News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Empowering tomorrow's innovators: Florida Museum of Natural History holds "Girls Do Science" event

Some folks may think that eight-year-old Abigail Posada is a princess.

But she’s going to tell you otherwise. Saturday morning, she proudly wore her “Forget about princess, I want to be a scientist” shirt. Asked if she enjoyed learning, she yelled: “YESSS!”

Posada was not the only child who was excited to learn about science Saturday morning.

The Florida Museum of Natural History celebrated the United Nations "International Women and Girls in Science Day" with a free program of hands-on activities and experiments for local families. For the fourth year, the museum hosted ‘Girls Do Science’ to spark children’s interest in science and promote women in STEM.

“We do other events throughout the year, but this one really tickles me because it's empowering women to follow their dreams,” said Janelle Peña Jiménez, 31, Public Programs Coordinator for the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The event included more than 20 organizations all affiliated with different STEM fields to foster new interests in the children’s young minds.

“It just sparks this curiosity for them, and I just love working here just because this is where it starts,” Jiménez said. “Obviously, the kids got to go to school and follow through, but we are the ones that plant the seeds.”

With a mission to break gender inequity in STEM fields, the event brings together female scientists and industry professionals to ignite curiosity and passion.

“I am hopeful that this will continue making girls curious and want to reach for higher academia in the future,” said Ariana Tamura, 26, president of the UF Polymer Chemistry/Polymeric Material Science and Engineering chapter.

The UF Polymer Chemistry/Polymeric Material Science and Engineering booth allowed children to create slime while teaching them about polymer networks.

From drawing to chemistry experiments to telescopes, the interactive sessions were founded by industry professionals who want to spread their research.

“Our lab studies show how microclimates influence the distribution of plants and animals, so we have a matching activity for kids to place the organisms in their habitats based on the organisms’ traits,” said Lydia Soifer, 26, a doctorate student in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.

The event transcended education and became a space for inclusion and diversity. Different organizations focused on opportunities to people to reach out and feel understood.

“We try to create a community for all our scientists since they are from everywhere including Guatemala, Columbia and more. It can be difficult to move to the United States and find people that understand a little bit more about your culture,” said Isabel Lopez, 26, marketing chair for UF's Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.

The volunteers at the event such as Derod Deal, 23, social relations officer for the UF National Society of Black Physicists, said they enjoyed demonstrating their research and seeing students who will be future scientists.

“That could be the next astrophysicist or aerospace engineer or even something related to space where their aspiration would develop over time,” Deal said.

Parents are one of the main supporters for future scientists. Taking time off their weekend to bring their children to events like this creates a passion for science.

“We try to make time to come to these because it's really fun to have the kids enjoy themselves in the museum,” said Herman Gunter, 47, a father of four.

"Girls Do Science" is an event that started in 2020.

“I just feel like events like these are important, just in case there's a kid that's like, ‘I don't know, maybe this is for me, maybe not,’" said Janelle Peña Jiménez, the museum's public programs coordinator, "and this event will push them towards ‘You know what? Yes, this is something I want to do.'”

Kimberly is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing