Girls attend tech camp at NWTC

June 21, 2012

From “Tech camp for girls targets stereotype” — Sarah Lelinski, who will be a fifth-grader at Holy Family School in the fall, said she could study math all day long.

“I love it. Something about adding and subtracting — it’s fun,” said Lelinski, who participated Wednesday in the Get Into Energy Summer Tech Camp at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Lelinski is one of about 50 area middle-school aged girls participating in the two-day camp, which continues today. It’s aimed at helping develop interest in the so-called STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. Organizers say these fields tend to be dominated by men.

Lelinski isn’t sure what she wants to do for a career, but said her aspiration is to “break stereotypes.”

“I want to break the idea that boys can only do certain things and girls can only do certain things,” she said. “Boys think they’re strong and more intelligent, but girls are intelligent, too.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 70.5 percent of third-grade girls in the Green Bay School District tested through the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts exams in November 2011 were proficient or advanced, compared with 69.8 percent of boys in the third grade. About 77 percent of both boys and girls in the sixth grade were proficient or advanced in math, but 43 percent of girls were advanced, compared with 36 percent of boys.

About 66 percent of all 10th-graders scored proficient or advanced in math, including 22.3 percent of girls and 26.5 percent of boys.

About 70 percent of fourth-grade girls who took the WKCE in November were advanced or proficient in science, compared with 67.7 percent of fourth-grade boys.

Meanwhile, 65 percent of female 10th-graders were proficient or advanced in science, compared with 68.7 percent of their male classmates. However, 29.2 percent of the girls were advanced, compared with nearly 41 percent of the boys.

Organizers said they hoped hands-on experience would encourage girls at the tech camp to continue with STEM studies.

The girls learned about the “life of a Wisconsin Public Service lineman” on Wednesday and studied the solar sunflowers at the Green Bay Botanical Garden, which are solar panels that move with the sun to gather more energy.

Activities scheduled for today include work with solar racecars and a solar oven and construction of a circuit from a lemon.

“We want to expose the girls to STEM occupations,” said Betsy Baier, nontraditional occupation coordinator for NWTC. “We realize that when they are in middle school is when they become interested in future careers, based on exposure. We want to expose them to occupations females may not see.”

Mary Frank-Arlt, community relations specialist with WPS, agreed.

“Utilities are seeing an aging work force,” she said. “And kids need exposure. You see firefighters and teachers, but how many of them see the engineer who’s keeping your lights on?”

Baier said women who become welders or engineers often were exposed to family members in those professions.

“So we hope this camp offers them another chance to see what those professionals do,” she said.

The program was funded through a $20,000 grant that is shared with Fox Valley, Moraine Park and Lakeshore technical colleges. The local camp is co-sponsored by NWTC, WPS and the Green Bay-De Pere YWCA, which hosts an after-school program called TechGYRLS aimed at keeping at-risk sixth-grade girls interested in STEM subjects.

TechGYRLS teacher Jenna Tullberg said the lessons are important.

“With advancements in technology and globalization, if our youth don’t have the skills, their jobs are going to be limited,” she said. “We want to show girls fields that provide good-paying jobs that they may not be thinking of. If you get them early, there’s a better chance they’ll believe this is something they would like to do and can do.”

Natalie Ehren, who will be an eighth-grader at Green Bay’s Lombardi Middle School in fall, plans to be a chemist or work in the environmental sciences.

“I’ve always wanted to get into the science field,” she said. “I think sometimes there’s an idea that girls go into makeup and boys go into construction. I want to break that mold.”


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