Interactive and contagiously informative science nights focus on the role of women in science .
Science and Community
This year the Lower School hosted three sci- ence nights: the 5th grade showcased life sciences (human body in February), the 3rd grade spotlighted the physical sciences (force and motion in March), and the 4th grade focused on Earth science (astronomy in April). While interactive and contagiously informative, these thematic science nights were about much
more than science. Last year two science showcases
took place in the afternoon, and anyone who could help
This year, the Lower School administration actively
collaborated with Friends of STEM to seek out experts in
the respective fields, and both agreed to push back the
event times to encourage a greater turnout.
With regard to recruiting volunteers, the organizers
paid special attention to the role of women in science.
At the 5th-grade night in February, five medical students
from UCSF (all women) offered their expertise with
regard to four systems of the human body: the respiratory system, organs and skulls, genes and cells, and
DNA. For the 3rd-grade physical sciences night, the
Lower School recruited four graduate students from UC
Berkeley’s Society of Women in Physics. That women
played center-stage at these engaging
nights sends a clear message to all young
students: anyone can specialize in fields
once considered to be primarily the domain of men.
For the 4th-grade astronomy night, San
Francisco Amateur Astronomers was invited to work with us on the content. The
volunteers delivered a great presentation
about the solar system. They also offered
different hands-on activities, in collaboration with some Lower and Upper School
teachers. The highlight of the night was
the opportunity to look at the stars from
the roof of our school through telescopes.
While the Lower School and Friends of
STEM sought experts beyond our campus,
they also mined our own community for
resources, and both parents and students
came through. One parent volunteer for
the 3rd-grade science night, Heather
McDonald, wears multiple prosthetic legs (including
one for daily use and another for running) and brought
them in to demonstrate biomechanics in action. At the
5th-grade science night, another parent, Heidi Bjornsen,
used the expertise gained as a result of her two children’s
debilitating respiratory disease to explain how certain
factors can affect breathing. Likewise, Amanda Kirby ac-
tively led Friends of STEM’s collaboration with the Lower
School, herself volunteering in February, supporting the
5th-grade night. Students from the upper school were
recruited for the physics night as chaperones to their
3rd-grade counterparts (Camille and Iona from 8th and
Tristan from 6th) and as an assistant presenter (William
Propp, 10th). Closing the circle was Faustine Dufka ‘08,
one of the UCSF med students who volunteered at the
life sciences night, who not only exemplifies the success
of our science program, but also serves as an inspiration
for future generations of students.
One parent told Lower School Principal Marie-Pierre
Carlotti that the 5th-grade science night was the best
community event she had ever attended at French
American. It underscored the importance of science, and
the school community displayed the richness that collaboration yields.