October 2012

As it is my second year in the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship you would think that I would be well acclimated to how fast our year service goes by, but yet again I am shocked that it’s already October and we have past so many landmarks in our year. Just last week our MPF cohort was at our Fall Retreat out in the Berkshires where we spent three days doing team building activities, workshops, trainings, and of course, some free time built in to enjoy the beautiful fall weather. By this time in the year the Massachusetts Promise Fellows are well immersed in our host sites and our service projects. This month we get to hear from Meghna Marjadi who is a second year MPF fellow at Science Club for Girls.

~Sahar

Meghna Marjadi, Massachusetts Promise Fellow, Science Club for Girls:

I spent Tuesday afternoon launching rockets with our Science Club for Girls Rocket Team. Few people add, “launch rockets,” to their weekly to-do list; I’m lucky enough that I do and it is one of the activities I look forward to most. This is not simply because launching rockets is undeniably cool.

Launch day is the most exciting day because of the awe struck expression that fills the girls’ faces as they countdown and press the blast-off button, because of the way everyone pulls out their iPhones to videotape every launch, because of the laughter that accompanies a stray rocket careening toward an unsuspecting pedestrian. When the girls build their rockets and then watch them launch successfully, their feeling of accomplishment and pride is palpable and they bring that confidence and happiness to other aspects of their lives. As we walked away from the field on Tuesday one of the young women, Lauren, was describing her day,

 “People asked me what I do on the 11th floor. I felt so cool when I could say rocket science. Yesterday I was having a bad day and I was really looking forward to this! I mean, now I’m launching rockets!”

While women comprise nearly half the work force, a report by the US Department of Commerce reports that they fill a mere 25% of jobs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic) fields. Factors influencing the underrepresentation of women in science include a dearth of role models, STEM careers that offer little family time, and pervasive gender stereotyping. For example, earlier this year the clothing store Forever 21 carried a women’s t-shirt that read “allergic to algebra.”

Science Club for Girls (SCFG) addresses the gender disparity in science fields by exposing young women to role models who help banish gender and racial stereotypes. Designed to increase K-12th grade girls’ confidence and literacy in STEM, SCFG provides free, out-of-school time programs that provide hands-on learning, leadership opportunities, and career exposure. Volunteer mentor-scientists, usually science students and professionals from local universities, research labs, and companies support these programs. Through activities and field trips to local labs and other work places, girls find space to explore new ideas, discuss future goals, and solicit valuable feedback. Annually, SCFG programs serve over 1,000 girls in K-12th grade.

My role—as Massachusetts Promise Fellow High School Programs Coordinator at Science Club for Girls—is to direct Challenge Teams for 8-12th grade young women. These include the Rocket Team, Media Team, Girlz with a Z: Zebrafish Program, and our new Internship Program. Strong mentors are integral to all our programs; they act as role models, advisors, and friends to their mentees.

Members of our Rocket Team meet at Aurora Flight Sciences in Cambridge, MA, where they work together to build rockets for the Team America Rocketry Challenge Competition. Engineers at Aurora generously share their time, expertise, and lab space with our group. This connection is beneficial for the girls; in a survey one of our participants noted, “My favorite part of rocket team was working with real aerospace engineers because it opened me up to different careers that I could have.” This young woman, Tatevick De La Rosa, is now working as an intern at Aurora Flight Sciences and applying to engineering programs for college.

Mentors have also been instrumental in our Junior Mentoring program, in which 8-12th grade students facilitate our programs for K-6th grade girls alongside adult mentor scientists. Avianna Perez, a 10th grade student (16 years old) and current Junior Mentor, began  Science Club for Girls as a shy 3rd grader. With the encouragement of her Mentor Scientist, Gurtina Besla , or Tina, at the time a PhD student at Harvard, Avianna was able to become more outgoing. (Tina is now a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University). Avianna noted,

“…Tina was one of the main reasons that I continued being a part of the program. She knew how shy I was…and she slowly opened me up to participate more. She made me look forward to spending Friday afternoons with her and the other girls in my club.”

Through interactions with Tina, Avianna could picture herself as a forensic scientist, she explained,

“Tina was a student at Harvard University and was studying astrophysics. During clubs sometimes she would talk about what she did and she made me think that I could achieve the same goal as her but in a different career, such as forensics, which I look forward to studying in college.”

These stories demonstrate that for teens, engaging with real professionals is one of the most valuable aspects of Science Club for Girls. Professional mentors serve as role models and allow teens to explore career options and develop positive relationships with adults. In an effort to provide our participants with more opportunities for mentorship, this year, I am launching a new  internship program as well as strengthening teen program mentoring relationships as part of my service project.

Our internship pilot program, which launched in October, placed 7 high school students as interns at four labs in Cambridge and Boston. These young women will explore topics ranging from the social interactions of clownfish to aerospace engineering. Interns are placed at the Buston Lab at Boston University, the Bomblies Lab at Harvard University, the Marx lab at Harvard University, and Aurora Flight Sciences in Cambridge, MA. Interns will spend three hours each week working at their host lab to develop an independent research project, which they will present at the Cambridge Science Festival, our Everybody Loves Science Festival, and a final celebration in May.

Last week our students started their internships. Here is an excerpt from what Zainab, a 12th grade student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School wrote about her first day at the Buston Lab.

“…There was a canvas picture on the wall that caught my eye. It was a guy in a snorkeling suit, with shades of blue all around him and coral and anemone under him. I asked who that was, and it was Dr.Buston, himself. Again, I was totally shocked, because it’s one of those pictures you find in an art gallery and wonder who that person is, but here I was looking at a breathtaking photo and talking to the same person in it. All in all, day one, was mind blowing. Can’t wait for next’s week adventure!”

I too, can’t wait to see what kind of exciting projects the girls get involved in!

Science Club for Girls

 

 

 

Science Club for Girls- Rocket Launch

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