No matter where you live or how much time you have to give, you can make an impact. This is especially true when it comes to one of my passions: getting more girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
I recently planned a "STEM Day for Girls" to help make a difference where I live. We invited 30 freshmen girls from the Ferguson-Florissant School District to our office in Bridgeton, Missouri. Our goal, and one of the goals of AT&T Aspire, was to encourage these girls to consider careers in STEM by exposing them to a cool and fun industry they didn't know much about. While our "STEM Day for Girls" needed a lot of volunteers, it didn't require a large budget to make an impact. In fact, we used a format that anyone, anywhere could easily replicate.
To give you an idea of how the day went, we assigned small groups of two or three girls to a volunteer, and put them in three larger groups that rotated together. After an initial presentation, the girls cycled through our STEM stations. One station was a brilliant introduction to coding called, "Hour of Code." In our follow-up survey, 93 percent said they were "moderately to extremely likely" to try more programming on their own or by taking classes in the future.
Another station was the "Engineering Challenge." This station gave the girls one piece of paper, 12 inches of masking tape and scissors. Each team got five minutes to start building a structure, and a little later, we gave them more supplies -- and 10 more minutes to build. The team with the tallest structure won a gift card for lunch. Watching them work together and compete was a lot of fun! These are only a couple examples of the types of eye-opening tasks anyone could use to challenge young folks to complete.
Here are four reasons you should dedicate one day towards the future generation of girls in STEM:
1. Pay it forward -- with a twist. Mentoring has a positive impact on volunteers, as much as or more than those they mentor. Employees can take that spark back to the job.
2. Make a big impact with a small budget. Choose low-cost activities that kick-start imagination and work well.
3. Get girls thinking about their future. Girls at our event said they wanted to change the statistics of women in STEM, help people, and earn a high salary out of college.
4. It only takes a day. Before our STEM day, only 48 percent of the girls were interested in STEM. Afterward, the girls' collective interest in STEM climbed to 75 percent. That's a big difference for a small amount of time invested!
So grab some co-workers, brainstorm some simple but smart "STEM Stations," and open up your doors to these eager young minds. Who knows? You might be meeting a future co-worker!