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Girl Scouts STEM van making stop in Three Forks

The Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming (GSMW) is bringing their Mobile Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Learning Center to Three Forks.

The STEM van is scheduled to be in Three Forks on Thursday, July 13, at Bertagnoli Park from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The stop in Three Forks will be one of nearly 80 scheduled for the cargo-style van equipped with solar to power the myriad of technology available to youth, including 3D printers, micro-scopes, virtual reality headsets, drones, and more.

GSMW Director of Fund Development Briana Rickman is excited about bringing the Mobile STEM Learning Center to rural communities throughout Montana and Wyoming.

"Our original intent for the STEM van was to provide STEM programming to girls in rural and Native American communities. This isn't to say we won't be hosting programs in larger communities, but our primary focus is to support these rural communities. Having grown up in a small town in Wyoming myself, I would have been ecstatic to have something like the STEM Van roll through my community to provide some hands-on activities. Even though I already had an interest in science, I think it could have really piqued my interest even more," Rickman said.

Before she joined the GSMW during the height of the pandemic in 2020, Rickman said the idea of the STEM van had been thrown around but really took off once she became employed with the organization.

"I have a B.S. in biology and have always had an interest in science. GSMW is the largest geographic council in the U.S. (we cover 240,000 square miles), so I knew that many girls in our region were not being exposed to STEM in the same way as girls in larger communities. I knew the STEM van could help expose these girls to STEM and get girls excited about their STEM futures," Rickman said.

The first fundraising campaign for the STEM van took place on Giving Tuesday in 2020. After raising $7,400, Rickman said this gave her the ammunition to keep going.

"I applied for many grants and solicited donations from various corporations and individuals. Because of the pandemic, fundraising took much longer than I originally planned, but we made it happen," Rickman said.

According to a release from GSMW, one of the learning centers is to show possibilities, provide knowledge, and give hands-on STEM experience to girls at an early age.

"While more than half of the U.S. workforce is female, less than one-quarter of STEM careers are held by women. From their initial interest in STEM as a child to majoring in a STEM subject in college to pursuing a STEM career as an adult, the gender disparity needs to change at every stage of girls' and women's STEM engagement," states the release.

The second goal of the learning center is to address STEM "deserts" created by the uneven distribution of STEM opportunities across the country.

"Approximately 67% of the population in Montana and Wyoming is rural. This translates to hurdles that can include a lack of access to honors courses, high-level technology business expo-sure, as well as limited access to quality curriculum and vigorous and engaging math and science courses," the release states.

Rickman wants all girls, no matter their socioeconomic status, geography, race/ethnicity, or ability, to have equal access to STEM.

"I want girls to feel empowered to try new things and step outside of their comfort zones. I want them to know they can do anything that boys can do. This is what Girl Scouts is about; building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. If our STEM van can spark interest in just one girl, who later turns her experience into a passion or career, I'll have done my job," she said.

For more information about the project, visit http://www.gsmw.org or contact Rickman at [email protected] or 406-252-0488.

 
 
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