Kay White, branch president, reports:

Sparc - Fall 2008 - studentsThe Chapel Hill branch sponsored a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program, called SPARC, in the fall of 2008.  The project provided a 5-week program, 2 days a week,  for 3rd to 5th grade girls in the After School Program at the Oak Grove Elementary  School in Durham, NC.  Our goal was to provide one to two hands-on activities with a female professional in a STEM field.   Two to three branch members were in attendance at each session and assessments were made at various points during the program. In terms of diversity, there were 2 Hispanics, 1 white, and 14 African-American girls.

In assessing the success of our program, we valued the comments by our branch volunteers about what they observed.  What we learned was that

  1. girls at this age have great enthusiasm for anything new,
  2. they don’t know many people in STEM careers, but at the end of the program
  3. they had learned some of the careers of some of the women professionals we had in STEM careers.

In addition, each child left the program with a notebook which was full of their notes on the various STEM professionals and on the various hands-on activities.

SPARC - Fall 2008 - SpeakerWhat we learned about our program:

  1. that the discussion on the biography of the professional would be shortened to allow more time for hands-on activities.
  2. that the program we have modeled can be refined and copied in other After School Programs and
  3. that it is easy to get the girls excited about STEM hands-on activities but
  4. that it is difficult to predict if the girls at this age will go into a STEM career.

We have begun our Spring 2009 SPARC program at Oak Grove and will report on that program at a later date