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Help Girls Fly And Achieve Other Fantastic Feats

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Kevin S. Barrow blogged an important announcement at Home of the Soul Cookie entitled “Sally Ride Science Fair Needs Presenters.” Specifically, women with expertise in engineering, mathematics, science, and technology are needed to lead hands-on workshops for girls and adults at the Sally Ride Science Festivals. The festival’s focus is:

5th-8th grade girls, trying to get them more interested in the fields of Science, Technology (all forms, inc. Computing), Engineering and Math, since they are so underrepresented in those fields at a professional level.

Presenter roles are pro bono but high profile. Also needed are sponsors to send one or more girls to the festivals. The $18 registration fee covers lunch, the street fair, workshops, and keynote speech. Street fair exhibitors, parents, teachers, and other interested adults are welcome to participate, too. As SallyRideFestivals.com describes:

The street fair has music, face painters, and about 30 booths and exhibits (for example: making slime, looking through telescopes). Some of the booths have giveaways; there are no vendors, but there is a merchandise booth with t-shirts, books and other items.

Dr. Sally Ride is a former astronaut and the first woman to orbit in space. Biographies such as Pioneering Astronaut Sally Ride: A Myreportlinks.Com Book (Space Flight Adventures and Disasters) by Henry M. Holden describe her exciting and illustrious nine-year career with NASA’s highly selective astronaut program. Dr. Ride now serves on the faculty of the University of California at San Diego and heads the California Space Institute.

Her concern about the lack of women scientists and engineers inspired her to found Sally Ride Science, whose mission is “empowering girls to explore the world of science — from astrobiology to zoology and everything in between!” The Sally Ride Science home page describes that its mission is accomplished: “Through our innovative science programs and our award-winning science publications, Sally Ride Science informs and inspires year round.”

The innovative Sally Ride Science Festivals and other Sally Ride Science Programs (which include Toy Challenges and Science Camps) are not just empowering, informative, and inspiring; they are downright fun! As Karen Flammer, senior vice president of Sally Ride Science and a research physicist at the University of California, San Diego described:

Girls get to see hundreds of other girls spending a weekend day at a festival to do math and science and engineering activities, and it’s in the context of a DJ playing music, it’s in the context of food. All the workshops are very fun, hands-on workshops. Somebody’s not standing up in front of the classroom lecturing to them. They’re actually letting them take DNA out of the strawberry or calculate the density of chocolate, so they can see that science is fun, and they can share it with their friends.

Valerie Kuklenskito adds, “Girl Power. There is chemistry there – and math, physics and biology, too.”

Moreover, participation can exponentially expand girls’ horizons, overcome peer pressure to “dumb themselves down,” and boost their self-esteem. The positive correlation between girls’ self-esteem and academic performance underscores why Sally Ride Science programs and publications are extremely valuable, even for girls who are not going to become rocket scientists. Says Flammer,

It certainly isn’t academic ability that’s causing the disproportionate number of girls and boys (in higher-level science classes). So what Sally Ride Science is trying to do with our workshops, our camps, our toy challenge competition, our publications is we are targeting girls, and we’re trying to show them how fun and interesting all these fields are, that you don’t have to be this typical geeky male to be a chemist or a biologist or engineer, that other girls also like doing what they’re doing.

Adult tracks at the Sally Ride Festivals teach educators, parents, and other significant grown-ups in girls’ lives how to encourage girls to reach for the stars – no matter what spheres they ultimately land in. Grown-ups can register to hear the keynote speaker, participate in the street fair along with the girls, learn at Discovery Workshops for Adults how to promote gender equity inside and outside of the classroom, and how to help girls benefit from science, math and technology resources. Teachers can also earn professional development credits.

The next Sally Ride Festival will be at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field on Sunday, May 21. Those interested in participating should contact Jennifer Kremer.

Now that you’ve heard, I hope that you will:

  • Spread the word about this and other Sally Ride Science initiatives.
  • Consider presenting at a Sally Ride Science Festival if you’re female and one of the above-mentioned fields is your forte.
  • Sponsor one or more girls to attend a Sally Ride Science Festival.
  • Encourage girls and parents, educators, street fair exhibitors, sponsors and other interested adults to participate.
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About Lisa Tolliver

  • Duane

    Lisa, I support the more general cause of getting people (not just girls) more interested in science. I have a few comments on your article, but, first, one simple question:

    Why is it important to get young girls interested in science? Women are indeed under-represented in science fields as a whole, but so what?