MINOT — According to information provided by Minot State University, Sara Medalen, a reading and math interventionist at Sunnyside Elementary, put all of her hard work into the first Girl Power camp for one purpose: to plant a seed in her students that would change the trajectory of their life into a better one, where they see the pursuit of higher education as a long-term goal.
“I also wanted to do this to increase awareness and participation of girls who are typically underrepresented in STEM, and then also to improve students’ outlook and confidence around academic and career aspirations; for them to think, “I could go to Minot State one day if that’s what my dream is”, she says.
Together with Minot State, Medalen launched the first nightly Girl Power event for 20 Sunnyside girls, where they stayed at Minot State and enjoyed space camp activities that encouraged critical thinking and teamwork.
Medalen has taught at Sunnyside for 18 years and believes that we cannot educate children properly if their emotional needs are not met and secured.
In this vein, Medalen helps with different educational initiatives and programs at Minot.
She runs Books & Braids before school hours, a makeshift girls’ hair salon in her classroom that offers extra reading practice. She is a mentor for Companions for Children, a program that engages local youth in community activities. Additionally, she was part of BIO Girls, a physical education-focused program whose mission is to improve girls’ self-esteem through self-empowerment and service to others.
Due to earning the 2020 North Dakota Teacher of the Year award, Medalen traveled to Huntsville, Alabama for a week-long program that revolved around lesson plans inspired by the NASA for Educators, all of which correlate with National Science Education Standards.
“When I finished that experience, I wanted to come back and do a science, technology, engineering, and math camp or a space camp for the kids here, and that was awesome because I had tons of resources at my disposal, ” she says. “The idea behind the simulations the kids did was to get them excited to learn. You don’t always see their enthusiasm in school.
Girl Power originated as an after-school club in Sunnyside where Medalen worked with her students in a project-based learning environment to come up with fundraising ideas, such as selling T-shirts to raise money. funds for less fortunate school children. They managed to raise over $10,000 in tuition for girls in Haiti.
Minot State hosted Girl Power on July 7 and 8 at the wellness center. The camp included group activities such as a shielded egg drop, mock rover landing, rocket assembly, and rocket launch. Participants also had a limited token budget to simulate the challenges of resource scarcity and availability.
“We were able to correlate camp activities with actual space activities, so the kids understood that what they were doing here was what it was like when NASA was actually preparing to go to Mars or the moon, for example. example”, said Medaille. “They also had team building activities beyond space simulation, like rock climbing and yoga.
“Most of the kids undoubtedly said their favorite part was staying in the dorm and eating in the dining room. Like I said, my goal was to plant a seed, to give them the opportunity to see what college is like.
Medalen and Minot State teachers plan to expand and improve future Girl Power camps.
“Minot’s condition was incredible. Dr. Lisa Borden-King (director of the reading clinic) and her students, who volunteered as instructors, made sure everything went smoothly,” said Medaille. “For next year we have a whole page of notes on things we want to do to improve the camp, but they were just logistics.”
The camp was made possible after Medalen applied for and received grants from North Dakota United, Souris River Telephone, Power of the Purse, and Minot Area Community Foundation.
“Many Sunnyside students live in poverty. These grants allowed them to attend the program and stay on campus for free,” she says. “So I’m very grateful for the generosity of our community, for them seeing the need for something like Girl Power in Minot.”