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GEMS gain STEM confidence at St. Kate's

Girls from the Anoka-Hennepin School District got hands-on experience with STEM at St. Kate's.
Girls from the Anoka-Hennepin School District got hands-on experience with STEM at St. Kate's.
Photo by Julie Michener.

More than 100 Anoka-Hennepin students were on St. Catherine University’s campus for a day of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities on Saturday.

The students, who are participating in the Girls in Engineering, Math and Science program (GEMS) program offered by the school district, were hosted by the National Center for STEM Elementary Education through a partnership with Anoka-Hennepin schools.

Leading the activities were St. Kate’s elementary education majors who are now required to become STEM-certified for initial licensure. They shared lessons learned in their STEM certificate courses that help them build a professional portfolio of STEM activities and curriculum. Students majoring in nursing and biology were also part of the day’s “St. Kate’s STEM Crew.”

STEM Saturday featured hands-on, engaging activities that focused on scientific inquiry and critical thinking. Examples included discovering how the properties between oil and water make oil spills difficult to clean up, creating the polymer "glurch" and understanding how plants adapt to survive.

About GEMS

The GEMS program includes girls attending STEM magnet schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.  It was created to address two national education issues: to help girls who statistically underperform in relation to boys when it comes to testing in the areas of math and science; and to increase the percentage of girls who continue on career paths in STEM fields. Currently young women do not enter these fields in the same numbers as their male counterparts.  

“We were hoping that this day would spark excitement about STEM, and open their eyes to not only the possibilities of attending college, but also to encourage them to continue to explore math and science when it becomes an elective rather than a required course,” said Denise Schnabel, curriculum integrator for mathematics and environmental science at Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy.

“It was amazing to watch the growth of the girls. In a normal classroom setting they are often much more quiet and reserved and tend to not “compete” with the boys during labs.  

"At St. Kate’s, they opened up more and more throughout the day. By the end of the day almost all of them were very engaged and confident in their labs. My hope is that this enthusiasm and confidence will carry over into the classroom when we return to school.”

More about the Center

St. Catherine University launched the National Center for STEM Elementary Education in August 2010 to improve teacher effectiveness, advance student performance, strengthen STEM literacy and increase individual candidate appeal in competitive job markets.

The Center provides a central focus for STEM initiatives at the University with an emphasis on ensuring STEM literacy for those who teach or will teach in our nation's elementary schools.

Feb. 6, 2012 by Julie Michener

See also: Education, STEM, Students