09 May G.L.A.M.S. event continues to see increasing participation
The annual Girls Learning About Math and Science (G.L.A.M.S.) occurred Wednesday with over 280 female eighth grade students from seven different counties in Arkansas.
This is the eighth year for the event with more students participating each year. The first year saw about 150 students. Last year, student participation was about 270. Over 150 volunteers turned out with the students to the El Dorado Conference Center and South Arkansas Community College.
The conference is focused on getting female students exposed to science, technology, engineering and math career options in fields such as medical, engineering and accounting. It’s sponsored through the Madelyne M. and Edward C. McCarty Fund through the Union County Community Foundation.
The students attended break out sessions, with approximately 30 options, led by people in the industries. Each group attended three sessions throughout the day before facing off in team challenges including building a tower using only balloons and tape.
The event was open to eighth grade girls from Union, Bradley, Columbia, Dallas, Ouachita and Drew counties. They were split into teams of eight with a leader and a teacher for each group.
Students learned about the medical side behind dermatology, distilled Cherry Coke, built hovercrafts using CDs and made blood plasma. Anything math or science related could be included and all the presenters are women.
“The idea is for the girls to see women in fields,” Sylvia Thompson, director of the El Dorado Promise, said. “We have quite a few young women engineers in the community. We have one or two who have come to G.L.A.M.S. and are now presenting at G.L.A.M.S., which is really exciting for us. Anything math and science related is part of G.L.A.M.S. and the idea is to show them that they can do it or be it. I think one of the most telling things is that one of our main sponsors, she said ‘In 10 years, I hope we won’t have G.L.A.M.S. anymore because by that time you won’t even think ‘why couldn’t I be?’ because it’s just open to you.’”
Thompson, who is involved with finding speakers, said she has a core group that participates every year, but she’s also always looking for new women to be speakers. Several are professors at SouthArk, but most are members of the community who volunteer time to be a part of the program.
“When we have as many girls as we have now, it takes 37 teams, which means we need to have 37 sessions for them to rotate through,” she said. “When you add more girls, that means you need to divide it between more speakers and more sessions.”
Over the years, the program has grown with more schools interested in participating. This is the only type event specifically for female students south of Little Rock and Alice – said there’s not very much room to continue to expand. This year, schools had to be turned away due to capacity. Conversations have not yet happened about finding ways to increase the number of students able to participate.
“Not yet, but I’m sure when we meet somebody’s going to say ‘they didn’t get to come and they’re upset,’” Lila Phillips with the El Dorado Education Foundation said. “It takes about 300 people, not including the girls, to run this program.”
Thompson said the conference center room is almost full with students.
“You capacity out on literally how many people you can put into a room,” she said.
At the end of the day, students fill out a survey about their experience with the program and that helps the committee in charge look for ways to improve the program. They also fill out a survey before the day to help guide the student’s interests.
“We take those surveys very seriously,” Thompson said. “That’s one of the things we look at. We’ll have a meeting, probably June, we’ll look at what was the favorites. If we had a speaker who was maybe new, didn’t realize you need to do hands on, then the next time we reach out, we’ll say ‘the kids really like hands on.’ One year, we had a speaker come up and apologize and say ‘now I know what I need to do.’ There’s a couple people today that I’m almost positive were volunteering to observe and then next year I’m going to grab them as a break out speaker because they have great backgrounds.”
Michael Shine may be reached at 870-862-6611 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook @MichaelAZShine for updates on Union County school news.