ed for Girls Gets International Boost

camp orientation at the WiSciGeorgia STEAM camp

Girls from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the United States receive camp orientation this week at the WiSciGeorgia STEAM camp. Source: American Society for Microbiology

This week, 100 girls from numerous countries, including the United States, have gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia (the country, not the state) to participate in daily STEAM activities as well as cross-cultural and leadership activities. The Women in Science (WiSci) camp provides mentoring opportunities and leadership training for girls in science, technology, engineering, the arts and design and mathematics.

One of the organizers also recently announced new STEM curriculum developed for its clubs and boot camps for girls.

Other international WiSci camps have taken place in Namibia, Rwanda, Peru and Malawi. They're a joint effort of Girl Up, the Millennium Challenge Corp., U.S. Department of State's Office of Global Partnerships and corporate partners such as Intel and Google. Girl Up is an initiative of the United Nations Foundation focused on helping to achieve gender equality. Millennium is a U.S. foreign aid agency established by Congress.

Attendees to WiSci camp — girls in secondary school who have a demonstrated interest in STEAM — have gone through an application process. Their expenses are covered by program sponsors.

After the camp is over, participants are expected to take what they've learned back home and share it with their communities through presentations, workshops, science fair activities and the classroom. According to Girl Up, previous WiSci campers have started science and coding clubs at their schools, have remained in contact with mentors they met at camp and have continued working on projects begun at the camp with girls they met from other countries.

Girl Up also recently worked with Carnegie Science Center educators to develop a STEM curriculum for use in Girl Up's 2,200 clubs in 103 countries. The work was supported by BNY Mellon, a global investment company.

The curriculum is designed to encourage young women to consider STEM careers, allow them to meet female STEM role models and educate them on applying STEM to real-world problems. The lessons introduce the students to design thinking, the scientific method and problem-solving. The materials include 10 activities girls will participate in within their clubs. Once they're done, they're invited to tackle a "STEM challenge for social good."

Girl Up will also host STEM boot camps this fall in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston, New York City and Orlando. The boot camps will include talks by local female STEM leaders to push the girls to get involved in STEM in their communities. Boot camp campers will also participate in hands-on skills-based training that provides STEM solutions for issues taking place in their communities.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.