June 19, 2013
For decades, educators have faced a gender gap when it comes to science education. Around the middle school years, young women too often received mixed messages about what science is, how it is done, and what their roles should be in science and science learning. And, this gender gap is more pronounced in minority populations.
To address this problem for three years now East has collaborated with the Warner School’s groundbreaking Science STARS (Students Tackling Authentic and Relevant Science) program. Warner Professor April Luehmann is the creator and director of the program which has been running in the RCSD for eight years, and two years ago received a 1.2 million National Science Foundation grant. At East, Warner master’s students training to be science teachers helped develop an after school program allowing girls to design and conduct in-depth scientific investigations. And this year the results were attention grabbing.
As a culmination of a year-long project, with the aid of professional filmmakers, twelve East girls produced a short documentary, Our Life. Our Meat. Our Story. The group wanted to know more about the meat they eat in their school cafeterias. During their investigation, the Science STARS visited a local slaughtering and processing plant; interviewed various nutritional scientists, farming experts, cafeteria directors, and family members; and explored the role that meat plays in their lives and the limited access city school district students have to healthy food options.
These interviews helped students wrestle with important questions about fairness, money, and family, as well as questions about being human and being wise. The film then wraps up with students summarizing their critiques and advocacy for better, healthy, and more-informed food choices.
The film was so successful it was aired on Red Carpet Premiere Day at the Cinema Theatre. Furthermore, it was chosen to be part of panel discussion at the Warner School that drew educational scholars from across the nation. In addition, the documentary has been selected as a finalist for the Rochester Teen Film Festival to be held in August — the second straight year the program has made it that far, a rarity. High accomplishments indeed. (This was also the second time this year a documentary made by East students gained widespread attention, see East student documentary premiers in San Francisco. To be shown in Rochester today.
Rochester schools, like schools across the country, have achievement gaps when it comes to the sciences. Here locally, Science STARS has planted seeds of scientific knowledge, participation, and enthusiasm in Rochester girls that will last a lifetime. We are thrilled to partner with programs like Science STARS to provide girls with the necessary tools to increase their confidence in science and their ability to talk about science and to pursue their science interests.
Watch the film and you will see why.