Noyce Scholars Lead SMART Girls Club at Culler Middle School
On Thursday, February 20th, Doane's Noyce scholars, Victoria Gress and Olivia DeFord, led the SMART Girls club meeting at Culler Middle School in Lincoln. SMART Girls is an after-school program developed by the YWCA where girls can "explore science and math fields and activities in a supportive environment". Doane University's Project SERVE began the partnership with the YWCA this year to provide new opportunities for Noyce scholars to develop their teaching skills and share their passion for science, technology, and math. There are around 10 girls who meet each week for the club at Culler. You can find more information about the SMART Girls program at https://www.ywcalincoln.org/programs_services/smart_girls_club/
We began the club meeting with a team-building exercise called the "Focus Ring". This activity uses a short PVC tube with ten long strings attached. A tennis ball is placed on the tube in the middle. Each team member is responsible for controlling a string to keep the ball balanced. We had a great conversation about how maintaining the proper tension on the strings keeps the tube perpendicular to the floor, allowing the ball to remain in place. The group had to learn to work together to move the ball to our goal and place the object in a box across the room without dropping it. The girls were able to complete the operation successfully on their first try!
After the team-building exercise, we taught the girls how the human hand works. We discussed different parts of the hand, such as bones, tendons, muscles, and joints. For a "hands-on" activity, we built working models using cardboard, straws, and string. As we built the models, we talked about how the different parts work together to accomplish tasks. The cardboard represented the bones, giving our model hand structure. The straws simulated tendon sheaths as they guided and protected the string and kept them attached to the cardboard. The string imitated the tendons that pull on the bones and make the fingers bend.
After completing our projects, we talked about how learning the anatomy of the hand and making our models could be useful in practical, real-world applications. The girls brought up examples like surgeons who repair injured hands, technicians who make prosthetics, and biomechanical engineers who are developing complex robot hands. We agreed that these technologies already help many people lead significantly better lives, and will continue to improve in the future.
We loved meeting the SMART Girls at Culler Middle School, and the lessons and activities went well. We are looking forward to interacting with these students again in the coming weeks. Each of the undergraduate Noyce scholars has been paired with a SMART Girls club member at Culler in a mentoring relationship for the rest of the semester. The plan is to meet one-on-one with our students a couple of times a month to discuss different aspects of STEM. These discussions will center around whatever topics our mentees want to explore. Through engaging activities and meaningful lessons, the Noyce scholars in Project SERVE are hoping to encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers!