Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good Deeds

Or, festive balloon centerpieces make everything shiny.

I'm a member of SWE the Society of Women Engineers. (Yet one more tidbit for someone to store away about me, along with the yak thing.) You know we're engineers or we'd call ourselves the Society of Women in Engineering or Society of Female Engineers, but no. Grammar fail.

Anyhow, one of our activities for community outreach is giving Certificates of Merit to local high school juniors and extra prizes for some Science Fair projects. The goal is to spark that sense of "hey, I could do that!" in girls showing an aptitude for and interest in math and science. It's an evening event. We do an ice cream buffet, an icebreaker, and a centerpiece design competition which gets everyone involved. This year was building a bridge from construction paper and tape that had to hold Kit-kats. The winning bridge held 33 Kit-kats, winning the box of 34 Kit-kats. Then we hand out certificates with a little speech.

The CofMs are for juniors who have taken math and science courses all three years and have a teacher recommendation. Which seems kind of paltry to me. But the more I think about it, the more sensible it is. Of course, that could be because I do the speech to introduce it and I want the parents and kids to feel like they came out for a reason, even if the ice cream buffet would have been enough, so I work on ways to talk it up. I even believe what I say! My first year here I was kind of baffled by it which is why I signed up to do the speech and talk it up.

Basically, at some point - usually in high school - girls stop getting encouraged in math and science. Without the encouragement, the tend to drift away from maintaining an interest in math and science, and these fields continually grow on the previous year's work, so getting behind can doom someone who can't catch up. (I had encouragement all the way along and I know it had an effect.) Girls still don't, on the whole, fall into math, science, or engineering by default. So the point of our evening is to get to girls who have stuck with math and science, have an aptitude for it, or show real enthusiasm or sense of science in their science fair projects to realize that they have the skills and the foundation to continue on. It's to get their parents to realize they have the skills and the foundation to continue on. And to give them an award to put on college applications.

It seemed to go well. The parents love to get pictures of their kids shaking hands on stage and the kids have a good time too. My speech was fine, if a little less practiced than last year, and the science fair presenter had good things to say too. We managed to pare the blah out of it more than last year. Parents and girls were grinning when they left. And parents thanked us for "planting that spark". Whew! This is one mission *actually* accomplished. And I feel better every year about doing it.

1 comment:

Junior and Orion said...

WOO HOO!!!!! Way to go!!!!!!! Empowering the young women of todays world! You rock!