Sitting around a large wooden table in the Pine Ridge Apartment complex in South Seattle, a group of Somali women works through an engineering challenge. Tasked with designing a tower to hold a marshmallow, many commented that the structures were similar to the huts of their homeland, 8,700 miles away.
“We are already engineers!” one woman exclaimed.
The women were taking part in a workshop made possible by a partnership grant that Techbridge Girls and the Somali Youth and Family Club (SYFC) were awarded to enhance STEM learning opportunities for East African girls in the Highline School District in Greater Seattle.
The grant enabled Techbridge Girls to begin building a direct relationship with the East African community, in order to recruit more girls from this demographic going forward to participate in our free, after-school STEM programs. The Race to the Top (RttT) grant also allowed us to develop a workshop series that educated Somali parents about STEM, subsequently giving them the tools to support their children in these fields.
Taking place over eight months, more than 40 women attended workshops designed to provide hands-on STEM experiences and resources for parents.
Facilitated jointly by Techbridge Girls and SYFC staff, the workshops offered topics ranging from the importance of diversity in STEM, to encouraging the idea of growth mindset. Workshops also educated participants about the growing computer science industry in Greater Seattle and introduced them to coding.
The series culminated with an opportunity for participants to co-design with their children a device that lowered a figurine to the ground as slowly as possible.
Reflected one Somali mom of the workshop experience: “My mind was closed but now it is opened.”
The program had a lasting impact on all involved. SYFC facilitators gained confidence in running STEM programming, Techbridge Girls staff began learning how to run culturally sensitive STEM family programs and Somali participants reported increased STEM knowledge and confidence in supporting their children in STEM exploration.
Techbridge Girls looks forward to using best practices from this project to develop similar programs in the future.