This month’s blog post is brought to you by Genea Foster, Mass Promise Fellow at the Northeastern Marine Science Center. Enjoy!
The one thing everyone at MPF knows about me is absolute love for all things science and the environment. Science isn’t the hottest topic amongst young girls, so I really take pride in running one of the few STEM programs at the Girls Inc. of Lynn, with Beach Sister being the only STEM program for teens.
I’ve found that learning and teaching about science is a two-way street. I provide content to teach elementary school, middle school, and high school girls about environmental concepts ranging from Adaptations for Life on the Rocky Shore to Community Asset Mapping of Lynn. In the other direction, the girls themselves teach me about best practices keeping them engaged and interested. They tell me that science at Girls Inc. works for them when they are allowed the freedom to be explorers, to learn through doing and discussing. During their out of school time at Girls Inc. they are allowed to escape the structures keep science uninteresting and abstract.
The performance measure that my program falls under is “Safe Place.” Recently, I have been reflecting on what this really means for my youth. It goes beyond meaning that they have a safe place to go to after school. It means that they have a safe place to engage in healthy risk taking and exploration without some of the pressures that they may
face in school or at home. Pressures like the boy in class saying, “Girls aren’t supposed to get their hands dirty” or an adult at home saying, “Be a nurse, that’s good science.” Girls Inc. with their mission of “inspiring girls to be smart, strong, and bold” allows for the girls to explore and develop new interests without pressure.
Another thing I’ve been reflecting on recently is my specific impact on the youth I serve. Although, I have burning love for science and the environment, I have to accept that not all of my youth with join me in sharing that love. My impact is exposing my youth to a field they may have been intimidated by, a field they may not have much familiarity with, a field they may not have realized was so important to society and humanity. I realize my impact when I see repeat visitors to my informal time activities each week. I realize my impact when I see my teen peer leaders share in smile and laughter during our trainings. Beach Sister participants may not go on to be scientists or environmentalists, but they will all grow as critical thinkers and conscious citizens.