St. Louis Students Star in National Science Series

Posted by Dale Fisher on

In 2013, producers of the PBS children’s series SciGirls met with nearly 100 girls in the St. Louis area to find the best participants for a planned episode about frogs. One foursome of 12-year-olds from St. Roch School in the Central West End made a big impression. Producers said Alanna Hopson-Morris, Madison Fuller, Clara Barton and Amanda Willingham jumped out at them. The girls had been friends since kindergarten, and their longstanding friendship and comfort with one another signaled to producers that they would have a positive experience on a SciGirls investigation.

“The audition process demonstrated how the girls naturally encourage and support each other’s learning and discovery—something that SciGirls is all about!” says executive producer Richard Hudson. “Each of them is incredibly bright, curious and determined—and their strong group dynamic made them shine as a team.”

In April 2014, the SciGirls production crew came to St. Louis and spent a week recording the Frog Whisperers episode of the series. The series challenges real middle school girls and their professional mentor to become citizen scientists by using skills in science, technology, engineering and math. Every episode features animated characters Izzie and Jake, who find themselves in sticky situations that can only be solved by the SciGirls.

In their Frog Whisperers episode, Amanda, Alanna, Clara and Madison volunteer for FrogWatch USA, a citizen science project that invites nature lovers to report frog and toad calls within a specific area. With the guidance of their mentor, Laura Seger, the early childhood programs coordinator at the St. Louis Zoo, the girls learn to recognize the sounds of six local frog species. Then they pull on their boots and head out to the wetlands, ready to listen to frogs in their natural environment. They also hit city streets to listen to frogs in an urban habitat, and compare the two sites. Finally, the girls enter their data into the FrogWatch USA website, proud to submit their discoveries to researchers. And since they want to share their froggy findings with an even bigger audience, they present at the St. Louis Zoo, showing off a poster, a puppet show and even a rap.

Watch the SciGirls Episode: