By Lauren McDonald lmcdonald@thebrunswicknews.com Jun 9, 2021

Dr. Courtenay Miller, who has for many years led the Expanding Your Horizons program offered through College of Coastal Georgia, began planning for this year's program during the summer of 2020.

Miller, an associate professor of mathematics at CCGA, knew that the pandemic would require a new and creative approach to the annual event, which would normally bring girls in fifth- through eighth-grade to the college's campus for a day of educational activities centered on STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Miller knew, would limit the in-person learning opportunities, so she and her team at the college spent months preparing a new virtual version of Expanding Your Horizons this year, which launched in the spring semester for Glynn County Schools students.

"I started actually this summer thinking about how we could transform it to this virtual platform because we knew that we were going to be dealing with COVID and we know that this is something that the girls look forward to every year, coming to CCGA and participating in Expanding Your Horizons," Miller said.

The college ordered supplies and packed bags so that students could participate in four virtual workshops, recorded by professors at the college and posted on a website created by CCGA staff.

The creation of the virtual program was no small feat, Miller said, and she gave a shoutout to Deb Browning, a college staff member who put in many hours of work to create, pack and distribute the bags for the students.

"She was instrumental," Miller said. "She watched every single workshop and wrote down all of the needed materials ... Then she went and ordered all the materials, put them in the bags and labeled them."

The workshops covered topics like electricity and circuits, chemical reactions and more. All were hands-on, and some were fairly complex, Miller said.

"We wanted to do something different than the girls would get on YouTube," Miller said. "There's a lot of science out there on YouTube, a lot of math, but we wanted to be able to provide them with the materials so that they wouldn't just be watching it, like sometimes you do on YouTube, but they would be actively participating."

Videos included closed captioning, and students were asked to engage in the workshops with an adult present.

The college partnered with Glynn County Schools staff to connect students with this opportunity and to get the bags of supplies to schools. Students who completed the workshops and filled out a survey received gifts delivered later by college staff.

One of Miller's goals for the Expanding Your Horizons program each year is to expose students to STEM. She especially hopes to raise the awareness of students in underserved populations or those who are often underrepresented in STEM fields, like girls and minorities.

"I want them to know that their possibilities are endless, that if they see it they can achieve it," she said.

Republished with the permission of The Brunswick News. Originally published in The Brunswick News.