Yacaranday Herrera , 11, (center) looks at Evelin Munoz, 10, (right) as their teacher, Dalila Soracco, (second from right) looks on while experimenting with a super absorbent polymer that is often used in diapers, during the Sally Ride Science Festival at Rice University's Duncan Hall, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011, in Houston. The event is aimed towards getting young girls interested in science careers.
Photo: Michael Paulsen/Houston Chronicle
Last week, many American girls were thinking about their Halloween costumes and trick or treat routes. Girls in Houston, Texas may also have been thinking about their future career in science after visiting the Sally Ride Science Festival at Rice University on October 27. The importance of getting girls excited about the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects has been in the news a lot lately. When the first International Day of the Girl Child was held on the 11th of October this year by the United Nations, the UN focused on basic rights that girls from around the world are being denied. Making sure that girls receive equal access to education was one of the key issues of this day. Even in the developed countries where girls received the best access to education women still lag behind men in receiving degrees and starting careers in the STEM fields.
Besides being the first woman in space, Sally Ride founded the educational company Sally Ride Science in 2001 to promote science, technology, engineering, and math education for all students. In an interview with Houston radio station KUHF Sally’s sister, Karen Ride shared that "Sally's vision was to provide opportunities for kids, especially girls, to re-ignite that interest, keep it going, have support among their peers, meet other girls that are really interested in the same things as they are, and to have significant local role models, women scientists, who are having a wonderful exciting life in the science in one aspect or the other." The Sally Ride Science Festivals have been held a few times a year on college campuses all over the country since 2001.
The festival is open to the public, but it is primarily designed to get 5th through 8th grade girls excited about science. Festivals include food, music, hands-on activities, workshops, and guest speakers. Speakers include women with a broad range of STEM careers. The keynote speaker for the Houston festival was Wendy Lawrence, an engineer and astronaut, who has been on four space shuttle missions herself.
Karen Ride says the point of the festivals is "to broaden the horizons of kids, and really help them dream of things that they can do in the future, in book or studies, and in their professional life. That they can do whatever they want to. As Sally used to say, 'They can reach for the stars.'"
Girl Museum Inc.