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Grant to help club inspire girls to stick with STEM

Jennifer Morlan | Nov 13, 2019

Girls conduct science experiments at the Girls Inc. chapter in Meriden, Connecticut.

In elementary school, girls are as interested as boys in math and science. But by middle school, many of the same girls who loved doing equations and experiments are losing interest in these topics.  

The reasons are varied — from a lack of support and role models to peer pressure and not understanding what STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) fields look like in the real world. The impact is long-lasting. Women account for only 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering, physics and computer science, according to U.S. labor and education reports, even though 60 percent of all college graduates are women.

But one Kiwanis club is removing some of the barriers that keep girls from exploring STEM fields.

The Kiwanis Club of Meriden, Connecticut, recently received a grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund that will help it create a STEM lab at the local Girls Inc. chapter, which serves about 1,000 girls each year in grades kindergarten through high school.

Girls conduct science experiments at the Girls Inc. chapter in Meriden, Connecticut. The two groups have a history of working together. So, when Michelle Bourdeau, the executive director of the Meriden Girls Inc., learned the club was looking for a new project, she knew the STEM lab would be a good fit.  

Girls Inc. wanted to offer hands-on programming to encourage curiosity about STEM-related career possibilities, said Bourdeau, who is also a member of the Meriden Kiwanis club.  

“Girls need to know they have the value, confidence and intelligence to move themselves into sciences and dream big,” Bourdeau said. “We need to encourage girls be part of what has been male dominated.”

The money will be used to transform a computer lab into a STEM space with iPads and interactive smart boards that will allow the girls to use engineering and technology apps. They will follow 10-week curriculums with activities such as coding or even digital dissection.  

Through these activities the girls will explore, ask questions and solve problems – all skills that will help them see STEM fields, which typically provide higher salaries and more opportunities, as realistic career options.

Meriden club President Joan Kilby said the STEM lab is a perfect fit for her club. Kiwanis members were looking for a project they could support financially now and in the future.

In addition to the Children’s Fund grant, the club received a grant from the Kiwanis Foundation of New England to augment the money the club had raised.

“We learned a lot going through the grant process,” Kilby said. “We’d always just relied on fundraisers. It’s great to know there are other ways to help fund important projects.”

Go to kiwanischildrensfund.org/give to learn how you can support Kiwanis projects around the world or visit kiwanischildrensfund.org/clubgrants to learn how to apply for a grant.

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