In several middle schools a group of STEM Fems encourage aspiring girl scientists with creative activities.
About 45 girls gathered in the Evans City Middle School cafeteria after school to make scented stones used for aromatherapy using everyday cooking ingredients — flour, salt, food coloring and essential oils.
Working in groups of four to six, the aspiring scientists, mathematicians and engineers in grades five and six discussed how to multiply a single recipe to fit the number of girls in their groups and began adding ingredients into mixing bowls.
“It’s been really interesting seeing how all the ingredients mix together and how ordinary kitchen ingredients can be combined to make new things,” said fifth-grader Ashley Pelloni.
The girls are part of STEM Fems, a group that began last year in Seneca Valley Middle School to encourage young ladies who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math
— or STEM.
The group branched out this year to include a chapter at Evans City Middle School, said Evans City Principal Marie Palano.
“I wanted to meet new people. I really like science and doing experiments, and being able to make things out of different components,” said sixth-grader Elaina Mastorianni.
Alyssa Webb, a fifth-grader, said she’d really like to see more women in typically male-dominated science, engineering and math fields.
“I think women can do whatever men can,” Alyssa said. “Just because men are generally engineers doesn’t mean women can’t be, too.”
Women are underrepresented in STEM careers. Groups like STEM Fems help break down barriers for girls to get interested in the fields, said Colleen Smith, outreach coordinator at the Penn State Electro-Optics Center, a university research facility in Freeport.
As a leader of regional support group Female Alliance STEM Excellence, Smith has helped STEM Fems get off the ground by connecting the group to community resources and training.
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