The Museum of Discovery said last week that its Girls in STEM program will serve more girls in 2017 and expand to Jonesboro and Pine Bluff thanks to grants from Wal-Mart, Best Buy and the Women's Foundation of Arkansas.
Grants and private donations totaling more than $46,000 will allow the museum to grow the program this year to six weeks and serve an estimated 180 girls ages 11-14 for free.
Girls in STEM gives participants a week-long opportunity to explore STEM careers as they engage in hands-on activities led by women STEM professionals, ultimately encouraging them to continue their STEM studies and even pursue STEM careers.
The Museum of Discovery has made the program a priority, as men in STEM careers far outnumber women, according to a 2016 study by the National Science Foundation.
"The overarching goal is to get more girls thinking about the possibilities of STEM careers as women are very underrepresented in most of those fields," said Kelley Bass, CEO of the Museum of Discovery. "The program proved so popular, the reactions we got from the girls were so positive and the program resonated so well with funders that we were able to move to six cohorts of 30 girls this year."
The program has expanded each of the last two years. Fewer than 30 girls participated each year from 2013 to 2015, and in 2016 Girls in STEM expanded to serve 90 girls, including 30 past participants during an alumni week.
The program will be held June 5-9, June 12-16, July 24-28 and July 31-Aug. 4 at the Museum of Discovery; June 26-30 at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff; and July 17-21 at the Arkansas State University Museum in Jonesboro.
Bass says the Museum of Discovery hopes to expand the program to other cities across the state in the future.
The program includes women in the STEM field including doctors, computer scientists, engineers, chemists and zoologists. These mentors come up with fun activities for the girls, demonstrating aspects of their careers in STEM.
Bass says in the past, Girls in STEM featured Michelle Talley, a computer scientist from Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock, who taught the basics of Scratch programming that they used to create music for their own dance party.
"I think there are two very beneficial results [of the program]," Bass said. "Number one, through the hands-on activities with about 30 of their peers, the girls gain confidence that they can be successful at STEM pursuits. And two, by getting to know the successful female STEM professionals, the girls can develop a clear line of sight as to how they could become STEM professionals themselves.”
Girls in STEM is also supported by Southwest Power Pool, Dillard's Inc., Junior League of Little Rock, Eren Erdem and Phyllis and Ray Simon. For more information on supporting Girls in STEM, call (501) 537-3075 or visit its website.