HYDE PARK — Keira Ware, 13, stirred a small jar of bright blue shea butter and sugar at the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday. She added scented oils and creams like kiwi, watermelon, and peach to create a body scrub while learning about cosmetic chemistry.
In another room, 11-year-old Sierra Marshall was working with four other students to attach empty paprika spice bottles to a pink rope. They took turns lowering it into a tub of water and lifting it up to show off the effectiveness of their water sample collection device.
And earlier in the day, at a booth displaying Play-Doh models, Meshey Sutton and Brooke Elliott, both 11, learned how corn is processed into snack foods.
These were four of about 80 girls and gender-wide youth from the South Side who participated in science-related team challenges during the Museum of Science and Industry’s first We Run STEM event. The students, ages 7 to 14, walked around the museum in groups of four to six, completed a treasure hunt, and then went to five separate learning stations to fill out their “passports.”
“The real goal was to foster empowerment and confidence in young people in STEM fields, especially girls and gender-expansive youth who are often impacted by sexism, sexism, racism, and classism. ” said event organizer Margie Lafniere of the Education Project. Museum manager. “We try to provide a fun antidote to that and a sense that young people can be themselves in her STEM.”
To prepare for the event, Lafreniere sent out invitations to various organizations on the South Side, including school groups and Girl Scout troops. She coordinated learning stations with her five external partners: PepsiCo, Building Bridges, Code Your Dream, Current, and NeuroMaker.
Shai Brown, founder and president of Building Bridges — aka “Dr. Shai” — organized the Cosmetic Chemistry Station. She helped mix body scrubs, lip gloss, and hair conditioner while teaching children about product development.
“It sparks an interest that says, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there was a STEM aspect to this,'” Brown said, adding that showing kids what a STEM career looks like can encourage them to pursue STEM. He pointed out that they can be encouraged to do so.
Brown’s opinion was echoed by PepsiCo scientists El Hadj Dium and Janiel Arkin Chin Tai, who led the food processing station on Saturday.
When he was young, Arkin Chin Tai said he only realized he could become a scientist when he entered university. She has never had the opportunity to participate in an event like We Run STEM. Now, she wants to change that for children from marginalized communities.
“If we can get kids thinking about science at a younger age and interacting with scientists, engineers, and other people at different stages, we can give them the opportunity to start exploring these careers,” Arkin said.・Mr. Chin Tai said.
Although the students are young, Dium said they are already asking deep questions about concepts like genetically modified crops. He said they attend events like this because they see that they are interested in practical science.
At the end of the day, Kayla Allison, 11, said “We Run STEM” taught her the importance of courage.
“I just thought it was amazing,” she said. “I was surprised by what I was studying.”
To quantify the impact of this event, Lafreniere asked students to rank how confident they felt they could be a scientist at three points throughout the day. She plans to tally her results later this week.
In the meantime, she has another way to assess what her students have learned. It involves reading posters where students have written down what they have learned.
“My heart rate is 97,” the note said.
“Fireworks are going off in my brain!” cried another.
The bottom of the poster featured stars around the letters and a third message that read, “I can do anything I set my mind to.”
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