5437 Views (as of 05/2023)
  1. Rita Karl
  2. http://national.tpt.org/about/who-we-are/
  3. Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
  5. TPT Twin Cities Public Television
  1. Katie Hessen
  2. STEM Content and Outreach Specialist
  4. SciGirls, TPT Twin Cities Public Television

SciGirls in Space: Gender Equitable STEM Media and Hands-On Learning for All


2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Informal / multi-age

Right this minute, astronauts from around the world are orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station (ISS). But these bold adventurers aren’t the only ones exploring space! Youth nationwide are engineering, designing, testing and refining experiments that are flown to the ISS, and SciGirls has captured their stories for an innovative new science education initiative.  As part of the NASA-supported Space Station Explorers program, Twin Cities PBS produced a series of four videos that share the inspiring stories of young women who have participated in International Space Station-aligned programs.

The short-form videos feature Abby, Julia, Sarah and Abby Sofia sharing their passion for space science, highlighting their successes, challenges and the diverse paths they’ve traveled to become space science standouts. Viewers also follow these creative young women through their everyday lives, enjoying hobbies, sports, family and friends. Relatable, warm and smart, these real-life SciGirls act as near-peer role models for all students, exemplifying the powerful maxim if she can see it, she can BE it. 

The SciGirls in these videos all participated in The National Design Challenge on board the International Space Station. This program, created by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), invites students to design experiments that become part of the International Space Station National Lab (ISSNL) research efforts. The experiments are flown to the ISSNL aboard unmanned cargo missions.

Youth, educators and families can access the SciGirls in Space videos and aligned activities across multiple platforms, including scigirlsconnect.org.

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Discussion from the 2019 STEM for All Video Showcase (20 posts)
  • Icon for: Roxanne Hughes

    Roxanne Hughes

    May 13, 2019 | 09:44 a.m.

    I love that the high school students are the leaders in this. You can see all of the SciGirls strategies as work!

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Gina Reis
    Katie Hessen
  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 13, 2019 | 10:46 a.m.

    Welcome to the SciGirls in Space initiative! Funded by the International Space Station National Lab (ISSNL), these short films bridge the age gap between the video diaries of the SciGirls on the PBS show (backstories filmed by girls about their home lives) with our recent Emmy Award winning-series of profiles of young professional women in STEM (see our other showcase entry. Latinas at Work)! Each girls tells her STEM journey that includes flying an experiment to the ISSNL.

    We are excited to see how short-form near peer video stories like these, which showcase high school and college-age girls' STEM journeys can be used by educators and in social media to motivate and encourage girls in science and space-related studies and career pathways.

    The films are used in tandem with other space-themed SciGirls episodes and activities at SciGirls outreach sites across the U.S. including The Challenger Center in Heartland Community College, IL; North Dakota Space Grant Consortium in Grand Forks, ND and Girls Inc. of San Antonio, TX.

    Visit our SciGirls in Space pages for additional resources!

  • Icon for: Camellia Sanford-Dolly

    Camellia Sanford-Dolly

    Senior Research Associate
    May 13, 2019 | 12:09 p.m.

    I'm curious about whether you looked at the impacts of the episodes on the girls who participated in the filming. I would imagine that there might be changes in their own science communication skills in presenting their work in an interview format, and whether their participation in filming deepened their own sense of STEM identity or interest in STEM outreach. 

    On a totally different note, I am intrigued by how the videos might be used in social media and wondered if you can say more about how you or others have used the videos for this purpose thusfar, the kinds of outcomes you think you'll see or have seen, and whether you have any pointers for those who might be utilizing videos for a similar purpose.

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 13, 2019 | 03:49 p.m.

    Thank you for your question!

    For social media our audience is primarily informal educators (some classroom teachers and parents) who use the media in their programs.

    We share all of our resources on our SciGirls' Facebook and Twitter and Instagram feeds. Our primary dissemination networks are the SciGirls network (3,100 educators, visit scigirlsconnect.org) and the National Girls collaborative (17,000 educators leading girl-serving STEM programs across the nation. 

    See the post below for the impacts on the girls in the television show.

  • Icon for: Marie Domingo

    Marie Domingo

    Senior Producer, SciGirls
    May 13, 2019 | 02:11 p.m.

    Thanks for watching and for your questions, Camellia! As one of the producers on the SciGirls team, I've had the privilege of working with the women and girls who are featured in both the role model profile videos and the TV series episodes. While we haven't conducted a formal study on what impact may result from participating in SciGirls' filming, I have witnessed every participant gain confidence and communication skills through the course of production, whether it's one day of filming or a whole week. I'd be very interested to hear from anyone studying whether serving as a mentor or role model, either via media or in-person, has an impact on one's own STEM and / or role model identity. Regarding your question about social media... The short length of the role model videos works well for social media distribution and we typically design a release strategy, in collaboration our partners, often timed around the PBS broadcast premiere of our TV episodes or another cross-promotion opportunity or event that helps to drive more sharing and viewing. Our social media audience is not kids so the videos and their distribution on those platforms are geared towards educators who may use them in their programs.

  • Icon for: Camellia Sanford-Dolly

    Camellia Sanford-Dolly

    Senior Research Associate
    May 13, 2019 | 03:14 p.m.

    Thanks for responding, Marie! I know that Michael Kennedy at Northwestern University has been exploring the impact of peer and near-peer mentorships on participants in his Science Club Afterschool initiative. One thing they found was that participating as a mentor reinvigorated participants to get excited about science and their own research again because they saw the enthusiasm of the youth participants and remembered what got them interested in science in the first place.

  • Icon for: Jason Aloisio

    Jason Aloisio

    May 13, 2019 | 02:42 p.m.

    What a great program and production! What topics are the near-peer mentor focusing on with their mentees? Are they guiding them through project development or are they facilitating structured lessons?

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 13, 2019 | 03:52 p.m.

    The near peer role model videos are used in SciGirls in Space programs led by informal STEM educators as motivational.

    The three girls from Duchesne HS did go back to the middle school to describe their program to the 5th graders, acting as role models encouraging the students to stay engaged with STEM. You can see that footage in the films!

    We have recently piloted some work locally in which HS and college students act as mentors in STEM programs with elementary students. Very rewarding!

  • Icon for: Kelli Paul

    Kelli Paul

    May 13, 2019 | 03:57 p.m.

    Have you collected data to look at the impacts that these mentors/role models have on students? 

  • Icon for: Kelli Paul

    Kelli Paul

    May 13, 2019 | 03:20 p.m.

    You stated that you are interested in how the videos depicting these "STEM journeys" can be used "to motivate and encourage girls in science and space-related studies and career pathways." Have you collected evidence to examine this? Specifically, have you collected evidence as to the influence of these videos on kids, especially young girls, related to their interest, aspirations, or identity as a STEM person? If so, what is it about the videos that is most influential to girls? Is it seeing someone that looks like them, is it learning about opportunities that they did not know existed, is it seeing that persistence pays off, etc.?


  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 13, 2019 | 04:05 p.m.

    For this series, our educators have not yet completed their program evaluations. What we know from other projects that use role model videos is that seeing girls who look (and sound!) like them can help build girls' STEM identity (STEM identity development is dependent upon factors like interest, knowledge, self-confidence, performance, and recognition).

    Evaluation by SciGirls' external evaluator, Dr. Valerie Knight Williams, looked at the use of role model videos by educators running SciGirls programs with young Latinas. The educators found the STEM profile videos moderately-to-very valuable.

    “Being able to show mentor videos in class improved my own knowledge in ways to address any barriers to STEM engagement. The videos were proof to my students that they CAN find a career that they love in a STEM related field.”

    “It was important] to know that STEM careers and scientists work on issues that impact the community. … I learned that engineering is about community and solutions. I like that. I think science definitely contributes to better our world. … It makes me hopeful for the future and today. I learned how important is science when supporting our community bounce back from a hurricane impact before and after. I had not made that connection.” 

    “STEM professionals are needed to advance society and heal communities like Puerto Rico. … Now I understand the value of the scientific process and how important it is to know how to solve real life environmental problems.”


  • Icon for: Jake Foster

    Jake Foster

    May 13, 2019 | 04:07 p.m.

    These are great stories of girls succeeding in STEM! It is great to hear about stories of students across time, from middle to high school, leading to a significant achievement like this. What is the framework or theoretical grounding that you bring to a production such as this?

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 13, 2019 | 04:29 p.m.

    Jake, Thanks for your question!

    The foundation that underpins all SciGirls media are the research-based strategies culled from over a decade of research are in a publication titled, SciGirls Seven: How to Engage Girls in STEM. These strategies are used by thousands of educators, and focus on promoting collaboration; using real-life contexts for STEM projects; promoting open-ended investigations; placing value on diverse ways of knowing, viewing and describing the world; providing specific, positive feedback on things girls can control; offering opportunities to think critically about STEM; and forming relationships with role models and mentors. We also base our role model video work on our research-based best practices guide, SciGirls Role Model Strategies.

    These videos of relatable girls who look, sound and act similar to youth viewers offer near-peer role modeling, reminding girls “if she can do it, so can I!” Our evaluations have demonstrated that engaging in vicarious experiences through the girls featured on SciGirls can significantly influence viewers’ confidence in their own abilities. This leads to greater awareness, knowledge, positive attitudes and behaviors around STEM.

    Each role model video we create, we create in partnership with the young woman we are filming. We focus on the role models’ work and academic pathway; challenges and obstacles that she has overcome (her role models and other strategies), her home life: family, friends and hobbies, and advice for girls.

  • Icon for: Carrie Schuman

    Carrie Schuman

    May 13, 2019 | 04:55 p.m.

    I got a chance to look at your website to find out a little more. Curious about what this program looks like in application. How often do students interact with their mentors? Also, it looks like they might do a variety of things like activities and experimental design? Do they meet periodically over the course of a full year? 

    Looking forward to checking out more of the resources including the ones focused on how to engage girls in STEM!

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 15, 2019 | 10:24 a.m.

    My apologies! They are in several places!

    Here on the project page are the Latinas at Work series:



    All of the SciGirls role model profiles including Latinas at Work, Real Women, Real Jobs and SciGirls in Space are at the following sites!

    SciGirls YouTube page/Profiles Playlist:


    PBS LearningMedia/SciGirls - PBS Educators site:


    SciGirls Connect - our educators site:



  • Icon for: Breanne Litts

    Breanne Litts

    Assistant Professor
    May 14, 2019 | 01:38 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing this work! I'm curious how the SciGirls stories were selected for use in the video and what the impact has been. How did they access this opportunity? How have these short form videos impacted viewers? 

    I wonder how you're connecting the SciGirls exhibited here as near-peer mentors practically. What is the method of engagement to enact near-peer mentoring? Is the idea that they do that through their short form videos? Is there a community connecting them with near-peers? 

  • Icon for: Perla Myers

    Perla Myers

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2019 | 03:05 a.m.

    Thank you so much for sharing! This is an awesome project!!! 

  • Icon for: Deanna Privette

    Deanna Privette

    i3 STEM Grant Coordinator
    May 16, 2019 | 01:06 p.m.

    Really enjoyed the video and the growth opportunities you're providing girls.  How was the design challenge question arrived at/established for the girls to research?  How much support was provided during the design challenge?  

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 17, 2019 | 12:42 p.m.

    Information about the ISS National Lab (formerly CASIS) National Design Challenge is here: https://ndcpilot.weebly.com/ - This program is currently only serving the Boy Scouts.

    Information about the current SSEP program (Student Spaceflight Experiments Program opportunity) is here: http://ssep.ncesse.org/

    The SSEP challenge is current, in fact there is an RFP due June 17th out right now!


  • Icon for: John Moore

    John Moore

    May 17, 2019 | 11:28 a.m.

    Awesome job ladies! I too work in the area of having precollege students interact in an authentic way with space through satellites etc. It is wonderful to see your enthusiasm, determination, and ownership working on your projects. Best wishes and continued success as you continue with your studies and projects!

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.