Outreach Committee Goals
The GWIS outreach committee aims to engage young women and girls in scientific inquiry and expose them to real women scientists. Our programming focuses on a few specific goals:
- Exposing young minds to science as a career path
- Normalizing the concept of “woman scientist” to young audiences of all genders
- Invalidating the idea that a STEM career path is out of reach for girls
- Exposing under-served groups of youth to STEM experiences
- Giving our members valuable experience communicating their research to a general audience
Current and past outreach programs are described below. We are also interested in new outreach programs, and welcome suggestions from the broader GWIS community.
Current Outreach Programming
Sound Bites Cafes at Amherst Regional Middle School:
Once a week during the school year, GWIS graduate students present their research to interested 7th and 8th grade students during their lunch hour. The middle schoolers are exposed to a wide range of STEM research topics and potential career options, while the graduate student volunteers practice communicating their research. This popular program is a longstanding partnership with the science teachers at Amherst Regional Middle School.
For additional information on the benefits of this program, see
Bazilio A, Ryan A, and Welborn J. (2016). Science cafes: An affordable, easy-to-implement model that introduces young girls to STEM-related topics, careers, and role models. Science Scope 40 (3).
Girl Scout badge workshops:
GWIS volunteers help Girl Scouts earn a STEM-themed badge at Saturday workshops. Check our GWIS Facebook page for upcoming workshops. 2019-2020 workshop themes include:
- Junior Intro to Coding workshop:
GWIS volunteers introduce 4th and 5th grade Junior Girl Scouts to the big ideas of computer coding. The girls practice breaking down tasks into step-by-step instructions, learn about important code building blocks, and write their own computer program, while learning about women in computer science.
Cadette “Woodworker” badge:
GWIS volunteers teach middle school Cadette Girl Scouts how to use hand tools like hammers, screwdrivers, levels, and saws. The girls also learn about how woodworking skills apply to other areas in the broader world, and use their new skills to build small woodworking project while developing teamwork and hands-on spatial skills.
- Junior “Mechanical Engineering: Paddle Boat Design” badge:
GWIS volunteers help 4th and 5th grade Junior Girl Scouts through the process of designing, building, testing, and improving their very own model paddle boat. The girls also learn about why boats float, how different kinds of boats move, and how scientists/engineers solve problems.
- Cybersecurity Workshop for High School Girls
GWIS volunteers help high school girls through an interactive “Capture-the-Flag”-style mystery that teaches cybersecurity topics such as cryptography, metadata, and password cracking. This workshop is put on in collaboration with Holyoke Codes.
- I-Corps Innovators Warm-Up Workshop
Together with the GWIS Communications Committee, the Outreach Committee hosts an Innovators Warm-Up workshop led by the UMass Amherst I-Corps program. In this workshop, people interested in innovation and entrepreneurship can learn about a process for developing a successful startup, practice applying this process to example technology and ideas, and learn about the next steps if they want to develop their own startup. The GWIS version of this workshop is focused on creating a welcoming space for groups underrepresented in entrepreneurship.
Past Outreach Programming
Past Girl Scout workshops:
- Brownie “Inventor” badge (in collaboration with the UMass Office of Professional Development):
GWIS volunteers assist 2nd and 3rd grade Brownie Girl Scouts through a series of hands-on activities about the creative design process, encouraging them to think about problem-solving like a scientist or engineer. Activities include a paper clip transport “vehicle” challenge and a candy-wrapping teamwork challenge. The girls also learn about famous female inventors, and meet women who are student inventors at UMass.
Women in Engineering and Computing Day:
GWIS hosts a session about the electricity market, including an interactive game, as part of the the College of Engineering’s annual Women in Engineering and Computing Day for high school girls.
Eureka! workshops with Girls Inc. of Holyoke, MA:
7th and 8th grade girls visit the UMass campus for STEM-themed workshops, with programming developed by GWIS. This series includes both Saturday workshops during the school year as well as summer programs in July and August. Past workshops include:
- What’s In Your Water?:
This water quality workshop aims to demonstrate the need for the treatment of water to make it potable. Students perform simple tests on water samples of leaf leachate, as well as their own samples of water they bring for the workshop.
- Playing with Pill Bugs — Experimental Design and Animal Behavior:
In this workshop, students learn about pill bugs (also known as roly polys), a land-dwelling crustacean. Students begin by observing pill bug behavior, and then create hypotheses about habitat and food preference.
I Spy DNA! workshop with the Springfield Urban League:
Students from the Springfield Urban League learn about DNA and see DNA without a microscope during a GWIS-led workshop.