Women share the stars with girls in WiSE program

Carrie Kreisler

“Do you want me to tell you the long story of Cassiopeia?”


That was the unanimous response from the 20 girls in first through third grades who went to the Ames Public Library Tuesday for the Science Exploration program.

They had already heard the legends behind Leo, Orion, Ursa Major and other Greek gods and goddesses, including a brief version of Cassiopeia’s tale.

Tuesday’s program was about constellations – a topic that seemed to interest the energetic youngsters.

The science exploration program, presented by Women in Science and Engineering, began last semester as an outreach program because members of the club wanted to start a volunteer project.

“The Ames Public Library said if we came up with an idea they would support us,” said Jenny DeBerg, president of WiSE and junior in chemical engineering.

In the fall, the group sponsored a weekly program called the Science Olympics, which consisted of activities that dealt with various physical sciences.

The committee that organizes activities for the program chose to develop a theme this semester, concentrating on the solar system because it would allow for a wide range of activities.

Tuesday, 20 girls did hands-on activities dealing with the constellations. They matched pictures of constellations with their names on a worksheet; punched out Orion, Andromeda and others on cardboard; listened to the Greek legends of the constellations; and made up their own constellations.

The program will continue until April, focusing on a different part of the solar system each week.

“They have a lot of fun,” said Lynne Carey, circulation and outreach services coordinator for the Ames Public Library. “They giggle a lot, and they’re real high energy.”

“It’s a wonderful program,” said Linda Lehman, mother of second-grader Erin. “It actually spurred my second grader to do `research.’ Hopefully they’ll be future astronauts if they so desire.”

DeBerg said the group chose to work with girls in first through third grades because that age group is more apt to learning about science. She said a lot of programs focus on fourth to sixth grades. If girls haven’t shown an interest in science-related fields by the time they are in sixth grade, however, it may be too late.

“They’re learning about science, but it’s in a fun atmosphere,” said Diana Crosswait, mother of second-grader Camry.

She said there is “a misconception that science is dull,” but with this program, the kids see that it can be fun and not just for boys.

Francie Dunlap said the WiSE volunteers serve as role models for the girls.

“Little girls love big girls,” said Dunlap, mother of third-grader Kelsey and kindergartner Michaela.

DeBerg said the majority of girls attending this semester’s program also attended last semester.

“It’s a well-organized program and the gals in charge are really enthusiastic,” Crosswait said.

The free program is on Tuesdays from 3:45-5:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Ames Public Library.