STEM Camp offers inspiring path for girls

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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STEM, an abbreviated term for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” shares much theory and practice in common. 

For the female youth of Winchester, an opportunity to experience such just came along. 

STEM Camp for girls from fourth through seventh grade took place during the last week of May. 

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It is the second consecutive year that the camp has been held in Winchester. 

“We’re trying to expose our girls to the opportunities that they get a chance to have,” said Heather Crowl, a fifth and sixth-grade STEM teacher at Baker. “They can see how science works in the world.” 

Crowl noticed something in several of her students that inspired her idea for a STEM camp specifically for girls. 

“When we would do engineering, and we would do things in the classroom, there were so many girls that would have these great ideas…but a lot of times they didn’t have confidence in themselves to go through with it,” she said. “A lot of schools do STEM camps, but there’s nothing available for this age group…I was like, ‘We need to change that.’” 

Thus, STEM Camp was born, following collaboration with Baker Intermediate School Family Resources Coordinator Casey Davis and others. 

It allows current Baker students to gain hands-on experience and provides an opportunity for future students to learn. 

Visits to various locations – including Ale-8 and the Toyota Georgetown Assembly Plant – allowed the students to see real-world applications. 

“We’ve had women who are GRC graduates come in who are now doctors and [talk] to them about the need for women in medicine,” Crowl said. “A lot of these girls don’t have strong female role models for careers, so we make sure that every person that comes in contact with these girls is a woman.” 

On May 30, that included staff from Danimer Scientific. 

While explaining how the company is helping to create a sustainable and more natural way to make plastic products, they guided the girls through an experiment demonstrating how to extract DNA from a strawberry. 

“We’re excited to involve people in the process of science and [to] get an interest in science,” said Sue Leidich, a Micro Lab Technician with Danimer Scientific. “We’re trying to [teach] scientific skills and help them learn the process of science [including] following instructions, measuring and weighing correctly…and following through on an experiment from start to completion.” 

Kaylee Weistroffer, a sixth-grade special education collaborative teacher at Baker, was one of many volunteers and helped guide the program.

“I’m getting to meet new people and [getting] to know new families,” she said. “We’ve gotten to see kids learn about careers they can pursue in the future…students ask questions about college and work pathways.” 

Those participating, such as incoming eighth-grader and returnee Zilin Gaines, shared their positive feelings about the experience. 

“It was very interesting and unique…I did some things I’ve never done before,” Gaines said. “I’m more comfortable with [the girls] because I can relate to them.”