Yesterday I participated in the Expanding Your Horizons for Girls workshop at Montana State University! EYH brings almost 300 middle-school aged girls from all over Montana for a one-day conference in STEM fields. Twenty-seven instructors, including myself and other female scientists and educators, ran workshops related to our current research. My presentations were on “Unlocking the Hidden World of Soil Bacteria”, with the help of undergraduate Genna Shaia from the Menalled Lab.
I gave the girls a brief presentation on microbial ecology, and how bacteria and fungi can affect plants in agricultural soil. We talked about beneficial versus pathogenic microorganisms, and how different farming strategies can influence soil microbiota. This was followed by two hands-on activities that they were able to talk home with them. First, the girls made culture plates from living or sterile soil that was growing wheat or peas to see what kind of microbes they could grow. Then, they planted wheat seeds in either living or sterile soil so they could track which soil made the seeds germinate faster.
The girls were enthusiastic to learn, asked lots of insightful questions, and it was awesome being able to share microbiology with kids who hadn’t given it much thought before! If you are a woman in STEM, and have the opportunity to participate in a workshop or mentor a young scientist, it is not only rewarding but can make a huge impact on encouraging women into STEM.
Slideshow photos: Genna Shaia, reproduced with student permission.