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St.F.X. to host girls getting WISE for STEM fields


Girls in Antigonish who are interested in the STEM fields are in for a treat in March – or rather, a retreat.

WISE [Women in Science and Engineering] Atlantic plans to hold a Girls Get WISE retreat at St. F.X. as a way for girls to get their feet wet in the world of STEM.

“Our mandate is to support girls and women in science and let them know what kinds of options are available in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields,” Sally Marchand, program coordinator for WISE Atlantic, said.

Something that makes Girls Get WISE particularly real is the fact that in addition to STEM-related activities, numerous female experts in those fields will be available to talk to girls about their careers, providing vital information on how they built successful careers.

This year, Marchand noted there will be a focus on role models that girls don’t see day-to-day. Rather than doctors and nurses, she noted role models will be from career paths that are more traditionally male-dominated.

“We try to get at least one engineer, and someone in a technological field,” Marchand said.

For the event this March, role models on hand to answer any and every question include a primary care paramedic, a mathematician, a chemical engineer and a chemist.

“They’ll be available for conversations. I think it’s valuable, because for example, growing up, I didn’t know what an engineer did,” Marchand said. “It’s a great thing for the girls to sit down and talk in an easygoing setting.”

The first part of the day is the more hands-on aspect of the retreat, Marchant noted.

“We start around 10 a.m. with a registration, have some opening remarks, an ice-breaker to warm up, and then we start going into the hands-on activities,” Marchand said.

The activities in the retreat are STEM-oriented and meant to build understanding of what those fields involve.

“This year, we’ll be running an activity where they design a roller coaster,” Marchand said. “They’ll design a track out of foam and pipeline and run a marble down it for twists and turns – that’s how they’ll get points,” Marchand said.

Participants will be split into two groups, doing two different types activities. After a lunch break, they switch activities.

Later, the conversations with experts will be run in a round-robin style, allowing for ample, but controlled intervals of time where girls can find out more about potential career paths in STEM fields.

“They sit at the table in small groups, and split up to chat for six minutes, and switch tables after we ring the bell,” Marchand said.

Jennifer Fraser, X-Chem outreach director at St.F.X., noted she is excited to help host the retreat at St. F.X.

The retreat is for girls in Grades 7-10, in an age group that Fraser described as, “starting to think about their future careers.”

“Even if you have a particular career path in mind, we always like to say, it’s great to keep your options open,” Marchand said.
“It’s a great opportunity to try some different activities, as well as meet people in careers you might not have thought about.”

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