Learning about STEM through Teen-Turn’s hybrid programme.

Mayo girls getting into the STEM of things

GIRLS aged 13 to 17 from Mount Saint Michael Secondary School, Claremorris, are not letting the digital divide hold them back, as they take part in a unique 12-week in person and online hybrid programme, which gives them new skills in STEM and opens up career opportunities.

The programme takes place every Thursday, allowing 30 students to attend in person, while 12 girls log on from other locations. The girls meeting together are supervised and guided by teachers, while everyone has access to additional expertise online.

Therese Devassy, one of the Mount Saint Michael students taking part in the hybrid programme run by Teen-Turn, explained how meeting with other students in the classroom but connecting online with a Teen-Turn mentor has helped her access new opportunities that were not previously available to her: “Wanting to do something and not being able to just because of the area you live in is not the most pleasant feeling. My school is an all-girls school and doesn't offer a lot of STEM subjects, which made picking my Leaving Cert subjects a lot harder because I'm interested in a lot of science based subjects.

“I would have really liked to have done applied maths, computer science or physics but couldn't. Teen-Turn are definitely trying their best to provide opportunities for people like me who don't have the same as to someone living in Dublin.”

Teen-Turn gives the girls the chance to gain hands-on STEM experience. It ensures there is the same access to equipment, materials and specialist mentors for girls in Mayo as there is for girls in Dublin or other urban areas.

This programme is unique to Teen-Turn and like many good ideas resulted from necessity due to Covid.

Going online made sense for an organisation like Teen-Turn that promotes science, technology and all forms of creative thinking, but although mentors could connect online with girls all over the country, the shared learning experience was lost. This new approach is the best of both worlds and can be delivered safely.

Iseult Mangan, Teen-Turn lead mentor and principal of Cloghans Hill National School in Mayo, spoke of the benefit of being face to face with the girls while accessing STEM expertise remotely: “Having the girls face to face with me has brought back the very important social side to participating in Teen-Turn activities. Having the mentors then stream into the rooms to the girls and work with them each week has been invaluable.

“I know pre-pandemic it was difficult in our rural location to get mentors to travel each week so the move online created a real boost, for the girls that could get online. Another big bonus of the hybrid model for us means that those who were unable to get online can now access the STEM program again at school, through our connectivity.”

Many of the projects developed during the 12-week programme at Mount Saint Michael will go on to be entered in competitions like Scifest and the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. Teen-Turn works with girls on project based learning and focuses on live problem solving - actively involving the girls in getting the information they need and evaluating it themselves.

Fionnghuala King, Mount Saint Michael principal, explains how these sessions allow the girls taking part to have fun and to socialise, but that they also encourage them to develop their STEM skills and to consider future careers in STEM: “The girls can chat together and engage with the screen for remote guidance from Teen-Turn and of course vie for more rewards and prizes which motivate their engagement and progress.

“It is a really clever way of combining online learning with social connectivity with their friends. They love it!”