Photo caption: Patou Yunusa and Shamma Pierre build flashlights during the I AM STEM Camp’s circuitry session.
story by Claire Miller
Shamma Pierre and Patou Yunusa sat together in one of the College of Education & Human Development’s (CEHD) science education rooms, carefully building flashlights using Altoids mint tins, small light bulbs and a set of wires.
“I made light!” Pierre exclaimed when her flashlight lit up for the first time. “I took these wires and made light!”
Pierre and Yunusa were two participants in this summer’s I AM STEM Camp, a program led by CEHD Associate Professor Natalie King to provide the middle school girls with culturally-relevant curriculum in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The camp is one component of King’s five-year, $1.1 million National Science Foundation grant that explores STEM learning opportunities for middle and high school girls of color and how those students develop their own identities in these learning spaces.
King partnered with Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta’s STEM-based Eureka! Program to host the summer camp, inviting students from across metro Atlanta to Georgia State University’s campus for hands-on STEM projects, including the flashlight circuitry session, STEM web design activities, animal dissections and eSports games.
Instructors also led lessons on college readiness and access, social-emotional development and responsible decision-making and relationship skills.
“As an institution of higher education, this partnership with Girls Inc. allows Georgia State to invest in the lives of children who live in our local communities through mentorship, exposure, high-quality curriculum and support,” King said.
This year’s camp experience allowed participants like Pierre and Yunusa the opportunity to further their STEM knowledge and meet other students with similar interests.
“I wasn’t in a STEM program at school, and this camp let me try something new,” Yunusa said. “I would encourage other students to come, especially if they want to explore STEM, like me.”
Many of the camp sessions were facilitated by Black and Latina women working in STEM fields. Participants had the opportunity to interact with scholars who look like them, are thriving in their professions and are supportive of the girls’ STEM learning experiences.
“We need more programs for Black and Brown girls because while they are performing better in the STEM disciplines, they do not feel a sense of belonging in certain fields. They need opportunities to envision their futures and engage meaningfully with STEM professionals who can serve as role models and mentors,” King said. “It goes beyond just giving middle school girls something to do during the summer – we want them to know that we recognize their brilliance, believe in them, and are committed to their success.”