Summer Physics & Astronomy Camp for 11-13 year-old girls was volunteer-driven success.
Graduate students in Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy planned, promoted and ran the first Girls In Research, Leadership & Science (GIRLS) Summer Camp July 22-26. The fierce summer heat that lit Kingston paled in comparison to the blaze of activity as a flurry of girls could be seen dashing around Stirling Hall, learning and doing science. The girls, aged 11-13, spent the week participating in a series of laboratory experiments, projects, and activities that investigated some of the most elusive questions in physics from the nature of the cosmos to dark matter. Parents of the campers were barraged by the girls’ excitement for science each evening. Following a research presentation given to scientists and parents at the end of the week, one mother said,
"I felt the camp helped [my daughter] come out of her shell. She obviously felt comfortable and the experience helped draw out her confidence."
The various activities were designed and guided by a staff team of Queen’s Physics graduate students, all volunteering their time to mentor the girls. Dr. Erica Caden, research scientist at the SNOLAB research facility in Sudbury, Ontario, was responsible for training the staff as the GIRLS Camp teaching director. As Dr. Caden states,
"Mentorship has been shown to be a key influence on retaining the interests of young girls in science. All of the staff had a passion for sharing science and connecting with young researchers to have a lasting, positive influence in their lives."
There is now overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence that diversity is beneficial to the growth and development of physics and astronomy. The long-term implications of developing early interest in the sciences through GIRLS Camp was recognized and supported by the Queen’s University Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy, the McDonald Institute for Particle Astrophysics, and the SNOLAB research facility. In an anonymous survey, all of the responding campers and their parents said they were highly impressed by the camp, and would strongly recommend the camp in future years. Similarly, the funding partners have already expressed interest in continued funding of the initiative. Each of the participants received the Queen’s University Rising Scientist Scholarship following the camp. For more information, see IDEAS Initiative.