STEAM may be the latest term to describe the integrated teaching of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, but as one of the first schools to teach science to girls back in the late 1800s, Oldfields has always been committed to teaching our students these subjects in an interconnected way that has applications for real life. An early student, Harriet Jones, writes of founder, Mrs. Anna McCulloch, "She showed us in a way most of us would never forget, the essential oneness of life – the connection between things, between our various studies, and between each one of them and ourselves." ( p.21, McPherson, Feeling of Family) While the methods and tools may have changed, the commitment to teaching our young women everything that one would teach a young man has remained constant.
Beyond offering strong courses in STEAM throughout our regular curriculum, two years ago a student Elizabeth O'Brien '17 founded the STEAM Club at Oldfields.Her mother, Valerie Sill P'17, donated two 3-D printers to get the ball rolling. The club is still going strong under the guidance of STEAM Faculty Advisor Michele Harrison. This past year STEAM Club trips included:
- The Museum of Health and Medicine where our students learned about careers such as histotechnologist (prepares very thin slices of human, animal or plant tissue for microscopic examination) and careers in medical illustration.
- USA Science and Engineering Festival where "dreamers, makers, thinkers, explorers, innovators, creators and star-gazers experienced a weekend of fun and discovery at the largest convention of its kind in the country."
- McFadden Art Glass Studio to study melting (pun intended) science and art together with beautiful results.
There are also plenty of on-campus STEAM opportunities from which the entire student body can choose:
- Popular May Program selection, Remarkable Robotics, gave students a chance to create and command LEGO NXT robots that walk, talk, and think with touch sensor, color sensor, infrared sensor, and 550+ LEGO Technic elements.
- Not only was the sheer artistry and talent of the performers in our spring musical, Hairspray! impressive, but joining stage crew and building the elaborate set with spinning platforms, jail cells, and giant cans of hairspray took both engineering and artistic talent. The girls did all the building and engineering, but yes, those are boys you see on the Oldfields' stage thanks to a collaboration with our neighbors from Hereford high School!
- Flight, another popular May Program gave students a chance to apply physic theory to projects such as model planes, bottle rockets, and kites. A visit to the Smithsonian Museums provided more interactive learning. The most exciting part -- students flew a plane at the regional airport!
According to the US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs. Furthermore, women constitute slightly more than half of college educated workers but make up only 25 percent of college educated STEM workers.
In order to close the gender gap when it comes to careers in the STEAM fields, we must do even more. That is why the STEAM committee was formed in the spring of 2018 to focus specifically on girls' education in these areas. Several committee members (faculty members Michele Harrison, Betsy Isaacs, Dori Reigner, Rachel Welch, and Dian "Jude" Zhu) attended two valuable conferences in Washington DC, the LLI Atlantic: Gaining STEAM and the Global Forum on Girl's Education. During these conferences, they collaborated with educators and speakers from all over the world to discuss the importance of STEAM education for young women. Some of the workshops they found most valuable were Virtual Reality in the Classroom, 3D Printing with Clay, Making Integrative Curriculum with Podcasting, Developing the Next Generation of Females in STEAM, and Coding in Math Class.
One very interesting workshop called "Engaging Girls in STEAM through Interdisciplinary Project Work" was a session that included a discussion on how to create portable innovation labs that could be used across various academic disciplines to supplement classroom practice in the fields of technology, engineering, and art. Our faculty were inspired by the techniques and concrete suggestions for useful ways to empower girls to take academic risks and more deeply appreciate the process of learning.
The faculty also was thrilled to meet Rachel Simmons, author of our professional development summer reading book Enough as She Is. She spoke about the importance of girls learning how to name the "imposter voice," the voice that undermines their confidence and holds them back from pushing their academic boundaries.
In summary, our role as educators of young women is to create a classroom environment which inspires confidence and encourages academic risk in all subject areas, along with fostering an interest in STEAM fields. Developing young women with a love for learning in all facets of education is essential in today's world.
Thank you to our new STEAM Committee:
Michele Harrison, Committee Chair, Science Department Chair
Carrie Hammond, Performing Arts Chair
Betsy Isaacs, Math Department Chair
Dori Reigner, VisualArts Chair
Rachel Welch, Network Manager
Dian "Jude" Zhu, Math Teacher
We can't wait to see what you have planned for us!