District to test program that touts math, science careers

December 10, 2009 9:45:00 AM

Tim Pratt -


In an effort to get more female and minority students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related career fields, a group of researchers from Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women is teaming up to bring those fields to Starkville School District classrooms. 


The Starkville school board on Wednesday unanimously approved a request by MSU researcher Mark Goodman and MUW researcher Bonnie Oppenheimer to test an intervention strategy for a project that will allow women and minorities in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields to speak to district fifth-graders. Researchers will survey the students before the STEM speakers make their presentations and again afterward to see what kind of careers each would like, Goodman said. The second survey will be used "to see if they''ve moved from non-STEM fields to STEM fields," he said. 


Goodman believes students who reach middle school already tend to have "stereotypes" about what jobs women and minorities are supposed to hold. Oppenheimer, for instance, spent her formative years wanting to be a waitress because that was one of the few jobs where she saw women working. 


The researchers want to show students that women and minorities can hold jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. 


"If we give (students) examples of people who have those STEM jobs, who are of the same race or same gender, hopefully it will influence some of them to go into those fields," Oppenheimer said. 


Researchers received a $4,000 grant for the study, which will be used to purchase materials and supplies for the speakers to use in classrooms.  


In other business, the school board unanimously accepted a bid by West Brothers Construction, of Columbus, to perform renovations at Henderson Intermediate School. The bid of $3,017,700 will pay for extensive work on the facility, including a new building facade, a new play area and new traffic patterns, among other things.  


"The face of the building will be totally changed," Superintendent Judy Couey said.  


The school board also agreed to pay $56,604 for new Starkville High School band uniforms and approved the use of an online human resources program, which will allow people to apply for jobs in the district without all the usual paperwork.