It has been proven time and again that experiential, hands-on learning deepens understanding, broadens existing perceptions, and fosters confidence in exploring new questions. This approach to learning is on full display at Notre Dame Preparatory School’s Annual Egg Drop Challenge.
Started in 2008 by NDP’s Science National Honor Society (SNHS), the challenge of protecting an egg as it is dropped from precipitous heights has taken various forms over the last 15 years, but always with the same goal: to foster a love of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) in young women. Each spring, local public, private, and independent schools are invited to send teams of girls to the competition. Participating teams are challenged to design a structure that will protect a raw egg from cracking when dropped from a certain height. This year’s competition fielded 43 teams from 19 area schools.
The participants are also given a surprise engineering challenge with a set of mystery rules and supplies. While the instructions for both activities appear simple, the true learning lies in the act of collaborating, idea sharing, testing, analyzing, and refining the design as a group. The girls use their creativity to design the structure, their hands to construct the design, their intellect to analyze the results, and their hearts to work as a cohesive unit to win the challenge.
“Egg Drop was designed to give girls interested in science or just curious about science an experience where they can actually do science…surrounded by other like-minded girls,” says Tom Peri, NDP science teacher who has served as faculty moderator 14 of the 15 competitions.
STEAM challenges are historically male dominated. In line with the school’s mission to “educate and empower girls to become women who transform the world,” NDP is dedicated to promoting women in all areas of learning, particularly in the sciences.
“For too long students, and maybe girls especially, perceive science as something done by older men, in white coats, isolated in a lab, someplace far away. The Egg Drop is an opportunity for the girls to deflate every one of those assumptions,” notes Mr. Peri. Each year, participants leave the challenge with real-world examples of teamwork, collaboration, and encouragement in a female-led, science-focused environment.
Competing teams are not the only ones engaged in learning at the Annual Egg Drop Challenge. Notre Dame’s SNHS members are a vital piece of the event, volunteering their time and experience throughout the day. Members are assigned to each team to provide encouragement, keep score, and cheer for the younger girls. “It was incredible to see our NDP girls be so hands on, friendly and supportive to these young girls during the most influential time in their lives,” says Audrey Mellot, NDP science teacher and new moderator of the challenge. Over half of those inducted in SNHS competed in past Egg Drop Challenges at NDP! The upperclassmen exercise valuable leadership and mentoring skills as they support the younger generation of budding female scientists.