Seneca Valley Middle School students finding an interest in science

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Mix baking soda, sea salt and a little water, and what do you get?

A simple and inexpensive facial scrub that will do the same job that commercial brands do.

That's what seventh- and eighth-grade girls learned at Seneca Valley Middle School's second STEM Fems after school session.

Not only did they make the scrub and a facial mask, they created a Scent Stone out of ordinary kitchen products and produced their very own pots of lip gloss, made from petroleum jelly donated by Sonneborn, Inc., of Petrolia, Pa.

Women from Female Alliance for STEM Excellence, or FASE, and staff from Lenape Technical School helped to facilitate the program. Andrea Peck, principal, and other teachers also were on hand for the activities.

In the hours of learning how to make the homemade makeup items, the girls were exploring yet another career path where science, technology, engineering and math come together.

Julie Smith, the eighth-grade science instructor, recognizes the importance of exposing girls to jobs in areas that were once held by males.

“I was a meteorologist for nine years, and I was the only female in the office,” she said.

Smith, now from Cranberry, had worked in many cities and that always was the case.

“I love the idea of getting girls interested in science,” she said.

And the girls seemed to like it, too.

Hollen Davinsizer, 13, from Harmony, envisions a career in the health sciences.

“I'm in honors biology, and it's really exciting,” she said.

Rylee Hickey of Cranberry seemed resigned to the fact that she would go into the science field.

After all, she explained, her sister is working on the human genome project at Harvard Medical School.

At age 6, Audrey Redding was introduced to the world of sparks and charges.

Now a seventh-grader, the Cranberry Township girl remembered receiving an electricity science kit. Today, being fairly good in science, her choice is to become an engineer, although she's not certain what kind.

Heather Simpson, a CAD pre-engineering instructor at the Lenape Technical School in Ford City, had come to lead the girls through the making of each product. She designed this Creative Cosmetics event and other STEM-focused camps for students from Armstrong, Indiana and Butler counties.

“Makeup is interesting to girls this age, and they're starting to wear it,” Simpson, an active member of FASE, said.

“Through this program, (maybe) they can see the link with science.”

Her connection with science began in the fifth grade when she decided to be an architect. Later, she graduated from Penn State University and worked in structural design and construction engineering. At age 40, she shares her science background and experiences with students.

During a specialty summer STEM camp for girls, students were treated to a full range of science-connected activities.

They dissected a sheep's heart, studied criminology, learned about DNA and made their own video games.

“On engineering day, they made a prototype of a convertible shoe that went from a high heel to a flat,” Simpson said.

Girls will be girls, but they also can be anything.

“I do science because it's fun,” said Jessica Corbin, a seventh-grader from Cranberry.

“There's a lot you can learn about science, and I'm somewhat good at it.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353

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