Student News

Teaching Fellows Stacey August, Erin Conlon inspire adolescent females through FEMMES

Photo of FEMMES counselors


Carolina students serve as counselors for the FEMMES camp on Nov. 21.

Students in the School of Education are inspiring adolescent females to be high academic achievers through the FEMMES program ─ Females Excelling More in Mathematics, Engineering and Science. FEMMES is a student organization at UNC-Chapel Hill, organized and led by female undergraduate and graduate students. Its goal is to encourage young women from Chapel Hill and Carrboro schools to excel in mathematics, engineering and the sciences.

Two Teaching Fellows ─ Stacey August and Erin Conlon ─ co-founded the FEMMES organization at UNC in 2009 and are leading it this year. Both are juniors majoring in middle grades education with a concentration in mathematics education.

“During my freshman year, I was invited to Duke to see the capstone day for their FEMMES project. I was so impressed that one student had started the program there and it turned out to be such a success,” said August. “At the closing session that day, the responses from the students were incredible! They were so excited about learning about math and science in a no-pressure environment.”

Clinical Assistant Professor Cheryl Horton, director of the School of Education’s Teaching Fellows Program, serves as the faculty advisor for FEMMES. Student volunteers represent the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Nutrition, and Exercise and Sport Science, in addition to the School of Education.

A major annual activity conducted by the UNC FEMMES program is a day-long “camp” each fall for fourth- to sixth-grade students from area schools. Carolina students and professors design and lead the camp, which is intended to encourage the young students’ engagement with mathematics, science and engineering.

This year, 65 girls in fourth through sixth grades gathered in Peabody Hall on Nov. 21, 2009, to participate in a variety of hands-on learning activities. The students were organized into groups according to their grade level. Each group was led by a Carolina student or professor.

Throughout the day, the groups visited four of seven stations. At one station, students learned about rockets, then built their own using paper, pencils and other supplies. Then they held a contest to determine which rockets flew further and higher, and discussed the differences among the rockets and their outcomes. At another station, students built suspension bridges using cardboard and strings. Then they simulated an earthquake to see which bridge designs held up best. Other stations focused on “Hexaflexagon Geometry,” “Watershed Excursion,” “Clay Boats,” “Chromatography” and “Cracking Codes and Solving Mysteries with Math.”

In a keynote session, Associate Professor Diane Groff, from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Exercise and Sports Science, talked to the program participants about heartbeats and emotions.

 “Hopefully the students will keep their excitement about math and science throughout the year and become more confident in their work,” said August. “At the closing session, the students asked if we could hold the camp every week. It was great to see how excited they became about learning. I hope this love for learning stays with them in their school environments.”

The UNC FEMMES group will travel to Duke’s campus to participate in their FEMMES day on Feb. 27, 2010. FEMMES volunteers are also in the process of contacting students at N.C. State University and Elon University to encourage them to host a FEMMES camp on their campuses.