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Digging for Worms, Empowering Young Girls

Girls Explore STEM Camp to be offered June 6-10, 2015 for girls in grades 6 through 8.

Jessica Bies, Mankato Free Press, 4-6-2015

MANKATO — Who wouldn’t want to dig for worms at Rasmussen Woods?

“Sounds cool, right?” said Sammie Hedwall, assistant director for the Minnesota State University, Mankato Women’s Center.

She’s hoping a few area middle schoolers will feel the same. Recent recipient of a $10,000 grant from Regenerative Medicine Minnesota, the Minnesota State Mankato Women’s Center is holding a Girls Explore STEM Camp June 6-10.

(Sorry boys. Girls only!) The focus? Lumbricus terrestris! The earth worm!

“The main part of the camp will focus on regeneration,” Hedwall said. “You go to Rasmussen Woods and you collect samples of worms and you look at how those worms grow and regenerate throughout the week.”

The camp is five days and one night. In addition to worms, the girls will get to explore robotics, engineering, meteorology and more.

Targeted for girls entering grades six through eight, it costs $150.

Thanks to the grant, Minnesota State Mankato will also be able to offer scholarships and financial aid, Hedwall said.

There are 40 available spots. Families can register by visiting and clicking on the link on the left.

Girls Explore STEM Camp, as the name suggests, is dedicated to encouraging girls to explore science, technology, math and engineering.

It’s an important mission, Hedwall said. Not only have women seen no employment growth in STEM jobs since 2000, a 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce report found only one in seven engineers is female.

Though many girls — Hedwall used to be one of them — may dream of going into STEM, they find themselves deterred.

“I wanted to work with animals,” Hedwall said. “I don’t even know what happened. I don’t know why I didn’t end up doing it.”

About the time she went to middle school, she changed her mind. It happens to so many girls so often, she said.

She doesn’t know exactly why they give up on their aspirations, but they do.

“Middle school, sixth through ninth grade is when you’re really interested in science,” she said. “And also around that age for some reason you’re like ‘I’m not good in science. I’m not good in math. That’s not going to be my dream anymore.’” That’s one of the reasons Hedwall and staff at the Woman’s Center want to do anything they can to encourage girls to explore STEM. The mission of the Women’s Center is to empower women in all fields, she said.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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