MERCED — UC Merced lecturer Petia Gueorguieva asked a group of young girls why chemistry is important.
"What do you think you can do with a degree in chemistry?" she asked the fourth- and fifth-graders.
"Make medicines," one girl responded.
The 13 girls and their mothers or grandmothers were participating in a chemistry session this week at Mercy Medical Center's Pavilion Building as part of Science Camp program.
The six-week program is designed to expose and encourage the girls to consider going into the fields of science, math and engineering, said Jane Guerra, one of the organizers.
There's still a gap in pay between men and women, Guerra said, but a lot of it is because women tend to go into lower-paying jobs.
During each of the six weeks, the girls get to hear a female speaker in the science, math and engineering -- fields mostly dominated by men.
On Wednesday, the group heard a presentation from Lisa Tarbell, a pharmacist at Mercy. The program also included hands-on chemistry experiments led by Gueorguieva.
The mothers and grandmothers are included in the program with the girls so they can get over their own anxiety of math and science, providing support for their girls and encouraging them to take math and science throughout high school, Guerra said.
"If they do, they are three times more likely to go into those fields," she said.
"The girls are at an age where it is perfect to get them interested in those fields, Gueorguieva said. "At this age is when science is fun."
Merced resident Salvia Navarro said her 9-year-old daughter, Camilla Palencia-Navarro, came home one day with a flier about the program. "She was jumping," she said.
Navarro thought that maybe by exposing her daughter to those fields, Camilla might consider a career in math. "She's really good in math," she said.
Merced resident Carol Hamm attended the program with her 10-year-old granddaughter Ellie. Hamm said it was an opportunity to do something educational with her granddaughter.
She said the program was informative, providing lots of hands-on activities. Hamm even got to learn a few things.
"It was fabulous," she said. "Very broad. It made science fun and exciting."
This is the sixth year the local chapter of the American Association of University Women offered the program.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.