Each December, the University of Waterloo invites 80-100 girls in grades seven and eight to explore the physical sciences at a free event on campus. They will attend two engaging talks:
- opening keynote speakers advocating for the importance of physics education and relevance to real life; and,
- a closing panel of current Physics students who will answer questions posed to them by the participants.
Participants will also attend two hands-on activity workshops of their choosing from the following list:
- Spectral Classification of Stars (Perimeter Institute)
- Crystal Connections (Dept. of Physics and Astronomy)
- Discovering Density (Dept. of Physics and Astronomy)
- Lasers and Polarisation (Institute for Quantum Computing)
- Vacuum Suit Challenge (Engineering Science Quest)
- To be determined (Ontario Society of Physics Teachers)
Lunch and a take-home activity pack will also be provided.
To engage young women in learning about Physics, to encourage their interest in STEM, and to provide positive role models for them as they begin to consider future interests and careers.
We aim to inspire young women in grades seven and eight, since this is an age when they have begun to develop a clearer sense of their interests, but can also be easily swayed by their peers and other pressures into abandoning those interests that are deemed abnormal or “nerdy”. By providing an experience through which they can celebrate their interest in sciences, and meet like-minded young women, we can foster pride in their knowledge and support for their interests, encouraging them to continue learning about Physics through their adolescent years.
As the United Nations’ HeForShe campaign recognises, we need to work toward removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential. The physical sciences are one area within Science where we do not see an equal representation of women. By taking the long-term view, and encouraging the interests of young adolescents, we hope to play a supportive role and keep these girls interested in Physics through their high school education.
To do this, we believe it is critical to provide hands-on learning experiences that are unique and memorable, and that will inspire the participants to continue their investigations in the physical sciences. With our keynote speaker, and a panel of current undergraduate and graduate students in Physics, we will provide the participants with role models, and with an opportunity to view themselves in such a position in the future.
Our intended outcome is to increase the future number of female undergraduate students in the Physical Sciences and in STEM fields in general, by developing a supporting relationship with these youth, now.