Senior virtually teaches STEM to elementary students

Rory Wainwright, Editor-in-Chief

According to govtech.com, only nine percent of young girls show an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), creating a mostly male dominated field of study. Three years ago, an all female STEM club, under the guidance of then senior Sydney Padgett. Through the years, different advisors taught the club. This year, senior Bella Pignataro decided to fulfill the position.

This club dedicates its time and resources to helping young females learn more about STEM. They provide the girls with opportunities to not only watch and listen to a lesson, but to also perform hands-on experiments. Padgett explained why she started this club.

“I was excited by the idea of sharing and hopefully imparting some of [my] enthusiasm [for STEM]. I think that curiosity is ultimately the most important thing in academic success… I wanted to find a way to do that for other kids. A fun and interactive club seemed like a great option,” Padgett said.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the club must meet over Zoom. Pignataro caters to what the students would like to learn and what they are interested in. Pignataro spoke on how she chooses each lesson.

“Based on the results from a pre-session survey, I assess which general topics interest the majority of the girls. I plan demonstrations and experiments based off of that,” Pignataro said.

Pignataro can teach off of lessons that were used in the past, but she also writes her own. Now that the club can not meet in person, Pignataro had to find an ultimatum while preparing for each lesson. Pignataro explained how she provides each student with the proper materials to complete the lesson.

“The weekend before we meet, I package up all the materials they need and put them into personalized brown bags for each girl. I then drop them off at Bath on Thursday mornings,” Pignataro said.

Pignataro explained the challenges of teaching online.
“The virtual part is definitely a hurdle. The girls are great about it though. They probably know more about it than I do. Once we are on the call, I just walk them through the experiment, try to teach them the lesson, and answer any questions they have,” Pignataro said.

During the 2019-2020 school year, Abby Stumbaugh and Keri Tomechko co-taught the group. Stumbaugh commented on what the club was like before COVID restrictions.

“We would meet after school at Bath Elementary and do an experiment based on some topic within the STEM field. Some examples would be tin foil circuits or extracting banana DNA,” Stumbaugh said.

Tomechko explained how each meeting ran.
“Depending on the day, we would either go right into the activity, or I would give a quick presentation with some background information before we dove into the activity,” Tomechko said.

Pignataro explained why she enjoys teaching the girls.
“I love seeing the growth in the students. Their passion and inquisitiveness is definitely great, too. They make me a better teacher, which I am very grateful for,” Pignataro said.