By: Jessica Haggett
MySTEM and Corporate Programs Director
I know I’m a nerd. I get unreasonably excited over lab equipment. I’m delighted by data. I direct STEM programming at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/ Metrowest (check us out at bbbscm.org/mystem). It was no surprise that I was terribly excited to get to tour Sanofi Genzyme’s labs in Framingham with 8 children on the waitlist for mentors. What did surprise me, though, was the kids’ excitement. I have never seen kids more eager to engage. These kids were ready for science.
Last month, more than 10 kind volunteers from Sanofi Genzyme in Framingham opened the doors to their workspace to connect with kids waiting to be matched with mentors in our community program, and to introduce them to the work done at their facility. These people are scientists, bearing multiple degrees, packed with knowledge and expertise. But for the day, they were friends. They were able to connect with a herd of 8-year-olds, helping them understand what they do in simple terms. Their incredible energy opened the kids up right away. Some of the waitlist kids jumped right into the group and started asking questions, about their jobs, about their work, and about what it was like to be a scientist. Others waited to be partnered up with their “Big for a Day,” and opened up with the one-on-one attention.
This event was highly powerful for our soon-to-be Littles. We were able to tour the facilities, see what the lab and office space looked like, and meet scientists at their desks and in the hallways. We wore lab coats and goggles, and were able to learn how to use complex lab equipment (like a multi pipette). We looked at slides containing mouse brains, and learned about how nerves work in our body and how they’re studied. We even got to extract DNA from strawberries! More than anything, we got to feel like we were a part of the lab, that this could be a place we belonged just as much as anyone else. If we wanted to be scientists, we would be greeted with open arms.
It isn’t doing it justice to say the kids enjoyed themselves. They LOVED being able to do science, talk to the scientists, and explore their own abilities. They asked questions, they laughed, they listened carefully. One girl even drew all the things she learned on the white board while we had pizza. Many agreed that they wanted to be scientists when they grew up. Everyone agreed that they had lots of fun.
Experiences like these help shape children’s understanding of who they can be. Recent studies have shown that even just talking to kids about science can boost their self-esteem and likelihood to pursue a career in STEM.What Sanofi Genzyme did was ensure that these kids were on a path to have the freedom to choose a STEM career if they want to, to ensure that these kids feel welcome, to ensure that they know they are good enough to do this. We cannot thank the team at Sanofi enough for this incredible day!
If you think your company might like to host a MySTEM experience at your lab or office in Central Mass / Metrowest, contact Jessica.Haggett@bbbscm.org.