Dr. Charlease Kelly-Jackson
From June 2-4, 2014, 21 girls attended the GEMS (Girls Engaged in Mathematics and Science) program at Russell Elementary School in Smyrna, Georgia facilitated by Dr. Charlease Kelly-Jackson from the department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education. The purpose of the GEMS Program is to increase upper elementary girls’ awareness of STEM related careers and nurture a lifelong interest in STEM subjects. The goals of GEMS are twofold: (1) Increase upper elementary girls’ awareness of and interest in STEM related fields and (2) Inform upper elementary girls from low socioeconomic circumstances, their families, and their teachers about robotics. The GEMS pilot supported 21 fifth-grade girls from underrepresented groups who attend Russell Elementary based on teacher recommendations and parental support. Students attended a one-week summer program held at Russell Elementary. Students and worked in pairs daily to complete the STEM design challenges and reinforce collaborative group roles and processes. Students had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with “real” women in STEM fields who were guest speakers.
The pilot study’s theme was Robotics. On day one, students were subdivided into LEGO robotics teams to work on constructing a robot. By learning to effectively use motors, tilt and motion sensors, LEGO bricks, gear mechanisms, and the attendant software, a new world of creativity enticed GEMS students to better understand “how things work” and how they can creatively influence and manipulate their world. Students used the Scratch programming system to create their own stories that combine WeDo construction projects with computer animation. Through these program elements students integrated virtual and physical worlds and shared them with others. On the final day of the summer institute students presented their robots to parents, school administrators, pre-service teachers, and KSU faculty.