The program description on LSU’s website reads, “Wanted: GIRLS who are problem solvers, explorers and hidden gem seekers.” Episcopal Lower School students Lila Awad, Lilianna Latour and Julia Whitney answered the call. The trio recently spent a day at the LSU Museum of Natural Science with girls from across the area and some of LSU’s leading women scientists. From the smiles on their faces as they discuss the experience, it is apparent that the day made an impression on these future scientists.
The two fourth graders and one fifth grader love science. In fact, they are already hoping to have successful science careers of their own. Lila dreams of being a science teacher, Lilianna plans to be a neurologist and Julia wants to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. After spending a day among female mathematicians, zoologists and biochemists, the girls are inspired to make their dreams come true. “I got to see how women scientists make a difference,” says Lilianna. She says it was a great opportunity because it made participants see how important science is to exploring the world.
In the meantime, the students simply had fun with science during this special day. Lila reported that her favorite part of the visit was seeing the “biggest frog.” Talk of the giant amphibian sparked a conversation among the students about the organs and skeleton of the frog. The students’ eyes and faces light up as they talk about touching the taxidermy sloth and river otter. In addition to the animals, there was also the rocket launch. This was Lilianna’s favorite part of the day, especially when her rocket traveled 35 ½ feet.
The students unanimously report that they would participate in the museum day again if given the chance. The 32 museum day participants were chosen based on an essay application in which they had to write about the question they would like to answer as a scientist or mathematician. Julia hopes everyone will apply next application period. All three agree that writing an essay was certainly worth having the experience.
The science teachers also hope that more students will be inspired to apply next year. “This is a great opportunity for girls to get hands-on science experience outside of the classroom,” says fourth grade teacher Ros Won. “In our fourth grade classes we explore topics such as electricity and landforms, but when students can participate in science programs off-campus, they can see how the things we learn at Episcopal can be applied in the real world.”
Fifth grade teacher Nicole Engstrom sees experiences like this as an extension of the classroom. “One of our roles as teachers is to give space and encourage our students to take risks, explore, reflect and find their passion(s),” she says. “The best way to do that is by exposing our students to as many opportunities as possible without limits- breaking stereotypes. It's our job to empower all students to find what best fits them.”
Both teachers appreciate the resources available through LSU and the opportunities the university offers to a range of students. They are also looking forward to using the new QUEST Center next year to offer hands-on experiences for students right here on Episcopal’s campus.
Whether it is a day at the museum or an in-depth project-based learning experience, Episcopal students are exploring their world in preparation for their futures. Students are encouraged to think beyond the ordinary and strive for their goals whatever they may be. Their futures certainly are bright!
Was there a moment or experience that inspired your current career choice? Share your story below in the comments section.