Dr. Marquita S. Blades works with POWARRful Teaching Strategies in Powder Springs, Georgia. Dr. Blades has spent several years managing national STEM programs for high-achieving high school students, developed two national seminars and resource manuals on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and traveled around the country providing professional development to teachers. She also works behind the scenes writing NGSS assessments, helping to remove cultural biases in assessments and ensuring they include a variety of items that are relevant to all students’ experiences.

Dr. Blades fell in love with Chemistry thanks to Mrs. Hiers at Griffin High School in Griffin GA.

Dr. Blades says, “She was not ‘exciting’ or ‘engaging really, She was no frills and no thrills – just a chalkboard, piece of chalk, and a whole lot of formulas and equations. I LOVED every minute of it. I am a systematic person so learning formulas and applying them was so much FUN for me!

Though I loved Chemistry, I never thought I liked Science, because I’d been taught that it was “hard” and for “boys.”

Though I’d planned to become a high school English teacher, once again a powerful STEM woman came in and showed me how amazing Science could be. On the first day of my college freshman Biology at Georgia State University, in walks the professor, Dr. Adams – a black women with a PhD in biology – and she could TEACH! She made me like biology and before the semester was over, I wanted to teach Biology. However, once I took my Chemistry requirements, I remembered how much I loved chemistry too, so I decided two things:

1) Science was for ME and
2) Science is not “hard”

But the work of attracting and keeping women in STEM fields isn’t just the work of women, men have to do their part to help overcome these disparities. I still fondly remember Dr. Hicks, who taught Chem 1 and 2 and, Dr. Pascoe who taught Organic Chemistry at GA State. I loved both of their classes and Dr. Pascoe was the first person I ever met from Jamaica. In Dr. Hicks’ course, I learned lab technique and this made me change my mind again from teaching biology to teaching chemistry. When I was in the lab, I truly felt like a “real” scientist…because we conducted “real” research. In the end, I got certified in Broad Field Science because I wanted to be able to teach any and all sciences.

When I meet young women interested in science, I tell them to “Do it! Science is for YOU! Science is for anyone who has a love and passion for it. Be curious and explore your interests to find the discipline that suits you. Participate in as many camps and clubs as you can and if you don’t have access to those experiences, read books and watch videos online…just give yourself a chance with science!”

The best thing that parents and teachers can do is expose young women to science. Most of the time, young people think they are not interested in something or that something is not accessible to them simply due to lack of exposure. Parents and teachers sometimes shy away from things that they don’t feel they know enough about, but they don’t have to be the experts. Find other people and resources to help young women explore science and allow them opportunities to decide if science is right for them.

It is important to have women in STEM fields because all groups need to be represented in all spaces. STEM impacts the lives of all people, not just those who currently dominate
the field.

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Out Teach, formerly REAL School Gardens, provides professional development for elementary school teachers. Out Teach prepares them to use school gardens, outdoor classrooms, and green schoolyards to improve instruction through three-dimensional project-based learning, and outdoor experiential inquiry-based education. Professional learning with Out Teach improves hands-on science and STEM education through instructional coaching and digital education resources and improves 21st Century skills.