Through the cyberspace science club, the Rural Girls in Science program is achieving the goal of providing young women the opportunity to strengthen their identity and voice in science. The club provides three avenues of support: online communication, home contact, and school visits.
Online communication is possible through the use of the Internet workstations at each participating school. Every student group has an email address and all students have the email addresses of participants and staff in the program. The program web site provides additional opportunities for information exchange through the password-protected chat area, Cafe Astro. There are several advantages to online communication. It is swift, can be conducted between individuals and groups simultaneously, and it provides the opportunity to share findings and exchange information with a large audience of Internet users. People from all over the world have visited the web site. People from Canada, Germany, Finland, Croatia, and from US educational and commercial networks have looked at the Long-Term Research Projects and found out more about the Rural Girls in Science Program.
Bi-weekly mailings to each student's home provide an opportunity for students to share their interest in science with their parents and siblings. The science-related keepsakes and activities that are included in each mailing are designed to engage students in an entertaining yet informative exploration of science. The background information in each letter provides the student with the opportunity to explain the science-related keepsake or activity to their parents or siblings. The letters also include information about other program participants and events. Home contact through bi-weekly mailings provides the program staff with the opportunity to reach students in a direct and informal manner that is not mediated by the established school environment. It also keeps parents aware of the program and its goal to engage their daughters in active and productive science learning.
The school visit component provides face-to-face communication that occurs at least two times during the school year. School visits introduce the science activities coordinator to the physical layout of the school and community. Without this familiarity, it is difficult for the science activities coordinator to facilitate communication. Prior knowledge of each school's situation aids the science activities coordinator in surmounting obstacles toward better inter-group communication and online connections. A school visit a month or two before the final conference helps the science activities coordinator gauge the progress of each student group and identify additional methods for providing motivation and support during the final stages of the LTRPs.