INFORM & INSPIRE: MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRLS JOIN
THE BLACK WOMEN'S AGENDA, LEADING SCIENTISTS & ENVIRONMENTALISTS
IN EXPLORING CLIMATE CHANGE
In an effort to increase the number of African-American women pursuing degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. (BWA) is hosting a series of workshops that introduce middle school girls to the science of climate change as well as non-traditional STEM careers. Launched as a signature program at BWA's 37th Annual Symposium & Luncheon in 2014, the "Inform & Inspire" program engaged young participants in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Little Rock and Detroit in hands-on explorations of the threat climate change and pollution pose to pollinators, fish, wildlife and potentially humans. As part of their hands-on discovery, the girls charted the changing migration of the Monarch butterfly and learned how climate change has contributed to a nearly 90% decline in the butterfly's population over the last two decades. They also dissected bird feathers to observe how climate change and pollution are affecting birds, and conducted experiments that highlighted the impact of pollution on fish and other sea life.
During The Black Women's Agenda, Inc.'s 39th Annual Symposium Workshop & Awards Luncheon in September, girls enrolled in the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science and Girls, Inc. of Washington, DC examined climate change through the lens of weather. Miri Marshall, a meteorologist for Baltimore's WBAL-TVl1, guided the students through an interactive day of forecasting the weather, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy explained the principles of weatherization, shared conservation tips, and helped the girls construct and insulate a home using recyclable materials.
"Young people care about the environment and are willing to take action to protect it," explained Gwainevere Catchings Hess, President, The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. "In 2014, a nationwide survey polled kids ages 13-18 on their attitudes toward nature, outdoor activity, and environmental issues. Roughly 76% strongly believe issues like Climate Change can be solved if action is taken now."1
Introducing the girls to the wide range of careers available in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is one facet of the Inform & Inspire program. Another key component is providing participants with inspiring role models. Over the past few years, workshop attendees have had the opportunity to meet African-American women who are on the front lines of combating climate change and preserving the environment. This year, in addition to Miri Marshall, the girls heard from the Honorable La Doris "Dot" Harris, director, Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, the U.S. Department of Energy. Other workshop participants have included Dr. Mamie Parker a nationally renowned fish and wildlife biologist, NASA's Dr. Aprille Ericsson, Charisa Morris, former chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' (USFWS) Branch of Bird Conservation Service, now chief of staff for the USFWS, and Na'Taki Osborne Jelks, a 2014 White House "Champion of Change."
"A wise woman once said that if you free a child's potential, you transform her into the world," said Catchings Hess. "We expect great things from these young ladies and are confident that they will make us proud."