CALLING ALL STEM WOMEN TO BE ROLE MODELS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
By Katie Kelly, DLE Social Media Intern, Communications and Culture major with a concentration in Media and a dual minor in Sports Journalism and Digital Technologies and Emerging Media at Fordham University, New York, NY
Maria Rundle is the executive director at Flying Cloud Institute, an organization that supports science and art education in the community for grades K-12. Based in Great Barrington, MA, the nonprofit’s mission is to inspire young people and educators through dynamic science and art experiences that ignite creativity in unique ways.
“Flying Cloud is not about just arts or just science; it approaches art with a scientific mindset and vice versa. We are creating the next generation of artists and scientists who think beyond the field they are in,” Maria shares.
Flying Cloud activates its mission in multiple ways. Volunteers work in public schools teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) standards through hands-on experiences by bringing in scientists to explain material and artists to creatively express what students learned. Flying Cloud also has a summer camp where students use digital and hands-on skills in “maker spaces.” Maria says, “We look to bring vocational and technical skills with science skills and creative art skills. We want to spark something in children.”
The activities and projects Flying Cloud has implemented are incredible. During one project, students learned five different styles of dance. Then, they made robots and costumes for the robots, who did the various dances in a flash-mob.
Maria was proud of how Flying Cloud adjusted during the pandemic. “We were so lucky. In July 2020, we were able to work with kids in person with careful protocols. When we learned that schools would only be open for two days a week, we created a full-day option for children of immigrant families, and families with parents in social work, education, and health.” The program was entirely outside and was crucial in keeping families in the workplace. Remarkably, there was not a single case of COVID transmission.
The Flying Cloud is entirely dependent on STEM professionals as volunteers. Maria is looking for support from professionals to help show kids what they can do in their lives, and she has a special invitation for the DLE community: “We are looking for female-identifying STEM professionals to volunteer one afternoon to be part of the program and share their story to inspire kids. One 1-hour planning meeting in advance is required to think through a hands-on activity, then one 2-hour session in a live Girls Science Club to share your STEM journey and to help lead a hands-on science investigation or engineering design challenge.”
Volunteer opportunities are available on Monday through Thursday afternoons, 3:30-5:00 PM during the school year. “It is a dream job for anyone who wants to turn around and inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.”
Maria stressed that volunteers do not need to have a perfect scientific journey. “We want to hear a story full of potholes and challenges, uncertainties and failures. Science shouldn’t be their whole life, but it should be part of their identity. You don’t have to have received all A’s in school. We want to hear about multiple identities and hobbies. It is crucial, especially for girls, to hear that this is not just for the best students.”
DLE members interested in being a role model for children and impacting their lives with The Flying Cloud Institute should contact Maria or Angel Heffernan at email@example.com or call them at 413-645-3058.