In the Nation's Interest
Guest Blog: STEM Programs Encourage Classroom Confidence in Girls
As the Assistant Principal of José Martí MAST 6-12 Academy, I have had the privilege of coordinating the Business Partnership to Advance STEM Success (B-PASS) Grant from the CED. Thanks to the grant, we have had the opportunity to expose our students to a wide variety of real world experiences that have complimented their learning in a memorable way. From learning engineering concepts with NASCAR to watching and interacting with a doctor during a live surgery at the Miami Science Museum, our students have been impacted in ways that will have a direct effect on their future. This generous grant allowed our school to establish partnerships with over twenty businesses, organizations and educational institutes that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM). While they each offered our students and teachers something different, they all had the same goal of inspiring our students to be great and preparing them for a future in a STEM career.
As a woman, I was mostly impacted by the overwhelming response our female students had throughout the year as we exposed them to girls only activities that promoted their confidence in STEM skills. When I walked into our advanced mathematics classes and found only a few girls surrounded by several boys I took notice. Many times during my classroom observations, I would see the boys dominating the class by asking and answering all the questions. It became clear that in order to encourage and promote STEM success among our girls as well as being able to recruit more females, we would have to focus our attention on them. The collaboration with our partners Women of Tomorrow and Miami Dade College, we offered our high school female students the opportunity to interact with a STEM panel of women. The women on the panel included a science department chair from Miami Dade College, a computer engineer from Blackberry, a research professor from the University of Miami and a science lab assistant from Miami Dade College. These women represented a variety of ethnicities, relationship status and ages. They each shared their story of overcoming the obstacle of being a woman in predominantly male fields. Each woman offered advice and encouragement to our girls. The common theme was that it is important for women to support each other and to not be afraid of speaking up and taking chances both in school and in the work place. Our high school girls were able to see a glimpse of a future in a STEM career by engaging with these remarkable, accomplished women. In continuing with our goal of promoting STEM success in females, we had LARC Technical Institute offer our girls a hands on computer seminar where they each got to disassemble and reassemble a computer. The girls felt empowered and accomplished. They were so grateful for the experience. One girl in particular had considered leaving our school because she did not feel she would pursue a STEM career. After the experience with the panel of women and with LARC, she changed her mind and is now determined to become a computer engineer.
As an educator, we sometimes get discouraged with all of the state assessments and ever changing policies we must enforce. This year, thanks to the B-PASS grant, I was reinvigorated by witnessing the powerful evolution that took place with our female students. Seeing these girls transform throughout the year and become confidant young women has been an inspiration for me. They started the year quiet and cautious. They have completed the year fearless and ready to take on any challenges that come their way. This experience has opened my eyes to the power of positive experiences and hands on interactions and I will never be the same. I look forward to coordinating many more positive experiences and interactions for all of my students.
Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy