"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM

by The School Garden Doctor
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"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
"Dirt Girls" Can Close the Gender Gap in STEM
Planting Empowerment since 2016.
Planting Empowerment since 2016.

The Dirt Girls program turns five years old this fall! 

What initially began as a way to maintain a school  garden quickly grew into a unique program for empowering youth through outdoor science education. Since 2016, 58 girls have engaged in garden-based learning and leadership, many of them for multiple sessions or years. Together, we've spent nearly 600 hours tending a school garden.

Four of the original girls stayed in the program for nearly every session from the time they started in 2nd grade until they were promoted from 5th grade in 2020. Now in seventh grade, their moms report they are doing well academically, though the last year has been tremendously difficult socially and emotionally. At least one of the original participants is taking a gardening class as an elective in middle school. Unfortunately, this opportunity doesn't exist at all schools. 

Even fewer girls have access to science learning outside of school. More than a quarter of parents surveyed in 2021 report that their daughters do not have "sufficient opportunity to learn science" elsewhere. 

Prior to the pandemic, the Dirt Girls program was positioned to grow to two new sites. However, school closures put a pause on that plan. During spring of 2021, Dirt Girls Grow Indoors reached 12 girls, filling a critical gap in social connection and emotional resilience through a houseplant-based virtual program. 

As the end of 2021 approaches, we are exploring partnerships that will enable a strong Dirt Girl comeback! Stay tuned for one last project update and end of year giving campaign. We're only $605 away from meeting our $10,000 goal! 

We couldn't do this work without your generous support! 

Rooted in Gratitude,

Carrie

Growing Resilience in 2021
Growing Resilience in 2021

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Dirt Girls Grow Indoors Kit
Dirt Girls Grow Indoors Kit

Dirt Girls Grow Indoors was designed to offer a "pandemic-proof" version of the popular after school garden club, Dirt Girls, which has been planting empowerment through outdoor science education since 2016. This FREE program provided plants for youth to tend indoors until in-person outdoor interaction could resume. 

Since February of 2021, Dirt Girls Grow Indoors reached more than a dozen youth, providing 100 plants, 36 virtual sessions, 1 in-person field trip, and 3 meetups in the park. Through monthly themes, we explored breathing with air plants, stress-busting succulents, fern fitness, and creative gifting to learn how to care for houseplants, ourselves, and the world. 

Working with houseplants has been shown to be therapeutic, improve air quality, and spark joy! Dirt Girls Grow Indoors provided all of this and more! Participants received the tools and materials they needed to nurture a connection with indoor plants. Interactive sessions offered a much-needed social and emotional connection to reduce while fostering an appreciation for horticulture. 

Parents' feedback was overwhelminingly positive and encouraging. One parent shared this comment with me via email: "I wanted to thank you for the wonderful dirt girl classes. S. loves it and talks about women scientists you discuss and how positive and inspiring you are."  Another parent sent this note: "E. explores the surrounding plants everywhere we go.Thank you for inspiring her curiosity."

These impressions are especially important becuase only 14% of parents surveyed reported that their participating daughter has sufficient opportunity to learn science in the community. Dirt Girls can change that! 

This twelve-week program was made possible through the contributions of donors like you, as well as from a GlobalGiving COVID-19 hardship microgrant. On behalf of the Dirt Girls, thank you for your plantastic support! 

Reconnecting with Some Original Dirt Girls
Reconnecting with Some Original Dirt Girls
Youngest Dirt Girls Team Up
Youngest Dirt Girls Team Up

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Interactions Drawing
Interactions Drawing

Just over a year ago, I couldn't envision how to provide the popular after school garden club, Dirt Girls, without being able to gather in person. Being resilient means overcoming obstacles by leaning in and thinking creatively.

Since my last report, a dozen girls have participated in virtual sessions to learn how to care for houseplants, themselves, and each other. A fifth grader from one school signed herself up and connected weekly on her own. A first grader insisted on joining our sessions, even after she started attending day care! One parent reported, "My daughter loves this class! It teaches her independence, self care, being excited about science and has many positive women role models to inspire. Thank you!"

Because of your contributions and a generous Covid-19 Relief Grant from GlobalGiving, classes and materials were FREE. Each month, air plants, succulents, or fern plants were delivered to participants' homes along with the materials or tools to tend their plants at home. Each session engaged girls in STEM activities and mindfulness practices. 

As more individuals received vaccinations and more students returned to school, I could sense the demand for an in-person event. Thanks to the collaborative spirit of the Napa Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, I found a solution!

On April 24th, eight Dirt Girls gathered at the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden for a safe, in-person field trip to culminate the April cycle of "Dirt Girls Grow Indoors." For two hours, we explored nature, identified plants, and connected socially. 

Together we're growing resilient Dirt Girls! 

Plant Identification
Plant Identification
Sign Reading
Sign Reading

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Sample Designs for Air Plant Display
Sample Designs for Air Plant Display

To date, one dozen eager girls have participated in Dirt Girls Grow Indoors, the "pandemic proof" version of the popular after school garden club that has been growing resilience since 2016. 

During February, each participant received a mail-order box containing a pair of air plants. During virtual sessions, we engaged in discussion and activities to learn how to care for our air plants, and ourselves. One parent reported, Caroline had such a good time and she loves her air plants!  

Each weekly lesson includes science learning, social connection, and mindfulness practice. For example, the first week introduced how to create a structure for displaying an air plant using everyday materials. We talked about three reasons scientists think plants are good for us and practiced "triangle breathing."

February's focus includes: 

  • Lesson 1: Engineering for Epiphytes
  • Lesson 2: Identifying Air Plants
  • Lesson 3: Teaching about Tillandsias

In March, the program will move on to "Stress-Busting Succulents'' in which we will explore the resilient features of drought tolerant echeverias, haworthias, and sedums. To prepare for the March program, Dirt Girls will receive custom "grow indoors'' kits complete with potting oil, a set of mini-tools, terra cotta pots, a water bottle, and other fun items to foster their love of indoor gardening. All materials are provided FREE thanks to your generosity! 

In April, we'll explore "Fitness with Ferns" by observing graceful movement and mindful motivations. The final growing cycle in May will engage participants in a "terrarium challenge" to design an appealing and thoughtful display that enlivens an indoor space while creating the right growing conditions for a range of plants. 

I look forward to sharing more pictures and stories in June! 

With Dirt Girl Gratitude for your ongoing support,

Carrie 

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Women's March (January 2020)
Women's March (January 2020)

Dear Dirt Girl Supporter, 

Just last week, I received a text message from a parent of a former Dirt Girl. She sent me a photo of her daughter and me from four years ago with this request: "We would like to get involved in a gardening project."

Stories like this one, or like Danica (pictured above) are increasingly common as the weather forces us indoors, but COVID-19 keeps us distant. 

Danica recently turned twelve and started middle school in front of a computer screen. Back in August, her image of determination was one of 100 finalists in the GlobalGiving Photo Contest. People everywhere are longing for greater connection–to each other, to nature, and to the world at large.

Outdoor STEM programs provide these connections. For four years, Dirt Girls provided a space for Danica and dozens of young women to safely engage in scientific thinking. We need even more spaces where youth can thrive, where their vioices are heard, where their ideas matter. 

These were the themes that resonated with me when delivering the presentation "All the Dirt for Engaging Girls Outdoors" at the 49th Annual Conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education, which over 1500 people from across the continent attended last month. 

In the coming weeks, I hope that donors like you will consider making a lasting investment in outdoor STEM education, specially programs that support gender equity and empowerment, like the Dirt Girls

With that, I invite you to make a contribution that will help us reach our project goal of $10,000! There are three ways you can help: 

  • renew your generous donation from last fall (September of 2019)
  • consider a recurring or monthly donation (any amount couts!)
  • purchase gift cards to distribute for the holiday season (include a note about why you support Dirt Girls on GlobalGiving)  

Thinking of you with immense gratitude,
Miss Carrie, Founder and Leader of the Dirt Girls

Group Photo (Fall 2019)
Group Photo (Fall 2019)

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Organization Information

The School Garden Doctor

Location: Napa, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Carrie Strohl
Napa, CA United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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