This summer as an AmeriCorps VISTA Outreach Specialist, I am co-facilitating a Girls Inc. Operation SMART® outreach program focusing on geology. I received my bachelor’s degree in Geology, so I am ecstatic that I will spend my summer engaging girls in the subject. Operation SMART programs encourage girls to engage in and explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers. As mentioned previously on The Inspiration Project, there is a major disparity in the number of women earning degrees in STEM fields and working in STEM careers.

The AAUW reports in Why So Few that there are various interrelated factors leading to this gap, and underlying all of them are implicit biases regarding women’s capability to succeed in STEM fields. These biases are held by both men and women and are often subconscious. As co-facilitators, both Jorjina and I emphasize that girls can be successful in STEM fields and we demonstrate that by being knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject.

Our goal is to facilitate 40 programs this summer for girls ages 6 to 14 with an age-appropriate curriculum. The programs take place at community centers, parks, schools, and apartment complexes. We have also completed two programs at a newly established partner site, furthering our ability to reach more girls!

During the program, girls will:

  • learn about the geologic processes that cause earthquakes and tsunamis,
  • conduct an experiment “making an earthquake”,
    write a lab report,
  • practice earthquake safety, and
  • learn about other STEM careers.

After discussing earthquake safety at our most recent program, Jorjina asked the girls how natural disasters such as earthquakes made them feel. One girl responded that earthquakes did not make her feel scared, because now she knew what to do if one happened. 

Girls also expressed their enthusiasm for geology by exclaiming, “I liked learning about earthquakes and I’d like to be a seismologist!” and “I love to learn about the earth!” 

The most inspiring piece of this program was when one participant explained to the rest of the group that she wanted to be a scientist and that her mother told her that there are not a lot of women in science and so that is a really good choice. In this brief statement, she was able to sum up the whole point of the program, and relay that message to her peers.