Springfield, Ohio - Girl Scouts Science Night held recently at Wittenberg University was not a typical Saturday evening for the girls of the Buckeye Trails Council and their families.
The usual movies, ballgames and parties were instead replaced by such unusual activities as a trip to a meadow with Wittenberg astronomy expert Dan Fleisch to view Jupiter and Mars, and learning about advanced math with humorous stories by John Whitaker of the mathematics faculty.
Astronomy and math were just two of the many subjects taught to the 300 Girl Scouts as young as first grade and their families from Dayton and Springfield who attended the event. This year's attendance nearly doubled that of 2001, with a capacity crowd participating. The other classes were in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics.
Started in 2001 by Mike Crotty, Wittenberg class of 2002, and father of three girl scouts, the program is the brainchild of Crotty's experience with his daughters. One night he took his children out to see the stars with Prof. Fleisch and the Wittenberg Astronomy Club when he saw the enthusiasm the girls showed for star-gazing. Crotty proposed an astronomy event for the troop but Fleisch suggested that the event encompass other areas of science as well. Crotty subsequently approached Wittenberg's other science departments - all of which enthusiastically supported the idea.
The event then came together as a way to "get girls interested in science." Crotty believes that too often girls are persuaded to look into non-scientific areas of study. He envisioned an event that would provide the girls with a fun introduction to all the possibilities the world of science has to offer.
Female students in the Wittenberg science department were more than willing to help make this introduction a successful one. Not only did the students help lead group instruction, they also shared with the girls the struggles and rewards of being science majors.
Crotty hopes these role models will make science less intimidating to the girls. His own daughter for one, thought she had to be the smartest girl in her class to become an astronomer or scientist. She thought science was just memorizing facts from the text and then getting them down onto paper for her tests.
She now knows better. This alone has helped make the program a success in Crotty's eyes. He hopes the program has given other girls the same insight.
"If we can instill enough love and interest for science in just one of these girls enough that she becomes a science major (who otherwise might not have chosen this path), I will consider this night a success," he said.