"The world is big and they have an important role in it."
Ani Popp, Coosa aquatic diversity biologist and podcast host, recently visited City Park's Science, Technology, Engineering and Production (STEP) Club. Popp told the girls in the STEP club about local rivers, waterways and the different organisms that reside in those habitats in Georgia.
A spark of curiosity swept the room as Popp explained how she always showed an interest in science in school, especially biology. Her love for nature was influenced by the outdoor activities her family would participate in, which eventually led to her dream career.
"My family would go camping, canoeing and kayaking," said Popp. "When I was in college, I saw a poster for a major called wildlife and aquatic sciences and it seemed really interesting because it combined my love of science and being outside."
According to Popp, it is imperative it is for young students to be immersed in different kinds of career exposure at such a young age.
"The world is big and they have an important role in it," Popp said. "Whether they choose to be a biologist or work for an institute like Shaw, I think it's important for them to know there's a lot of options out there and many different opportunities to explore their passions."
Four years ago, Lisa Cushman formed STEP club as a way for 4th and 5th grade girls to learn about various careers and opportunities in those fields.
The girls meet every other week to brainstorm and identify problems in their community or world. Once the problem is identified, they collaborate to find a solution. The students are assigned a mentor to help them complete projects to achieve their goals.
"I want them to see that even though they're young, the things they learn in school can be applied to real-life and make our world a better place," Cushman said. "They learn how to work as a team, which is a good way for them to gain soft skills."
As the facilitator for the STEP Club, Cushman also reaches out to people that are employed in STEM fields to give the girls a real-world understanding about the variety of careers that they can pursue in the future.