Last Saturday, the School of Information Studies (iSchool) served as a classroom for 61 local Girl Scouts, visiting Hinds Hall for a program called Girls are IT - aimed at generating an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields in school-aged girls.
Stephanie Worden, Recruiting Specialist at the iSchool and coordinator of the event, said, "we want to keep girls interested in STEM fields, as it's shown to die down after middle school, especially in girls, and this is a way for us to inspire them to stay interested."
The girls who participated in the Girls are IT program were given the opportunity to take different 'mini classes' on STEM subjects throughout the day, both in the morning and the afternoon. Topics ranged from social media to software to data management and more. Every session was led by a volunteer whose goal was to educate and captivate the girls in attendance.
The Netiquette class, about etiquette and behavior on the Internet, was filled with real-world advice to make girls think critically about the Internet: how their actions are perceived through the web, how their words can affect others, how nothing is really gone when it is 'deleted,' and more. The workshop was led by Katie Lemanczyk, a graduate of the iSchool’s Information Management program who works in the School’s enrollment office.
When asked about how she prepared for the event, Lemanczyk said, "my sister is a middle school teacher, and she told me that I can't just stand up in front of them and lecture. I needed to engage them to keep their attention." Every workshop leader seemed to have the same mindset. The instructors were positive, energetic, and managed to captivate a room full of girls by connecting with them.
One of the most interactive workshops of the day was called "The Ins and Outs: Computers 101." Taking place in the aptly named Innovation Studio of the iSchool, this workshop was a chance for the girls to literally tear computers apart to see how they worked.
The girls who took part in the activity were able to experience unrestricted, hands-on learning. They were encouraged to think critically about the reasons behind the activity, and learned by doing rather than sitting and listening. When asked who had fun tearing apart computers, every girl raised her hand.
Girl Scout participant Kaitlyn recalled her morning activities as, "really fun, my favorite thing was taking apart the computer. I also did a class about how to be safe online, and I'm super excited for the things this afternoon."
Other workshops included "Blogging 101: How to Start Building Your Brand," led by BLISTS (Black and Latino Student Information Study Support) and "Make an App For That," led by alumnae from The It Girls, another program dedicated to getting girls involved in and excited about STEM.
The student group WiT-G (Women-in-Technology for Graduate Students) led a workshop focused on data organization using real data from Girl Scout Cookie sales. WiT-U (Women-in-Technology for Undergraduate Students) led a separate session on tips and tricks for navigating computers.
Parents who brought their daughters to the program said that they were thrilled that their girls were able to have such a great experience. One mom noted, "the girls were especially interested in the tech-heavy programs. The ones about taking computers apart and building apps and all that. They were really excited about joining in!”
A group effort, Girls are IT was made possible by the passion and drive of a number of iSchool student, staff, and faculty volunteers, local Girl Scout troops and leaders, and, of course, the inquisitive minds of the girls involved.