For the longest time, I have been interested in education and how kids learn. I’ve obviously been through school and took part in after school activities, joined clubs and the like, but I never had to the chance to be a part of something like Girlstart, an educational after-school program that implements STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) curriculum by way of fun, hands-on activities for girls. I became interested in after-school programs when I first realized that the education system is lacking in several areas, mainly the fact that children have to learn for a test and have no real room to expand their minds and have a curriculum that accommodates several learning styles. I wondered if after school programs were something to fill the needs of students that their traditional education, unfortunately, was unable to give them.
Girlstart is a non-profit organization that implements STEM curriculum through fun, hands-on activities for girls in grades three up to grade 8. Their mission is to encourage young girls to participate in STEM, as it is important for school testing and other educational aspects, and to help build confidence in the girls that they can grow up to work in a STEM career. The Girlstart office (headquarters) is located in North Austin. People who work their include Katelyn Wamstead, the program director and summer camp director, Tamara Hudgins, the executive director, Ange Atkinson, the after-school coordinator, Sharlym Aquino, the program coordinator, Lindsey Rhodes Purdy, the development coordinator, and Julie Shannan the deputy director. These ladies together help keep the organization afloat along with other out of office coordinators and the board of directors. During my internship, I worked directly under Katelyn for Public STEM and duties at the office and I also worked under Ange for my after-school program.
The atmosphere of the office is very fun and inviting. Work attire is usually jeans and a nice shirt or jeans and a Girlstart t-shirt and close-toed shoes are preferred but not required. Employees are either working on preparing for an upcoming program, imputing data from surveys, arranging or attending meetings with the board of directors and benefactors. Interns are often members of STEM crew, which are the people who teach at the After School club, are found prepping for their club in the mornings for the club meeting in the afternoon.
My duties at Girlstart varied in the office and at the after school club for which I was an assistant instructor. My office hours consisted of inputting data from surveys that were administered at either after-school clubs or public STEM events. Entering this data is very important because it shows our progress, what we need to improve on and it shows our benefactors how we are doing since they are unable to attend our clubs and all of our events. I’ve also administered background checks on our volunteers for the Girls in STEM conference. One of my more common duties was preparing for public STEM programs that were upcoming for that particular week. This duty ranged from putting together individual kits for the volunteers to hand out to the kids or uploading activity materials. By doing these tasks, I helped keep things organized for the events and was responsible for packing the materials and making them available for the volunteers to pick up.
My duties for After-School club as an assistant instructor were to help my partner with anything she needed before or during club. I was responsible for making sure our bin was packed for club, which means, literally, our club’s clear plastic bin had all of the materials necessary for the day’s lesson, our attendance sheet was in the bin as well as the lesson plan and the career posters that related our activity to real life STEM careers for the girls to look at. Once we were at club, I helped by passing out materials, writing terms on the board, and assisting girls when they asked for help and my partner was working with another group. Whenever someone is the only STEM crew member at club, they administer the lesson, pack their own bins and make sure all the materials are present and that their girls understand the lesson. In the case of my club, my partner and I also tweaked the lesson plan to fit our club because of the time limit and the personality of the girls as a group. Every Thursday, the girls were always waiting outside the classroom door, very excited to start club. I could tell by their behavior during the activities that they enjoyed the opportunity to form their own ideas on how the experiment worked and when something didn’t work, they took the time to either redesign the experiment or simply write down what they would have done differently to make the experiment a success. They often asked us many questions regarding the lesson and if we ran out of time they wrote their questions down for us in their engineering journals, which showed they were curious to learn more about how different aspects of the activity that we did that day. My experience with the After-School club has been probably one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I had the opportunity to work with a great STEM crew leader who had passion and great care for our club.