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Students conducting experiment with test tubes and droppers

SFUSD students experiment with STEM at Willie Brown Middle School event


In a classroom at Willie L. Brown Middle School, students scurried about the room with droppers in hand “exchanging fluids” in each other’s test tubes. Unknowingly, two of the students were carrying a “virus” that would infect their classmates’ fluids.

Who was carrying the virus, the students asked the instructors? But they learned that finding the source of the virus was as impossible as finding the source of a cold in the real world.

The activity was part of the second annual NexGeneGirls STEM Symposium on Oct. 19 at Willie Brown Middle School (WBMS). More than 200 middle- and high-school students from across San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) listened to school and career advice from industry professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Students then moved into classrooms to try their hands at STEM activities and experiments.

WBMS teacher James Robertson and his robotics students taught others how to build and program robots. In another room, students examined their cheek cells in a microscope. High schoolers met with industry experts who reviewed students’ personal LinkedIn accounts and gave advice on college and jobs in STEM industries.

Parents also met with industry professionals to discuss how they can support their children as they pursue STEM learning and careers in the future.

NexGeneGirls, which started in 2011, expanded the event this year to include high-school students, in addition to middle schoolers. The organization provides opportunities for young people of color from low-income communities to participate in scientific processes through fun, hands-on science activities, lab experiments, and workshops. Students learn scientific principles while building self-confidence and developing the skills to problem solve using math and technology.

Other groups that participated included White Coats 4 Black Lives, Genentech, and the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.