Cincinnati Museum Center launches new STEM program to excite and engage girls about science

GIRLS (Girls In Real Life Sciences) kicks off Friday, June 8

CINCINNATI – Girls are getting excited about science with a little help from Cincinnati Museum Center. Kicking off on June 8, during the first Free Friday of 2012, GIRLS (Girls In Real Life Sciences) is a year-long initiative and developmental program sparking and supporting girls’ interest in science. But it’s not just science! We’re talking about all things science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related.

GIRLS inspires girls ages 8 to 18 years old and of all backgrounds, with an emphasis on minorities, by making science accessible, fun and engaging like only Cincinnati Museum Center can! All three museums will highlight exciting, hands-on STEM activities each month specifically for girls. However, these programs are not exclusive; boys are more than welcome to participate. Girls and boys who register will receive a notebook to record their experiences throughout the activities. Participation will be tracked in a database and points are earned to redeem free Museum Center tickets, job shadowing opportunities, t-shirts and more. Girls who reach a certain level of points will be invited to the annual GIRLS luncheon in March to meet local women professionals with STEM-related careers.

“I can’t wait to share my passion of science with participants of the GIRLS program,” says Brenda Hunda, Ph.D., curator of invertebrate paleontology at Museum Center. “More than ever, women are making important contributions to paleontology and other STEM fields. It is essential to not only spark an interest in STEM, but also keep encouraging students to pursue related education and career paths. This program focuses on providing girls the opportunities to engage in STEM activities and interact with women in these fields.”

Local women science professionals will be present at the June 8 kickoff event to discuss aspects of their careers and the choices made to help them achieve personal goals on their education and career journey. Throughout the year, GIRLS partners will present lectures, lead discussions, engage girls in science activities representing their career choices, and encourage girls to strive to become 21st Century scientists. The Ashland Inc. Advised Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Museum Center’s partner, helps to support this initiative.

“It’s exciting to see the formation of the GIRLS program at Cincinnati Museum Center,” says Susan Esler, Ashland’s vice president and chief human resources and communications officer and member of Museum Center’s Board of Trustees. “As a specialty chemical company with hundreds of scientists around the world, Ashland is proud to be a partner to help support this STEM program in the community and encourage young girls to consider a career in science.”

Does this sound like fun? Join us! You can sign up during Free Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. on June 8, or in Nature’s Trading Post next time you visit the Museum of Natural History & Science. Check our website and look for monthly updates with identified GIRLS programs.

Through our three outstanding museums which include the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science and Cincinnati History Museum, Cincinnati Museum Center encourages lifelong curiosity from early childhood throughout adulthood. Our ECSITE (Early Childhood Science Inquiry Training for Educators) program works with preschool educators from the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission Head Start centers helping them to become more comfortable and confident teaching science to their young students. Support for the first two years of the ECSITE project was provided by PNC Bank Foundation and the PNC Grow Up Great With Science Program, an initiative to help improve the school readiness of millions of children from birth to age five. Upon receiving new support from the Social Innovation Fund, and with continued support from PNC Bank Foundation, Museum Center has launched a successful expansion to include Head Start centers from Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency.

Museum Center is proud to have several inspiring women scientists on staff lending their expertise to these programs. You can meet many of these women on June 8 where CMC’s scientific collections and hands-on programs will be showcased for visitors in our Rotunda.

Tonya Matthews, Ph.D., Vice President of Museums

Dr. Matthews received her undergraduate degrees in biomedical and electrical engineering from Duke University, and completed her doctoral work in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She has taught and created curriculum in the biological sciences for Stevenson College, Morgan State University and Project Lead the Way. Dr. Matthews also worked as a biomedical engineer for the Food and Drug Administration reviewing products and research on neurological devices. She began her career in museums as the project manager for the biology and biotechnology department at the Maryland Science Center.

Brenda Hunda, Ph.D., Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology

Brenda Hunda received her Bachelor’s of Science with honors in paleontology from the University of Alberta in 1997 and her Master’s of Science in earth sciences from the University of Alberta in 1999. She received her Ph.D. in earth sciences from the University of California, Riverside in 2004. She is currently the curator of invertebrate paleontology at Cincinnati Museum Center, adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and part-time lecturer at Northern Kentucky University. Working within the Museum setting, she has extensive experience in communicating science to the public, working with the community, and developing outreach programs specifically targeting earth sciences.

Regina Hall, Director of the Museum of Natural History & Science

Regina Hall creates STEM-related programs and experiences for Cincinnati Museum Center visitors and educators. Even though she always found museums, science and math fascinating, she majored in psychology with the goal of becoming a child psychologist. However, she never lost her passion for science, education and museums. Her position as director of the Museum of Natural History & Science allows her to engage visitors in new science experiences while empowering them with problem-solving skills that last a lifetime.

Ann Wegman, Animal Resource Coordinator

Ann Wegman has a zoology degree from Miami University. She has worked at Cincinnati Museum Center as outreach coordinator bringing science programs to schools, and currently as animal resources coordinator providing care for the animal collection. She has also worked for the City of Forest Park as environmental education specialist developing and delivering programs related to environmental issues to the Winton Woods school district. In her spare time, Wegman volunteers in a red-shouldered hawk research study in suburban Cincinnati and the Hocking Hills region.

Tabitha Sellers, Exhibit Program Specialist in the Museum of Natural History & Science

Tabitha Sellers is physical anthropologist with an area of concentration on evolution. She studies the skeletal remains of early hominids and modern humans. At Cincinnati Museum Center, you can find her leading hands-on science programs in the Museum of Natural History & Science.

Karen Venetian, Director of School Programs

Karen Venetian has a Bachelor’s of Fine Art with her degree in industrial/graphic design from Rochester Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, she worked as a creative toy designer for Fisher-Price Toys where each designer was required to construct their designs using all of the STEM methods. She is the creator and holds the patent for the Fisher-Price School House toy. Currently, as the director of school programs at Museum Center, Venetian has created STEM workshops for Head Start teachers and is working on a STEM-based Fundamental of Inquiry Teacher Workshop Series to be given in the building as well as off site.

Jennifer Bishop, Manager of Learning Labs

Jennifer Bishop received her Bachelor’s of Arts in elementary education from Hanover College. At Cincinnati Museum Center, she develops and teaches Learning Labs. Learning Labs are special classes thatschools participate in to further expand on their museum experience by focusing in on a topic which includes STEM-related programming.

Amanda Bishop, Coordinator of School Programs

Amanda Bishop has a degree in earth and space science education. In her role as coordinator of school programs at CMC, she develops exciting STEM-based Learning Labs for visiting school groups and home school students, creates the educator guides for our special exhibits and even helps out with our Dinosaur Field School and Bat Flight programs.

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