2018-19 Girls Discover STEM

The AAUW Corpus Christi Branch hosted its first “Girls Discover STEM” program on March 21, 2019, at the Texas State Aquarium. Fourteen West Oso Middle School 7th and 8th grade girls participated in the program designed to introduce local middle school girls to STEM careers held by successful women in Corpus Christi who enjoy working in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Alyce Todd, TSA Education Director, welcomed the West Oso girls to the Aquarium and the Wildlife Rescue Center.

Wildlife Rescue

AAUW member Dr. Catherine Cox examined the patient board.

The participants started with a tour of the Texas State Aquarium Wildlife Rescue center, where the TSA Education Director, Alyce Todd, introduced the girls to the concepts of math and science used in the treatment and care of injured birds and animals. Next, TSA Senior Wildlife Care Specialist Alex Little walked the girls through the outdoor facilities that house injured pelicans, ospreys, and other birds.

TSA Senior Wildlife Care Specialist Alex Little talked to the West Oso girls about rescued sea turtles.

As a reminder of the importance of sanitation and sterilization at the facilities, everyone cleaned the bottoms of their shoes in a shallow sterilization vat before entering the room with the tanks that house the injured turtles. The girls were able to view a variety of rescued sea turtles in multiple tanks, while the TSA staff explained how they provide treatment for these injured wildlife. In 2018, the Aquarium took in approximately 1,250 rescue patients, including more than 1,000 sea turtles.

Girls were introduced to the concepts of triage and induction, with an emphasis on efficiency when determining the treatment needed for rescue animals. Lauren Wilson, TSA Bird and Mammal Curator, recently returned from a trip to northern South Africa where she had assisted with the rescue of approximately 2,000 lesser flamingo juveniles and eggs, abandoned due to a severe drought. Wilson demonstrated the triage and induction training that she provided to the volunteer rescuers in South Africa. Girls learned to perform the “smell test” and to test for movement to determine which eggs were still alive, and they practiced triage and treatment for dehydration in flamingos.

West Oso girls shared a laugh about rotten eggs.

In a second room, additional TSA staff demonstrated triage techniques for sea turtles. Using official state registration forms, the girls recorded species; size measurements; location of latitude and longitude where the turtles were found; and what treatments were needed.

AAUW member Janet Blanke assisted the girls with the measurement of a sea turtle.

Aquarium Exploration

Moving over to the Aquarium, girls were divided into small groups and provided an iPad for a “photo safari.” Girls were assigned a rescue animal that they were tasked with locating in the Aquarium. The iPads were used to take photographs, and then each group created an Instagram or Facebook post, using templates provided by the TSA staff.

Girls enjoyed a lunch on the Caribbean Jungle Overlook at small tables with 15 professional women who work at the Texas State Aquarium. Lunch conversations highlighted what these women do at the Aquarium and how their education prepared them for these jobs. After lunch, girls viewed a short video about animal rescue operations, and then they designed an exhibit to tell the story about the Lesser Flamingo rescue operation in South Africa.


AAUW Corpus Christi Branch extends a heartfelt THANK YOU to the Texas State Aquarium and their outstanding staff for the organization and delivery of an excellent STEM program. The West Oso 7th and 8th grade girls enjoyed the opportunity to meet and learn from the professional female staff at the Aquarium, including: TSA Vice President for Education, Leslie Peart (who is also an AAUW member); TSA Education Director, Alyce Todd; TSA Bird and Mammal Curator, Lauren Wilson; Camp Specialist, Katie Dion; Senior Wildlife Care Specialist, Alex Little; and Engagement Specialist, Melanie Kudra.

The Texas State Aquarium is one of only about 250 facilities in the U.S. that are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, meeting rigorous professional standards for animal welfare, veterinary care, wildlife conservation, scientific research, education, expert staffing and safety. The activities for this event provided by the TSA staff was a pilot for the “STEM to the Rescue” program they are developing. We are blessed to have a facility of such high caliber in our local community, and we look forward to future engagements with the Aquarium, as we continue to introduce middle school girls to STEM careers.

Article and photographs by Dr. Vickie Natale, Webmaster.

Summer STEM Activity

The AAUW Corpus Christi Branch held its second STEM Program activity with West Oso Independent School District girls at the YWCA on June 11, 2019. Janet Blanke, STEM Committee Chair, gave an introduction to the movie, “HIdden Figures,” a 2016 American biographical drama film. The movie is about black female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Space Race. Organizations and independent businesses regard the film as relevant to the cause of improving youth awareness in education and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Viewings of the film are designed to help encourage a new generation of women to consider STEM careers. Research from Georgetown University showed 2.4 million job vacancies for STEM occupations between 2008 and 2018.

After the movie, girls wrote their answers to the prompt, “What motivated the women to show courage and withstand prejudice?” One girl wrote, “The thought of becoming successful in the end. The thought of being your own boss and teaching others the same love for NASA and space. The thought of working 10 times harder than the men to prove them wrong in the end. To show us as African American women who can do everything a man can do, and maybe even more.”

After the writing assignment, the girls and AAUW committee members sat in a circle to discuss the movie and the emotions they felt as they watched the actions of people in the movie. The discussion ended on a note about computer science classes available at West Oso.

West Oso ISD girls discussed the movie, “Hidden Figures.”

After the movie, discussion, and lunch, the girls enjoyed time at the YWCA pool. We thank our AAUW member Nancy Wesson-Dodd and the YWCA for providing the location for this event and inviting the girls to utilize the pool facilities.

Article by Dr. Vickie Natale