Seventh grade girls participate in workshops to learn hands-on from Blair teachers and students
Blair hosted the 20th annual Females in Science and Technology (FIST) conference on Saturday to foster further female interest in a variety of science fields. About 150 countywide middle school girls gathered to hear keynote speaker Dr. Sharon Milgram from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and participate in three workshops to perform interactive projects in different science disciplines.Blair teachers from the science department, assisted by students in the math and science Magnet program, guided small groups of seventh grade girls through hands-on learning experiences in topics that ranged from meteorology to forensics. "The purpose was to inspire and expose girls to different fields of science," event coordinator and Blair science teacher Megan Dieckman said.
Magnet Coordinator Dennis Heidler agreed that middle school girls benefit from science exposure to a great extent. "Data research shows that girls are maturing at this age and making decisions as to whether they're interested in science and math," he said. "This is the critical age."
Blair junior Cindy Sui, a student assistant, also believed that instilling science knowledge and interest early is essential. "It's important to make sure girls aren't intimidated to do science," she said.
Many student assistants spoke from experience when they attested to the benefits of the event, according to Dieckman. Those who participated in previous FIST conferences were more than eager to volunteer. "I had students approaching me about it without my having to ask," Dieckman said. "They couldn't wait to help."
Dieckman organized the Kids Inquiry Conference (KIC) several years ago, a similar event for fourth graders. "I loved coordinating KIC," she said. When Heidler informed her that the FIST conference did not have an official coordinator, she decided to manage the event. "I didn't want it to fall by the wayside," she said.
Milgram also believed that the conference was essential, emphasizing her hopes that the lessons learned at the event would follow the girls in their future quest for science careers. "We need science to be much more diverse than it is," she said. "We need to have an international perspective – people from all over the world. And it all starts with young kids," she said.
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