Full STEM ahead!

Blog contribution by Kevin Gunn, Department Head of Vega’s Boating and Small Crafts department. Kevin is a High School teacher at Ursuline Academy of New Orleans.

Due to the shortage in qualified candidates to work in science, technology and engineering fields, developing a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program has become the focus of many schools in the United States. Teaching STEM in an all-girls environment is especially important, “Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce” (National Girls Collaborative Project). Getting girls excited about STEM is a crucial step in eliminating the gender gap in the American workforce.

As a teacher, I fully understand that summer camp is not school, nor should it be. Camp Vega does offer a tremendous opportunity for our girls to learn about STEM while having a great time in a summer camp environment. Last summer I implemented Reach, U.S. Sailing’s STEM Education Initiative during coach’s period at Small Crafts. The Reach program is specifically designed to teach kids about STEM in a fun manner, through sailing and being on the water! The girls that participated learned about buoyancy by designing model boats out of clay. They then tested the buoyancy of their boats by seeing how many marbles their boats could float. They had the opportunity to alter their designs based on their observations. Once they mastered the principles of buoyancy, they implemented their understanding by designing and building boats they could actually get in made out of only cardboard and duct tape and then raced them across the swim lanes.

img_5347Last summer’s program was a great success, but we were limited in what we could do with the limited amount of time during coach’s period. This summer, STEM will be offered during an activity period. Girl’s that sign up for STEM will get to design and build a variety of projects, including home-made anemometers (wind measuring instruments), their own sails that they will be able to use on one of the Vega sailboats, and of course cardboard boats among many other exciting projects. I am really excited about helping the Vega girls have fun with STEM!

Learn more about Reach here: http://reach.ussailing.org/