Eat Healthy, Live Healthy!

Parents believe that the more they accommodate to their children’s wants, the more the children will listen to them. False. Yes, giving your kid candy might prevent an “I am tired from school” tantrum, but it will not benefit them at all.

This week Finkl’s Sisters 4 Science learned about healthy eating. Our incredible guest was nutritionist Iris Berry! Iris told the girls that a healthy meal doesn’t take long to prepare. She gave us a delicious demonstration using mangoes and strawberries. Iris also used salt, peppers, and lemon which she said were only used as additives and preservatives. Additives and preservatives should not be used as much because they sometimes intervene with our digestive process. That is why we should smell our food before eating it: Smelling begins the digestive process and it also prevent the excessive use of additives like salt.


Iris told us to, “Pick foods for what you’re going to do during the day. ”

Jennifer, Lesly, Denise, and Jade enjoying the mouth watering mangoes and strawberries.

She also mentioned how people choose bad food such as the abuse of caffeine. For instance, if we need a lot of energy  we can choose to eat fish that gives us plenty of energy without any after effect. Then Lesly added, “Not coffee because it’s bad. It’s like a drug that gives you energy but then it gets you tired.”

Iris  spoke about the importance of … “poop and pee.” She explained that we should pay attention to what our body tells us because it’s always right. She said that sometimes our bodies need more than just healthy food. Drinking 8 ounces 8 times a day was of extreme importance for the well being of our bodies. She said that drinking 8 oz of water before a meal can help digest it better. In addition, chewing your food right can help as well. She also told the curious girls how food went from “yummy” to “yucky.” Iris told them that there were ” acids and enzymes that break down their food which then went to be extracted, absorbed, and last but not least, eliminated.”  However, paying attention to what your body gets rid of is as important as paying attention to what goes inside of your body. Iris told us that a normal stool should come out easy and in a shape of a banana. Normal pee shouldn’t be yellow, transparent, or blue. It should be pale and if its something like blue then it’s because we ate a candy with strong food dye.

I think it’s safe to say that the girls learned that  a healthy meal can be done as fast as opening a bag of hot cheetos.

Drink water, chew well, and eat healthy!

Thank you Iris!!!


The Monarch Butterfly!

By Alondra L

On February 24th, the girls and I had lots of surprise guests coming in to class. We had the pleasure to meet Karen Jeffrey, developer of ForAll Badges, in addition to Lauren Levato, our amazing scientist for the day. We also had the luck to have our dearest Jennifer Schwarz from the botanic garden present.

Lauren Levato is a writer and artist that was going to teach us some of the many wonders of the Monarch butterfly. The girls knew a week before that they were going to learn about butterflies, but they did not expect to see any real ones.


The girls enjoyed seeing different kind of bugs, including the Monarch butterfly.

Probably another scientist would have been afraid of letting the girls touch an actual butterfly, but that was not the case of Lauren. Besides letting the girls see the kinds of specimen through a glass box, she brought bugs outside of one: How awesome is that? At first the girls were a little scared of touching the butterfly, but once Lauren explained the were not alive the girls were more enthusiastic about touching it.


Jade touching the butterfly.

Lauren then proceeded to show the girls a video about the M0narch butterfly migration. After the girls saw the video Lauren asked some questions and to our surprise, the girls knew more than they had been taught. When Lauren asked what they had learned from the video Alice said, “Baby butterflies migrate to Mexico even though they have never been there.” Lesly had a question about the butterfly, she said, “What does the butterfly do to protect itself from bigger animals? ” Lauren then explained that their main defense mechanism was their color. Throughout the years the butterfly had become a bug of bright colors, which to their predators meant that it was not a tasty meal. Their curiosity did not stop there, however. The girls wondered how scientists were able to differentiate between a male butterfly and a female butterfly. Lauren told them to look closely to the different butterflies she had brought in. There were many answers given by the girls. Jade and Denise thought the colors were the ones that determined whether it was a girl or a boy. Then Alice said that the lines were the one difference, and she was close. Lauren pointed to something the girls hadn’t noticed. She told them that,” The male monarch butterfly had two darker spots in their hind wings which produced a perfume that attracted the female butterfly. ” She said, when a female butterfly likes it she goes, ” Oh I like your perfume, let me get close to you.”

Lauren also asked the girls if they knew where a butterfly spent its time before becoming one: Lesly said, “They hide inside their sleeping bags” . And that was true although in more specific terms, it is called a chrysalis.  So a butterfly goes from eggs, to a caterpillar who then makes its own chrysalis to become a beautiful butterfly.

Alice drawing a butterfly!

Alice drawing a butterfly!

Lauren wanted the girls to become familiar with the butterfly’s shape. She had them look closely at a butterfly and draw it. Some of the girls were able to recognize the different structures on each of the butterflies.

Without doubt the girls had a lot of fun learning about butterflies and their interesting journey!

Thank you Lauren!

Thank you Lauren!

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

The Curious Case of the Short Eared Amazon Dog

Yesterday we launched digital badges at Finkl.  As Krystal and Jennifer walked the students through the ins and outs of the new system, their excitement was palpable. We set up their accounts, took photos, and explained how such badges might prove useful in the future.

We also introduced Alondra, the new STEM facilitator at Finkl.

Then, we had a real treat, hosting the first scientist of the new year, Dr. Renata Leite Pitman. Renata, who grew up in Brazil, shared stories from her childhood and research that delighted us all. She recalled growing up on a farm, learning how to kill chickens herself, and overcoming her father’s wishes tobecome a veterinarian. She paved the way for her career herself, working as a lab tech during school and then at a zoo.

Though she enjoyed her work at the zoo at first, seeing the animals in captivity broke her heart. She remembered seeing a female Tibetan bear mourn the death of her male companion.IMG_0941

She also told us about the sudden and gruesome death of a lion she witnessed. She and her veterinary colleagues had performed a vasectomy on a male lion after thinking that he would prefer to be with a female lion from whom he was separated to prevent a surplus lion population in the zoo. After the operation, they allowed him into the female’s cage, four veterinarians ready with guns with anesthesia to knock the lion unconscious at any sign of foul play. At first, his body language suggested everything was fine, but then, suddenly, without time for the vets to react, he sprang upon the female and killed her.

After leaving the zoo, Renata spent ten years researching jaguars with a scientist in the jungle.

She left to get her doctorate at Duke before going to the Amazon to study the elusive short-eared dog that lives there. She shared pictures and a video of her time there, detailing how they studied the dog, what its habits were, and the amazing story behind Oso, a short-eared dog they rescued from a market and used to help them find other such dogs and better understand their habits. She also shared what we need to do to help save the rainforest.

[A video can be found at National Geographic:]

When it came time to journal, the students excitedly shared their thoughts on the lesson.

“I used to think that you couldn’t go to the jungle,” Denise said, “but now I know you can be a scientist and do research there.”

“I used to think that I couldn’t be an environmental scientist,” Alice shared, “but now I know that anything is possible and that you can follow your dreams” like Renata.

We truly enjoyed having Renata teach us about the rainforest and all of her research!

The Case of the Mysterious Bacterium and a Poisoned Picnic

Today a small group convened at Finkl for our Sisters4Science session, but we had a wonderful time practicing the skills needed to be burgeoning epidemiologists.

We opened the class with our Knowledge Sharing Session. We learned that Rosalind Franklin, our female scientist of the week, earned her PhD from Cambridge at age 25 before studying X-ray diffraction techniques, or methods by which she could look at the molecular structures of crystals, in Paris. She put those skills to use after returning to England to join John Randall’s lab at King’s College in London. There, she and Maurice Wilkins both worked on learning more about DNA, though on different projects in different labs. Because she was a woman, Wilkins mistakenly thought her a research assistant. He later shared some of her crystallographic depictions of the structure of DNA with James Watson and Francis Crick who went on to publish their findings and earn the Nobel Prize for such work in 1962.  Sadly, Watson and Crick published their findings before Franklin could, and Franklin herself died of cancer in 1958, becoming ineligible for the Nobel, which is not awarded posthumously.

[More information can be found here:]

Jade shared with me that “¿Quien quiere pasar los marcadores?” means “Who wants to pass out the markers?”

We then moved into our infectious disease lesson. As I narrated the fictional story of a poisoned picnic in which a number of people grew ill and even died, the students pretended to be a team of epidemiologists trying to discover what caused the outbreak. We went over who brought which dishes, what ingredients were in the dishes, from where the ingredients came, the order of people serving and receiving food, the symptoms of all those taken ill, the wasterwater treatment plants’ water tests, the pathology reports of those died, and a list of possible “suspects.” Through a series of deductions, the girls carefully and correctly reasoned that the culprit was Clostridium botulinum, or the type of bacteria responsible for botulism.  Because the picnic only had one serving spoon, all dishes became contaminated, a result of the bacteria’s existence in a green bean casserole dish. Since the dish had used green beans in a can that hadn’t been properly canned, and the dish had not been sufficiently heated, the bacteria survived and caused the outbreak at the picnic.

Denise remarked that now she knows “you have to check cans and make sure to heat all of your food properly.” Jade said she now knows you shouldn’t use “the same spoon over and over,” especially when serving a crowd.

We had a lot of fun pretending to be epidemiologists and learning about infectious diseases and food safety!


Knowledge Sharing Session

By Marilee

After a restful winter break, Finkl Sisters4Science reconvened this week to the delight and excitement of all involved.

We began our session with a Knowledge Sharing Session, a new initiative the girls requested in which I will share the story of a female scientist, and they will teach me a Spanish phrase. We thus embrace the role of both teacher and student, each sharing something we know.

I chose Marie Curie as this week’s female scientist of the week. We learned that though she graduated from high school with honors at age fifteen, she didn’t attend college until 24 since she underwent a nervous illness, couldn’t attend university in Poland (girls were barred from receiving such education) and had to save up to attend the Sorbonne in Paris. There, she became one of the first women to receive a doctorate in the sciences and went on to meet Pierre Curie, her husband, whom she helped with his own work. In 1903, she received the Nobel Prize in physics with Pierre for their work on spontaneous radiation, becoming the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize. In 1911, Marie Curie became the first person to receive a second Nobel Prize and remains the only woman to receive a Nobel Prize in two different fields, garnering the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her discovery of the elements radium and polonium.

[The American Institute of Physics has a quick biography at]

I asked the students how they felt about Marie Curie.

“Wow!” Lesly exclaimed. “Maybe one day I’ll study science and get a Nobel Prize!”

Everyone agreed Marie Curie had accomplished an impressive feat.

“Now, we’ll teach you,” Lesly said, and chose this week’s Spanish phrase:

¿Quien quiere pasar los materiales?

            Who wants to pass out the materials?

With that, we passed out the materials for and began “Moon Landing,” a team activity in which we decided individual and group rankings for fifteen items we’d need to survive on the moon and then compared our rankings to NASA’s official rankings.

Surprising items topped the official list, while others that the students had thought of greater value migrated to the bottom of NASA’s list. We learned that a box of matches was useless, coming in at #15 since the lack of oxygen on the moon precludes combustion. Parachute silk was ranked #8 — not to help astronauts land but rather to protect them from the sun’s rays. A self-inflating life raft came in at #9 not because the astronauts might need a raft on the moon but because it’s carbon dioxide bottle could be used for propulsion.

Such discoveries amazed the girls.

When we journaled on the exercise, Denise shared that she “used to think being an astronaut was really boring” but now knows “it’s really hard.” Alice said she never before thought a pistol might be useful in space but now knows that “you can use guns to propel yourself in space.” Jade added that she used to think “space was dangerous” but now knows “you can bring stuff to help you survive.” Margarita finished by saying that now she knows “how important water is in space because you can get dehydrated near the sun.”

We ended class with a lesson on helicopters. We folded bits of paper to imitate the basic structure of helicopters to mimic their blades. By throwing them in the air, the girls learned that without the blades, the paper helicopters simply sank to the ground, a consequence of the force of gravity pulling them down. Once the paper helicopters had slanted blades, however, the paper crafts introduced a degree of air resistance that helped the helicopters spin. We played around with different types and sizes of paper, as well as paper clips, learning that the weight of the helicopter is equal to the force of gravity. Thus, the weight of the helicopter affected how quickly it fell to the ground and how much it spun in the air.


            During journaling about the lesson, Alice said that she now knows “gravity depends on weight,” with Lesly adding that the size and weight of the helicopter matter.

We can’t wait to learn more during our next session!


Spring Kick-Off Meeting

The YOUmedia space in the Harold Washington Library hosted us for our spring kick-off meeting on Sunday, January 12th. The meeting began with a metaphorming activity, inspired from the Art of Science Learning Chicago Incubator introductory activity led by Todd Siler, where the facilitators were challenged to make a visual representation of what “teaching” meant to them as a team. The result was moving and powerful to say the least! Diversity, connectivity, adding life experience to the classroom mixture and investigating the world with students were ideas that were presented using the theme of oranges.


Reem and Brittany adding final touches to their metaphorming activity.

The meeting was interactive and included brain breaks to incorporate movement into the meeting and into Sisters4Science classrooms, utilized a strategy known as Chalk Talk where the facilitators were asked to communicate using only writing, and finished with a fascinating tour of the YOUmedia space led by Daniel Tamayo. Brienne was in love with the 3-D printer and wants to bring her class to the space this semester!


Facilitators participating in the Chalk Talk

Each facilitator brought a lesson to share  and we are excited to announce that Stories from Cory, an initiative to provide books to under-resourced classroom led by Sharon Kiddon, will be providing all of the Sisters with copies of Mae Jemison’s 100 Year Starship for implementation of Tolu’s lesson on female role models.

We are extremely excited for the next chapter in Sisters4Science!  We would like to thank our funders: City of Chicago’s Department of  Family and Support Services, HUD, Polk Bros. Foundation, Chicago Foundation For Women, Siragusa Foundation, Motorola Solutions Foundation, the Replogle Foundation and Sara Paretsky.  We would also like to thank YOUmedia and Stories from Cory for their support.  Project Exploration is honored to have such dedicated, innovative and inspiring leaders changing the face of science every week in Sisters4Science classrooms!


From left: Brienne, Reem, Syda, Krystal, Marilee, Bori, Tolu