Typical weekend activities for most middle school students typically include family activities, outings with friends and catching up on television shows.
But last weekend was anything but typical for 230 middle school girls who gathered at Harbor Ridge Middle School on Saturday to dissect pig hearts, build submarines out of potatoes, watch a cat being neutered or try out a police-issued Kevlar vest.
The second annual Career and Pathway Expo (CAPE) brought together teachers, community members and students to explore STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — careers with hands-on exploration and engaging demonstrations.
Joy Giovanini, CAPE coordinator and K to 12 Highly Capable program coordinator for the district, is the driving force behind this event.
“Part of the design of CAPE is to create a safe place for girls to geek out,” Giovanini said. “We need to be able to encourage them early so they at least have those doors (to STEM) open.”
There are several goals behind CAPE:
▪ To expose middle school girls to STEM careers
▪ To encourage them to continue in those fields in high school and beyond
▪ To create relationships and connections with a supportive network of other people with similar interests
Part of the design of CAPE is to create a safe place for girls to geek out. We need to be able to encourage them early so they at least have those doors (to STEM) open.
Joy Giovanini, CAPE coordinator and K to 12 Highly Capable coordinator for PSD
This supportive network underlies the theme of this year’s CAPE: Find your tribe. Love them hard.
“Find the people who double your joy and support you,” Giovanini said to the assembled girls at the event opening Saturday morning. “Find people you can geek out with.”
She explained that these relationships the girls are making at CAPE are not only with their peers, but also with the high school female students volunteering, the community members leading panels and the teachers — dressed in an assortment of superhero outfits and capes — who helped during the event.
The community partnerships are an aspect of the event that really stood out as unique to Assistant Superintendent John Hellwich.
“It feels like it’s not just a school event but a Gig Harbor event,” Hellwich said. “A lot of people were willing to give their time today.”
To further tie together all the different relationships designed to help girls succeed in STEM, a parent workshop and legislative session was headed up concurrently by Diane Nason, Karen Anderson and former State Rep. Larry Seaquist.
The parents at this year’s talk were very engaged and eager for more interaction and information on how to help their children succeed, Seaquist said.
It feels like it’s not just a school event but a Gig Harbor event. A lot of people were willing to give their time today.
John Hellwich, PSD assistant superintendent
His biggest advice to them was echoed by his fellow presenters: Don’t stop educating so young.
“A woman with a Ph.D. is a blackbelt,” Seaquist said. “It’s not about choosing a career, but about finding an interest.”
The day began with keynote addresses from Anna Ahrens, director of the Child and Family Experience at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and Corrine Beach, K to 12 STEM outreach coordinator at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, who both encouraged students to embrace their uniqueness and challenge themselves with new experiences.
After the keynote speakers, the girls were free to explore among 13 tables in the expo session of the event with hands-on activities ranging across STEM fields from coding to architecture to engineering. Assigned sessions filled the majority of the day and provided students with in-depth information and activities ranging from health sciences, animal sciences and engineering and technology.
We’re trying to put as much in one day as possible. Connecting supergirls with superwomen.
These sessions offered the girls a variety of hands on experiences such as practice suturing, how to ultrasound a pregnant woman, designing a skyscraper, preparing animal blood samples and placing fillings in typodont teeth.
A workshop lead by Gig Harbor Police Officer Raquel “Rocky” Brunson provided girls with the opportunity to explore the inside of a police vehicle, witnesses a mock high-risk traffic stop and have an up-close look at the different equipment and gear used by the department.
Goodman students Karis Simler, 12, and Terra Chu, 12, where veterans of the CAPE event, having attended the previous year as sixth-graders.
“My favorite part was working with chicken legs while we were doing IVs,” said Karis, who’s thinking about being a pediatric trauma nurse. “Today when I was doing things it was pretty fun.”
Terra, who’s considering a career as a nurse or a veterinarian, enjoyed her suturing class.
A $4,000 grant from the Peninsula Education foundation, along with community donations, helped make the event possible, Giovanini said.
No one is born with STEM knowledge and STEM skills...As you go forth in school, how smart you are matters much less than how hard you work and how much you care. Do what you love and love what you do and stay strong with STEM.
Dr. Elizabeth Gray, emergency physician at Bremerton Naval Hospital
“People are so willing to give back,” she said of the community partners, who donated items for the girls “swag bags” or gave time to help with registration.
“We’re trying to put as much in one day as possible,” she said. “Connecting supergirls with superwomen.”
The day’s ending speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Gray, an emergency physician at Bremerton Naval Hospital, echoed the event’s encouragement for the girls.
“No one is born with STEM knowledge and STEM skills,” she said. “As you go forth in school, how smart you are matters much less than how hard you work and how much you care. Do what you love and love what you do and stay strong with STEM.”