Almost twice as many high school boys as girls plan to major in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in college, according to The National Science Board, even though experts predict there won’t be enough people with STEM skills available to fill the engineering and tech jobs coming in the next decade.
However, educators at Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Center of Excellence for Research, Teaching and Learning (CERTL), hope to change that, thanks to a three-year, $164,432 grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s Student STEM Enrichment Program.
The grant will support the creation of a comprehensive STEM satellite program for 40 female middle school students by partnering with Davidson and Surry County Schools. The goal of the program is to improve the students’ knowledge of STEM-based content and improve their academic performance to prepare them for higher-level STEM classes and potential careers in related fields.
“Young girls still face many obstacles in pursuing education in these historically male-dominated fields, including a lack of female role models and mentors, gender stereotypes and a lack of personal confidence,” said Stanford Hill, Ph.D., director of CERTL. “We hope to help them develop an interest and enthusiasm for science by meeting and working with female scientists and STEM professionals here in Winston-Salem and by participating in educational enrichment opportunities geared to their specific needs.”
The program will offer year-long courses through an inquiry-based learning model that aligns with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, including a summer intensive STEM experience within each school district and a yearlong follow-up program. The students will visit the Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education for fall and spring summits, attend monthly after-school activities and have quarterly progress report meetings with their school administrators to monitor their academic progress and to guide them toward more rigorous STEM-related courses.
The middle school students who are invited to join the program will be selected based on GPA, interest in pursuing a STEM degree after high school, written essay, teacher recommendation and parental support. Applications will be reviewed by CERTL staff in conjunction with administrators from each school system, to ensure the best candidates are chosen for the program.
“Based on our previous STEM initiatives, we are confident that this program will be a success and we intend to create a sustainable model that can ultimately be replicated across the state,” said Hill. “Our goal is to help other communities identify similar resources to develop female STEM teacher-leaders and to create their own programs based on what we’re doing here.”
The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is an independent private foundation dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities.