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Afterschool in Action: STEM Programs Engage Girls With Projects and Female Role Models

By Ramya Sankar

The “Afterschool in Action” blog series is dedicated to highlighting cutting-edge afterschool and summer programs that embrace digital learning and STEM exploration. If you know a program doing great work in these areas, let us know! Contact to recommend a program to be featured.

In honor of Women’s History Month, this week we are highlighting afterschool programs that are working hard to get young girls excited and engaged in STEM. While women are making great strides in education and the workforce, they are still lagging far behind men in STEM fields. Females make up only 11 percent of engineers in the workforce. The following programs are hoping to bridge the divide by exposing young girls to female STEM role models as well as all the creative ways they can engage in STEM learning.

  Photo courtesy of West End Middle School Art2STEM Program

Art2STEM- Located in Nashville, TN, Art2STEM hopes to promote STEM through the lens of art to attract more girls into STEM-focused high school academies in Nashville, TN. Through activities like creating animations and architectural design, the programming focuses on creativity and showing how the arts complement STEM fields. As part of Alignment Nashville’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant from NSF, the afterschool program exposes girls to various STEM topics through these hands-on activities as well as field trips to local tech businesses.

  Photo courtesy of Dell

GirlStart - Located in Austin, TX, GirlStart offers afterschool programs, summer camps and various outreach events throughout the year in Central Texas to encourage and inspire girls to consider science as an option and equipping them with STEM skills. GirlStart received NSF funding to create Project IT Girl—highlighted in our report on outcomes and impacts of STEM learning in afterschool—which exposes high school girls to computer programming and provides them with experience working with a local tech company. Girls are also connected with female STEM professionals during the Girls in STEM Conference for 4th-8th graders where they learn about STEM careers.

SciTech – Started by the Ruben H. Fleet Center in San Diego, CA, SciTech participants work on projects throughout the school year that focus on their problem solving skills. The afterschool program is offered at eight elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. Girls work on projects in subjects ranging from renewable energy sources to food chemistry. Students also participate in The Tech Challenge, sponsored by the Tech Museum in San Jose, CA.  Local female STEM professionals also  come and do presentations and interact with students to serve as role models.

These three programs are doing a great job of providing girls with engaging, real-world experiences as well as exposing them to female role models in order to excite them about the possibilities of STEM in their lives today and in the future. Providing girls with meaningful, positive experiences in STEM will help bridge the gap in the STEM workforce and open them up to more possibilities in the future. Afterschool programs provide a safe environment in which students can explore, experiment and make the mistakes that will create the problem solvers of tomorrow. 

To learn about girl focused STEM program in your area, check out your regional chapter of the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP). NGCP works to leverage the strength in numbers by connecting girl serving organizations working to advance STEM education and providing them with resources and tools. 

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