Expanding Your Horizons Conference for Middle School Girls March 12

More than 480 middle school girls from around the state are expected to take part in the annual University of Maine conference that aims to provide a safe and encouraging environment to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The 28th Expanding Your Horizons conference takes place March 12 on the UMaine campus and features workshops for students, as well as teachers of the 25 participating schools.

The conference is coordinated by the UMaine Women’s Resource Center with support from the Maine Girls Collaborative Project. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is the event’s Healthy Start Partner and the UMaine College of Engineering is the Fun Futures Sponsor. The Maine School of Science and Mathematics summer camp also donated to the conference. The event involves volunteers, including university faculty, staff and more than 35 UMaine students, as well as community professionals.

The student activities begin at 9 a.m. in Hauck Auditorium with a keynote address by UMaine graduate students LeeAnne Thayer, who studies marine science, and Brianne Suldovsky, who studies communications. The students will share their personal experiences as women working in and around STEM.

Throughout the day, groups of girls will be guided by UMaine students and staff through three workshops around campus. Two of the workshops are STEM-related, while the third focuses on gender equity and confidence building.

Topics of the STEM-related workshops include computer science, engineering, wildlife biology, forestry, math, physics, horticulture, veterinary medicine and GIS/GPS remote sensing. Students also will have the opportunity to meet and hear stories from successful women working in science and math fields throughout the state.

Jennifer Dunham, special projects assistant at the Women’s Resource Center, says the day is designed to introduce girls to new areas and future career possibilities. Organizers say they hope there is a topic for everyone.

“If just one girl walks out of a workshop excited, that’s one more girl who may decide to be an architect, or an electrical engineer, or a computer programmer, or a forester, who may not otherwise have ever considered that field,” Dunham says.

The gender equity workshop, designed by graduate assistant Ashley Burns, will focus on the stereotypes and barriers women face in STEM and beyond.

“Ultimately, we want the girls walking away not only knowing and possibly being excited about fields they weren’t before, but also having the confidence to pursue them; whatever challenges they may encounter,” Dunham says.

Teachers attending the conference will participate in professional development sessions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wells Conference Center.

The professional development forums will be divided into two sections. At 10 a.m. UMaine Extension and 4-H will lead a hands-on workshop that will explore how using the 4-H Experiential Learning Model can enhance student understanding of STEM. Participants also will learn about free resources offered by 4-H to educators statewide.

After lunch in the Bear’s Den, teachers will hear about how to bring science into the classroom from Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine and the Challenger Learning Center of Maine.

CEU’s are available for those who attend the educational forums. CEU costs are covered by the conference registration fee.

More information about Expanding Your Horizons is online or available by contacting Dunham at 581.2515, jennifer.dunham@maine.edu.

Participating 2015 EYH Schools City
Beech Hill School Otis
Calais Middle/High School Calais
Caravel Middle School Carmel
Caribou Middle School Caribou
Dedham Middle School Dedham
Ella Lewis/Peninsula schools Steuben and Prospect Harbor
Fort Fairfield Middle School Fort Fairfield
Fort O’Brien School Machiasport
Greely Middle School Cumberland Center
Hichborn Middle School Howland
Home school
Houlton Middle/High School Houlton
Leonard Middle School Old Town
Mattanawcook Junior High Lincoln
Molly Ockett Middle School Fryeburg
Mountain Valley Middle School Mexico
Orono Middle School Orono
Penquis Valley School, Milo Milo
Presque Isle Middle School Presque Isle
Reeds Brook Middle School Hampden
Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School Machias
Searsport Middle School Searsport
Surry Elementary School Surry
Trenton Elementary School Trenton
Troy Howard Middle School Belfast
Valley Rivers Middle School Fort Kent