Camp creations

Camp creations — Geyserville New Tech Academy student Ciara Torres, left, shows off her hair scrunchies that she made in addition to her group project during a two-week Tinker Academy at Sonoma State University in August 2019.

The Girls Tinker Academy is expanding in 2021 to include a spring break offering for up to 48 middle schoolers in Sonoma County to engage in maker pedagogy and encourage the exploration and development of technical, mathematical and artistic abilities.

The free academy, which incorporates both virtual and hands-on components, is aimed at introducing participants to coding, modeling, crafting, sewing and building. Led by Natalie Hobson, mathematics associate professor at Sonoma State University, the participants take part in fun activities and challenges both together on Zoom and independently off Zoom.

While the program typically takes place in a state-of-the-art maker space at Sonoma State University, Girls Tinker Academy pivoted to a virtual academy last summer and had great results, inspiring the spring break offering this year to help keep kids engaged in learning in a fun, stress-free manner.

“It’s such a joy to see these girls unpack their maker kits and turn what they initially see as fragments and pieces into projects that help them gain a real understanding of how things work,” said Hobson in a statement. “And, despite not being together in the same physical space, the hands-on nature of these challenges and lessons helps bond these girls and gets them excited about STEM.” 

Supply kits are developed and distributed to each of the participants at home to ensure they have all the materials to fully participate in the daily activities such as building a solar machine, sewing a cloth face mask and creating circuits.

“Data shows that women are still underrepresented in the STEM workforce and we know that it starts as early as middle school when girls’ interest and confidence begin to wane,” said CTE Foundation CEO Kathy Goodacre. “We launched Girls Tinker Academy in 2018 to address this disparity and build confidence in girls and help them learn how STEM education and careers are a viable path for girls. We love how popular this program has become and appreciate all of the donors who allow us to offer this valuable program at no charge to our community.”

The Girls Tinker Academy is the flagship program of Community WISE (Women Investing in STEM Equity), a project of Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation. Community WISE is a volunteer coalition of local employers, education institutions, students and community leaders working to identify and invest in engaging learning opportunities that inspire and prepare more young women and girls to pursue STEM education and careers.

To learn more about the program, visit www.ctesonomacounty.org/tinker.

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