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STEAM Power at SGS
By Carly Reiter
SGS Science Faculty and STEAM Coordinator

My stepmother still recalls the time I took apart her blender and couldn’t figure out how to put it back together. I was 10. She had just married my father and was noticeably frazzled by moving into a house full of children who did things like take apart her kitchen appliances. Truth be told, I was the only one of my many brothers and sisters who regularly destroyed things (at least in this particular manner). But it was the fact that I was a girl that made this mischievous behavior so atrocious in the eyes of my new stepmother. Playing with tools is not exactly how good southern girls were supposed to behave.

The irony of life now has me getting paid to help 10-year-old girls take apart machines and put them back together! My personal story highlights our society’s changing view of women and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. As a student, I loved math and science, was very creative, and spent much of my athletic career as the only girl on a team. So why am I not one of the too few female engineers in the workforce? Well, I didn’t even know what engineering was until I became a science teacher -- and that’s after stints as a professional research biologist. My own experience has echoed the research that suggests early exposure really is key when it comes to increasing female representation in STEM fields.
At Seattle Girls’ School we add Art to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math of STEM to make the acronym STEAM. Art is a natural addition to any middle school STEM program, but especially important for middle school girls. They love art, and will tackle any project with a creative and/or artistic aspect to it. Take my recent foray with a new product called Circuit Stickers. I had been playing with various electronics materials in the back of the science lab for weeks. A few of the girls were interested in the old wires and circuits boards I had found and spent some time tinkering with the materials. However, when I began to stick copper tape on paper and add small LED lights into the mix to make fanciful drawings, many students began to beg and plead with me to hold a lunchtime electronics club so they could play with circuits, too. Stickers, and the open-ended nature of art, opened up the world of electronics to these girls forever. Those are some powerful stickers.
The majority of SGS students are currently immersed in our two-week STEAM Surge intensive. Some of the multi-aged groups are building architectural models of aerial houses for creatures of all kinds in the EWOK Village project. Others are programming robots to create art in the Robotic Picassos project. Many students are creating solar-powered, origami-inspired lanterns in the Solar Geo Lanterns project. And a few are working with me to tinker with (aka “hack”) neglected electronic toys to create kooky, electronic portraits in the Quirky Contraptions project.
The annual November STEAM Surge is definitely a highlight of the school year, but it is not the only time students are exposed to STEAM at SGS. At multiple times throughout each year, students work on STEAM projects in their regular Science, Math, and Art classes. They design toys. They manipulate images into digital masterpieces. They build hydraulic arms. They invent. They create. They tinker. They learn by doing. Many of our students even worked as STEAM experts and counselors in our STEAM Camp this past summer. All SGS graduates go to high school and beyond having experience — and success — with STEM projects. Of course, not all of our alums choose to go into STEM fields, but many of them do. And that is as great a measure of success as my stepmother finally agreeing that playing with tools is an acceptable (and dare I say admirable) way for her stepdaughter to behave!

If you’d like to experience the power of STEAM for yourself, feel free to swing by SGS during the STEAM Surge Showcase on Wednesday, November 26th from 11 - 12 PM (just before the Thanksgiving early release). These informal show-and-tell sessions will allow the students to show off their own projects, and see what their classmates have been up to as well. Please RSVP with me at so we know how many adults to expect.

SGS Sex Ed Info Night

SGS Parents and Guardians of 5th and 6th graders are invited to Sex Ed Info Night. Join Hannah, SGS A+W instructor, this Thursday, Nov. 13, from 6:30-8 PM to learn about our approach to sexuality education in 5th-6th grades and how you can provide support at home.



[Full SGS Calendar here » ]  

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