Program Enriches Girls' Understanding of Science, Environmental Issues

The future is looking a little "greener" as more than 65 middle school girls are learning how to use science to make the world a better place. Seventh- through ninth-grade girls from Wilson Foundation Academy, East High School, and Freedom School have joined the Science STARS (Students Tackling Authentic and Relevant Science) afterschool program to explore the real science behind improving the environment.

The theme for the 2009 Science STARS program, led by graduate students at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education, is "Shrinking Our Footprints: Exploring the Science Behind Walking in Balance with Our World." This year's program will not only help middle school girls excel in science, it will also help them to realize their potential in creating change within their natural environment and their own lives.

"Girls' interest in science tends to fade at an early age," says April Luehmann, an associate professor at the Warner School who developed Science STARS. "Middle school is a critical time to build interest and confidence in girls' abilities to participate and succeed in science. We created Science STARS to help girls see science as relevant and enjoyable by giving them opportunities to design and conduct their own hands-on investigations around issues that matter to them."

She adds, "As this science is often very different from what they have experienced in schools, participating girls are given uncommon opportunities to explore real science and their roles in it, and thus possibly change their course selections in high school or career possibilities long term."

The Science STARS program provides girls with authentic science experiences that enrich their understanding of science, hoping that these experiences will help them to become capable science learners as well as give them a rich appreciation for the exciting role science plays in our daily lives. These young scientists in training will devote their afterschool time this fall, meeting every Thursday, to develop and conduct a series of original scientific investigations on the following green themes: Are some foods (fruits) better for producing fuel (ethanol) than others? Could a windmill be built for each school and the school then be powered solely using windmill energy? How does roof color affect the temperature of a house? How do different types of soil affect plant growth? How do common household chemicals, such as Comet, bleach, regular detergent, and an eco-friendly cleaning product, which enter the drain through the water system and into our environment, affect the growth of plants even after being diluted?

"We've assigned a unique theme to this year's program that will help empower the girls to protect the Earth's environment," Luehmann says. "They get to participate in doing science that both increases their personal awareness about environmental issues and makes a positive impact on our community and world."

Middle school students are not the only ones who benefit from this program. Science STARS also gives Warner graduate students, who are studying to be science educators, the opportunity to become better classroom teachers by helping them understand the unique skills and interests that girls bring to their science learning.

Science STARS is part of the Get Real! Science Project, a teacher preparation program designed to engage students in real science. For more information on any of the Get Real! Science programs, visit

About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education offers master's and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, counseling, human development, and educational policy. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its Ed.D. programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform.