STEM Program Collaboration Encourages Girls to Be BRITE, Bold, and Brilliant

Contributed by Sherika AdamsBrite Logo

Morrison Mentors was selected to collaborate with The Hello Studios, National Girls Collaborative Project, and the World Science Festival to host an all-girls Summer STEM program from July 13th - July 31st. These virtual lessons took place 3 hours per day Monday through Friday over the course of three weeks. Ten girls were chosen to be a part of this exciting opportunity in which they were able to meet over 15 female experts in the STEM field, and collaborate with each other to create an array of projects that reinforced concepts they learned each day.

The Brite Program was led by none other than our Lead Facilitator, Syriah. She added the right amount of humor, patience, and expertise to deliver an interesting, fun, yet highly productive program for the girls. During the first week, the participants in our program (Brite girls) explored the collaboration between Art and Science. Every day they were introduced to new experts in the STEM field, such as Dajae "Mo" Williams (NASA Engineer/Rapper), Jenny Adler (Photographer/Journalist), Yamilée Toussaint Beach (Dancer/Engineer), Beata Mierzwa (Fashionista/Scientist), and Amanda P. (Neurologist/Multidisciplinary Artist). Girls learned about the various ways art is incorporated into STEM. Yamilée piqued the interest of all of the girls in our group because she introduced her organization STEM through Dance, which allowed our girls to expand the way they thought and felt about STEM. Our girls loved how she inspired her youth to think outside of the box and step outside of their comfort zone to use STEM to create their own choreography, projects, and design uniforms. Although a few of the girls had a slight interest in STEM prior to the start of the program, they were unaware of how music and art could enhance their feelings toward it. One of their favorite activities during the week was choreographing a group dance using code (A=clap, B=snap, C=rub hands together). They also enjoyed creating a musical piece utilizing Chrome Music lab/Songmaker, and completed the dance party assignment on code.org, in which they coded a character to perform various dance moves to a particular song.

Morrison Mentor cohort

During the second week, the girls were slowly starting to develop a STEM identity and continued to strengthen their relationships with one another, while exploring the topic of Danger in Science. They looked forward to logging on each day and sharing their thoughts on the previous day’s activities. This week specifically explored scientists in dangerous situations/fields, and the necessary tools, technologies, and precautions. Guest speakers were Amani Webber Schultz (Marine Biologist), Jess Phoenix (Volcanologist), Becca Piexotto (Archaeologist), and Emily Sutton (Tornado Chaser/Meteorologist). There were several fan favorites; however, Jess Phoenix stood out the most to a majority of the girls because of her high level of risk and reward when it came to exploring volcanoes. The girls were highly engaged in the activities and icebreakers such as DIY volcanoes, coding, and the tornado simulator. To gauge the level of interest in STEAM, and whether or not participating in this program had a positive impact on our girls, we created a brief survey and feedback form, which they were asked to complete at the end of each week. Some of the students expressed increased interest in STEM as a result of participating in the Brite program. As facilitators, we were also able to observe them becoming more comfortable with each other and expressing their opinions vocally. During week one, one of our girls refused to show herself on camera and only communicated through chat; however, during the second week she took full advantage of the opportunity to ask questions regarding educational pathways, personal interests, and she asked guest speakers advice during the Brite Assemblies. 

The third and final week focused on the topic of Mind Matters. The girls explored various aspects of experimentation of the brain, mindset, and careers associated with neuroscience. The guest speakers were Kaitlyn Hova (Violinist/Synesthete/Neuroscientist), Joyanna Gamble-George (Neuroscientist/Entrepreneur), Elizabeth Margulis (Cognitive Scientist/Music), Suzana Herculano-Houzel (Biologist/Brain Scientist), and Amy Sterling (Creator of Eyewire/Crowdsourcing Expert). They enjoyed learning about Synesthesia, a neurological condition in which information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of your senses. One of the highlights of this week was the interactive online game called Eyewire. This is a citizen science game that maps connections through retinal neurons, or neurons in the retina of the eye. 

We enjoyed seeing the growth of the girls each week. Growth in regards to their mindset, and even attitudes. The girls participating in this program gained a sense of community and were able to be their unique selves, while sharing their thoughts, interests, and passion for STEM. The girls developed a connection, not only with their classmates but with the facilitators as well. We were able to identify with each other’s interest, which made it easier to break the ice. We created our own playlist on YouTube, made up of each of the girls’ favorite songs, and listened to it while the girls were working on their projects. As a result, they developed a new way to focus, and learned more about each other through their music. They’ve learned more about themselves, how to work as a team, and that it’s okay to express themselves and their interests. As a result, they began to look forward to future classes. The Brite Platform was easy for facilitators to use and it provided more than enough content to discuss. Before ending the program, we encouraged our participants to complete a survey, which allowed us to gauge their level of interest in STEM as well as their interest in pursuing a career in a STEM field. Eighty percent of the girls also indicated their interest in STEAM increased as a result of their participation in the program. Sixty percent of the participants indicated they are interested in pursuing a career in STEM.

Sherika Adams serves as the Executive Advisor for Morrison Mentors, a mobile S.T.E.M. focused nonprofit organization working towards engineering a social change in the community.