For Archbishop Williams High School sophomore Elizabeth Saltzman of Randolph, the awareness came early: women are underrepresented in the STEM fields - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. As a sixth grader attending a Girls Scouts program called, Math Can Move You, a speaker provided statistics about the low number of women in those fields and the stereotyping that goes along with it. So Elizabeth decided to do something about it: this spring she implemented a seven week program for fourth and fifth grade girls called, “Girls Can STEM.” The program was so successful that the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) presented her with their highest award, the Gold Award, on June 9 at the State House.
“This is amazing, something I’ve been dreaming about for 11 years,” Elizabeth said of the award presented to only 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts nationwide. A second award from the Town of Randolph will follow on June 15. “I think I was really, really thorough, and I made the curriculum from scratch. I met with teachers to make sure it was educationally sound and age appropriate for my students”
The teacher she met with most was Kristen Rosen Sherman, her former teacher at the Lyons Elementary School who became Elizabeth’s mentor - a supporting role required for Gold Award eligibility.
“It has been a true pleasure mentoring this young lady, Ms. Sherman said. “She was creative in her approach to reaching the young girls and really put a lot of thought into what type of program would make the biggest difference for them.”
That kind of effort was recognized early by Katie Frossard, her former teacher and current Director of Grades 7 & 8 at Archbishop Williams
“Elizabeth has always been a curious student when it comes to her science classes and an extremely hard worker. From early on in science, I knew she had a flair for STEM, and she demonstrated this regularly. She has always cared very much about her grades, but also about learning the material, not just for the sake of a grade,” said Ms. Frossard.
Elizabeth worked tirelessly on her project - 120 plus hours when only 80 are required for Gold Award consideration. Networking with professionals from the start, she received permission from the Randolph Public Schools to distribute program flyers to elementary school students.
With a class of 14 committed to seven weekly 90 minute sessions, Elizabeth taught or supervised a major topic for each of five weeks: chemistry, engineering, physics, biology/zoology, and meteorology. For each class, she included demonstrations, hands-on activities, and assessments, all based on her own research. In the engineering class, for instance, the girls learned how to make LED lights and how to test them. For the biology/zoology class, she brought in the South Shore Natural Science Center of Norwell to her troop’s Cochato Club House in Belcher Park where her students were able to experience a reptile and amphibian show which included frogs, iguanas, lizards and turtles.
Topping off the program, the final session included four women speakers from STEM fields - a Chemist, Data Specialist, Electrical Engineer, and Information Technology Specialist who each presented a lesson.
“I reached out to people I know and asked them to ask their co-workers, and using social media, to ask other people to ask their friends and relatives about speakers,” Elizabeth said. “I started out with 30 possibilities and was able to narrow it down to four.”
The result? “Inspired girls,” said Elizabeth.
“By the girls’ reaction to the speakers, you could really tell that they were empowered and inspired to pursue STEM careers,” Elizabeth said. “The girls walked away from the program knowing that being a girl doesn’t limit you in anyway, they they could actually do this when they are older.”
The GSA requires that a project be a “take action, sustainable project that serves the community,” Elizabeth said. “It must not be a project that just impacts today, but impacts the future,” Not only will Elizabeth’s program have a long-term impact on her students, but on students she’s never met since she has posted the full 24-page curriculum online for anyone to use.
“I wanted other girls to have access to it so they would know what they can do,” she said.
Next fall, Elizabeth’s role with the Girls Scouts will take a new turn when she’ll be one of only six girls from Massachusetts to serve as a delegate at the 54th Girl Scout Convention & National Council Session in Columbus, Ohio.
Meanwhile, in the fall at Archbishop Williams, where Elizabeth holds a 4.5 GPA (Grade Point Average), she will continue to multitask, balancing her studies with participation in the Theater Ensemble, Student Council, the yearbook, and the Speech and Debate team.
“She is very bright, creative and extremely organized in her thoughts and data,” said her Archbishop Williams teacher and Science Department Chair, Raymond Whitehouse. “She is strong in both math and science, and has elected two Advanced Placement science courses next year. No one works harder than Elizabeth!”