By Gina Roberti, Science Education Coordinator, Mount St. Helens Institute
A sunny morning this past August, twenty middle school and high school students gathered on the south side of Mount St. Helens to begin five days of exploring the history of this volcano. The students came from different schools and different towns and had never met before. Along with fellow educators and volunteers, we began with icebreaker activities to build connection and trust between the girls. By the end of the week, friendships formed. On the last day of the camp, the girls traded contact information, cheering for each other during their final presentations and laughing over new shared memories.
The idea of GeoGirls was conceived by a postdoctoral scientist at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory named Kate Allstadt who approached Mount St. Helens Institute in 2015 to collaborate on developing a geology and technology camp to connect youth with professional geoscientists. The camp connects middle and high school girls (cis and transgender) with professional female scientists to promote awareness of the geosciences and to encourage more women to consider geoscience careers. The 5-day overnight camp is held in the first week of August at Mount St. Helens, Washington.
This was the second GeoGirls summer camp of which I was a part and I saw firsthand the impact of the program. In small teams, GeoGirls participate in field-based science projects led by professional female geoscientists. The complexity of the projects and the science with which the GeoGirls engage is amazing - reminiscent of the level of my undergraduate college level geology courses.
GeoGirls is a remarkable summer camp offering middle school and high school girls—the next generation of scientists— the unique opportunity to engage with women scientists from public agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, WA Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, universities, and the private sector. Throughout the week GeoGirls collect, analyze and interpret data using modern techniques and technologies. In 2022, GeoGirls mapped geologic deposits, identified landslides, deployed seismometers, and tracked landscape changes using photogrammetry. Each team created a poster highlighting what they learned throughout camp. On the final day, GeoGirls put their knowledge of volcanic hazards to the test with the “volcano hazard crisis mission” roleplay activity, developed by Sonja Melander, Mount St. Helens Institute Science Education Manager in collaboration with scientists from the Cascades Volcano Observatory.
In 2019, in the pre-camp survey, middle school students were asked to “list all the geology related careers and jobs you can think of.” The careers that were most frequently listed were geologist, volcanologist, seismologist, park ranger and oceanographer. In the post-program survey, the answers were more diverse including geochemist, hydrologist and educator. These results suggest that the GeoGirls camp widened perspective on the diversity of career options available in the geosciences.
GeoGirls is a camp for students from Washington and Oregon, many of whom have never visited Mount St. Helens. GeoGirls is FREE to all middle school and high school students, thanks to generous grants and donations from supporters like you.
Applications for the August 2023 GeoGirls camp open January 10th and close March 1, 2023. The GeoGirls 2023 camp runs from August 7-11. Read more and apply online at: https://www.mshinstitute.org/learn/for-parents/geogirls/