Do you know the difference between viruses and bacteria? If you’re not sure, the girls in Les Scientifines will help you out. This Montreal-based program, which engages girls ages 8 to 17 in fun, confidence-building science activities, has worked hard and innovated to keep supporting girls during the pandemic.

“We rose to the challenge of continuing our activities despite the situation, by offering 40 virtual workshops in chemistry, math, physics, and botany,” says Program Director Valérie Bilodeau.

Some of the teens in the program used the lockdown period to get together virtually and discuss science topics most relevant to them. In a time when access to reliable scientific information is more important than ever, three girls created a video to explain how viruses and bacteria differ.

For months, many of the girls in the program had been working on projects for a science fair in May. “They were so disappointed that it wouldn’t be held this year,” Bilodeau says. Instead, with the support of their facilitators, some participants still completed their projects from home and presented their findings online. “They were really proud of that,” she says.

One pair of girls discovered how they could make a vegetarian version of Jell-O, another pair presented their research on how different kinds of sharks have their babies, and one girl succeeded in using lemons and potatoes as batteries.

To celebrate the end of the school year, Les Scientifines brought together 43 girls in a virtual Zoom party, which gave them an opportunity to chat, do arts and crafts, and watch a slideshow of the year’s activities.

Bilodeau says the program helped to connect and support the girls at a time when they were dealing with the impacts of social distancing, feeling lonely and missing their friends and the ability to go outside.

“We were able to talk to the girls, answer their questions about Coronavirus and I think it helped them feel better.” One of the girls had family members who contracted COVID-19, so she was feeling particularly isolated in quarantine. A facilitator from the program did a socially-distanced visit with the girl so she could chat with her from her balcony to cheer her up.

Plans for returning to school in September are still uncertain. But staff at Les Scientifines are looking forward to doing all they can to connect with girls again, online or in person.

Your generosity helps ensure programs like this can be there for women and girls in the pandemic. Donate to the Tireless Together COVID-19 emergency fund.

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