New “Snap the Gap” Program to Mentor 15,000 Young Girls

New “Snap the Gap” Program to Mentor 15,000 Young Girls

Photo Credits: COURTESY

$1.1 million grant from Walt Disney Company given to UC Davis

UC Davis has partnered with littleBits to create the “Snap the Gap” program. LittleBits is an educational technology company that provides hands-on learning kits to make STEM engaging for young girls. The new Snap the Gap program will provide mentorship and tools to 15,000 11-year-old girls as part of an effort to close the gender gap in STEM, where gender differences are already visible in K-8 education and become more apparent in higher levels of education.

“Girls appear to lose interest in STEM subjects with age, and lower levels of participation are already seen in advanced studies at secondary levels,” said Beth Broome, the senior advisor to the Provost. “By higher education, women represent only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields of study. Women leave STEM disciplines in disproportionate numbers during their higher education studies, in their transition to the world of work and even during their career cycle.”

UC Davis is working with schools, districts, the California Afterschool Network, STEM Hubs, Girl Scouts and other girl-serving organizations to recruit the young girls for the program. The program itself is versatile and could fit into both a traditional classroom environment as well as an informal environment.

For one of the undergraduates working on the program, the mentorship program has personal significance. Kayla Salvucci, a second-year statistics major at UC Davis working on the mentor communications side of the program believes that mentorship could change the way young girls view STEM. Her mother acted as her professional mentor and provided her with the encouragement she needed to help close the gap, instead of widening it out of fear.

“A few years ago, as I found my early interest in tech, I attended a large tech start-up accelerator event in Silicon Valley,” Salvucci said. “I was astonished by the visible difference in attendance between the number of men and women. Considering that I was one of the youngest attendees and new to the professional tech realm, I was easily intimidated and this gender difference was initially discouraging.”

Pamela Hernandez, a fifth-year cell biology major, researched mentorship strategies to provide a foundation for digital material that mentors could easily follow.

“We learned mentorship is an effective way to influence the attitudes and perspectives of young learners,” Hernandez said. “In addition, the quality of the relationship between a mentor and a mentee positively affects the social, behavioral, emotional and academic development of youth. Therefore, in Snap the Gap, mentorship is the key aspect of the program.”

Written by: Kriti Varghese — science@theaggie.org