Posts Tagged ‘green homes’

On January 8 the AAUW St. Augustine (FL) Branch held a panel presentation on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to examine why fewer women than men enter these fields and how to overcome this challenge. Local STEM professionals participated in the panel, including Gail Cullum, an adjunct professor from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who also teaches college courses at the St. Johns County Aerospace Academy; Carrie E. A. Grant, associate professor in mathematics in the Math, Science, and Technology Department at Flagler College; and branch member Amy Myers, an environmental compliance officer at the Seminole Electric Cooperative.

The branch pledged at their state meeting to make STEM a priority in their local community work. This panel was an opportunity to talk about STEM and get the community involved. Overall, there were 45 people in attendance, an “excellent turnout,” according to branch STEM Coordinator Gerry Linton.

All the women on the panel talked about going through the educational world in various areas of STEM and working their way into professional fields. Many of the panelists described being one of few women in their classes, and only one had a female mentor who helped her through the challenges of being a minority in that environment. All the panel participants except one had fathers who were in STEM fields and encouraged them to enter these educational and career tracks. Myers, originally from Puerto Rico, credited her grandmother with encouraging her interest and letting her know that she could be anything she wanted to be.

To bring more girls into STEM fields, the women on the panel recommended that girls be encouraged at a young age to think about STEM careers as a possibility and that parents be included in the discussion. To help achieve this goal and nurture girls’ interest in STEM, a local philanthropist with a foundation in the St. Augustine area volunteered to give a local school $500 to create an after-school information technology program for girls.

Other AAUW Florida branches have held STEM events this year, including Girls Go Green in July, where girls visited the greenest home in the country in Florida’s Brevard County to learn about conservation in the home through storm water management, cisterns, and green roofs.

The St. Augustine branch is committed to holding at least two more STEM events in the near future, one to disseminate information on the AAUW research report Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and another targeted at parents on how to be supportive of girls who choose to go into STEM fields. One easy way for parents and kids to work on STEM outside of school is to visit www.howtosmile.org, a free clearinghouse of informal learning activities.

Learn more about AAUW’s work on STEM on our AAUW STEM web page. If you know of a STEM program at a local branch, please let us know! E-mail us at stem@aauw.org.

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Last weekend at the AAUW of Florida state convention in Gainesville, more than 30 AAUW women built green homes with nontraditional materials. Graham crackers with frosting mortar formed the main structure, green sprinkles stood in for native plants on a green roof, and a stack of small marshmallows on a toothpick represented a cistern to catch storm water. Others placed solar panels on the roof or built native plants in the yard with toothpicks and gum drops.

Anyone can do hands-on activities like these with girls to show them how much fun science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can be. The aim is to expand girls’ minds about science and engage them in designing and creating an edible green home. The parts may be edible, but the concepts are sound: in the course of the fun activity, girls learn about the science and engineering that go into building a green home, as well as principles of water and energy conservation. In Gainesville, the ladies took it one step further and discussed hosting a green conference for girls to encourage them to care for our environment.

Activities like the workshop in Gainesville are essential for spreading the message to young girls that STEM is a viable career path. Out of the more than 3.25 million Americans employed in math and computer science, only 27 percent are women (U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 2007). We need more women in STEM fields, and you can make a difference. The most important thing you can do is spread the message that STEM is fun and that it provides opportunities for ingenuity, invention, and innovation — exciting, coolstuff that can transform life as we know it. Start early by encouraging the girls in your life to do puzzles, play with Legos, or take things apart and put them back together again. Plan a trip to the science museum, talk about how things work, and encourage participation in science fairs. Parent and adult encouragement really works, and Earth Day is a great time to show girls how much fun science and math can be.

This post was written by Jennifer McDaniel, AAUW National Girls Collaborative Project South Atlantic regional liaison to the Florida Girls Collaborative Project.

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