How This School Empowers Girls to Be STEM Leaders of Tomorrow

STEM Scouts from Frankie Woods McCullough Academy for Girls building a free-standing structure from pasta and marshmallows. (Photo: Jim Karczewski / Post-Tribune)

Marshmallows, raw spaghetti, and lab coats may seem like an odd combination to most, but as a group of young scientists recently learned, lessons in STEM often include unexpected materials and surprising results.

D’Jharea J., a student from the Frankie Woods McCullough Academy for Girls in Gary, IN, was under the clock. She and her classmates were challenged with building a free-standing structure able to support boxes of spaghetti, using marshmallows and uncooked pasta—a task that at first, may have seemed impossible.

But in less than 20 minutes, this group of skeptics transformed into young engineers when they successfully completed the task and won their first STEM Scouts activity.

“It was just suspense and surprise,” D’Jharea told the Chicago Tribune when describing her team’s victory.

In the piece entitled “Defying gender stereotypes, Gary school pushes girls into science,” the Chicago Tribune features D’Jharea and her classmates as they navigate lessons in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Students working together to complete the STEM activity challenge. (Photo: Jim Karczewski / Post-Tribune)

The story highlights the value of STEM-oriented programs for girls, and how schools like McCullough can empower young women to take initiative to become more independent in their academic pursuits.

“In doing so, then we can see the progression of their learning,” kindergarten teacher Antonia Escobedo told the Chicago Tribune.

In 2005, McCullough Academy shifted its educational focus to the areas of science and math, “encouraging girls to defy gender stereotypes and embrace science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields at an earlier age,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

Thus, BSA’s STEM Scouts program is a natural fit for the all-girls school. The pilot program, now in its fourth year, encourages girls and boys to pursue interests in STEM-related topics by engaging with them through exciting experiments and character development.

Developing future STEM professionals is a vital step towards strengthening our nation’s growing economy, and it all starts with helping young people uncover new passions in STEM. You can find out more about the innovative STEM Scouts program on

Learn more about how the Frankie Woods McCullough Academy for Girls is working to develop future STEM talent by reading the full story from the Chicago Tribune.


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Rochelle Randles is a communications specialist at the Boy Scouts of America. She enjoys sharing incredible adventure stories within the Scouting community and beyond. If you have story ideas or questions, reach out to us at