'The sky's the limit'
When fifth-grader Quinn Flanagan grows up, she dreams of becoming a science or music teacher. Her classmate at St. Thomas More Catholic School, Sarah Wolff, wants to study engineering like her older brother.
The girls say their love of math and science — and an invitation from a former teacher — drew them to the Lake Oswego Public Library on Monday night for a special event about female pioneers in aviation and aerospace.
The "Women in Aviation" presentation for fifth- through eighth- grade girls, led by Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum Education Director Hilda Pereyo, highlighted women such as Katharine Wright — the Wright Brothers' supportive sister — and the "WASPs," the Women Airforce Service Pilots whose noncombat flights totaled millions of miles during World War II.
While many of these women went largely unrecognized and faced obstacles in male-dominated fields, Flanagan and Wolff can see that women have more opportunities to pursue math and science today.
"The sky's the limit," Flanagan says. "Or, past the sky — space."
The presentation was one of the final events in the 11th-annual Lake Oswego Reads program, which this year revolved around Nathalia Holt's book "Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars."
The book tells the true story of the women, called "human computers," who launched America into space, breaking the boundaries of both gender and science along the way. Based on extensive research and interviews with all living members of the team, the book offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science and looks not only at where the U.S. space program has been, but also into the far reaches of space where it is heading.
Program Coordinator Cyndie Glazer says this year's events drew families and community members of all ages.
"I was amazed by the variety and people's backgrounds," she says, adding that she's learned something from each program, too.
The events — which covered everything from science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics to women's history and 1950s culture — included a demonstration model rocket launch with Oregon Rocketry, a '50s dance and demonstration with Step It Up Studios and a variety of space- and science-focused discussions.
During Monday night's presentation, Pereyo — who has led Evergreen's educational programs for the past six years — shared anecdotes about the women who helped pave the way to aviation and space travel, such as Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go into space.
"Will you be the next women and aerospace legends?" Pereyo asked the girls at the end of her presentation.
She says she hopes the program shows girls that they can do anything they want to do with their lives.
"All these women surpassed obstacles because they didn't allow (the obstacles) to be bigger than themselves," she says. "I hope they take that inspiration."
The message resonated with the girls in her audience — Lakeridge Junior High sixth-grader Trini Marin-Quiros says she enjoyed learning about all the different women and the ways they overcame challenges in their lives.
"It surprised me how much women worked to get to where we are now," she says. "I think it will help me when people don't believe I can do something just because (of) who I am."
Evergreen offers STEM workshops and camps for students who want to learn more about aviation and science. To learn more, visit www.evergreenmuseum.org.