Roller Coasters and Rockets after School

April 29, 2010

“I never knew how many things involved science.” —Coronado Elementary School student

The AAUW New Smyrna Beach (FL) Branch is proud to have been the first branch to initiate a science and math program for girls in Florida. As a retired high school teacher, I was anxious to involve my branch in the community. I discovered the chance in an AAUW e-mail describing a girl’s special program in the area of science. With that spark, I connected with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, which was already running a successful program at a middle school and elementary school in the Daytona area.  Dr. Joanne Detore-Nakamura of the Women’s Diversity Center at Embry offered guidance and leadership — and a great partnership for girls was born.

Our after-school program kicked off in September 2009 at Coronado Elementary. In each weekly session, girls are introduced to science and math terms and then do experiments together to learn the concepts in a fun and engaging way. The girls have “excavated” chocolate chips from cookies to simulate how natural resources like coal are extracted from the earth. Student leader Sarah Matiko came up with the idea to have the girls make their own roller coasters out of pipe insulation, tape, paper clips, and marble “cars.” The girls designed their own roller coasters, testing their ability to create more velocity with the handicaps of loops and hills.

In addition to having fun while learning, the girls also are exposed to young college women who act as role models and share their love of science and math. University student Jennifer MacRae hosted the first club meetings with the help of fellow student leaders. “We like our role models. … They are really fun, and it’s nice to know someone from Embry Riddle,” said one girl.

Since graduating, Jennifer has passed the torch to fellow students Onji Scott and Sarah Matiko, who plan to bring the science students to a grand finale in May with a launch of student-made rockets.

The program has met with a roaring success and the school staff, principal Jeri Murphy, and science teacher Liz Sokerka are looking forward to receiving more eager students into the program next year.

The students are psyched for next year — as one little girl summed it up: “We like being able to express our girl science stuff!”


The AAUW New Smyrna Beach (FL) Branch program is one of more than 160 collaborative projects for girls awarded mini-grants through the National Girls Collaborative Project network.

This post by Donna Cowart, former New Smyrna Beach branch president and creator of the Girls Growing program.

AAUWguest By:   |   April 29, 2010

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