Building Bridges with the JL Boston STEM Program
By Cally McGowan
The Junior League of Boston’s STEM community placement is in its second year and thriving in its new home at the Salesian Boys and Girls Club of East Boston. This signature placement encourages young girls to expand their interest and ability in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) by participating in a curriculum covering each of the four pillars. Each field of study includes several sessions consisting of hands-on experiments and activities in the classroom as well as visits to local companies and organizations for an up-close look at the STEM work being conducted in our communities.
The program is led by co-chairs Kendrice Newman, Kaylee Prior, and Liza Bates, with other committee members having the opportunity to lead and design individual lesson plans. When asked to describe the core mission of the STEM placement, co-chair Kendrice Newman explains that the program “gives middle school girls a chance to explore STEM, both in a hands-on context and also by learning more about the real women in STEM careers. When you see someone like you, it makes it seem like a real possibility for you, too.”
I recently had the opportunity to visit the STEM placement at the Salesian Boys & Girls Club of East Boston, which serves 30 girls between 6th and 8th grade. The day of my visit was an Engineering-themed day during which the girls had the opportunity to learn about structural engineering, and applied these concepts by building bridges using toothpicks and marshmallows, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their designs.
The group then experimented with a second application of engineering concepts by testing the strength of various types of eggshells (white, brown, and hard-boiled) and their ability to withstand an increasing amount of weight by hypothesizing how many books could be stacked on top of three eggshells until they cracked. Some eggs were able to hold more than 20 books!
In addition to providing the opportunity to learn more about a career in one of the STEM fields, the program also encourages participants to lead a healthy and balanced life. For example, volunteers prepare nutritious food before each session to serve as snacks and lunch. Volunteers also incorporate various activities that encourage teamwork, collaboration, and communication, all of which contribute to a healthy life and a successful career.