The Mote Marine Laboratory group connects girls to the science world.
Natalia Rechtorik might want to be a veterinarian when she grows up, but that didn’t stop her from exploring the science world Sept. 15.
On Saturday afternoon about 40 girls, and a couple boys, between the ages of 6 and 13 gathered in Mote Marine Laboratory’s WAVE Center to dive into the world of sharks and ocean conservancy.
The Gills Club, formed from a Mote partnership with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, aims to bring science to more girls in the community.
At this month’s meetings, attendees visited three stations. At each station, the girls built their own shark tanks, shark cradles and shark-like paper airplanes. Whether working individually or in a group, the participants had limited time to design and test out their creations.
When their cradles, made out of clay and dry spaghetti were done, the girls had to carry a plastic shark on the cradle from one table to another to make sure it worked. If it didn’t a Mote staff member or intern, asked the girls what might have worked better.
Across the room, those building shark paper airplanes tried to fly their pieces once designed. For those that broke during the flight, the creators had a chance to redesign and build for a second chance.
Rechtorik has been attending Gills Club meetings for three years and said her favorite part is “learning all the stuff.”
Maggie Layman, who hadn’t been to a meeting before Saturday, said the stations were fun and she enjoyed learning.
“STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is required to do all of this stuff,” she said as she built a shark-themed paper airplane.
That realization is one that the Mote staff wanted the girls to take away from the day.
“The biggest mission of Gills Club is connecting girls with a careers in STEM,” Mote Marine Science Educator Kayla Keyes said.
And not only that, but at each meeting, a female scientist who works at Mote, speaks with the attendees about what she research does for sharks and the laboratory.
At the end of the session, the group debriefs what they learned and the attendees go home with the projects they’ve created.
Gills Club meets monthly. For questions, email [email protected]. The next meeting is on Saturday, Oct. 27.