Girls Empowerment Network’s GirlConnect Pilots STEAM Curriculum at Two Area Middle Schools
Expansion made possible by Dell Youth Learning Partnership and Thinkery EdExchange
Contributed by: Lindsay Pease
Our clubGEN programming just got more robust because we are incorporating new STEAM activities and curriculum into our afterschool clubGEN programs. Six-week long pilot classes launched this spring at two area middle schools.
GEN was one of 20 Central Texas organizations chosen to participate in the Thinkery’s EdExchange program. EdExchange participants attended professional development workshops, experimented with technology kits, and brought a Thinkery activity to their campus or program location. Educators received this training at no cost to them.
Ally Miller, Program Manager for GEN, attended the training and witnessed first-hand how EdExchange programming complements clubGEN. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) encourages innovation and collaboration in order to strengthen individuals, schools and companies for the next generation.
“Learning to write code and use design thinking does not exist in a vacuum,” Miller said. “Problem solving and practicing empathy, two core concepts of design thinking, give clubGEN participants skills that they can use in every aspect of their lives, including the exploration of tough topics like media literacy and healthy relationships. The new STEAM-infused curriculum incorporates innovative approaches to creatively and critically examine these topics with their peers in a safe, fun atmosphere.”
GEN was one of only three nonprofits selected, and the only organization bringing the programming to an all-girl middle school audience. Training topics included Digital Fabrication, Tinkering and Making, Design Thinking, Coding, and Best Practices for STEAM Education.
GEN currently is piloting the program at Dailey Middle School in Del Valle ISD, and just completed the pilot at Small Middle School in Austin ISD.
Estefania Romero, Program Coordinator for GEN, saw how the STEAM activities enabled the girls to feel more comfortable sharing their views. At Small Middle School, girls recorded podcasts about what the term ‘beautiful’ meant to them.
“The girls began to talk about beauty standards and how they affect the way we look at ourselves,” said Romero. “It was a very inspiring moment.”
In addition to podcast recordings, girls at both pilot schools created stop motion videos. They launched into topics addressing friendship, animal abuse, and family relationships, among others. Girls chatted about current issues, while creating video characters from simple supplies like paper, pipe cleaners, or playdough. Next they created storylines and recorded scenes on Dell laptops and special cameras provided by the Thinkery.
The excitement of the STEAM activities really allowed girls to open up more than they do for regular discussion prompts, Romero said.
Elisa and Maritza, clubGEN participants at Dailey Middle School, really enjoy using technology during the afterschool program. The two girls are in a coding class together, but the class does not involve storytelling or addressing social issues. They created a video about animal abuse, and particularly enjoyed character creation. Both girls look forward to sharing their video with friends.
As a Dell Youth Learning Partner, GEN’s GirlConnect programming is committed to increasing the social and emotional health of girls through 21st century learning skill-building. Now in its 11th year, clubGEN continues to evolve its program. By participating in the Thinkery’s EdExchange, GEN is able to infuse more STEAM activities into their clubGEN afterschool programs for elementary and middle school girls. Next year, clubGEN will reach approximately 800 girls in 50 schools in five Central Texas school districts.
“STEAM-related skills have become critical in our increasingly connected world,” said Shelby Montgomery, North America Giving Manager at Dell. “The Girls Empowerment Network takes an innovative approach to engaging girls with these subjects within a supportive environment, and we’re thrilled to continue to enable the wonderful work they do.”
Carolyn White-Mosley, after school coordinator at Dailey Middle School, agrees. “Our school is proud to host a program that bridges the gap between STEAM and building healthy, self-confident, and collaborative girls. I am excited to see clubGEN’s focus expand into these critical areas.”