Founder of Rising Stargirls presents workshop findings at Astrobiology Science Conference

Rising Stargirls founder Dr. Aomawa Shields presented a talk "Reaching Middle School Girls From Groups Underrepresented in the Sciences With an Innovative Approach to Astronomy and Astrobiology Teaching" at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Chicago, IL, held June 15-19, 2015.

Part of the session "Astrobiology Research and Education at Minority Serving Institutions", Dr. Shields presented an overview of and lessons learned from the pilot workshop carried out with 10-15 girls at Irving STEAM Magnet Middle School in Eagle Rock, CA Feb 25-Mar 9, 2015. Among other findings, Shields presented results from evaluation and assessment strategies implemented before and after the workshop, in consultation with the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Responses to anonymous evaluation forms revealed that by and large the girls specifically enjoyed the creative aspect to the astronomy/astrobiology workshop, and would want to do more of these kinds of activities in the future. Whereas none of the girls had heard of the term "Astrobiology" prior to the workshop, nor did they know what it meant, at the end of the workshop, when the girls were asked to record what came to mind when they heard the term, they mentioned Mars and the search for life, and the study of life on other planets. The girls were also asked to rate their level of agreement from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree) on a serious of four statements, before and at the end of the workshop. The most striking difference in response was for the statement "I see myself as a science person." Before the workshop, only 20% of the girls answered with a 4 or greater. After the workshop, more than 60% selected a 4 or greater. These are encouraging results, and we look forward to comparing them to similar evaluations of future workshops.