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Girls Dive into Math and Science on the Big Island

Idaho National Laboratory / Flickr
Idaho National Laboratory / Flickr

For more than 20 years, a special program has connected girls on Hawai‘i Island with math and science. It’s called “Girls Exploring Math and Science.” HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has more from Kona.

(Sound) That’s the sound of more than 300 girls asking questions, and meeting with exhibitors. They’re all women--with careers in math, science, and engineering. Cindy Armer is the organizer of GEMS, Girls Exploring Math and Science.  “It’s a national program through AAUW (American Association of University Women)  Back in the late 80s after research about how girls were not choosing to take math and science classes.  Fifth grade seemed to be about the time they seemed to be making decisions.  The whole purpose of the program was a chance to see women that have careers that involve math and science.  This year we have 314 girls from private schools, public schools, home school, from Na’alehuto Honoka’a.”

Armer says the exhibits are an overview, but 20 workshops make up the core of the program.  “Each workshop leader conducts a hands on workshop for at least 15 girls, they do three.  We have Marine biologists, a geologist, an archaeologist, veterinarians, our purpose is to give the girls a chance to be a mini veterinarian, or a mini chiropractor.  They do some of the things the woman in that career does.  Two of the workshops are led by high school girls, all graduates of GEMS.”

Other workshops focus on careers in astronomy, nutrition, culinary arts, medicine, and computer science.  The girls were enthusiastic, “My name is Lana Campogen and I go to Kahakai Elementary School.  I learned how scientists figure out the amount of endangered species, estimation.“

Rhianna Goodspeed says “I go to Kahakai Elementary.  They got us energized a marine biologist was talking about sea lions.  Yes, I want to study more math and science.”

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