Lakewood School Team Becoming Young Women Engaged In Mathematics

LAKEWOOD — A brand new club designed to get Lakewood high school women more engaged in mathematics has turned its attention toward preventing the launch of invasive aquatic species into nearby lakes.

The work won recognition in a nationwide competition.

The Women in STEM club started last year in Lakewood High School. The group is available to any student, but also the focus is on increasing the number of young girls in the fields of mathematics, technology, engineering and math.

“We now have such gender inequity in mathematics in college and the workplace,” club adviser Dani Leach explained. “As a teacher, I believe we have to do something about this to move women ahead.”

Leach, who teaches ninth grade mathematics and astrobiology, desired a place where students can develop after school to research areas of mathematics. The club meets per week. They’ve “genius hour” when they perform on projects and share what they understand. Leach intends to bring in speakers. She would like to invite women that are veterinarians, biologists, astronomers and engineers.

This year, club members decided to try a group undertaking. They competed in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition. Although this is just the second year that the club has existed and the first time that the women competed, they were picked among the best five projects in Washington.

They have been exploring invasive species at the Seven Lakes area. The goal is to do something that could make a difference in their very own back yard, and the lakes around Stanwood and Marysville have witnessed some exotic people. One of the most famous examples was in 2013, when a fisherman caught what seemed like a pacu. The toothy South American fish is regarding the piranha, although it mainly eats fruits and vegetables.

Gracie Britt, 16, is president of Women in STEM. She joined the club as a freshman. She lives within walking distance in Lake Goodwin.

She and her clubmates discovered lots of public outreach about invasive plant species and the importance of native plants. However, there didn’t seem to be as much about invasive creatures. Non-native fish, frogs, turtles and other animals end up in nearby lakes. Probably they were pets till they were set loose, Britt explained. That often happens because the owner wasn’t prepared to take care of the animal or didn’t know how large it would grow. Sometimes, individuals move out of the area and place their pets free.

It’s not a pity into the pet, and it is not great for the ecosystem, Britt explained. The pet likely will perish in the wild and, if it can survive, it may compete with native species.

The club’s aim is to find information pamphlets into pet shops so that people are more informed before they purchase an aquatic animal. Buyers should know what kind of maintenance is required, how large the animal might get and the damage that could be done if they decide to dump it into a lake or stream. They also plan to earn a public service announcement to high school students and maybe a publication for elementary kids.

“What I see with students is that it is not actually apathy, they just don’t possess the confidence to attack the world’s troubles,” Leach said. “But to get them to perform a local project where they can observe the effects over the next year or so, that is educational magic.”

Britt’s fascination with aquatic species is not a meticulous one. She would like to study marine biology. She has been interested with it because her mother took her into the aquarium when she had been in third grade.

“I fell in love with it, also I didn’t need to leave,” she said. “Since then, people are telling me I can’t get it done, and I just want to show them erroneous.”

She stated people tend to overlook her dreams because she is not on very top of her course. She would like to demonstrate you don’t have to ace every test to follow a career in mathematics.

Leach hopes to observe Women in STEM grow. Given some support, she thinks more young girls can break into STEM fields.

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“I’m not here to dictate what we do,” Leach said. “It’s simply to help women achieve their dreams, whatever they might be.”