I meant to make this post right after we got back from the field trip we took three weeks ago, but I was fighting death cold 3000 and didn’t have the energy, and then I forgot.
One of our science teachers and I took 5 girls to a conference at Iowa State called The Road Less Traveled. It’s a day long conference for girls in STEM fields. They bring in experts from all sorts of careers – genetic biologists, mechanical engineers, computer programmers, civil engineers, and so on. The students get to select sessions they’re interested in, and most of them are interactive looks at what the career actually is.
It’s a joy to see students in a setting that, although still “technically school” as they put it, is outside the classroom. They become a bit more free in their conversations with both each other and with us as teachers. I felt like I got to know them all a lot better in the long car rides there and back, and they got to know me better as well.
When we arrived in Ames the night before the conference, we took them to Hickory Park for dinner. I couldn’t stop laughing when one of the girls asked me “Miss Mastalio, why are there fractions on these chickens?” in a panic because the menu gave 1/4 chicken and 1/2 chicken as options. It was a good lesson opportunity on how math was everywhere…
We all had a great time coloring on the placemats and chatting, and both Ms. Meyers and I crashed immediately after getting back to the hotel while the girls hung out in their rooms. (Like I said, I was fighting death cold 3000).
When we got to the actual conference, our girls were very nervous about going to the sessions they’d signed up for by themselves. We managed to convince them to give it a try after they enjoyed the opening keynote, and Meyers and I enjoyed a session on DNA sequencing that we were both really interested in, and then I met up with a friend who works at Iowa State during the second session.
When we got back together for lunch, I asked how their morning sessions went, and one girl said, “I found out I don’t want to be a computer programmer!” She was actually really excited in explaining that she hadn’t enjoyed her session, but that she had figured out a career that she did not want to go into through that experience. We had to put together a puzzle in order to get dismissed for food, which brought out everyone’s competitive side, including mine. The taco bar was excellent, and then after lunch we got to play a GIANT Kahoot! trivia quiz with everyone. Kahoot! is a favorite at Mid City, so we were all really excited to play with OVER 250 OTHER PEOPLE. I sent a snapchat to some of our teachers back at school to show how impressed we all were with the size of the Kahoot! and Mr. Schneider decided to put the code in on his classroom computer and join our Kahoot! that was happening all the way in Ames – the students lost it when they saw his name pop up on the sign in screen. None of us won, but we did place in the top 100, which we thought was pretty impressive.
One student convinced me to go to the afternoon block session she was signed up for with her, so we got to explore programming using the program Scratch. She was much better at the animation than me, and I was more experienced in the coding part, so we combined our efforts to make some pretty fun programs!
The closing keynote speech was pretty amazing – she spoke about combining your passions to find the career that really fits you most – how you don’t need to fit into a pre-made mold to find a job, you can find or create one that fits YOU. I think the students really saw how it followed the mindset we have at Mid City.
After the conference ended, we explored campus a little bit and had a photoshoot – including finding Jack Trice stadium open and sneaking in to take pictures on the field! The girls all had so much fun and talked non-stop about their sessions and the people they met and the things they learned and saw for about the first 40 minutes of the drive home…until they were all fast asleep in the back. One student said the trip was “the best day ever” and about three of them said they want to go to Iowa State now. (Don’t worry, I’ll talk them over to the UNI side by the time they graduate)
I think the conference is such a great opportunity for 9-10th grade girls to really see college as an option – to see some of the different things they could do and paths they could take, to meet people who tell their stories of how they found their path, and to start to develop a goal to reach towards.