Middle school girls learn about oil spill at USF Sarasota-Manatee

SARASOTA, June 7, 2010 – Over 150 middle school girls participated in the 2nd Annual Girls Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (S.T.E.M.) Summit at USF Sarasota-Manatee. The girls attended workshops, listened to a panel of speakers, participated in a S.T.E.M. Career Fair featuring local companies and got hands on experience in classroom activities.

Some of the girls participated in a workshop titled “Diving In: The Ocean World” and learned about the oil spill currently affecting the Gulf of Mexico. They experimented with different types of liquids to understand density and simulated the oil spill in a tub of water with a map of the gulf lining the bottom, then used different materials to try to contain and clean up the “spill.” The girls used materials such as aluminum foil and nylon from stockings to trap the oil, cotton balls and paper towels to soak up the oil, and spoons, popsicle sticks and straws to move the oil around.

The presenters of the workshop, Teresa Greely, PhD and Angie Lodge, PhD, are the Director and Co-Director, respectively, of the Oceanography Camp for Girls at USF St. Petersburg. “We wanted to connect what we are doing as oceanographers with a socially relevant event that the girls would have experienced,” said Dr. Greely. When asked about the girls’ response and ability to grasp the lesson in the simulation, Dr. Lodge was pleased with the results. “One of the things that the girls seemed to grasp immediately was how fast the spreading happened in their ocean simulations, despite their best efforts to contain the oil,” she said. “This helped them to realize that people are working just as hard in the Gulf of Mexico and that although the spread continues that the challenge is bigger than they would have realized otherwise. The activity brought it home!”

Dr. Greely has been providing S.T.E.M. programs for youth for over 20 years. “The significance of the S.T.E.M. Summit and similar events cannot be overstated,” she said. “Opportunities for youth, girls and boys, to experience firsthand even a glimpse of what S.T.E.M. learning and careers look like leaves positive and realistic perceptions of what is possible. Often during our programs youth refer to events like STEM Summit that sparked their interests in pursuing science careers and/or learning opportunities.” she said. Dr. Lodge agrees. “It is important that young ladies gain these opportunities to learn about future careers in which they are interested as early as possible, so that they can obtain the required preparation and make educated decisions.”