October 23, 2014
Girls in grades 7-12 have the chance to explore careers in the sciences while conducting hands-on experiments and projects at West Chester University's Super Science Saturday on Nov. 1.
The activities are designed to spark initial curiosity about math and science content. Eight interactive sessions include "Candy Chromatography," "Dinosaur Dig," "Lightin' Up Like a Laser," and "The Amazing Heart: It's Electric!" The full-day program is free to participants; lunch is included. "Studies have shown that girls start to lose interest in science as they enter middle school," states organizer Karen Schwarz, astronomer and associate professor in WCU's Geology and Astronomy Department. "Our goal is to educate girls about the various careers that are available in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and show them that science can be fun!"
The girls will hear about the lighter side of science -- as well as challenges – from WCU female science students not that much older than themselves. The WCU students will assist with the activities and talk informally with the girls about their experiences studying science at the university level. Schwarz is joined by these female role models and by a number of the University's other women scientists in biology, chemistry, computer science, geology and astronomy, math, physics, and the pharmaceutical product development program.
It's OK for young women studying science to feel out of place at times, Schwarz says, recalling that she questioned her choice of science as a major during a difficult freshman year, asking herself "What if I'm not good at this?" She persevered, got a tutor and is now teaching astronomy to and guiding young women (and young men) toward success. "There are always resources to help you," she notes.
Another resource that Schwarz has used to develop young scientists is the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's (San Francisco) Project ASTRO, a national program that pairs in-service K-12 teachers with astronomers and is aimed at improving classroom science education. The teacher/astronomer pairs -- about 15 in the Philadelphia area -- build a curriculum together for the teacher's classroom and the astronomer visits his class for experiments. Schwarz brought West Chester University into the program in 2009.
Super Science Saturday begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. Activities take place mainly in Merion Science Center.