New upcoming local STEM program for girls and non-binary youth

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“I think we have chosen the right place to start the chapter and there is a lot of excitement locally”

A new group in Guelph seeks to encourage enthusiasm and engagement in science for girls, non-binary and gender non-conforming youth.

The Canadian Association for Girls in Science (CAGIS) is a non-profit organization that supports interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming for children ages 7-16. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2022, the organization has several chapters across the country, now including Guelph.

The new Guelph Chapter co-coordinators, Taigan MacGowan and Sadie McVey Neufeld, are excited to provide hands-on opportunities for youth in a variety of disciplines. Originally, Guelph was part of a former chapter with the Region of Waterloo.

“I think we picked the right place to start the chapter and there’s a lot of excitement locally,” MacGowan said, noting that up to 13 volunteers have already signed up, “Like, women in STEM from the region are excited to give back to the next generation.”

On October 1, the chapter will host its first event titled “The Science of Composting,” which will be taught by a soil scientist. After that, the chapter will meet once a month for a few hours during the school year. For October, the chapter will also look at the chemical composition and PH of candies.

MacGowan adds that the first event is free for people who register and that masks are mandatory. Parents are also welcome to stay and watch.

“It’s a hands-on activity that kids can learn and implement at home,” MacGowan said. “It can also be applied to broader environmental science, as we can talk about microplastics, litter, or why the presence of certain materials in the environment can be so harmful.”

“We wanted to start with outdoor events while the weather was still nice and this person on our team had a really good connection to composting and soil science, and we thought it was a great activity for start,” added McVey Neufeld.

MacGowan remembers hearing about CAGIS last fall and formed the chapter with McVey Neufeld, who joined in early 2022. She said programs like CAGIS can help break down stereotypes about who can be a scientist, by particularly where there is a lack of representation of women and not. -binary or gender-nonconforming science.

“Being a woman in STEM and studying child psychology, that was something I enjoyed, because I understand how children learn and how children socialize, so I understand the barriers that are in place, for girls in particular, who are entering STEM careers.” MacGowan talked about joining CAGIS.

“I’m in clinical child psychology so I also support child development and work for children and it seems like a great way to engage with the youth community and promote science engagement which was not directly related to my schooling,” McVey Neufeld said. .

“I think there are so many areas of science that are inherent in this field, which are really nice to capitalize on. We have the agriculture community, the food science and nutrition community, which is very broad, as well as veterinary science, I think these are things that kids may know exist in their area, but haven’t had a chance to engage with it or see it in action. “

CAGIS Founder and President Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko started the organization when she was nine years old. In many ways, she said CAGIS stays true to its roots, but thinks it’s wonderful to have people bring new ideas to programming.

“Both coordinators in Guelph are really great and they are exciting young STEM experts themselves, and will bring their own flair,” said Vingilis-Jaremko.

Vingilis-Jaremko adds that the programming offered by each CAGIS chapter may vary depending on the STEM specialties available in the region. There is also virtual programming for young people who are not close to a CAGIS chapter.

“In KW and Guelph there is a stronger technology sector than in other parts of the country, whereas on the coast there is more marine biology,” said Vingilis-Jaremko, “It’s always great to see the regional specialties come through and what each coordinator, and each coordination team, will bring to the table.”

To join CAGIS, participants must pay a membership fee which grants access to the events. CAGIS provides financial support to obtain membership. Residents can learn more about CAGIS at girlsinscience.ca.

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