A new all-girls STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) school for grades K-8, the first of its kind in Indiana, will open in Indianapolis. The project will be led by Jenn Watts, who was most recently director of policy for the Indiana Department of Education and managed the development of Indiana’s first statewide STEM Strategic Plan with the Indiana STEM Advisory Council, which included the Governor and State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Watts is in the process of forming a 501 (c)3 called Every Girl Can STEM, and is conducting a search for founding board members and a school leader to help design the charter school, which plans to open in the Fall of 2021.

Girl Scouts of Central Indiana has been in collaborative conversations regarding the school and will be a program partner. Along with a rigorous, STEM-focused curriculum, girls who attend the school will be immersed in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, including opportunities for outdoor learning at nearby Girl Scout Camp Dellwood. The vision for the school facility also includes innovative hands-on opportunities for girls from across the state of Indiana.

Said Watts, “Our country is in the midst of a STEM talent crisis, which is particularly profound for women. Currently women hold less than 25% of the STEM jobs in the U.S. Yet research shows that girls are keenly interested in STEM and excel at it, however, for a variety of reasons they don’t pursue it. Further, research shows that if a girl lacks a quality STEM experience by the age of 8, she stops seeing STEM, specifically science and math, as viable pathways.”

“Every Girl Can STEM believes all girls should have access to quality science, technology, engineering and math education,” said Watts. “We are unapologetically inclusive in our approach to provide equitable, culturally competent learning infrastructures, resources and tools for our young, female entrepreneurs, scientists, innovators and creators. According to the National Science Foundation, underrepresented minorities still face substantial barriers, including limited access to quality math and science education in grades K-12. Our new school will seek to address those challenges.”

Girl Scouts of Central Indiana’s CEO, Danielle Shockey, said, “STEM learning has been a part of our DNA for more than 100 years. In fact, Girl Scouts’ first set of six badges in 1912 included a STEM badge, which was the Naturalist badge. Then during the war years, aviation badges helped girls and women support the war efforts, and today we have more than 100 badges in STEM, including badges with curriculum designed by program partners NASA and Raytheon.”

“In the next decade, our country will need 1 million new STEM professionals to fill the job pipeline,” said Watts. “Women comprise more than 50 percent of our nation’s workforce but hold less than a quarter of the STEM jobs. This deficit starts early. As young as second grade, youth demonstrate the stereotype that ‘math is for boys, not girls.’ By third grade, girls form their STEM identity. By high school, only 11 percent of girls are interested in a STEM career.”

“Girl Scouts is the world’s largest leadership organization for girls, and our organization has made a pledge that by 2025, we will add 2.5 million girls to the STEM pipeline,” said Shockey. “Girl Scouts of Central Indiana has operated a Math and Science Center on the west side of Indianapolis for nearly 20 years. For the past decade, we’ve sent STEM vans across our 45 counties to provide hands-on opportunities for Girl Scouts. And this new partnership with the STEM School will further enhance our commitment to providing rigorous STEM opportunities for girls. Girl Scouts serves girls in all types of education settings, and we have a robust STEM program initiative, so when we were presented with this opportunity to be a program partner in a school that aligns so well with our mission, we were proud to say yes.”

Watts will host community meetings to develop a school model that will best meet the needs of the students and families it will serve. The school location is still being determined and will be identified over the next two years. Interested school leader applicants should send inquiries to [email protected].