In the Spring of 2009 I had the pleasure of participating in the MAS as an intern. One of the major responsibilities of that internship was to create a podcast focused on bringing attention to the current and future opportunities for girls in STEM education.
After doing some initial research I quickly came across the Flying Cloud Institute. Based near the Berkshires in New Marlborough, MA the Flying Cloud Institute is an organization dedicated to promoting creative thinking, problem solving and mastery learning in STEM for all students. The Institute started with only a few programs such as Environmental Education and Conversation but today the Flying Cloud Institute boasts a myriad of programs. The programs are described as featuring, “ interdisciplinary approaches to learning that engage children in creative hands-on activities… The goal is to build deep life changing relationships with children… to support their development over time from elementary school years through high school graduation.”.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Flying Cloud Institute is the Young Women in Science program that in itself offers several clubs for girls interested STEM fields. I was fortunate enough to visit one such club after having an inspiring conversation with the institutes founder and director, Jane Burke who helped launch the institute in 1980.
I was invited to observe the Girl-Bot Robotics team which is an in-school club overseen by teachers and assisted by high school girls who have received training in robotics. I cannot speak highly enough about the professionals and students I met that day. The girls are given a series of objectives to accomplish within certain guidelines and the teachers and peer advisors are there to help guide them through the challenge. The students are encouraged to explore their creative thought processes to overcome these challenges instead of being given the easy way out. The dedication exhibited by Jane and the teaching professionals was only surpassed by the passion and drive beaming from the faces of the young student members and their elder peer-advisors. To see the interaction and collaboration between teacher and student (and student to student) in this highly competitive and complex learning atmosphere, and to see how well these girls handled such a challenge was to me a confirmation of the ideals set forth by the MAS and STEM educators alike.
What I learned from that experience stays with me to this day and that is to say that the limiting factor in the development of young females in STEM education is not their own passion, interest or desire, it’s the level of dedication we as educators and professionals are willing to put forth in offering girls these types of educational opportunities.
To learn more about the Flying Cloud Institute and the MAS please visit our website; http://www.massacadsciences.org/
Written by: Matthew Panechelli