June 21, 2011
One of the participants at Wooster's B-WISER Camp prepares to launch a rocket.
WOOSTER, Ohio — At The College of Wooster’s B-WISER (Buckeye Women In Science, Engineering, and Research) camp for seventh- and eighth-grade girls, participants wear t-shirts with a bold message on the back: “If you can’t find me… look in the lab!” In fields once dominated by males, this simple phrase is a way to encourage young girls to pursue their interests and demonstrate their aptitude in mathematics and the natural sciences.
The program, which was founded in 1990 by Lois Cook and the late Ted Williams (beloved professor of chemistry at Wooster), is designed to give young women a sense of confidence in science and technology by increasing their knowledge about the subjects. The camp counselors and guests — all women — serve as role models for the girls by providing real-life examples of people who have made science part of their daily lives. “To them, it’s everyday,” said Abbey Jones, a rising eighth grader at Dempsey Middle School in Delaware, Ohio. “It’s big, and ‘sciencey,’ and important!”
The experiments, which include building a rocket, making balloon cars, discovering what makes rice dance, and growing bacteria, are often ones that public schools can’t provide because of a lack of funding or equipment. Hands-on exercises like these offer a way to satisfy the students’ curiosity.
“I always want to know how something works,” said rising eighth grader Shelby Dalton from Rock Hill Middle School in Ironton, Ohio, even though it often gets her into trouble because she gets caught taking things apart in an effort to figure out how and why they work. But at this camp, curiosity is encouraged.
Mary Kilpatrick, director of the B-WISER camp, glows when explaining the purpose of the experiments, but she also knows that the camp isn’t all fun and games. “There are a lot of details,” she said, explaining the complexities of scheduling presenters, reserving rooms, and helping campers organize other aspects of their lives around camp. In the end, however, the payoff does come. “Once camp starts, the girls are so energetic… and that’s when I decide it was all worth it!”
One of the major challenges for programs like B-WISER is funding, but thanks to the camp’s sponsors, including the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation which gave $10,000 this year, the camp is thriving. In addition, ABSMaterials in Wooster recently pledged to donate its $25,000 Ohio Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Entrepreneurship award to the organization. As a result of this support, nearly half of the 61 girls at this year’s camp received at least a partial scholarship.
“It’s lonely in math and science for women,” said Dee Leis of West Milton, Ohio, who has been teaching at B-WISER for 22 years. She added that the benefit of a science-oriented camp is that it offers a place where girls can develop friendships to “ward off loneliness” and establish connections with similar minded peers.
- Story and photo by Libby Fackler '13
1189 Beall Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691. (330) 263-2000
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