This year I am so excited with the behind the scenes and not-so-directly-in-the-classroom activities that have occurred at my school and in the library. One of the most exciting has been our creating a GEMS club at our elementary school. What is a GEMS club, you ask? Well, despite my well-known passion for all things rock, mineral, fossil, and gem, this is a club of Girls Excelling in Math and Science.
I’m not the first club, oh, no! GEMS is the brainchild of Laura Reasoner Jones. Visit the official website http://gemsclub.org and you will be amazed at the power at your fingertips. These organizers have put everything you could need there for you to download to implement your own club.
I discovered the GEMS website while Dr. Caroline C. Benoist and I were seeking a way to start a science club at our STEM elementary school. We wanted to include all the elements of STEM, but we also wanted to inspire girls to try more experiments and make science their career. As soon as we learned about GEMS, we were able to download their free guide, send invitations to girls in third and fourth grades, contact parents, plan our first experiments and hold our first GEMS club meeting within ten days. We hooked in another scientist Dr. Bree Hamann and my best friend/colleague/P.E. teacher/Biology major Deborah Weakland and we were set. I approached the principal for permission armed with facts and figures, stories of the importance of girls being involved in science and math activities for fun, goals, etc. but as soon as I said, “We want to start a girls’ science and math club…” She said, “Of course, go for it. We’re a STEM school.” I didn’t even need to pull out all the research and persuade her.
We’ve offered two separate four week sessions of GEMS to involve as many girls as possible since January. We have had 30 girls involved and the program will be expanding in the fall. We’ve conducted experiments with surface tension, ARC’s, catapults, exploding ziplock bags (chemical transformation), climbing spiders (friction), throwing eggs at the building (in their protective designs), and have been visited by the local STEM high school to demonstrate and show off some of the exciting things waiting for them down their educational road.
Along the way we brought in guest speakers at our school like Erica Grundstrum (Dr. G), from the Fisk-Vanderbilt Astronomy Roadshow Planetarium. She brought with her a mini-planetarium we were able to set up in our school library. I was amazed how easy it was to set up and take down.
Dr. Benoist and I planned a presentation for district school librarians so they could start their own GEMS club. This is available at http://tinyurl.com/GEMSofSTEM I hope that some of you will check it out and offer to lead your own GEMS club in your school library next year. We know we are making a difference because students are writing scientifically for the Budding Scientist journal, plus they are identifying themselves as scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. I overheard a girl asking her friend if she was going to GEMS club this week. She replied, “Of course because I am a GEM!” She’s right in every aspect of the word. I’m so grateful to be able to offer this opportunity to our students.