Sally Ride Science Festival Cultivates Young Women Scientists

Posted: September 12, 2011 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: September 9, 2011 at 7:44 pm

By Tara Laskowski

With a mission to bring some “girl power” to science and math, the Sally Ride Science Festival is returning to George Mason University on Saturday, Sept. 17.

The festival, geared toward young women in grades five through eight, features hands-on workshops, guest speakers and a street fair complete with food, booths and music. The keynote speaker will be former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy, who in 2007 became the second woman to command a Space Shuttle mission.

Many Mason science faculty and graduate students will host the workshops and represent their research projects and expertise at the festival, which is sponsored by Sally Ride Science and the Northrop Grumman Foundation.

The Sally Ride Science Festival has been hosted several times at Mason since 2002, and geography and earth science professor Sheryl Beach says each year attracts more excited students.

“I love seeing the students run around with enthusiasm in their eyes,” she says. “The festival emphasizes women scientists and presenters, hoping to provide these girls with role models and show that a career in science is not only possible, but exciting.”


The workshops span a wide variety of science fields. Among those with Mason connections are


  • Kim de Mutsert from the Smithsonian-Mason Global Conservation Studies will conduct a workshop on identifying fish and aquatic invertebrates.
  • Geography Mason graduate students Nancy Perry and Mark Plummer will conduct a fun program on how to find “hidden treasures” using GPS.


  • Astronomy professor Harold Geller will bring students to Mason’s brand-new astronomical observatory for a workshop on the stars.

“The festival targets middle school girls because studies show that this is the time when these students make decisions about their future careers, and also at the same time become frustrated and drop out of science and math courses,” says Beach. “We really hope to reach out to this critical age group and show them how fun and interesting these areas can be.”

Registration and fees for students and adults to attend the festival and workshops can be found at Attendees must register by Wednesday, Sept. 14, so that students can be placed in the workshops of their choice.

Volunteers from Mason are also needed for general onsite duties. Email Sheryl Beach at if you are interested in participating.

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