In addition to working with STEM for Kids and pursuing FEP credit for it, Tallulah was a participant in the Sophomore Shadow program this spring. She wrote this essay in conjunction with her Field Experience Project, for which she received credit. This summer she will be a counselor for the Girls Make Games Summer Camp in Los Angeles.
I think I have often in my life felt a limitation being a woman in STEM, a young person in STEM, and felt like I couldn’t get my voice heard. This work with STEM For Kids completely turns that around, and I finally feel like I can be influential because of my social identities, not in spite of them.
One of the reasons I was hired to work with STEM for Kids in particular was, in fact, my social identity of being a woman in STEM. Both the founder and the franchiser of this company are women, have daughters, and strive to create more of a support system and springboard for girls and young women in STEM. So, while I’m younger than the average worker they have, I believe that’s why my supervisor, Donna Curtis, was drawn to me in my initial interview and contact with her. And, having now worked many hours on the various sites we frequent, I am beginning to understand why. I have already had many experiences with young girls (ages 6 – 11), who, as soon as you begin to show interest or excitement in what they have to say, completely explode with theories and ideas, and all it took was someone to spend a couple extra seconds listening to them.
It has also been fascinating connecting the curriculum that I’ve received at Beloit College, my own personal studies, and the programs I teach to children. The system we use to teach computer programming is a drag and drop button system, where the children also get to make robots, and then program them to do things from the computer. And, while the language differs, the children are making loops, and methods, and even recursion, all of these concepts that are sometimes kept for higher level computer science classes here at Beloit College. It’s led me to work closer with the franchiser of my area in editing the curriculum to address some of these higher level terms and ideas, in hopes to better prepare them for high school and college curricula.
I am also becoming familiar, in some ways for the first time, in working with a group of people who all have very specific skill sets, but are all equally in charge. The other coaches generally have other disciplines they are responsible for, where I tend to take the computer programming, robotics and engineering. But, for the larger classes we teach, many of us will come together and work together. It allows our less easily defined strengths to come through, personally, I’ve been surprised at my ability to motivate unwilling or frustrated students to participate in class. I think a lot of it may come from my age, being closer to most of the students, and also my willingness to ‘get down to their level’, as my supervisor said, and sit on the floor and talk out an issue, rather than giving an assignment and leaving, which is something I feel my social identity has uniquely prepared me to do.