“You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Variations on this aphorism come up a lot in STEM circles, as we seek to introduce young people to inspiring figures who reflect kids’ identities, backgrounds, personal stories, interests, and career aspirations.
This is precisely the purpose of KID Museum’s Maker Girls programs, where we connect young women who are exploring science, technology, engineering and math in their schools with accomplished female professionals working in those fields. The latest program, held March 28 to celebrate Women’s History Month, connected more than 40 girls from Washington, DC, campuses of Center City Public Charter Schools with female technologists working in Google’s DC office.
Hosted at KID Museum Davis Library in Bethesda, KID Maker Educators guided the students through a morning of coding, robotics, and making. The girls first tackled a rapid design challenge, then turned to working with the Vex Robotics platform. Collaborating in small teams, they designed, programmed, and built robots that represented themselves and inspiring women in STEM.
“We got to be creative and open-minded,” said 7th Grader Giselle, naming two characteristics important to the Mind of a Maker.
Of course, there were some inspiring STEM women on hand as well. Dr. Shanika Hope, Director of Computer Science Impact and Outreach at Google, and Meghan Riegel, Software Engineer, spoke with Center City’s students about pathways into computer science and technology.
Dr. Hope, who serves on KID Museum’s Board of Directors, said Maker Girls programs are about “inspiring and helping girls understand that we need them in the space of technology, and we need more diversity in technology to solve the kinds of problems that are going to matter to our world tomorrow.” This is a core priority of KID Museum, with more than 60% of participants in KID programs identifying as Black or Latino and 50% from under-resourced communities.
Center City math teacher Brandyn Poole, who accompanied her 7th and 8th graders, witnessed the power of making as a tool for teaching and learning.
“I love how hands-on and interactive it was,” she said. “I love how student-led it was. It’s brought out a lot of creativity and some really interesting conversation with my kids.”