Abstract # 54:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 19, 2008 05:00 PM-07:00 PM: Session 4 (Ball Rooms A and B) Symposium

Mentors and Monkeys: Engaging minority middle school girls in scientific exploration

S. Evans and C. K. Wolovich
14805 SW 216th St., DuMond Conservancy, Miami, FL 33170, USA
     Despite the great individual accomplishments of female scientists, women still remain underrepresented in the field and the disparity is even more marked among minorities. Because this gender gap in science begins as early as middle school, The DuMond Conservancy focused on engaging minority middle school girls in scientific exposure and exploration. A total of 36 girls participated in the program, which spanned two semesters and began by introducing the girls to primates by focusing on some of the excellent field studies conducted by women. Female college mentors provided the girls with the opportunity to investigate how families of owl monkeys (Aotus spp.) communicated in their outdoor enclosures. The middle school girls were teamed with mentors to identify individual monkeys, record vocalizations and measure (moon)light levels. A talk by a female scientist with an unconventional career path ended each semester. We found that the girls increased their scientific knowledge [n=10, Binomial Sign Tests, a=0.01] and became proficient in technical procedures. Because many girls expressed interest in helping to care for the monkeys, we intend to add a service-learning component to the program in the future. We hope the skill building experiences offered in this program and fostered in an all female environment will build the confidence necessary for the girls to reach their full potential in a mixed gendered science classroom. The Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade funded this program.