Increasing the number of women in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — needs to start early, when girls are in middle or even elementary school. And catching their interest requires exciting and engaging experiments — like the activities at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Girls and Science Day.
The special event gave more than 10,000 girls the chance to meet women in science and be inspired to seek a science career. Many of the attendees already planned to do that, mentioning marine biologist, astronaut and engineer as their career goal.
To help girls go as far as their dreams, Colleen Carter recruited more than 300 professional women from a variety of fields to the museum, where they volunteered their time to demonstrate what they do.
From birds to space
Girls had a chance to net toy birds, as scientists do with real birds in order to band them and study their behavior.
"We actually put this little device called a radio track on them," field biologist Emily Snode-Brenneman explained, showing how researchers glue it to the bird's back, "and then we can track their movement."
That caught high schooler Annika's attention.
"I think it would be cool to do something working with birds because I've been interested in them for a long time," she said.
Environmental engineer Daniela Castaneda used glitter in a model that showed how the city filters drinking water.
At another display station, engineer Tinesha Ross showed off a computer circuit board from the International Space Station that needed to be repaired. She told one of the girls examining the board under a microscope, "Keep going to events like this and then you'll get to meet a lot of aerospace engineers in here, and they will help guide you to your career path."
Not all field work
Costume designer Meghan Anderson Doyle explained how the science of geometry helps her create a dress.
"We're going to take these two-dimensional ideas, so drawings and pattern pieces, and we're going to make them into a three-dimensional outfit," she said.
She encouraged the girls around her to attach the flat pieces together, so they formed a dress.
Budding novelist Kayla Mitchiner interviewed Carter about her reasons for organizing the Girls and Science Day.
"Well, first I'm a mom," Carter said. "I have two girls of my own. So it kind of is important to me that girls know they can do anything that they want to do."
Boys were also welcome at the event, despite its name, and, with so many opportunities in science, fifth-grader Lilly said it was OK to share.
"I think that boys should definitely try science even though it's girls’ day, cause science is fun. Really fun," she said.