June, 2004: Oakland Press

Susan Kruger was featured in this article in the Oakland Press.

susan kruger

Young girls encouraged to learn, experiment at summer science camp

By Patrick Dutcher

A miniature Mars Rover wheels around the learning lab, hunting down little wooden targets and running them over.

The camera-guided, remote-control car is part of a summer program exclusively for girls at the Cranbrook Institute of Science called Science Expedition for Girls.

Susan Woodcock is a former teacher and president of Through the Learning Glass. Her organization put together the Science Expedition for Girls and is in its second year of summer programs at Cranbrook. This year, for the first time, Woodcock is offering a girls-only day camp in an effort to keep young women interested in science.
“Our goal is to inspire scientific interest,” Woodcock says. “We want girls to see how exciting science can be.”

The Mars Rover is one of the projects Through the Learning Glass will be using to get girls excited about science. They’ll learn about landing and navigating a remote vehicle on Mars by building a landing system for the rover, tossing it from the Institute of Science’s roof and controlling it by looking at a TV monitor.

The inspiration for the camp came when Woodcock, 28, and her colleagues noticed a trend. Girls were losing interest in science and leaving it to the boys.

In last year’s camps, Woodcock noticed that the boys tended to jump right in and take the lead working on camp activities. Girls had a different approach. They would hang back and analyze the situation, sometimes getting left behind by the fast-acting boys.

“This is a natural interaction and certainly is not premeditated by boys,” Woodcock says. “But it does tend to gradually push girls out of the process, eventually causing them to lose interest.”

Girls tend to tune out science somewhere between the fourth and seventh grade, so Through the Looking Glass targeted those ages for its summer camp.

Woodcock hopes science will interest girls enough to make it a career.

The Science Expedition for Girls is built out of the most exciting projects from other science camps Through the Learning Glass offers this summer at Cranbrook. It covers topics that should excite even children who think science class is a snore.

Everything from the physics of flight to forensics and outdoor survival is covered in a fun and educational way.

“The kids should come away educated, but maybe not know they were educated,” says Karl Mayry, vice president of Through the Learning Glass.

He designs most of the experiments for the summer camps, and his model gliders and remote-control vehicles are the building blocks of the programs. Mayry says he handles the fun while Woodcock does the structure.

“We want to excite them, and motivate them towards science,” Mayry says. “We want them to see the bells and whistles.”

Mayry, 40, plans on putting the girls through a space walk exercise outside a simulated space shuttle and have a day of crime-scene investigation where students will use fingerprints and chemical evidence to try to identify a felonious camp counselor.

There could be a plot twist though: Mayry is thinking about framing someone this year.


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