SUMMIT, NJ - What do bouncing bubbles, elephant toothpaste and lava lamps have in common? They are all among some of the hands-on science experiments performed in Supernovas, an after school program designed for girls, by girls, and funded by the Summit Educational Foundation (SEF).
The SEF grant helped Summit High School juniors Anne Mikkelsen and Margo Reigle develop and implement an after school science program for fourth and fifth grade girls at Brayton Elementary. The 12 girls in the program meet every Tuesday after school, for six weeks, to perform experiments led by Mikkelsen and Reigle that demonstrate different science topics. The students perform the experiments, and then discuss the results and the science behind those results. In addition to performing the experiments, the girls discuss notable female scientists, including biophysicist Rosalind Franklin and astronaut Sally Ride, to name a few.
Mikkelsen and Reigle have always been very interested in the sciences. Mikkelsen wants to be a science teacher, and Reigle would like to be a biomedical engineer. They were inspired to teach the class when they noticed that the male-to-female ratio at an engineering college they were researching was 70-30%. “We found a study that showed that there tends to be an even number of boys and girls that are interested in science through fourth or fifth grade, and the loss of interest in females does not occur until later on. We realized that children are most impressionable at this age and, if we were able to show these girls how fascinating science is, and how much opportunity there is for them in that field, it could encourage them to take advantage of the science related opportunities that exist in their future academic endeavors,” explains Reigle.
As Brayton alumnae themselves, they thought it would be a natural fit to teach the program there. With the support of Brayton principal Dr. Cheryl Moretz, they applied for, and received, the SEF grant to implement the program. "The most rewarding thing for me regarding Supernovas is the fact that two of our very own Brayton alumni were eager to come back to our school to provide such a wonderful experience for our girls,” adds Moretz.
"It's so rewarding to watch the girls share our interest in science while doing these experiments. To think that we might be a part of developing their passion for science makes everything worth it," says Reigle. Mikkelsen adds, "It’s been amazing to see our idea turn into an actual after-school program. My favorite part is seeing the girls get as excited about the experiments as I am. We really hope to continue this program in the future."
Students also share their enthusiasm. “It's really great that they have this just for girls,and it’s a lot of fun because teenagers teach it and I love science!,” said fourth grader Maddie Busam.
For more information about SEF, visit www.sefnj.org.