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"Girls urged to set goals sky-high"

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Girls urged to set goals sky-high 
The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune 

Chantal Swanstrom knows how to build a working toy car out of a mouse
trap and CDs. 

The 15-year-old loves science and math. She can hardly wait for her
final two years of high school, when she can take chemistry and physics,
after completing honors biology this year.

"I don't get the best grades, but I like to learn everything I can,"
said Swanstrom, a Spanaway Lake High School sophomore.

Auriel Sperberg, a Cedarcrest Junior High ninth-grader, also has been
bitten by the science bug. She's fascinated by astronomy.

Some girls shy away from science and math, a tendency educators hope to
change. But for others, like Swanstrom and Sperberg, the subjects are as
much a part of their days as soccer or shopping.

On Friday, some 20 junior-high and high-school girls from the Bethel
School District explored aviation and high-tech careers at the Museum of
Flight in Tukwila.

They joined more than 200 teenage girls from across the Puget Sound
region for a two-day event called "Women Fly," a program designed to
encourage young women to pursue technical and aviation careers.

Students heard from women astronauts, stunt pilots and commercial
airline pilots who fly the world's biggest jets.

They rubbed shoulders with female World War II-era aviators, who cheered
them on.

Women account for about 50 percent of the general population, but only 6
percent of pilots and 10 percent of engineers, they learned.

"Those are not good numbers," said Craig O'Neill, a Museum of Flight
official. "We're here to change that."

Indeed, on the science portion of state assessment tests last year 10th
grade girls trailed their male counterparts in science, 31 percent to 33
percent passing the test. Last year marked the first year for state
assessment test scores in science; teachers now say they'll closely
watch trends in future test results.

"All of the scores need to be higher," said Linda Dugger, Bethel's
director of curriculum and assessment.

On Friday, students performed hands-on science experiments. They charted
flight paths and observed wind-tunnel conditions under which a plane
would stall.

In a space shuttle simulator, students averted a radiation disaster
during a simulated emergency before landing on the moon.

Students also watched in awe as stunt pilot Julie Clark performed loops,
rolls and hammerhead turns in a video.

Clark, 56, one of the first female pilots hired by a commercial airline,
advised students to pursue their passion for flying.

"If it's something you really want to do, absorb yourself in it," she

Anne Simpson, a Northwest Airlines captain who flies 747-400s, agreed.
But young people don't need to be superstars at school to succeed, she

"People always ask if I was good in math. It wasn't my strongest suit,"
said Simpson, who has years of experience teaching young pilots.

"Pretty much anybody can be taught to fly."

Attached Photo:

Sami Petersen, left, and Joanna Ellefson of Bethel Junior High School
write a flight plan at the "Women Fly" program Friday.


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