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Women & girls in science: Q&A with Louise Palardy

For The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we connected with IB chemistry teacher, Louise Palardy on why we should support women and girls interested in science. Louise, a STEM specialist, shares about her work supporting girls K-12 with an interest in robotics.

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Each year on February 11, the United Nations focuses on the importance of women and girls in science fields. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science aims to highlight the critical and influential roles that women and girls play in science and technology. By supporting gender equality, we can open new opportunities to develop unique perspectives and ideas to help solve the world’s most pressing issues.

We connected with STEM Specialist at Notre Dame Preparatory and Marist Academy, Louise Palardy, who offers insight on why building girl’s confidence in science young is essential to develop their lifelong passion for STEM.

“Providing opportunities [for girls] at a younger age and personal conversations with the students helps to make them feel more welcome to try something new”

What makes you passionate about my work?

Getting students interested, excited and confident about learning is an amazing feeling. Each fall, we have new students on the robotics team. Although most are uncertain at first about the challenge of building a robot and programming it, they usually show interest and excitement. My challenge is to build their confidence. This is done little by little.

What strides have you taken in your school or community to be more inclusive of girls with an interest in science?

Prior to 2013, we had an after-school robotics team only for high school students. Even though we had some girls on the team, we knew that we could be doing more to make them feel welcome. That year, we started a robotics team at the lower school for 3rd—5th grades. One-on-one conversations with the girls and class demonstrations featuring our female team-members made the girls more interested in trying robotics. We expanded the program over the next few years to include 3rd—8th graders. We know that we need to spark their interest before they reach high school and ideally before they reach middle school. In the fall of 2018, we added a K-2 program as an introduction to robotics and had an even number of boys and girls for the first 2 years. It seems to me that providing opportunities at a younger age and personal conversations with the students helps to make them feel more welcome to try something new.

In an effort to get more girls interested in joining the robotics team, we have 11th and 12th grade girls visit all of the 9th grade science classes in the fall.

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Louise Palardy is the STEM specialist at Notre Dame Preparatory and Marist Academy teaching high school chemistry, engineering and empathy along with managing after-school robotics programs for 3rd through 12th grades. She earned her B.S. in Engineering Chemistry from Oakland University and a Master’s in Education and Curriculum and Instruction as well as a Graduate Certificate in STEM Education from the University of Cincinnati. Louise lives in Clarkston, MI where she enjoys outdoor activities, robotics competitions and being with family.

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