Our first class at Finkl Academy in Pilsen comprised a great group of girls eager to begin their Sisters4Science journey.
“Can we talk about the solar eclipse?” one asked before we even entered our classroom.
“Or paleontology?” another chimed in.
I quickly allayed their fears; they would fill out a questionnaire about their interests and hopefully, we’d get real scientists to visit and discuss their fields! The girls’ eyes lit up.
“It takes a lot of teamwork to do this,” Melina said.
“Yeah,” Margarita piped in, “you really have to learn to say what you want without speaking. It’s hard but lots of fun!”
We then got in a science circle to discuss positive and negative experiences with science. Most felt science was interesting and had predominantly positive experiences with the subject thus far.
“I like everything about it, except bugs,” Jade shared.
Everyone nodded emphatically — they enjoyed everything about science, save for the study of insects.
We then created our code of conduct. Each girl had a limitless number of sticky notes on which she could jot down her ideas for how we’d behave in the classroom. They posted their sticky notes on a white sheet, and we discussed and voted on all of our ideas.
Everyone agreed they wanted a respectful classroom, a safe space where they felt they could be heard without judgment or criticism, where they could share their voices without fear of being tread on by someone else. We agreed to be kind to each other, to give everyone a chance to participate, and to be inclusive and welcoming. The students especially enjoyed the idea of using the call and response “one diva, one mic” to call order to the room and liked thinking that the talking piece — a camel — signifies that only the person holding it may talk, symbolizing everyone’s moment as a diva in the room.
After carefully crafting our code, we journaled, using the prompt, “I use to think…, but now I know…”
Everyone had wonderfully creative things to say, stories that centered on once thinking science a boring subject but then coming to the realization that it can come alive, that they could come alive while exploring what it had to offer.
“I used to think science was just about boring things like the periodic table,” Joselin said, “but now I know that it’s very interesting and gives you an opportunity to study cool things like nature and the stars.”
We ended the class by diving into a lesson exploring penmanship and forgery. Each girl attempted to copy a check — to forge the written items and the signature — discovering how hard it is to capture every nuance and defect inherent in individual writing.
“It was hard,” Nimel said. “And scary to think people can do that.”
They loved the lesson and asked for more hands-on activities next class. We can’t wait to begin again next Monday!