Week 3: Woodson Girls Become Civic Engineers and Readers of Paretsky’s Critical Mass

By ToluWN_Wk3_1

This week, STEM Facilitator, Tolu Rosanwo, was eagerly welcomed by and impressed with her Sisters4Science students. Ciera, one of the students, was about to head home when Briana, Stephanee, Desiree, and Ashanta called to her from the windows above. “Briana, you’ve got to come! Ms. Tolu has a present for you! You’ve got to be committed!”

Peer pressure can often be negative, but Tolu admits that she felts a swell of pride when she saw how passionate her girls were about this pressure time after school.

Tolu began with a recap of what they learned about Mae C.Jemison, a week before. To her surprise, 8th grader, Desiree who had missed that week, knew all about Dr. Jemison since her younger sister, Briana gave her a summary of the lesson. She exclaimed, “She is my new role model because she has accomplished so much!” Rosanwo found it incredibly encouraging to learn how much Sisters4Sciences means to her students.

WN_Wk3_2For week 3 of Sisters4Science, the girls learned the importance of building bridges. The girls discussed the skill set needed to be civil engineers, and then decided to be ones for the day! They were broken up into two teams and given 20 plastic straws, tape, and toothpicks and asked to build a bridge in 20 minutes. Tolu, acting as the mayor of Chicago, would test the strength of the bridges afterwards with weights.

7th graders, Stephanee (left) and Briana (right) were on team 1. At first Briana wanted to work individually but later confessed to enjoying the team dynamic. Team 2 was composed of three student from left to right: Ashanta (6thgrade), Ciera (8th grade), and Desiree (8th grade).WN_Wk3_3

The girls thrived in the team and bridge-building activity, their creative juices flowing and critical thinking skills, exercised.

WN_WK3_4 WN_WK3_5

After only 20 minutes, the girls presented their impressive bridge models for the city of Chicago! Ashanta, Ciera, and Desiree’s bridge was 34 cm tall from base to tip and 34 cm wide. They focused on making it look “pretty” but also “strong at the bases.”


Stephanee and Briana focused on building a “super strong bridge” and made sure to use masking tape instead of scotch. It was 42 cm long and 15 cm high.


Both bridges passed Tolu’s “roll of masking tape weight” test with flying colors! Desiree poses with her sketch of their bridge.


At the end of the day, the girls wrote in the journals about what they have learned. Stephanee was the first to share and said, “I used to think doing building things was hard. But now I love building them now and it’s not hard if you put your mind to it.”


Tolu was filled with pride and was eager to deliver their presents from an employee at Women and Children’s First with a project called, “Stories from Cory.” This philanthropic mother purchases books for girls in order to commeroate the life of her own daughter whom passed away from leukemia. All the girls had met Sara Paretsky, the writer of Critical Mass two weeks prior and were excited to receive the books. Desiree exclaimed, “I may read it all in one night!”



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