Budding Middle School Scientists at Notre Dame Prep Have a Bright Future

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Notre Dame Preparatory middle schoolers start STEAM curricula in the sixth grade.
Notre Dame Preparatory middle schoolers start STEAM curricula in the sixth grade.

How to get more girls interested in the science and technology fields? That’s a burning question for many educators around the globe. Only one in seven engineers are women. Though it’s a bit better in the exploding information technology sector, only 25 percent of tech jobs are staffed by women.

Located in Towson, Notre Dame Preparatory School (NDP), a Catholic independent school, may have found the answer: Start earlier, combine science, technology, engineering, and math with the arts, and make it interesting and relevant.  NDP’s unique STEAM program – STEM plus the Arts – is laying the foundation for NDP graduates to help eliminate the science and technology gender gap.

Mary Agnes Sheridan, NDP’s Middle School STEAM Coordinator, explains why the school enhanced their science and math curricula, “In focusing on our graduate’s outcomes, solid research pointed to the value in adding arts to STEM. Creativity, whether it be through digital photography or using 3D printers for a science project, is at the core of all STEAM fields in the real world.”

In today’s hi-tech world, science classes aren’t just beakers in the lab anymore. Supported by state-of-the art technology, all middle school girls at NDP are exposed to STEAM curricula: technology literacy, logic and computer classes, forensics, engineering, and architecture, to name a few. STEAM classes are fun and engaging, and offer students an insight into how science and math are applicable in the real world. By exposing girls to potential STEAM careers through internships with corporate partners, and career panel events, NDP graduates learn how science and math education can transfer to their working life. 

To build self confidence and hone science skills, girls participate in science and math competitions. Seventh grader Audrey Sanft competed in the Maryland Math League at Johns Hopkins University in computational linguistics. “I would never have thought I could compete in such an event. But I was ready. I tried it, and now I’m open to new things because I have realized that I can compete, do well, and have fun.”

“Our top-notch STEAM program that’s introduced earlier in a girl’s academic career is leading to our seniors taking more science and math courses beyond the minimum required to graduate,” shares Mary Agnes Sheridan. “Ninety-nine percent of our high school seniors go beyond our minimum math requirements, and take an additional math class. And, 92 percent of our seniors opt to take a fourth science class.” said Sheridan.

With those results, NDP graduates will soon be leading the way to more women entering the science and math fields. Look out world!

Who says science and art can't be fun? Recycling, math, art, and design are combined in the Recycling Fashion Show.
Who says science and art can’t be fun? Recycling, math, art, and design are combined in “Middle Made,” a recycling fashion show.

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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the monthly environmental GreenLaurel column. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting. She co-wrote the Abell Foundation Report detailing Maryland's dysfunctional energy supplier marketplace and the negative outcomes for low-income households.
Laurel Peltier
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