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: 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.


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!


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.

Straw Bridges

Monday, March 17

By Bori Kim

Before the girls came in the Room 215, I had all the materials set on the table. Straws. Tapes. Paper Clips. Pennies and Paper Cup. The girls started to come in then asked me, “Ms. Bori, what are we doing today?” “What is all this?” Just by looking at the materials, the girls got excited for the day. “We are building something. You are going to be an engineer today.” The girls kept asking, “So what are we making or building?” I had to calm them down little bit. We had to set up the account on ForAll Badges before having the girls do the activity.

Design & Build

Design & Build

ForAll Badges is a digital rewarding program for K-12 students. There are criteria that students need to meet by doing science in order to earn a badge. The following activity that we have done meets the “Discover Building Models” badge criteria by designing the stable straw bridges. Let me walk you through our playful science!

I assigned three or four girls in one group so we had two groups to design and build stable straw brides. Each group was only allowed to have 20 straws and tape. No more than 20 straws. Nothing more than tapes. Since straws cannot hold heavy objects, the girls had to come up with the ways for straw bridges to hold an 8 oz cup of pennies and paper clips, using only tape and straws. Oh, they had only 20 minutes to work! In the beginning everyone was in hurry to build it fast. Then I reminded them, “Remember, your bridge needs to hold this cup of pennies and paper clips,” showing a 8oz cup of pennies and paper clips in it. The girls were trying to rearrange the straws to make it stable enough. One girl asked me if she could get more straws. “No, you only have 20 straws and tape. That is all you need,” I responded. The clock was ticking and they had to finish up.

"Science is not just facts on a thick book, but it has become real-life experience."

“Science is not just facts on a thick book, but it has become real-life experience.”

“Time’s up, ladies! Let’s set your bridge between chairs then we will drop pennies and paper clips. Who wants to be a penny dropper?” Amoriana volunteered for her group and Peyten for her group. “Let’s count it as Gabby drops clips and pennies.” The girls were counting and they were very excited to see if the bridge would fall down or not. See what happened; the bridge Gabby and her group peers designed did not collapse! The bridge was holding the cup until the end!

Next turn, it was time for Peyten’s group. They weren’t confident as they dropped the pennies and paper clips. “Please, do not criticize yourself. It is okay even if it falls down. We always need to try first and see what happens.” I told the girls. The bridge eventually fell down, but it was learning experience. As a closing, we discussed why Gabby’s bridge stayed between chairs and why not Peyten’s. We learned that it has to have a firm base at the bottom, especially at the center since the bridges we made had to hold the 8oz cup with weight in it. By designing and building the straw bridges, the girls were able to experience real-world science. For us, science is not boring anymore. Not just facts written down on a thick book, but science has become real-life experience!

Slimey Mass

March 3, 14

By Special Guest Miss Maris Haire

The bright minds at Perspectives Joslin were very excited to find out the experiment of the day – making slime! To begin, everyone wrote down what they thought a “polymer” was. We discovered that while we’ve heard this word before, we didn’t quite know what it meant! After sharing our hypotheses with each other, I explained that a polymer is a material that has long chains of molecules bound together. Now we were ready to investigate this further through experimentation.

We learned that making slime is a delicate art! First we all followed directions to make slime using glue, water, borax, and food coloring. We observed the mixture along to way to notice the effect of each ingredient. We figured out that borax was the key ingredient that turned the watery water/glue mixture into a slimey mass that could be picked up and stretched. Some then decided to get creative by adding more glue, water, borax, and food coloring to see the effect on their slime. After some individual experimentation, we came together as a group to talk about the differences in each other’s slime.

The girls noticed that some slime was much more firm than others, and tended to break rather than stretch very far. Other slime seemed to have a marbled color rather than a solid purple all the way through. And yet another was so watery that it was impossible to pick up! We named these specimen and took turns writing down observation in our journals. We hypothesized what may have made the slime take on those particular characteristics- was it too much water? Not enough borax? After hypothesizing individually, we discussed our theories. We learned that the first had too much borax, which was making the slime bind tightly together and therefore less able to stretch freely. The second hadn’t been well mixed between each step, which caused the color to marble. The last simply didn’t have enough glue! It was exciting to learn that there were scientific explanations for these differences. The girls then collectively recalled the proper procedure for making slime so that they could recreate the experiment if they wanted to. We made sure to note the importance of the order of ingredients!

To finish up the day, we discussed our new definition of polymers, and how it applied to the slime we made. We learned about other types of polymers such as plastics, Kevlar, and nylon. We also talked about solids, liquids, and gases, and how a polymer has some properties of both solids and liquids. We used the white board to draw containers of solids, liquids, and gases, and polymers. In the solids, we showed molecules tightly packed together in a uniform formation. In liquids, the molecules were close together, but they were in a completely random formation. They also took the shape of the container. The molecules in the gas were spread out randomly and filled the entire container. In a polymer, we drew long chains of connected molecules that took on the shape of the container.

Overall, the girls really enjoyed this fun learning experience!

Nourishing Our Body

February 24, 14

"All For Badges" introduced by Ms. Meisel

“All For Badges” introduced by Ms. Meisel

We had another load of snow in the middle of February.  With all snow storms left behind, we got to taste a little of Spring.  Banana. Pecan. Date. Cinnamon. Vanilla Syrup.  It was such a nourishing day with Ms. Iris Berry who is a Health and Lift-style Coach and a founder of BerryWell Living.  Before we got into the nutritious lesson with Ms. Berry, Ms. Krystal Meisel joined our class to help with team-building, plus to launch “All For Badges” for the girls.  Ms. Meisel introduced the electronic badges to the class—what these are, how these work, and why we need these badges.  Ms. Meisel and I helped the girls to set up the account so they can collect the badges.

Pecan. Date. Banana. Cinnamon. Vanilla Syrup.

Pecan. Date. Banana. Cinnamon. Vanilla Syrup.

Here’s our nutritious lesson.  On the table, the ingredients for Nice Cream were ready to be blended.  Yes, you read it correctly.  Nice Cream.  No bad ingredients and nutrients were there, but everything nourishing our body.  The girls were very curious about something like cocoa beans.  Dates.  It was their first time to taste, even see the dates.  “Would you like to try them?”  I asked.  “It’s very sweet.  Not like sugar, but very healthily sweet,” added Ms. Berry.  Ms. Berry had it into tiny pieces so that the girls could taste it.  “Dates help our body circulate the blood well,” explained Ms. Berry.  The girls enjoyed tasting a little piece of dates.

Sweet Moment Tasting Crunch Nice Cream

Sweet Moment Tasting Crunch Nice Cream

Ms. Berry put each ingredient into a blender with ice cubes.  “Banana helps us digest well. Pecan has Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin D.”  She explained as she put each ingredient into the blender.  “What about Vitamin C?” One girl asked.  “Yes, it has a little of Vitamin C.”  Once she had everything in the blender, she added cinnamon powder and a bit of vanilla syrup.  With the ice cubes, the blender had a quite heavy sound.  Once the sound got softer, we finally had Nice Cream!  Very Crunch Nice Cream.  The girls absolutely loved Nice Cream!  The girls were hesitant first tasting dates, but they loved dates in Nice Cream!  The girls were so thrilled knowing this recipe.  They so wanted to try this at home right after our class.  With Ms. Berry’s help, the girls created other nutritious recipes that are nourishing our body, our mind, and our soul.

DNA Strands in Strawberries

Sisters4Science is back at Joslin after many icy snow days.  We have waited for spring, but Mr. Winter seems to love staying in Chicago as long as he wants to.  However this winter storm can’t stop us having fun in hands-on science experiments.  We welcomed Ms. Charlene, an amazing marine-biologist.  She has been with Sisters4Science over the last five years so it was like “reunion” time for her and a few senior girls!  She brought fresh strawberries to ignite our fun part of science.

Since we had some new girls who have been recently recruited, we had a time to introduce ourselves before we got into the fun activity.  Ms. Charlene introduced herself first then threw out a warm-up question; “What is your favorite toothpaste?”  The girls absolutely loved answering this question.

Ms. Charlene began her lesson by activating background knowledge questions: “What is DNA?”  “Anyone knows where our DNA is located?” The girls were so excited responding her questions.  “It’s the characteristics of a person or a plant.”  “It’s in a cell.”  “It’s right there,” pointing on the Ms. Charlene’s drawing on the board.  It was so wonderful seeing their excitement to what they already knew.  The girls were very confident in responding all Ms. Charlene’s questions!  Here was a little higher level of question continued: “Do we, human being, have a cell wall?”  The girls were little hesitant answering this, but one girl said, “Only plants have a cell wall. Animals don’t have.”  “Yes, only plants have a cell wall,” responded Ms. Charlene.  “What about strawberries then?” she asked again. The girls said in unison, “They have a cell wall; it’s a plant.”  The girls quickly understood where we were going towards with the strawberries.

Joslin3“Now, we need to break the cell walls in strawberries. So first have three or four strawberries in a zip-block bag then smash them,” explained Ms. Charlene.  The girls very much enjoyed knocking on the strawberries.  Once we made “mashed strawberries, it was time to filter it through the cotton gauze like making a strawberry smoothie.  “What do you think we need to break the cell walls?” asked Ms. Charlene.  “Do you see anything from the materials we have?”  “I see salt and an alcohol-like bottle.”  “Yes, we need a pinch of salt and stir gently to break the cell walls. Let’s have a pinch of salt in it,” clearly explained Ms. Charlene, guiding through the next step.  Then, Ms. Charlene added a little bit of ethanol into each strawberry smoothie.  Here it came, DNA strings!  The girls were like “Wow.”  For most girls, it was their first time to see DNA strings right before their eyes, even they did all the work to extract DNA from the fresh strawberries! It was such a “Wow” day for all of us!


Welcome-Back Day

By Bori

We have waited so long for Sisters4Science to get restarted this semester!  The girls were so excited to come in the Sisters4Science class!  The girls were running into the classroom all the way from the hallway, giving me a warm fuzzy hugs!

I jotted down the following journal prompt to open the class: “What would you like to do in Sisters4Science this semester? You may list your ideas and explain why.”  One response caught my eye.  Faith wrote, “Let the lesson be interesting. Surprise me.”  Most girls always love hands-on learning.  They do not think Science is boring anymore.  By revisiting the Code of Conduct we created in the beginning of the year, we had a whole group discussion—what we’d like for this class to be like this semester.  All girls were very passionate making a positive learning environment.  I always love seeing the girls come up with their own ideas to make Sisters4Science so wonderful!



Moving onto the next mission we had, we were working on the recruitment strategy.  We needed more girls to keep this class going.  I said, “Most girls think Science is boring.” “No, actually not. Everything is hands-on!” claimed Ashley.  “Yes, that’s right! All of you are the witness.  That’s why I am asking for your help to recruit the girls.  Any ideas?”  “I can make a list of 8th graders and we can start from there,” said Faith.  “Thank you, Faith.” So we have set up the schedule for a recruitment party.  It will be next Wednesday!


Last mission before the class ends, we were packing the most critical items for the emergency moon landing at a spot 200 miles from a rendezvous point.  There were 15 items listed and we were to find which one is the most or the least critical for the survival.  The senior girls were very interested in searching the items. “It’s fascinating!  I love it!” said Shelby.  “I don’t think we need matches at all. It wouldn’t work up there.”  “I have water come first.  Without food it is fine, but we can’t survive without water.  Our body needs water.”

I loved just listening to their on-going science conversation!  They did such a fabulous job!  We are all looking forward to another amazing semester in Sisters4Science.