Fostering community through a love of science at East

Science STARS at Collaborative Conversations Conference, December 2013, East High (Photographer: Annette Dragon)

• January 10, 2014
Walk through the halls of East High and you will see security guards, secretaries and administrators proudly wearing shirts of their favorite team. Not basketball, football or baseball. Rather, the shirts celebrate a different kind of team: the East Science STARS (Students Tackling Authentic and Relevant Science).Now in their 6th year at East, a team at the University of Rochester, Warner School has been running an after school science club for girls in grades 7-12. As explained to me by the founder of the program, Professor April Lynn Luehmann, the primary goal is to collectively nurture positive identities around the teaching and doing of real science by creating safe and motivating spaces to take risks, try and fail, and pursue fascinating aspects of science – together.  Furthermore, as a component of the Warner School’s Get Real! Science teacher training program, Science STARS provides future science teachers opportunities to explore new ways of teaching science outside of a classroom setting. Over the course of one semester, these Masters’ students develop strong ties with their girls in small learning communities, designing and conducting investigations on topics relevant to them, such as energy drinks, texting and driving, and the chemistry of craving. The girls quickly discover that scientists are not at all the movie version stereotype: solitary white-coated technicians trapped in sterile labs.Twice a year the girls and teachers make their work public – owning their science in order to bring about positive change. In December, Science STARS present their findings in a conference called Collaborative Conversations, where both girls and pre–service teachers consult with family, friends, teachers and people in the community about their investigations. The pictures from this year’s conference  are testament enough to the shared joy and sense of accomplishment.

During the spring, STARS work with professional filmmakers to create documentaries about science topics by reaching out to area experts in their community. These documentaries are presented in April at a public film showing at the Cinema Theater. (For more on the 2013 video, see Budding scientists make cinematic splash at East )

Fundamentally, the Science STARS are as much about science as about collaboration and community. The Science STARS family includes the girls themselves, the East faculty advisors who encourage and teach, the Warner School graduate students who assist and motivate, the parents who crowded the rooms to learn about the final project (which is as important as the project itself), and those security guards who make sure their team, “their girls,” don’t miss a single after school session.

Hopefully, these young women will consider studying science in college and possibly pursuing a career in the ever expanding field. If so, maybe memories of being a Science STAR will be the inspiration. Tagged , , ,