TrueChild Workshop: “Who Am I?”

Everyone was refreshed with a well-spent spring break. It has been such a joy to get together and share our special Sisterhood. For the following sessions after spring break, the girls were about to explore who they are (who I am) as being a girl through TrueChild Workshops. This workshop is designed for two sessions, 70-90 minute each, as a pilot program from TrueChild: http://www.truechild.org. We were to discuss feminine gender norms and science. Wow, it was a fascinating topic and even was a blast in our class! A week before spring break, I threw out a question in a very casual way: “Can you think of anything common between women/girls and science?” I wanted my girls to prepare for this workshop by putting a thinking cap, making connecting between science and themselves. Their responses were very unique and interesting. “I can see biological cycle. Animals and plants have a biological cycle as women do. We become pregnant.” “I can think of breast cancer. It’s medical and women.” I loved hearing their ideas of “women and science” that I have never thought of before. I mean, I have been aware of natural, biological cycle, but it was such an A-ha moment 🙂

Activity I: “Who Am I?” “What Would I Like To Do With My Life?”

Girls, Science, and Life

Girls, Science, and Life

Before we got into our first activity, I had the girls share their experience of being ignored or underestimated because they are girls. Aubriana had a story that she had been ignored although she was good at basketball. Last year, the school did not have a girl’s basketball team. She and her friends wanted to join in a boy’s basketball team to play together, but the boys in the team did not want them to be even to play a basketball because they are girls. Yikes! They are now in the girls’ basketball team, but I wanted to ask them why the boys would not want them to join in playing basketball. T’meyah said, “I think if girls are involved, they the boys feel less manly.” Great point! I asked them again, “Is basketball or any kind of sports only for boys? The girls were yelling at me, “No!” “It’s like this. Basketball makes boys become more masculine so if we take it then they feel like losers,” responded Aubriana.

"Less than perfect, but I love it."

“Less than perfect, but I love it.”

This sharing could fill the whole 90-minute class unless we stop at some point. So, I had them calm down first by putting a thinking cap: “How would you describe yourself?” Then we had a quiet moment to write or draw “myself”—who I am as a girl. Once they were all finished, I had volunteers to share. Micah, one of the alumni students, shared her poem. Such a beautiful poem with a line that says, Less than perfect, but I love it. I could hear how confident she is to present herself as she is. T’meyah described herself as a tree with a full of leaves on it. Aubriana drew a big heart in the center and little hearts from this big heart. The heart represents her love for herself and inside the hearts, she wrote who she is: “I am tall, think, brown skinned and beautiful. I am a girl who focuses on future.” Wow, I was very proud of my girls being confident in themselves as they are. Yes, some people around us might underestimate or even ignore us just because we are girls, but all that matters is Confidence. Not the way others think of ourselves, but how we see ourselves.

"Life in 10 Years"

“Life in 10 Years”

For the rest of the class, I distributed women’s magazines to look through if the girls can find something to describe their lives in 10 years. On the original activity guide it says “life in 5 years,” but I have modified this a little bit since my girls are 13 through 15. If we added only 5 years, that would not be much difference. I wanted them think aloud a bigger picture of their lives in 10 years. I let the girls create a collage of “Life in Ten Years.” The girls had so much fun expressing their lives through the collage! My girls were very excited to see what they would like to be and to do in 10 years as the collage were being completed. One girl still struggled; she has never thought of what she would like to be or study in college. “Sweetie, what kind of jobs or work would you like to do?” I asked. “I don’t know, but something that makes a lot of money,” said Amoriana. “Okay, let’s look through the magazines if you can find anyone or anything that makes a lot of money.” We grabbed a few magazines and looked through together. Amoriana was looking at the expensive shoes so I asked, “Would you be interested in being a shoe designer? See these shoes are pretty.” Pointing another shoe pairs, “I like that one better. Would they make a lot of money?” she asked. “Yes, they do. Do you see how expensive these shoes are,” with my eyes rolling, I responded. On the magazine, these shoes were like over $900.00-$1,300.00 a pair. Amoriana was sorting through these photographs of shoes like a shoe designer.

Family, baby, doggy, and red shoes.

Family, baby, doggy, and red shoes.

We had 10 minutes left towards the end, so I assigned them a two-minute mini presentation so that everyone could have a voice as they shared their collages. “I want to get married, have a baby, and a pet. I like red shoes I will have a drink with my husband. Since it is after 10 years, it is appropriate, Ms. Kim,” said Faith. I see Faith does really want to have her own family. Then it was T’meyah’s turn, “I love make-ups, but I’m not sure if I want to be a make-up artist. Here are dresses, bags, and a phone. I will definitely be dating.” “Would you be getting married?” I asked. “Probably not. It is still early for me,” she smiled. Ms. Carmichael, a science teacher at Perspectives Joslin, joined our conversation “getting married in 20’s or not.” “It’s okay to get married in 20’s, but make sure you are still an independent women before and after you get married.” Here was our word, Independence. Since it was past 5:30pm, we had to leave this for next week.

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Lenses, Fibers, and Lights

Lens, Fibers, and Lights

Lens, Fibers, and Lights

It was still dark wintry afternoon even though April was right at the corner to greet us. Yet, Ms. Sarah Dugan brought lights into our classroom to fill our minds with light-full moments. Ms. Dugan has been working in Laser Optics research at Northwestern and has over-five-year experience developing pre-college curriculum. What is fascinating in her lesson was watery plain jello. My girls always love investigating or experimenting snacks or desserts like chocolates or ice-creams. Yes, we’ve done these before. However, it wasn’t about tasting or finding nutrients in jello. The plain jello is a replica of the lenses; it can be a zoomed-in version of our eyes.

Miss Aubriana, a note-keeper

Miss Aubriana, a note-keeper

Before we explored through the lights and lenses, Ms. Dugan guided a discussion: What is light? How do we perceive or use lights? The girls were very excited to share what they have already known or learned in science classes. Aubriana grabbed a marker to start writing what we have shared on the board. I always love when students have an ownership of their learning like Aubriana. “Doctors use light to see inside our body.” “We have light spectrum, red, yellow, green, and purple.” “Light is visible and invisible.” “Light is electromagnetic.” “It is very fast.” “I see green lights when I close my eyes.” Such an amazing discussion. We could go on and on and on, but we had to move onto exploring lights through the jello lenses. How creative it is to explore lenses with jello! Science is truly a Creative work!

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Ms. Dugan let the girls taste the plain jello, but some girls were little hesitant tasting it. T’meyah was brave enough to take an initiative. After tasting it, she said, “It is like water. It’s water. Nothing to taste.” Then Ms. Dugan cut the jello into different shapes. Oval. Rectangle. Double Convex or Plano Convex. Double Concave or Plano Concave. With these jello pieces, Ms. Dugan created different paths for lights to shine through. Two or three girls in each group started creating their own path and used a laser pointer to shine lights to see how lights move along the path. Such a remarkably beautiful moment to see how lights fill the path. Sometimes the lenses block the light to get through. It depends on how the lenses are set up.

Shining lights through the path

Shining lights through the path

The girls were very actively engaged in creating the path and their own lens’ shapes. Faith and Elizabeth made a heart shape to fill with lights. It was a quite hard task—filling heart with lights without letting lights through. I let them try and find out how they would fill the heart with lights. Faith tried to laser from each side, different angles, but lights were shining through, not filling in. Elizabeth tried as well. She used her left hand to block the path as she laser-pointed with her right hand. Yay, the heart was filled! Such an amazing exploration for all of us! I could see each and every girl’s passion for such fun learning experience like this activity. Science does really give each one of us Creativity and Critical Thinking.

How do you make cheese?

Last week in Sisters4Science at Reavis, we learned about food science with our guest scientist Daina!

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First, the Sisters shared what they knew about cow milk–Aaliyah remembered that it had proteins and vitamins in it, and we also discovered that milk has lactose, which makes milk sweet.
Each Sister tasted two different types of Greek yogurt, a piece of mozzarella cheese, and a piece of parmesan from Wisconsin. We found that one type of yogurt was more sour than the other; the mozzarella didn’t have a very strong taste; but the parmesan was harder than the rest, and sort of tangy or nutty. Even though all of these foods were made from cow milk, they were all made in different ways, which is why they look and taste so different!
With some styrofoam models, we discovered that milk molecules have structures called “casein micelles,” which keep the molecules far apart and the milk liquid. By using acid or an enzyme called rennet, we can break these up and allow the molecules to come closer together to make something solid (like cheese!).
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So, we tried it out! Each Sister added acidic lemon juice to milk, and then filtered it to get the whey out. We also tried adding rennet to milk, and it become much more solid. To test the acidity of each mixture, we used red cabbage, which changes color based on pH. We saw that the whey we made was more acidic than the milk, which was more acidic than water. We learned a lot, and had the opportunity to try some new foods too! Great job, Sisters!

This semester in S4S Calumet…The Wrap Up!

This semester the lovely ladies of Sisters 4 Science- Calumet learned many, many things! They were afforded the opportunity to explore and experiment in many different sectors of science.

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Some of their most fond memories include making lava lamps, straw bridges, and dry ice bubbles! They got to talk about everything from science to personal hygiene and home concerns.

 

We talked about college, what it takes to get there and what it takes to successfully stay there. They truly enjoyed my personal stories of college let downs and triumphs, and were all reassured that college is for them!

The girls were also apart of the first cohorts for a few pilot programs this semester! The got to try out the True Child curriculum, in which we talked about gender roles and how we see/think of ourselves and other people. They also got to try out the new badging system the City of Chicago is kick starting and earned a total of four badges! These badges are electronic awards that they will be able to access in the years to come.

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In addition to all of that fun, the girls received visits from many cool scientists including Ms. Iris Berry, who taught about health and nutrition, Mrs. Shavonda Fields, who spoke about the science of the female body, Ms. Rui Zhang, who taught and experimented with mushrooms with the girls, and Ms. Andrea Henry, who explained perception and added very cool experimental stations.

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Overall, the girls had a blast! We shared laughs, smiles, frowns, cupcakes and pizza! We shared knowledge, dreams, goals and missions, and I truly believe that every girl will supersede her anticipated destination!

We ended the semester with our version of Reflection of Knowledge! Brittany Alexander, a very talented 7th grader, wrote the poem that summarized our time together! Unfortunately, I can’t share the video of it, but trust that it was GREAT!!

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Before I wrap up, I want to shout a very loud CONGRATULATIONS to Majaya Glenn, Asia Moore, Winter Jackson and Ludmilla Sylvestre!! These lovely scholars will make the transition to high school at the end of the month!! Myself and the rest of the Sisters send all of our love and blessings to the girls on their new journey!

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It was an absolute pleasure working with the girls this semester, and if they received nothing else from the program, I hope they received me as an ever-reachable mentor and friend!

This Week in S4S Calumet….Brain and Perception!

This week, the lovely ladies of S4S Calumet received a visit from SUPER SMART Andrea Henry, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago.

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Andrea started out with explaining in light detail the brain and its many parts and functions, as well as giving us jelly beans! She talked about the four brain lobes, which are frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe. She then explained the function of each lobe, like how the frontal lobe is responsible for personality, and even shared an interesting story that proves that theory!

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She then talked about the different connections our brain has to different parts of our body, and how in order for us to see, the light and image has to travel all the to the back of the brain in order for us to see it. TOTALLY COOL info!

After making sure the girls understood the basics of the brain, she then went into a classic perception exercise involving photos. The girls went through the photos, some figuring out the hidden image, and some not.

Then came the fun! While the girls took part in the first half of their lesson, I was tasked with sorting skittles by color. Boy, if I had know what would come next!

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Andrea set up four different stations, audition, vision, touch and taste. The girls then formed small groups and visited each station to test their brains perceptions of the things around them.

The first station was vision. The girls had to stand at one end of a yard stick while another girl stood at the other end holding up a colored note card. The person with the note card then slowly turned at a 90 degree angle, switching note cards until the other person could only detect motion of the card, but not the color.

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The next station was touch. The girls were a tad bit confused with this one to start, but once they got it, they had a ton of fun. In this activity, the girls had to close their eyes and determine where the note card touching them had one, two or three paperclips. Sounds fairly easy to determine, but everything seems to feel the same!

The third station was taste. This was the girls favorite because they got to eat the Skittles! They had to close their eyes and plug their noses and guess they flavor of an undisclosed Skittle given to them by their sister.

 

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The last, and most difficult station was audition. The girls had to sit in a chair with their eyes closed while people clapped around them. Their task was to guess where the clap came from. This activity proved that of all the senses, hearing is the most difficult to use.

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Overall, the girls had a great time! Andrea’s lesson really embraced our motto of education and fun!

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Five, six, seven, DANCE!

Project Exploration’s S4S Spring program not only consisted of having girls sitting in a classroom listening to awesome guest speakers; instead, they had us learn a different way to remain healthy and active. On our third day the Sister’s 4 Science,  Hope, and I learned a fun, yet challenging, dance routine.

Laura, from Mixed Motion Art, was our guest speaker for the day. She began class by defining the word assertion to the girls. Laura then told the girls that most us tend to think negatively throughout our life. She said, “We tend to tell ourselves that we can’t do something or that we will try to do it, and in reality that’s what stops us from going forward.” She told them that they should never say “I can’t”or “I will try” but instead to say “I can” and “I will do it.” Laura then had the girls write something to read every night as a reminder of their true power, here are some lines:

“I am strong,

I am rich,

I am beautiful,

I am smart,

I can do it.”
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She then told the girls that it was time to shake all negativity off ! They started of by stretching before dancing. At first, everyone was a little hesitant about participating, but at the end everyone joined!
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I was amazed at how much the girls let go when they began dancing.
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All the girls seemed to be having fun and well… why not have fun with your students? So I decided to join Hope and the girls. I was a little embarrassed because everyone made it seem so easy when in reality it wasn’t! At the end Hope and Maya helped me catch up, and that’s when I was able to finally join the fun!

The girls not only learned a new way to have fun and to exercise, but they also learned that everyone can do anything they set their minds to.

Throughout elementary school, girls are taught that popularity should be prioritized. In fact, they are told that being smart shouldn’t even be an option. With that being said, being pretty is the the most important factor in being popular. Phrases such as, “You’re such a nerd” or “Why are you so smart?” are not necessarily said with the most positive attitudes. Instead, these phrases are saved into the young girl’s memory, reminding them that they cannot demonstrate their intelligence. Being at the top of the popular chart seems to be more important than being #1 in class. However, the S4S girls were able to recognize something that changed their view: We can be pretty and smart because neither needs the attention of the other.

We made a chart, on the left side we had a studious girl on the right side we had a popularity queen. The girls came up with phrases used by society or boys that described both of these characters. For the girl on the left we had; Ugly, nerd, boring, not interesting, talented, and shy. For the girl on the right we had; Pretty, interesting, cute, someone to have fun with, date, and dumb. We switched the pictures and it turned out that any of the definitions used for the two girls were able to be used with whichever girl. This told the girls that sometimes we judge too fast and we don’t realize that someone can be so many things at a time.

Thank you Laura for giving us a  positive outlook in life, and for reminding us that we can do whatever we say we WILL do.
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Can they do what we do?

By Alondra – Spring STEM Exploration

Once upon a time, society was extremely strict when it came to deciding what women and men could do. As unfair as it was, roles were determined based on each person’s reproductive organs rather than on their abilities. When I asked the girls what the difference between sex and gender was they were a bit confused. Natalie said, “Sex is when a woman and a boy get together and they do stuff, gender is when you’re a boy or a girl.” She was close but that wasn’t the definition we were looking for. Maya then looked up the definition and said, ” I think the definition we’re looking for is; either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.” The group understood a bit better… Until I asked what gender meant. Everyone thought that sex and gender were the same, and although they are similar, their definitions come from two different ends: Sex is based on our reproductive organs; gender is based on what society associates with being a male or a female.

To have the girls understand what this really meant, we carried out an activity. On a piece of flip chart paper I drew two columns. On one side I wrote woman/girl, and on the other I wrote man/boy. I then asked the girls what came to their minds when I asked what being a woman or a girl meant. I did the same for the second column. The girls came up with different phrases: Weak, emotional, moms, and clean. For the second column they had: Suit, strong (physically and mentally), loud, and the boss of the house.

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Hope and I then had the girls sit in a circle to discuss whether the title of each column could be changed. Although part of the group was a little confused at first, they understood that it was possible. Catherine said, “It can be true. Just because we’re boys and girls doesn’t mean that we are completely different. Most of us have two arms, two legs, two eyes, and even if some don’t have all of that they can still try.”  That was probably one of the best feelings I had that week: Knowing that my students had an open mind.

We had Gillian, from growing power, visit us that day. She taught the girls the importance of growing our own products. Gillian had the girls sift coconut shell to use later on.

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Gillian also told the girls how worms helped soil used to grow healthy vegetables. She said that some worms helped increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil. In addition, they break down organic matter that helps the plants grow.

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The girls then got to plant some sunflower seeds themselves!