Keystone Science School hosts Virtual Birdhouse Build-A-Thon as part of Girls in STEM program | SummitDaily.com

Keystone Science School hosts Virtual Birdhouse Build-A-Thon as part of Girls in STEM program

Students learn about stop-motion animation during the Keystone Science School's Girls in STEM retreat on November 10-12, 2017.

The Keystone Science School will be holding a Virtual Birdhouse Build-A-Thon on Saturday, Mar. 17 as part of its "Girls in STEM" program. Girls in STEM is part of the school's initiative to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math careers by encouraging young women to engage in fun and challenging team-building exercises and hands-on engineering projects.

The Build-A-Thon is a collaborative effort between the school, SketchUp, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It is open to girls in 3rd to 9th grade and will focus on architecture and design, a field where women are particularly underrepresented.

On its website, KSS described the goal of the program as a way to get girls excited and motivated about STEM subjects: "By reintroducing girls to STEM subjects through journaling, mentorship, discussion, and a positive learning environment, the Girls in STEM program helps build the confidence that girls need to break out of their comfort zones and become leaders in their classrooms and beyond."

The girls will first be given a primer different local bird species and their dietary and habitat needs by Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager Elissa Slezak. They will then choose a local bird species and design a birdhouse based on that bird's needs. Instructors from the 3D architectural modeling program SketchUp will provide a practical lesson and demonstration of their program to the girls.

SketchUp will allow students to design and build their own virtual birdhouse on a workstation, look at it from every angle, virtually tour the birdhouse from the inside and outside, and use different color variations to customize the models to be their very own before production. Younger students will also be provided materials to craft a physical birdhouse.

One of the unique aspects of the program is the all-female instruction that will be provided by paid instructors and volunteers from the community.

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The school's director of education and program sustainability, Dave Miller, explained that it is important that young women engage with female role models in STEM fields.

"A lot of girls don't see people who look like them in STEM careers, and it makes it a bit discouraging," Miller said.

By getting girls to interact with female professionals in STEM fields, Miller said girls will find greater interest and confidence in STEM subjects. "We get female mentors who can help open the door, answer their questions, and just be a symbol to girls to show it's feasible to have a career in STEM."

According to the National Science Foundation, as of 2013 women only made up 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce. A significant source of that underrepresentation comes from the fact that girls are not given proper introductions to STEM fields.

"Much of the research shows that girls lose interest in STEM careers as early as their elementary years," Miller said. "Our program is focused on getting girls excited and curious, and wanting to learn more about STEM subjects."

The Build-A-Thon will take place on Mar. 17 between 10 am and 5 pm. There is a $25 fee for which scholarships are available.

For more information about the Build-A-Thon or the Girls in STEM program, visit KeystoneScienceSchool.org/community/girls-in-stem/program-goals or call KSS at 970-455-4235.