Girl Power was in action at the Discover Stem Camp at Bruce Drysdale Elementary in late June. A group of 4th and 5th grade girls from across the county participated in a fun-filled week being introduced to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and careers. With a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation Powerful Community’s program, The Henderson County Education Foundation (HCEF) in collaboration with the district’s Academically and Intellectually Gifted department created the camp.

Each morning, the girls met at Bruce Drysdale Elementary School and started their day with a hands-on coding lesson led by female instructors from Zaniac, (a K-8th grade STEM enrichment center based out of Asheville). Using chrome books provided by Bruce Drysdale, they learned SCRATCH, a coding software developed by MIT especially for youth ages 8-16. The lessons taught them the various parts and tools involved in coding and allowed them to create fun projects.

“On the first day, the girls were quiet and shy and did not know each other. By the second day, they were all in teams, working and laughing with each other,” says Lynne Porter, co-owner and Campus Director of Zaniac. “We wanted to empower the girls and give them that inspiration that STEM is creative and cool.  I saw a group of girls that really came out of their comfort zones to create some fantastic projects.”

After lunch, the girls participated in different field trips throughout the community. They visited the campus of Blue Ridge Community College and toured the engineering and mechatronics facilities, met instructors and saw first-hand how coding works in the real world. They toured the Innovative High School and learned different avenues for high school where they can continue their interest in STEM. Of course fun and creativity were woven throughout all of the activities. Two of the student favorites were the team-building Fox and Otter Escape Room and a Dream Board goal setting project.

When developing the camp, area AIG Director, Caroline Patterson and AIG teachers, Anne Boyette, Lynne Fender, and Tisa Futch along with Summer Stipe of HCEF, had some lofty goals. One of the main goals for the camp was to help girls feel comfortable going into a tech career. Studies show that after age 12, girls tend to shy away from STEM careers if they haven’t been introduced to them at an earlier age. Another goal of the camp was demonstrating female empowerment. All of the facilitators for the week were women. From the Zaniac instructors to the tour guide at Blue Ridge Community College; all activities were lead by strong female role models. Other goals included in the curriculum were goal setting, learning pathways to success, convergent and divergent thinking, teamwork, resilience, and also understanding the role and importance of failure.

The camp was a huge success. Tiffany Maybin, mother of one of the participants, Taylor, said, “It was a wonderful experience. It really has her thinking about her future.”

HCEF along with Henderson County Public Schools hope to continue the program next year. “We were fortunate to get a grant from Duke Energy Foundation’s powerful communities program to fund this camp, and we hope we can offer it again next year.” Summer Stipe, Executive Director of HCEF

Click here to see WLOS’ information segment on our STEM camp: