Winning WINS Experiences

girl with plants

August 14, 2014

Kesha Medina, 18, is working in Butterflies! this morning, lending her time and love of natural science to this marvelously muggy exhibit of live tropical butterflies and plants. Medina recently graduated from Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School in Philadelphia and is headed to Vermont’s Sterling College in the fall to study agro-ecology and sustainability.

She also successfully graduated from Women In Natural Sciences, the Academy’s 32-year-old program founded on the principle that women are far outnumbered in science fields. WINS encourages girls to pursue careers in science and provides training and opportunities to work in various departments at the Academy.

“I’m into natural foods, natural resources, and anything good for the environment,” Medina explains. In addition to providing food for the butterflies and moths in Butterflies!, she cares for the plants they live on, provides information to visitors, and stays attentive to any butterflies that have landed on the tiled floor or on an unsuspecting visitor. Today, ready to assist, she cheerfully observes two butterflies perched on the bridge of a guest’s nose.

Medina also can be found interacting with visitors in the Fossil Prep Lab in Dinosaur Hall and the Special Exhibits Gallery.

Across the museum and down a flight of steps, fellow WINS student Danielle Williams, 16, is working in The Big Dig on the Dinosaur Hall mezzanine. A junior at Freire Charter School in Philadelphia looking to pursue journalism or perhaps to continue with science through meteorology for a news station, Williams addresses visitors with a friendly, “Would you like to dig for some dinosaur fossils?”

Handing the children goggles and tools, she carefully explains the digging technique—“No banging or chopping, please”—and the rules for climbing around the site. If a visitor needs an explanation, Williams says, she tries to get the information for them.

“Being hands-on I thought would make my opportunities greater,” she says, referring to her WINS experience and work in the exhibit. “WINS has opened me up to more science, and I really enjoy the program.”

Below The Big Dig is the Fossil Prep Lab, which is equipped to prepare dinosaur fossils for researchers and let visitors observe and talk with technicians as they work. Jasmane Harvey, 18, who graduated from Constitution High School in Philadelphia and is planning to attend Widener University in the fall, has been working in the lab for two years. She sits poised to assist in explanations about the lab. She is responsible for maintaining the lab space, cleaning the fossils, and interacting with the public.

“Educating the public is one of our main priorities,” Harvey says. Given an opportunity last year to assist Academy paleontologists on a dig in Montana, she helped uncover a Tyrannosaurus rex and an ankylosaur, a plant-eating dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period.

Though pursing paleontology as a career is not for her, Harvey is drawn to anatomy and plans to major in nursing. “They said by the time I leave WINS I’d want to go into the sciences, which is true.”

Taking that paleontology trip to Montana with Academy staff this summer is Tiffany Neely, 17, of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin High School. When she graduates, Neely plans to study psychology and attend law school. Thanks to WINS, Neely says she has enjoyed working in The Big Dig and the Fossil Prep Lab. She learned, among other things, how to distinguish rocks from fossils and is excited about the chance to put her experience to work on the dinosaur dig in Montana.

Next time you visit the Academy, look for these special students and graduates of the Women In Natural Sciences program. Learn more about the Academy’s WINS program.

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