Camp emphasizes science careers for women

There was a time when young girls may have found it difficult to pursue careers in science.

Thanks to programs such as WITS (Women in the Sciences), which are organized to teach and introduce girls to science and math exploration, those days are long since past.

The WITS Summer Science Camp, held every summer at Marietta College, is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program that gives highly motivated students, entering grades 6-9, a week of hands-on learning in math and the sciences.

This year’s 30 participants had a full schedule to keep them busy throughout the week. Two groups, divided up by age, participated in a wide variety of educational activities throughout each day. Hands-on classes in math, chemistry biology and paleontology were held along with two sessions on self-esteem. The girls were also treated to an astronomy lesson in the Anderson Hancock Planetarium.

On Friday, the camp planned to travel to Wheeling Jesuit University to participate in the Challenger Learning Center. There, students experienced the roles and responsibilities of being a member of a space shuttle mission crew and mission control.

One addition to the schedule of events this year was the inclusion of a design aspect to the STEM curriculum. Dr. Cathy Mowrer, Director of WITS camp and McCoy Associate Professor of Education, said the camp is moving towards being one with a STEAM emphasis, with the A standing for arts and design. Throughout the week the girls worked on a Bio Art project. The students created a form of modern art inspired by Georgia O’Keefe and plant cells, making petri dish art using pea and watermelon sprouts. Besides learning about what makes animal and plant cells distinct, students learned about mosaic art.

In addition to enjoying the various educational activities, the campers still had opportunities throughout each day to have fun outside of the classroom. The girls bunked in one of the Marietta’s residence halls throughout the week and dined in Gilman Hall.

In one of the evening activities, the girls visited Peddler of Dreams Art Space for Children in downtown Marietta, went on a walk to catch a firefly show, swimming at the YMCA, career night and a talent show. 

Career night consists of women in STEM fields speaking to the students and allowing them to ask any and all of the questions they have. This year’s speaker at career night is Dr. Katy Lustofin who has a doctorate in entomology, the study of insects.

For over 25 years, WITS has been a great opportunity for girls interested in STEM fields.

“The camp shows interested girls that they can be scientists too. It breaks through many of the myths that surround the field,” said Morrow.

Dr. Elisabeth Kager ’08 is optimistic of what the WITS camp can provide young girls and the STEM fields. This is Kager’s sixth year involved with the camp and second one as a counselor.

A Physics and Math major while at Marietta College, Kager continues to volunteer with the camp. As part of her work towards obtaining her doctorate, Kager studied the effects of camps like WITS.

Kager found that the community atmosphere that is forged while at such camps is very important in keeping girls’ interest in science and math. At a time in their lives when they are firmly developing who they are and what they want to pursue, many girls benefit from finding the support of other like-minded girls who share their interest in the sciences.

If the support and enthusiasm found from their camp teachers and fellow students helps, this year’s WITS camp may be host to a future nurse, surgeon, pharmaceutical tech assistant, neurologist, registered nurse and many more science-savvy women who are bound to make a change in their respected fields.

WITS was developed in 1988 to address a national problem of a disproportionately small number of females enrolling in upper level math and science courses. The mission of the Marietta College WITS is to foster an increased interest among middle school students, particularly females, in the study of science and the pursuit of scientific careers by providing unique opportunities for students and teachers to work collaboratively with college science faculty, practicing scientists and engineers.