For Gimlet resident Maren Feltman, 17, it wasn’t until her teenage years that she began to love physics, engineering and the like—thanks in large part to her teachers at Hemingway STEAM School, she said.
“Mr. Scott Slonim helped me throughout my projects and was a phenomenal teacher, and Mr. Stephen Poklemba made me really excited about science in eighth grade,” she said.
Now, Feltman hopes that her STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) outreach project that recently earned her a Girl Scout Gold Award will have the same effect on young kids.
“I didn’t really love science until I had a teacher who really got me excited about it, and I was like, ‘Wow, I could actually see myself doing this full time,’” she said. “Girls tend to lose interest in STEM fields and get discouraged around fourth or fifth grade, so that was my main target age.”
Only around 5 percent of all Girl Scouts go on to win the prestigious Gold Award, which requires girls to pick a cause important to their community and design a project around it. The distinction—considered the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Rank—typically requires a minimum of 80 hours of planning and implementation, Feltman said.
“You sort of have to prepare for it beginning in middle school, because then you have less work to do at the start of high school,” she said. “In my Gold Award, one thing I really wanted to address was a lack of STEM education outside of school.”
For her project, Feltman taught hands-on science lessons to kids in Ketchum, Hailey and Stanley, partnering with both the Blaine County Recreation District and the Sawtooth Mountain Mamas, a service organization in Stanley.
“I definitely enjoyed talking about the science behind each project, and I had to really know what I was talking about to answer everyone’s questions,” she said.
Using everyday objects, Feltman set out to prove that science can be anything but boring. Those under her supervision learned rudimentary electrical engineering by turning potatoes into electro-chemical batteries, and the basics of physics were imparted in a “marshmallow catapult” experiment. She said a snow globe activity she taught around the holidays—in which kids learned the basic concepts of viscosity and matter—was a favorite.
“I realized how much kids love giving feedback, so I would often follow up with them on what activity they liked the most,” Feltman said.
One important skill the scout learned in her project was time management.
“Whereas in Ketchum and Hailey, I got to work with the BCRD or the Girl Scouts, I was completely on my own for my last project in Stanley,” she said. “I had to secure the location and get the supplies. It was a lot more work than I realized, and I learned how important it is to start preparing weeks ahead.”
Feltman, a senior, is currently attending Riverstone International School in Boise, but continues to belong to Troop 230 in the Wood River Valley.
As for future plans, she has her eye on medical school right now.
“We’ll see where I end up going, but I’d like to study biomedical engineering and get a minor in business,” she said.
Feltman’s lesson plans are publicly available at tinyurl.com/ue9357z.