Recently I was given the opportunity to participate in an evening-long “science event” for a group of about 100 Girl Scouts from the south-central Nebraska area to get them excited about STEM fields. Not being a pure “STEM” adherent myself, I chose to expand the topic of my presentation to talk about STEAM, emphasizing creativity as the bridge between the arts and the sciences.
I was given two groups of 40-50 Scouts for 40 minutes each, and was allowed to generate whatever material I thought would be suitable. It was important to me to implement some sort of non-traditional teaching model to keep the kids excited and give them as many interesting new ideas as I could, as well as help them sustain that excitement after they leave with take-home material.
Rather than teach in a one-to-many lecture format, I chose instead to present three “micro-workshops” and cycle the Scouts through them all in smaller sub-groups. I asked a couple of friends to handle two of the workshops, while I did one of my own. A huge “thank you” is in order for Adrian Sanabria-Diaz and Luke Decker for helping out! With their help the Scouts were able to learn about each of the following through micro-workshops:
- Electronics and the MaKey MaKey taught by Adrian Sanabria-Diaz.
- Live 3D scanning with the Kinect and ReconstructMe taught by Luke Decker.
- 3D printing with a Makerbot Replicator and a home-built RepRap Prusa Mendel i2 taught by myself.
My goal was to use my time to get the Scouts excited about many different things and let their curiosity set the tempo of the event. Although I spent quite a lot of time planning out activities to do, I found that once the event was in motion it was much better to improvise the activities based on what each group was most interested in.
Getting the Scouts excited about STEAM was only half the goal of my presentation; equally important was helping funnel that excitement into genuine interest and possible independently-driven follow-up action. To help with this I created a two-sided handout for each of the Scouts to take home with them and explore more on their own time.
The front side contains a description of STEAM and the link between the arts and the sciences, as well as short bios of six influential women relevant to the field. I’ve included websites and/or Twitter handles for each of them so the Scouts can directly interface with them if they want to.
The back side contains information on the Maker’s Movement, Maker Faires and hackerspaces, as well as details on some of my own work that I showed at the event. I’ve also included a tag cloud of important buzzwords that they can research on their own and a list of awesome websites to visit.