Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 strives to introduce all of its students to various fields of study, and with an annual event, fifth- and sixth-grade girls get to explore mathematics, science, and engineering before they enter high school.
The fourth annual GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science) conference was held at Conant High School on Feb. 8, and area students participated in hands-on activities that focused on engineering, science, and math presented entirely by women.
"We're trying to inspire girls to not be afraid of things they may not have a lot of experience with," said Terri Busch, assistant superintendent for instruction. "If we can continue to inspire young girls to pursue and explore what's possible in engineering, math, or science, that could be a life changer for them."
The entire conference is taught by women, whether they are teachers in the District or in fields such as structural design, polymers, technology, geology, or mathematics. Female students in all five District 211 high schools also worked the events and helped guide fifth- and sixth-graders through learning sessions.
During GEMS, students attend a career expo that features professional representatives from 77 companies such as Motorola Solutions, Northwest Community Healthcare, and MAGMA Foundry Technologies. Career advisers at each high school invited representatives to GEMS with the help of Northwest Education Council for Student Success.
After, students attended hands-on learning sessions and presentations, such as 3-D modeling, polymers, forensics, Motorola, Kraft Foods, water quality, engineering design, and foundry workshop. During activities, parents attended sessions regarding college student experience, polymers, and spatial reasoning.
Since the first GEMS event, District 211 has seen an increase in female students enrolling in engineering classes. Sixth-grade students who participated in the first GEMS conference are now freshmen in high school, and 22.5 percent of students enrolled in Intro to Engineering and Design are female.
"In 2011-2012, females in all Project Lead the Way courses in the district were 13.3 percent," Busch said.
Busch said other factors in the increase include District 211 summer academies, and Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 and Palatine Township Elementary District 15's gateway to engineering programs. Those programs she believes will keep the momentum going.
"GEMS is just a great event for our girls, parents, teachers and our district," Busch said. "It's a great community event to bring professionals into our schools to work with our students. We're very please with this event, and it will continue."