FORT WORTH, Texas – The American Airlines CR Smith Museum and Marie Eve Poirier-Harris, director of Museum education, were awarded the 2021 Million Women Mentors – Texas Stand Up for STEM Educational Organization and Educator awards. The awards recognize the museum’s and Poirier-Harris’ commitment to empowering young girls to pursue STEM careers through educational programs.
According to the United States Census Bureau, women made up nearly half of the U.S. workforce in 2019, but only 27% of STEM professionals.
“A lot of research has demonstrated that girls, and especially girls from underserved communities, have low perception of self-efficacy in STEM, meaning they don’t believe they can pursue a career in a STEM-related field,” said Poirier-Harris. “The reasons why include a lack of visible female role models in STEM careers, limited resources at school and home and contact with negative stereotypes.”
Exposing girls to STEM careers through targeted educational programming has been a focus of the museum since 2017, ranging from all-girl one-day workshops to week-long camps. Girls from around the Dallas-Fort Worth area have participated in hands-on activities and heard from women in various aviation STEM professions.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the museum’s programming, Poirier-Harris conducted a study of a weeklong girls program in 2019. The result was a 206% increase in interest among participants in STEM careers post-camp program.
“The results from the study clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of our program,” Poirier-Harris said. “The girls’ perception of who could be a STEM professional changed dramatically after concluding the program, including the gender and race of the individual. Their experiences gave them the confidence to see themselves in a STEM career.”
In her career, Poirier-Harris has spent more than 20 years working with girls from underserved communities to help them build self-efficacy in STEM. Since joining the museum in 2018, Poirier-Harris has been the driving force behind the growth of the education program portfolio, outreach to Title 1 schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and collaboration with teachers to bring sessions to the classroom.
Like many organizations, the museum was forced to pivot its programming approach due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Poirier-Harris converted the curriculum into virtual formats, allowing the museum to reach kids who previously wouldn’t have had the chance to participate.
In 2022, the museum will continue to innovate with ambitious plans for educational and networking opportunities targeting kids grades K-12 in the Metroplex.
“We have seen firsthand that our work can change lives,” said Poirier-Harris. “We’re always trying new approaches to expand our impact in our community and make a difference for kids of all backgrounds. It’s why we do what we do, and we’re just getting started.”
About the American Airlines CR Smith Museum: The Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and delivers life-changing educational programs while preserving and celebrating the heritage of American Airlines and its people. EIN 75-2335230.
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