When was the last time you made a necklace from your own DNA as part of having fun with your girlfriends from school? While science and fun don’t always go hand in hand, especially in the girls department, two groups of 11-year-olds recently carried out the exciting experiment, one of three organized to launch an educational collaboration between global initiative Greenlight for Girls (g4g) and the Herakleidon Museum (herakleidon-art.gr) in Athens.
“You can do anything you want,” said Melissa Rancourt, Greenlight for Girls (greenlightforgirls.org) founder, speaking to her eager audience during the Herakleidon launch. “When choosing your future you’re not choosing only one path.”
Rancourt was speaking from personal experience: Born in Italy to a family with Greek and French roots, she grew up in the United States and has been living in Belgium for the last few years. An engineer running her own consultancy company in Brussels, she is also the owner of a spa in the same city.
Thanks to Rancourt and the Greenlight for Girls organization, girls from New York to Kinshasa and Bangalore, among many other places, are taking a fresh approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as the STEM fields.
Established about four years ago, the international nonprofit organization has so far carried out about 70 events on five continents, reaching 10,000 girls with the help of over 1,300 volunteers. The core idea is to encourage more girls, aged 11 to 15, to follow a STEM direction through interactive, hands-on science events. Boys are not excluded from all the science fun with special days organized for everyone in classrooms.
At the Herakleidon Museum, a cultural institution established in 2004 aiming to explore ways to promote science, art and mathematics to a broad audience, the g4g idea took on a new dimension.
“Normally, what we do when we go to new places is we have one big fantastic day. But we also need to create the learning in between to keep the interest going, and that’s where the museum comes in,” Rancourt told Kathimerini English Edition. “We are pioneering here in Greece something which we might copy all over the world and encourage other museums and resources like this to be that element.”
The g4g-Herakleidon synergy materialized following the first Greenlight for Girls event organized in the country at Campion School in Pallini, northeast of Athens, in 2013.
Does geography play a key role when it comes to young women taking potentially life-changing decisions?
“The universal need is to get more girls into science, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. But it makes sense that when you go to areas that are less affluent, the opportunities are fewer, the encouragement is less, the role models are fewer, but that isn’t to say that the same situation doesn’t occur in more affluent societies, because of whatever might be the influences around you,” noted Rancourt. “We want to make sure that we are reaching people who don’t normally get a chance to be reached. Every event that we have has an aim to have 20 percent of kids coming from less privileged environments.”
Meanwhile, following the recent launch, interactive events are continuing at the museum in association with g4g, with mathematics workshops for 11- to 15-year-old aspiring scientists on Saturday, May 23 and 30.