A Month of Geek Girl Projects with Girlstart's DeSTEMber
It’s easy to feel like the holidays are just about cramming enough stuff under the tree to make your kids feel loved. To help you fill some of those non-shopping hours with happy holiday memories, the folks at Girlstart created DeSTEMber. It’s like a month long advent calendar of science and engineering shenanigans kids can whip up using things you probably already own at home.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math; four subjects that hemorrhage girls once they hit the 4th grade. Girlstart is Austin’s answer to that. They offer after school programs in over 30 area schools, multiple week long summer camps, a yearly science conference for girls, and plenty of free community programming throughout the year.
“In December, it’s easy to either get caught up in holiday type activities or in the doldrums of not being in school,” said Tamara Hudgins, Executive Director of Girlstart. “It’s also a month when families have a lot of possible time together. DeSTEMber is a series of activities on our website that parents and kids can do to not only learn something about science but also have a good time during the school holidays.”
Each day of December, Girlstart will unveil a new science activity such as making green slime in your kitchen, using baking soda for propulsion, creating your own disappearing ink, or even making a homemade lava lamp.
“These are real science activities. At Girlstart, we don’t think there’s anything incompatible with pink and serious science,” said Hudgins.
In fact, they embrace the pink with a bright, pepto-bismol colored background and lots of typically girly things like step by step instructions on how to braid your hair like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games or create your own decorated cupcake photo booth. In between the fun bits, they also slip in profiles of female science and engineering role models, ranging from Hala N. Ballouz, President of Electric Power Engineers, Inc. to Shree Bose, a teenage girl from Texas who won grand prize in the Google Global Science Fair for her cancer research.
“Our real message is that everyday girls can engage in serious stuff that’s also fun,” said Hudgins, “Shree is a normal, everyday girl who happens to be really interested in curing cancer. Those kind of dreams are normal for every girl. They want to change the world. We want girls to realize they have the possibility to use science to do magical things. I think all of us can remember a time when we were younger and we wanted to do magic, but really, science lets us achieve those same dreams in a different way.”
Girls in the free Girlstart after school programs and the low cost summer camps have done everything from building fully playable video games to designing 3D printable objects and learning about forensics with a CSI camp. When adults strip away the boy’s only atmosphere of science education and make girl friendly activities, Hudgins said people are shocked at how much the girls excel.
“At our CSI camp, we had fourth and fifth graders working on a high school lab,” said Hudgins. “We were told wait, that lab is for older kids and we said yes, we know - so what? The girls love forensics.”
Girlstart hopes to keep that love going the entire month of December with stealthily fun science related activities. DeSTEMber kicks off on December 1st with an in-person holiday event. Kids can get their hands dirty learning about snowflake chemistry, igloo engineering, and gingerbread architecture. After that, they can come back to the Girlstart website daily for a new hands-on science activity to try at home.
“We want girls to have fun and experience new things that they wouldn't otherwise,” said Hudgins. “We also want them to realize they can use STEM as a way to change the world.” Today a baking soda can launcher, tomorrow a new X-Prize competitor.
Websites are no longer seen only on computers. These days, people access content on their phones, their e-readers, their TVs, and even their portable gaming consoles. Designing responsively allows for the website content be seen at its best on any device. In this class, you'll learn how to make a website responsive. We'll cover best practices, common design patterns, and code.
This two-class course runs the weekend. Dates:
DAY ONE, Saturday, November 10th, 12-4pm: We'll go over what the heck "responsive design" means. We'll look at examples, learn the basics, and then dig deeper into the technical side of things. We will review best practices and common design patterns.
DAY TWO, Sunday, November 11th, 12-4pm: We'll dive right in and build a responsive page together, from the ground up.
All attendees should have intermediate HTML & CSS knowledge, and should have a laptop with HTML editing software installed. I use and recommend Sublime Text (download unlimited free trial at http://www.sublimetext.com/) but any text editor will work.
About the Instructor: Sophie Shepherd is a designer at Happy Cog in Austin. After graduating from film school, she taught herself how to code and fell in love with web design. She hasn't looked back since. When not doing web stuff, Sophie likes road trips, running, and cooking.