Young Women In Bio (YWIB)-San Francisco Bay Area is continuing to partner with College Track to bring hands-on STEM experiences to young women. Last year, YWIB volunteers led by Dr. Tanvi Sinha, a cell and developmental biologist from UCSF, hosted a successful event at College Track, Oakland that used chick embryos to teach about developmental biology. On September 25, 2019, YWIB brought a similar event to the College Track San Francisco branch, again led by Dr. Sinha. Sarah Odeh helped organize and Dr. Anne de Bruyn Kops assisted at the event.
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Five 11th-grade girls participated in the event which Dr. Sinha began by briefly introducing the girls to YWIB. Dr. Sinha then explained the stages of embryonic development using a short slide presentation. She described the process in humans vs. animals, showing what the stages look like and emphasizing that many genes involved in development are shared among species. The girls quickly became engaged, asking questions, and sharing relevant information they had learned in school. The students were so quick to recognize the similarities between equivalent developmental stages in different species that a matching game that had been planned to prompt this was bypassed, allowing for more time to dissect the embryos.
Dr. Sinha provided fertilized chicken eggs at different stages and demonstrated how to crack the eggs into weigh boats to examine the embryos. The girls enthusiastically cracked numerous eggs each and compared the developmental stages of the embryos with those on the introductory slide show. They shared their impressions and examined each other’s embryos. Not knowing what stage they would find in each egg added to the fun and promoted interaction among the students. Questions from the girls led to an interesting discussion of how the study of developmental biology applies to disease and we briefly mentioned the availability of summer research internships and the fact that a STEM background can lead to many different careers.
The five students who participated in the event provided enthusiastic feedback. Most felt that the level of the activity and presentation was just right and were eager to participate in other events. The students reported that they enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the event. They liked being able to crack the eggs themselves and observe development first hand as well as learning about different stages of development and the similarities between species. Suggestions for ways to improve the event included a field trip and more time for questions and discussion.
YWIB‐San Francisco Bay Area is grateful to College Track ‐ San Francisco for highlighting the importance of STEM for young girls and providing an opportunity for us to share our experience and love of science. We thank Michael Bluing for helping us arrange the event and look forward to future programs with College Track.