Female UT students in ‘TWINS Project’ will promote science at local children’s museum

Maria Mendez

UT students will help kids become interested about science this fall in the new “TWINS Project,” a collaboration between the Thinkery children’s museum and UT’s Women in Natural Sciences program.

Students in the WINS program will have the opportunity to train in science education and outreach with Thinkery staff at the start of the fall semester. Trained students will then volunteer at Thinkery’s community events, such as Chemistry Week, Engineers Day, Nano Day and summer camp for children.

“I think it’s very important for kids to see women role models in the STEM field and for (students) to interact more with the community,” WINS coordinator Elizabeth Morgan said. “Having young kids connect to college students and especially women in science is really important.”

Morgan said students previously volunteered at workshops during Thinkery’s 2016 summer camp and helped children learn about outer space and space exploration by making solar systems.

“We have found that WINS students are excited to share their knowledge and that, in turn, helps spread more excitement about learning and discovering,” said Katie Kizziar, associate director of research and innovation at Thinkery.

This past July, the Association of American University Women awarded the WINS program a Community Action Grant to fund the collaboration. Sumaya Saati, an associate director of corporate and foundation relations for the College of Natural Sciences, said the association has not announced the total grant amount, but the funding will help pay for volunteer trainings and activity supplies.

“With the nature of volunteerism, we think it’s free, but there’s a lot behind the scenes that goes into it,” Saati said. “So supporting those types of roles is really important.”

Kizziar said working with children at Thinkery will help UT students improve their confidence in public speaking and communicating science with the public.

“Sharing sciences with the public is also a great way to inspire future scientists,” Kizziar said. “When we connect visitors with individuals who work in science, engineering, or art, they have a chance to put a human face to the topic.”

Morgan said the collaboration will further the program’s mission to recruit and support more women in science by helping current WINS students and inspiring young girls to study science.

 “Maybe one of the young girls at one of the community nights or events that we do will be really motivated about science,” Morgan said. “Maybe she’ll apply for WINS one day or move forward with something in science, engineering, or math.”