Portland library invites teen girls to chat about STEM

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PORTLAND — Teenage girls interested in learning more about careers in science,  technology or engineering can connect with mentors in those fields, thanks to a new program at the Portland Public Library.

The inaugural STEM event will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, in the Teen Room. The presenters will be two local college students who are pursuing degrees in health science and biotechnology, according to Kelley Blue, the teen librarian.

The goal is for the teenagers to enjoy a casual conversation with women working in the STEM fields, Blue said. Snacks will be provided and the girls will be encouraged to ask a variety of questions.

“Topics can be hyper-local all the way to global and universal, you never know where the conversation will take us,” Blue said. “Our goal is to bring topical and relevant conversations directly to the young people who use our library.”

The library is partnering with STEM Sisters, a new initiative at the University of Southern Maine that strives to connect girls with professional women working in science, technology, and engineering.

The goal of STEM Sisters is to encourage aspirations.

“From learning about biomimicry to emerging technologies, girls will get the opportunity to explore interesting topics and interact with those who are doing amazing things in STEM,” the STEM Sisters website states.

Blue said STEM Sisters first approached the library about whether it would be interested in holding a series of programs for teen girls that would focus on the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

“The Portland Public Library has hosted a number of successful Snack Chat sessions in the past in order to connect people passionate about their careers with our teen patrons,” she said.

“We love the idea of inviting young women to talk to the teens and help (them) envision potential future avenues” in the STEM fields.

Blue said the Snack Chat sessions are specifically designed to “entice our teens to engage with others from the community around topics that are meaningful to them.”

“These sessions promote dialogue, inspire aspirations, and allow for the exchange ideas,” Blue said. “We have found that these sessions are most successful when conversation is organic.”

“We hope that teens will gain information about fields of interest and how to pursue post-secondary educational goals, (but) there’s no way to predict where they’ll take the conversation,” Blue said.

“As long as the teens are meaningfully and positively engaging with young adult mentors, (these STEM Snack Chats) will be considered successful,” she added.

Blue said many of the teens who use the library daily are already interested in fields such as medicine and engineering, “so the partnership between (STEM Sisters) and the Teen Library seemed like a natural and mutually beneficial fit.”

Most importantly, she said, is that the Snack Chat sessions, which will continue throughout the late fall, give “students in middle and high school (a chance) to engage with adults in their community outside of school and home.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

STEM Sisters, a new initiative at the University of Southern Maine, and the Portland Public Library have partnered to inform teen girls about opportunities in the STEM fields.