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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Pennsylvania ACTE Newsletter

Supporting Girls in STEM Through Collaboration

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Collaborative Project Casts Broader Net to Better Support Females
in STEM

“Too often programs that serve girls in STEM are limited in service and impact because of size, location, funding, expertise, and equipment,” says Katherine Weber, lead contact for the PA Stem Girls Collaborative Project. “In other cases, projects compete with each other, duplicating services and seeking the same resources. The PA STEM Girls Collaborative Project provides the opportunity for programs to increase their ability to maintain interest and participation of girls in STEM within their regions through collaboration.”

Funded by the National Girls Collaborative Project, the PA STEM project was developed to:

  • Maximize access to shared resources within projects and with public organizations and private sector institutions interested in expanding girls’ participation in STEM.
  • Strengthen the capacity of existing as well as evolving projects by sharing promising practice research, program models, outcomes and products.
  • Leverage the network and collaboration of individual girl-serving STEM programs to create the tipping point for gender equity in STEM.

It is the collaborative efforts where Weber sees the biggest benefits for project participants.

“The benefits of collaboration across projects and communities are much greater and  have a far more reaching impact compared to any one effort working alone,” she says “Collaboration across girl-serving organizations will create a concerted effort and an increased level of efficiency across efforts as resources are shared across projects. Collaboration will also sustain the promotion of recruitment and retention efforts.”

According to Weber, the female students  who participate in the programs feel the real benefit of this project.

“The collaboration of the girl-serving programs equips females with skills and knowledge that empower them to be effective in STEM related activities,” she explains. “In addition, the research-based equity training that the national project offers to interested teachers and administrators creates an awareness of the barriers for females interested in STEM areas and acknowledges the differences between male and female students. The collaboration of resources adds tremendous value to the equality effort at a national level across each of the participating states”

Approaches to Collaboration
The PA STEM Girls Collaborative works on building these relationships on a variety of different levels, including a directory, mini-grants, and program evaluations.

The Directory
If a teacher, working to encourage female students interest in STEM, is looking for STEM-related programs those students can participate in, that teacher can search state programs that are listed in the national program directory at http://www.psctlt.org/ngcp/directory/index.cfm. “The place to start would be exploring the directory. There are a number of programs that have the potential to be successfully replicated,“ Weber says.

Contact information for the program directors is listed so those interested can reach out to the directors for materials they might be willing to share. The directory also serves as a data base of all the summer camps, events, activities and after-school programs.  Programs or projects that provide an opportunity for females to explore STEM or to acquire the skills and knowledge that will build their confidence or capacity in STEM should register in the directory. Organizations that may not necessarily serve girls but are willing to support girl-serving programs or projects should also register in the directory.  The directory registration requires each program director indicate:

  • contact information,
  • the number of females the program serves,
  • a description of the program,
  • resources the organization is willing to share, and
  • the resources the organization needs

More information can be found at http://www.psctlt.org/ngcp/directory/index.cfm.

Grants
Teachers who are seeking seed money to start a program or host an event that encourages females to explore STEM-related activities may want to apply for a mini-grant.  The mini-grant process and requirements are listed on http://www.psctlt.org/ngcp/mini-grant/index.cfm.

One grant recipient group, Drexel University and Mall Science, developed a program for Philadelphia-area middle school girls to discover the science involved at Macy’s stores. The Science and the Magic of Macy's program brought 30 young women to Drexel University for a day-long experience where they were introduced to STEM careers and visited Macy’s department stores for a challenge where they searched for science-related products at Macy’s using a science tool box.

Evaluating Programs
The National Girls Collaborative Project has developed a partnership with Assessing Women and Men in Engineering (AWE).  Program directors can use the pre- and post-evaluation instruments from AWE to identify female attitudes toward science, technology and engineering to determine whether or not the female participants experienced a change in attitudes or perceptions as a result of their participation.

How it Works
By participating in the collaborative project, organizations will be able to utilize resources from projects that are interested in expanding girls’ participation in STEM.  Individuals or organizations will also benefit from the sharing of promising practices and products. For example, the PA STEM Girls Collaborative Project is supported by a number of Pennsylvania American Association of University Women branches. The branches who have expressed an interest to get involved have indicated a desire to provide role models or create partnerships with other organizations to pursue the PA STEM Girls Collaborative Project mini-grants.

Other Project Resources
Regional representatives can be contacted with regional related questions: http://www.ngcproject.org/pa/contact.cfm.

There is also a Leadership team, comprised of individuals who are passionate about addressing the barriers that keep girls from pursuing interests in STEM.  Individuals whose programs make major contributions to supporting or advocating females in STEM in Pennsylvania make up the Champions Board. If you would like to get more involved, please contact the state leadership at http://www.psctlt.org/ngcp/pa/contact.cfm.

The Webcast “Best Practices in Creating Successful Collaborations: Lessons Learned from the National Girls Collaborative Project“ examines the key elements of effective collaboration by providing lessons learned, including an opportunity to see collaboration in action by hearing about a new SciGirls Project. The Webcasts are promoted through the national project listserv at http://www.ngcproject.org/resources/newsletter.cfm. Archived Webcasts can be viewed at http://www.ngcproject.org/resources/webcastarchive.cfm.

Local Resources
NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium http://pa.spacegrant.org/stem-resources
Information and activities for K-12, college students, general public, and higher education faculty.

Northwest Pennsylvania STEM http://nwpastem.wikispaces.com
Calendar of events, links of interest, and local grant opportunities relevant to STEM.

Women in the Sciences & Engineering Institute at Penn State http://www.equity.psu.edu/wise/psu_female_stem.asp
Promotes the representation and diversity of women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

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