The Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) strives to nurture the raw interests and curiosity of every child who walks through the door. And with its STEM Girls program, this mission goes a step further, inviting young women with an interest in science and “how things work” to explore tri-state area careers related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
STEM Girls’ harnesses the opportunities and resources unique to the community by highlighting women working in regional corporations, nonprofits, colleges, and universities. These women volunteer to serve as mentors and to illuminate real-life applications of STEM — both the obvious and the lesser-known jobs.
“We wanted to do a better job of connecting with women during an age range when they typically fall away from science studies and careers,” says CMC chief learning officer Whitney Owens.
The goal is to help young women, ages 7–14, envision themselves in certain fields that are traditionally male-dominated, and to overcome some common misconceptions of what the work is like.
“We know that, particularly with young women, doing something that is actually contributing to the greater good is really important to them,” says Owens. So the program makes a point of connecting the dots of the bigger picture to show that science is not isolated, or isolating, work.
“We want to give them a different, and truer, perception of what careers in science are so that they stay engaged and don’t fall away as they get older,” she continues.
Participants can register for STEM Girls’ free, hands-on “University Courses” that are hosted either at Union Terminal or the Hamilton County Public Library. The program also offers free “Day Out Courses.”
“[The Day Out Course] is where we take groups of girls to the locations where STEM is happening in our community,” explains Owens. “So that could be a lab, could be a behind-the-scenes at the aquarium or the art museum … anywhere where science is happening.”
And the program’s wide range of offerings seems to suggest that science is happening absolutely everywhere. Past field trips have shed light on what it looks like to do chemistry at P&G, veterinary sciences at UC Blue Ash, biomedical engineering at Ethicon, and hydrology at Water Sanitation District No. 1.
One upcoming (sold out) summer course illuminates the science of photography, while another visits active dig sites with CMC archeologists.
The STEM Girls’ most unique course to date (also sold out) will visit the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), a world-renowned gene bank facility at the Cincinnati Zoo.
“We want to communicate that science is not a dry, isolated thing,” says Owens. “It’s a way of looking at the world and taking apart problems and coming up with creative solutions and then putting them into practice to make the world a better place.”