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'STEM Girls Rock' connects LU, Plymouth students

March 29, 2017 In Lakeland University Blog
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Microsoft recently conducted an extensive study aimed at determining why high school-aged girls often lose interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum.

The results have been the subject of numerous articles, including this one, which concludes that exposing girls to great role models and hands-on STEM-related exercises are two ways to keep them engaged.

Kay Tharp, a Plymouth High School mathematics teacher and Lakeland graduate, is aware of the relatively low numbers of females in STEM-based majors and careers. She would like to see that change.

“STEM Girls Rock,” a first-year program that pairs middle and high school students with Lakeland University science and math students, is a collaboration between Plymouth High School and Lakeland University.

On April 10, Plymouth School District students will visit Lakeland for extensive STEM-related activities, including working with Lakeland’s advanced robots and conducting experiments with LU’s chemistry club.

Said Tharp: “My goal for this club is to help increase self-confidence in young girls and expose them to the many opportunities available in the STEM fields through the activity-based mentoring experience with Lakeland University women.”

Lakeland senior Lexy Piskule, an LU math and education major, is the student leader of this project. Her internship was funded through the Great Lakes Career Ready Internship Grant. Lakeland received this grant through the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation in 2015 to assist in the funding of hundreds of internships for Lakeland students.

During three visits to Plymouth High School, Piskule has organized hands-on experiments with Plymouth students. She has recruited other Lakeland students, including senior biochemistry and history double major Suzette Rosas, to assist her.

“As a female math student who’s about to graduate from Lakeland, I have seen the number of female peers in my classrooms dwindle year after year since middle school,” Piskule said.

“I think it’s really important to help these young women understand the value of continuing down these STEM-related paths.”

During a recent visit to Tharp’s classroom, Piskule and fellow LU student Taylor Green worked with middle and high school students to create small model cars out of various household materials. The cars, powered only by air from an inflated balloon, later raced down the hallway.

Piskule also introduced the young students to a website called mymajors.com, which, after students fill out a survey, guides them toward promising STEM-based majors and career options.

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