In the World of S4S Calumet…Aero Experts!!

This week the lovely ladies of S4S Calumet traded in their bridge engineering hats for aerospace engineering ones!

The girls zoned in on air resistance and how it affects the construction of airplanes and helicopters. They learned how a helicopter must be built to combat the great force of gravity!

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They then took their learning session to the next level by cutting out paper helicopters, and manipulating them through folding, cutting and the addition of paper clips to determine the best way to make the helicopter fly and hit the ground at a slower rate.

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We also talked about college, what they are looking forward to when they go, and why it is important to wait a while for certain life events.

Each girl earned the Discover Investigation badge for the week for their ability to understand and form hypothesis around the construction of aerospace materials.

discover investigation badge

In the World of S4S Calumet…Little Engineers!!

Last week, the lovely ladies of S4S Calumet put on their thinking caps and became little engineers. The girls learned about different kinds of bridges, such as a Truss bridge. They also learned “bridge engineer” jargon, as well as definitions and where it would be used in the construction of a bridge. Words such as deck, beam, truss, load, live load, and dead load.

The girls then broke up into two groups and brainstormed for about five minutes on ways to construct their straw bridge so that it would securely hold a cup with at least 25 paper clips.

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After building for about 15 minutes, we measured the length and width of each bridge, and began our cup and paper clip testing.

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The first bridge only held five paper clips before the cup tipped over, and the winning bridge held a whopping 26 paper clips before falling over!

photo 2-3  Winning Bridge!! Winning Bridge!!

All of the girls successfully earned the Discovering Communication badge for their constant questions, input and correlations!

Stay tuned for more in the world of S4S Calumet!

In the World of S4S Calumet…Food Wellness!

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The lovely ladies of S4S at Perspectives Calumet received a visit from Ms. Iris Berry! Ms. Berry spoke to the girls about health and nutrition as it pertains to what they put into their mouths.

She focused a lot on the correlation between nourishment and elimination. She explained the different ways of how what you eat effects elimination, and what it means. I.E. Salad=Good elimination, and Flamin’ Hots=Bad elimination.

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Of course Ms. Berry is a foodie, so the lesson couldn’t go on without the breakdown and preparation of a healthy snack. She chose cantaloupe and pumpkin seeds as the main ingredients in the dish, highlighting the many health benefits of both. She then added cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and sea salt, also explaining the health benefits, like how cayenne pepper is FANTASTIC for your digestive system, and how cinnamon helps to keep your blood sugar levels in check!

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The girls then assisted Ms. Berry in combining all of the ingredients before we all dug in. To say that dish was AMAZING would be an understatement!

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The girls also participated in an info session about the new badging system that we are adopting to reward them for their greatness. Their favorite part was putting all of their info into the form and adding their picture! They are extremely excited to use the new system!

Proteins and Pineapples

This week in Sisters4Science at Reavis, we learned about proteins and proteases with our guest scientist, Erin!

Erin brought water, jello mix, canned pineapples, and fresh pineapples. Each girl got three test tubes–one to put fresh pineapples in, one to put canned pineapples in, and one to leave empty. Then, we each used a pipette (something that measures liquid) to transfer the water and jello mix to our test tubes.
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We learned that jello is made of gelatin, which is a protein. Some types of proteins, especially the ones in pineapples, are called proteases–which are proteins that cut up other proteins. With this information, we made a hypothesis: Kemonte and Jasaande thought that the canned pineapple had more protease, and Alita and Aaliyah thought the fresh pineapple had more protease. We agreed that if the pineapple has protease, then the proteins in the jello will be cut up, so it won’t set properly and it’ll still be a liquid instead of a solid.
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Erin taught us all about animal cells, and where proteins fit into the structure of life (from community to organism to tissue to cells to organelles to proteins!). Aaliyah asked some really great questions about the structure of a cell, and Jasaande shared with us what she knew about the difference between plant and animal cells. Then, Alita informed us all about her knowledge of sickle cell anemia and how it affects red blood cells, and Erin explained to us how it works, while Kemonte kept the timer to make sure we would take out our experiment and see the results at the right time.
In the end, we saw that the test tubes with no pineapple and with canned pineapple had solid jello, but the one with fresh pineapple was still a liquid! Erin explained to us that, when pineapples are canned, they get heated to kill bacteria, and the heat ruins the proteases so they won’t be able to work. That’s why canned pineapple reacted like no pineapple–but fresh pineapple still had proteases, so the gelatin was all cut up and couldn’t turn into a solid!
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Because of their great contributions in the session, asking relevant questions, and sharing their information, all of the girls earned their Communication Badges. Great job, Sisters!

Extracting Strawberry DNA with Woodson’s First Ichthyologist!

Meet Charlene “Charlie” McCord! She is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago and ichthyologist (a scientist who studies fishes). She is also a popular and frequent visitor to Sisters4Science classrooms, and we were so excited to have her at Woodson!


As an ichthyologist, Charile spends a lot of time extracting fish DNA, and for her lesson February 21, 2014, she challenged Brianna and Ashanta (both of which have perfect attendance) to extract strawberry DNA.


Before the lesson, the girls were given the additional challenge of being “excellent communicators” by their STEM Facilitator, Tolu Rosanwo. If they asked questions, paid close attention and communicated well, they would be awarded with their first digital badge. These badges can be seen on their parents’ cell phones as well as kept until their entrance into high school, college or beyond.

Charlie began her lesson with asking the girls about DNA. Brianna said that,”DNA tells people apart,” and Ashanta asked, “Don’t we get it from our parents?”

“Correct!” Charlie said, and she went on to explain that strawberries have a lot of DNA. Human beings are diploid organisms with 2 copies of each chromosome while strawberries are octaploid and have 8 copies their DNA! That’s a lot, and makes DNA extraction possible in a middle school classroom!

Charlie also told the girls that DNA is found in the nucleus of the cell, and there are several barriers to getting them out: namely the cell wall and the nuclear membrane.


To crush the cell wall, the girls pulverized the strawberries with their hands.


Once smashed, the girls squeezed the smooth strawberry remains into a cup, which  they THOROUGHLY enjoyed doing.

Ashanta squeezes the smooth strawberry puree into a cup.

Ashanta squeezes the smooth strawberry puree into a cup.

Then, Charlie instructed Brianna and Ashanta to add soap. Soap, which has both hydrophobic (water-fearing) and hydrophilic (water-loving) properties, can break down the membranes that stand between them and the DNA.


After adding the soap, the the strawberry mix forms 2 layers. Then, rubbing alcohol was added in order to precipitate DNA from the solution.

Alcohol added to the soap/strawberry mixture precipitates DNA

Alcohol added to the soap/strawberry mixture precipitates DNA

Brianna and Ashanta as well as their STEM Facilitator were so amazed by the fact that they could pull out strawberry DNA from a cup!

Pulling DNA out of a cup!

Pulling DNA out of a cup!

That day, Brianna and Ashanta learned that DNA extraction isn’t easy, but Charlie stressed that strawberry DNA extraction was much easier than fish DNA extraction. She encouraged the girls to try this experiment out at home, and asked them to think scientists saying, “How would you change this experiment?”  They said they would try using laundry detergent or even a different fruit.

In her journal entry, Brianna wrote:  “I used to think it getting to DNA was easy from all the crime shows I watched but now I know it doesn’t because when we destroyed the strawberry we smushed, add soap, add water, add alcohol and DNA floated up.”

Brianna's journal entry

Brianna’s journal entry

The girls were all smiles at the end of the day! Thanks, Charlie and good luck as you complete your PhD program! Brianna and Ashanta were wonderful communicators that day and were rewarded with their first digital badge!

Hugs at the end of the day!

Hugs at the end of the day!

Tolu Rosanwo

Slime at Reavis

Last week in Reavis, we made SLIME!

After having a ton of fun last week with oobleck, the Sisters at Reavis requested that we make slime this session.
How do you make slime? First, you add Borax powder to water, then add glue to water (with food dye), and then you mix them together! The result: sticky, gooey, BLUE slime!
After we made the slime and played with it for a while, the Sisters took charge and were very creative about the types of experiments they wanted to do with it. Kemonte put her slime over the heater and Alita put her slime near the window to see how heat and cold would affect the solidity of the slime. Jasaande added some more Borax to her slime (which made it less gooey and more solid), and Aaliyah added some more food dye to make it a deep, darker blue.
Then, the Sisters wanted to see if we could combine our knowledge from last week with what we learned this week. We took out the extra cornstarch that we used to make the oobleck, and some of the girls tried to add cornstarch to their slime to make a slime/oobleck combination. The slime turned white from the powder, and according to Aaliyah, it also got a little bit harder!
I’m so proud of my Sisters for thinking of creative experiments like these, and for using the scientific method (without even realizing it!) to explore their creations! Great job, ladies!

New Facilitator!

By Alondra

Although the girls understood that there was going to be a new facilitator, I was still nervous. I thought of so many ways to present myself: nice, funny, or even strict. It was nerve wrecking. Fortunately, Marilee , their previous facilitator, instructed them very well.

Badges had been introduced during their previous class, so they were excited to know when the first badge was going to be awarded. I told them that during the first week the Communication Badge was going to be awarded. I also had them read and explain the criteria so they would understand better.

The girls began class a little shy, but throughout the day their attitudes changed. I decided to let them vote on the activity for the day; the options were either building straw bridges or making slime. All of them voted for slime. They worked as a team:

Team work makes the dream work!

Team work makes the dream work!

First, Lesly helped me set up the equipment. But the other girls wanted to help too so I gave them each a different task. They each read a step and completed what it said; then, as Jade read the instructions, Denise would follow them and complete the step. I was amazed at how they understood each other, sometimes without using words. The girls were interested in knowing exactly what made the slime stretch more or make it “softer” like Jade said. So I allowed them to experiment it themselves.

Jade exploring!

Here Jade decides to submerge her slime into water and borax. When I asked her what had happened to it, she said, “It became softer.”

Lesly trying to see how far her slime stretched.

Lesly trying to see how far her slime stretched.

Lesly had something a little different in mind. She wanted to know how far her slime would stretch without breaking. Her conclusion was , “the more I have it in my hands the faster it breaks.”

They then helped me clean up and we headed to lunch where we got to tell each other what we liked and what we didn’t. By that time the girls seemed more relaxed and laughed much more than at the beginning. When I asked who thought they deserved the Communication Badge they all raised their hand, but of course they all made sure to look over the criteria first. Towards the end we played charades and hang man: There the girls really let themselves go. As they shared their journals I realized that I didn’t have to be so nervous because they thought that having a new member in their group wasn’t so bad. Knowing that they felt comfortable with me and that they had fun learning makes me look forward to the future classes with my curious explorers!

Jade, Lesly, Denise

Jade, Lesly, Denise