Girls explore scientific fields

Lindsey Reed

Several area girls wearing odd necklaces were spotted throughout the Thompson Complex Central Wing Saturday.

The similar-looking necklaces weren’t just for vanity. They were also an educational tool. The girls’ necklaces contained mock strands of DNA that they made in a class about genes taught by Western biology professor Heather DeHart.

To learn more about math and science, 81 girls in the fifth through eighth grades at surrounding area schools attended the second annual “Girls in Science Day” that was held on Western’s campus Saturday.

Participants had several different classes to choose to attend, but the class dealing with genes was one of the popular choices.

The event was put on by women in the science and engineering departments at Western, as well as the women’s studies department.

Western engineering professor Stacy Wilson and chemistry professor Thandi Buthelezi were the creators of the event.

“The goal was just to get girls on campus and expose them to science,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, they’ll want to take math and science classes in high school so they will be prepared for college.”

Lea Phelps, an eighth grader from Drakes Creek Middle School, said she enjoyed the different classes. She took a class about geometric concepts and was able to form different shapes from a geometric paper book that she made in the class.

“I liked learning how to fold different shapes out of paper,” Phelps said.

Even though this was Phelps’ first year participating in the event, she saw other students whom she had met before.

“I saw some of my old friends,” she said.

The science day was impressive to many students like Phelps because they were able to meet faculty members and tour different buildings while taking classes.

“Western seems pretty nice. This is where I plan to go to college,” Phelps said. “I’ve seen some of the classrooms and the teachers, and they are all pretty nice … Plus it’s pretty close to home.”

Several girls who participated last year returned.

Beth Parrent, an eighth grader at Bowling Green Christian Academy, attended last year and enjoyed this year’s event even more.

“I like the classes I took this year better,” Parrent said.

Aside from getting to meet new people, she said that taking a sports psychology class was her favorite part of this year’s events.

“We worked on team building activities and played a lot of games to learn how to concentrate better,” Parrent said.

But she was not the only student that enjoyed the sports psychology class the best.

Sashamarie Herrera, an eighth grader from Drakes Creek, enjoyed the class because she could apply what she learned to her own athletic experiences.

“I liked learning a little more about sports psychology and how to do better by focusing on your goal and opportunities on a soccer field,” Herrera said.

The event concluded with a contest where the girls could win a trophy for building the tallest and strongest “Hurricane Egg Tower.”

The tower could be constructed from various amounts of straws, paper clips and duct tape. The hard part was constructing the tower to hold on to an egg while hurricane simulated winds blew on each of the towers.

Mary Wells, a fifth grader from South Green Elementary School in Glasgow, had a hard time constructing the tower. Her group’s egg cracked before the competition even started.

“They should have given us five days because it’s so hard,” Wells said.

Several Western professors volunteered time to teach classes, and several students helped out with the event.

Providence junior Tabitha Melton, an agriculture business major, enjoyed being part of this year’s event.

“I thought it was good for these girls to come out and see the campus and science department,” Melton said. “It was a good recruiting tool.”

The Girls in Science Day is continuing to grow as more girls learn about the event. Thirty-one more girls attended this year’s event.

“We hope to eventually reach 100 girls,” Wilson said. “We’re thinking about making this a summer camp.”

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]