Bacteria, Bow Clips and Circuit Boards 

I spent the first part of my morning in the engineering and design lab with high school students who were working on their second semester projects. One was designing in 3D for fabrication, another was pouring silicone to make a mold and many were soldering circuit boards.

Next, it was off to meet with our 4th grade students who had been studying bacteria. As part of their microbiology unit they compared the effectiveness of several household cleaners in reducing the amount of bacteria on a surface. They swabbed surfaces before and after treatment with a given cleaner, incubated their agar plates overnight and counted the CFUs (colony forming units) that had grown. They analyzed the data and then presented their findings to members of our high school research class who are working on The Small World Initiative Project - a microbiology project aimed at identifying and characterizing soil microbes with antimicrobial properties.

In the midst of this fun morning filled enthusiastic students engaged in STEM focused projects, my attention was drawn to the bow clips being worn by so many of the 4th grade girls.



Yes, bow clips (or hair bows) – so cute and fun! But what does a bow clip have to do with STEM? Absolutely nothing.   Some 4th grade girls like to wear them while others don’t.   In fact, the hair bows prompted me to consider this group of students. They were girls of different ages and with varied interests, experiences, personalities and aptitudes. I was reminded that even within our own (relatively small) school we have a diverse group of students. Yet, in that moment, they were all engaged in the work of sharing ideas, research findings and experiences related to their own study of microbiology.

So, from circuit boards to silicone molds to microbes to bow clips to spiky shoes (see pic -these are mine) it’s important for girls to know they (just as they are) have a place in STEM. There are all sorts of women (and girls) some like them and others who are not, working and studying in STEM fields. There is no one “type of person” who is successful in STEM. It’s wide open. We belong here.


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