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


Winter Science Exploration

By Maureen

On Friday, January 3, 14 hardy girls (and four boys, including my four-year-old son!) braved the cold and snow to travel to the Chicago Botanic Garden and learn more about photosynthesis. On the way there, Program Manager Krystal Meisel challenged them to learn—or review—as much about photosynthesis as they could, either from each other, from the chaperones, or by texting or calling a friend.

 When we arrived, CBG volunteers led a review of photosynthesis and the group aced all their questions. Then they explained the basics of cellular respiration, when plants use up stored food they’ve made through photosynthesis. Knowing that plants make food when sunlight is available, the youth were invited to hypothesize whether plants in the garden greenhouse would be photosynthesizing food or using up stored food through cellular respiration.

Gabby Faith

Inside the garden, the students formed teams and used probes to measure the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide the plants were releasing overtime. The teams captured clear readings of decreasing amounts of oxygen, showing that the plants were using up stored food, not making new food.

Natasha helping

In a second activity, the students put plant cell samples from a desert plant and a rainforest plant under a microscope to find and count the stomata in each. They found that the jade plant had fewer stomata because it needs to conserve water more than the rainforest plant does.


After lunch the group took time to explore the Winter Wonderland model train exhibit. This was my son’s favorite part, and the older kids enjoyed it too.

 “Before I came, I didn’t know anything about photosynthesis,” said 6th-grader Eryn W. “I’m going to remember it’s how we get oxygen.”

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Posters with a Holiday Twist

By Bori

It was our last day in this fall-winter semester.  Over the last ten sessions, we have gone through so much together!  I am very proud of my girls!  It’s been such a blessing to witness them grow in science!  Since it was snowing and freezing outside, only a few girls came in for our last class.  We still had so much fun reviewing what we have done in this semester.  We started the class by picking up our most favorite experiments.  Here are our most favorites:

*Moon Craters20131209_164736

*”Critical Mass” by Sara Paretsky

*Pipe Instruments

*A mug of Chocolate Cake

Faith got up and started working on the poster for Reflection of Knowledge Party this Friday.  I had simple materials for them to use.  Amorianna was assisting Faith to create a Christmas-like poster.  Faith is very creative, especially when it comes to Art.  She is very artistic!  With a pencil, she started to carefully create the calligraphy of  “Sisters4Science.”  Amorianna and I were helping overwrite on her calligraphy with markers.  Faith used Christmas ribbon tapes to make a grid on the poster and had red and green card-papers for each title box.  I loved the way how they used the colors and the shapes in our poster.  They were so excited to present this at the Reflection of Knowledge!


As we reviewed our sessions together, I noticed something I have never learned before.  It’s true we all love hands-on learning, but for our girls they have more focused on the materials used in each experiment.  They love chocolates.  They love music.  These materials ignites their curiosity.  I remember the girls always touched them and asked what we were doing when I had all materials set up at the front table.  Plus, they love having new science mentors each week, especially Ms. Sara Paretsky, the New York Times Bestseller author.

Sisterhood in Science

By Bori

It was a Thanksgiving week and it was a perfect day to reflect on what we have done together in this amazing journey!  As the girls started to come in, I had three questions written down on the board for the girls to start journaling.

*What do you think Science is?

*What have you learned in Sisters4Science?

*What is or are your most favorite experiment(s) and why?



The girls were very eager to share what they have learned and their favorite experiments, but I let them “think aloud” before we shared together.  For 15 minutes, we had a time to reflect on our own then we got together and started sharing. “Who wants to go first?” I asked.  Micah and Faith always want to go first and I always have a hard time to pick one of them.  This time, Micah got her voice up first, “I think Science is asking questions and experiments with accepted ideas.”  “I love your response.  Thank you.” I replied.  Micah is always enthusiastic about asking questions.  She always has questions prepared.  “Who wants to go next?  Faith?”  “Science is the study of anything around us.” said Faith.  “Yes, that is!  What do you think, Ashley?’  “I think Science is the study of genetics and DNA.”  responded Ashley.  “So you like Biology!  So do I!”

We could have shared our own thoughts of Science, but since time was limited, we moved onto the next question.

Ms. Bori: “Let’s share what we have learned in this class!  Amorianna?”

Amorianna: “I learned about moon craters.”

Ms. Bori: “Was it your favorite one? Why?”

Amorianna: “Because we use sprinkles, coco, and rocks.  I love coco!”


One last question: What is or are your most favorite experiment(s) and why?


Most girls picked “Moon Craters” for their favorite!  The reason was simple: they love coco.  Micah’s favorite was “Marshmallow Challenges.”  She said, “I loved building structures because that makes me think.  I’d like to demonstrate this at the Reflection of Knowledge.”  Yes, Micah is a thinker!

As we wrapped up our sharing, I showed them the ways we could present our thoughts and ideas.  “Be creative girls! How would you like to present yours?”  “I want to do posters!” responded Faith.  “Can we actually demonstrate this there?’ asked Micah.  “I will try to have you demonstrate your favorite experiment then.”  “Let me show you an example I have created.  Here’s a Prezi presentation.”  http://prezi.com/gwfd-psw66vo/sisters4science/


Towards the end, I wanted to ask the girls what else the girls have taken from Sisters4Science.


Ms. Bori: “Is there something you have learned in this class?  Something not-science?”

Micah:  “I have met my sisters here.  I have got to know middle schoolers.”

Faith: “I have met my new sisters here that I had never imagined before.  I am so thankful for these sisters and the friendship we have.”


I loved hearing the word “sisters.”  I am So thankful for this unique program that offers sisterhood through science.  The girls have so much enjoyed having new sisters, and have learned working together through science.  We can’t make science alone, but like us, we need each other to experience real science 🙂

Delicious Science: A Mug of Chocolate Cake

By Bori

Screenshot 2013-12-09 at 11.00.53 AM

We are close to the end of this semester. Chicago is getting its reputation again for the icy windy season and getting dark early in the winter. It’s Monday again, which is not easy for the girls to be awake, especially for the after-school clubs. They have been in school like forever. We’ve all needed something refreshing for this tiring day. On this not-easy-Monday, we had “the most awesome” experiment ever that would awake everyone! Chocolates! We love chocolates!Screenshot 2013-12-09 at 11.01.42 AM

We were so grateful for Miss Louesa Akin, a biochemist at University of Chicago. Before moving on to the fun experiment, she shared a little bit of what she is studying and why. Miss Louesa Akin wanted to know how things in the world would work. She loves to find out why the things worked out. Her passion in finding the causes has led to her career being a biochemist.

Following her passion, we were on the way to our journey, finding how all ingredients work together in one chocolate cake. If we miss one or two ingredients, what would happen to the chocolate cake or what taste would be like? The girls were discussing with Miss Akin; “If we have it with no milk in it, it wouldn’t be moist enough,” said Shelby. “I’d like to make one without eggs and taste it,” said Micah. From our hypothesis, we all started making each mug of chocolate cake as assigned.

Screenshot 2013-12-09 at 10.59.57 AMThe recipe was on the board as well as the assignment. The girls were very excited as they were putting flours and the cocoa powder. It was our very exciting moment! Once we were putting the ingredients as assigned, we took a turn to warm it up in the microwave. We were astonished it would take only three minutes to warm up in the microwave! Simple and fun! We had all the mugs of chocolate cake lined up on the counter. Before tasting, we compared them by looking—what differences we could see right away. We discovered a very interesting fact in one mug with no flour, which Faith made. It had been burned in the microwave within only a few minutes. We found out that flour is not just a base for the cake, but it does protect the whole cake from burning. By looking, most of them were just fine and looked very delicious.

Screenshot 2013-12-09 at 11.01.24 AMWe all had a chance to taste each chocolate mug cake. I loved Micah’s reaction to one with no coco, “Ekkk.” It did obviously not taste like the chocolate cake since there was no coco in it. The girls loved their own chocolate mug cake though they had missed the ingredients! It was another messy science we so much enjoyed. The truth is: the messier it is, the more fun science is!

Math + Science=Beautiful Music

By Bori

Science is truly an Art! This is what I took from Ms. Coleman’s lesson—designing the pipe instrument.  The girls were absolutely engaged in this beautiful science lesson.  Ms. Coleman started the lesson with explaining what sound frequency is.  As she started, the girls started sharing what instruments they can play and how their experiences help them learn sound frequency.  Faith used to play the flute; Gabby used to play the piano; Micha used to play a guitar and once be in a choir.  Brianna loves listening to the radio.  Even me, as a science facilitator, I do play piano.  We were all familiar with how the waves are created by the sound.

When Ms. Coleman tried to draw the sound frequency pattern, Brianna got up with the marker then came up to the board.  She started to draw one frequency level she knows, “This is what I have seen.”  This was a higher pattern than one that Ms. Coleman has drawn.  Right after Brianna, Faith came up and drew the flat sound frequency.  “You know the flat waves,” responded Ms. Coleman.  Micha brought up a question, “How does this sound frequency work in human body?”  Faith was so passionate responding to Micha’s question, “I think men and women have a different frequency level because men have an Adam’s apple.”  “That’s a good response, Faith,” said Ms. Coleman.  I always love to see the girls sharing their own thoughts and questions back and forth.  No one has left alone.

20131118_165052This concept has really ignited the curiosity.  The girls were so enthusiastic about finding their own voice frequency.  We could discuss our voice levels for a whole class time, but we had to move on—making our own instruments with the pipes!  Ms. Coleman explained how we could figure out the length of the tube for each key note—A, C, D, E, and G—using the sample math equation.

Pipe Length: tube diameter (ours was ¾”)/2 + 13,397.244/freq.*2

Music Notes Frequency
A 440
C 1046
D 587
E 659
G 784



The girls were calculating the length of the tube for each key note by applying the equation. Once the girls had all the lengths figured out, they started making their own pipe instruments!  Ms. Coleman let the girls be creative as they connected each tube into one instrument.  We could use one single tube that has only one key or put them all together as one instrument.  Though each student had their own instrument to work on, the girls were working together, helping the neighbors!  Ms. Coleman and I were helping them play the pipe instrument.  It was very hard to play it in the beginning, but the girls so passionate playing this pipe instrument.  Towards the end, Ms. Coleman conducted the girls playing “Amazing Grace.”  We couldn’t get to the end since time was up, but the girls so much enjoyed playing each part!  We had a mini concert.

“This was a cool experiment,” said Micha.

I couldn’t believe science with math creates the beautiful music!  In Science, there’s Art, Math, even Music—it is amazing!  The more beautiful thing than the sound of the pipe was the harmony the girls have created together.

20131118_165514 20131118_165444

Sisters4Science girls are hope for this world

“What are we doing today?”

“We are making clean water.”

“What? Ms. Kim you always bring the weird experiments.  I’m not saying it in a bad way.”

S4S_Joslin_11_2013_2As the girls were all settled, I brought up the concept we were about to do together, “Clean Water Project.”  I had the girls take notes while watching the interactive online lesson; all of the girls were so engaged.  Faith didn’t want to take notes at all so I let her just watch and remember the procedure, but she took notes. She did it!  As we moved to the experiment Brianna got up, marker in hand, and began to lead the class through the steps of the scientific process.  Wow, I did nothing!  I just let it flow as they were.  They were making the whole class!  It was so amazing to see the girls grow in curiosity.  They all took a turn to be a part of it–Faith did the first step by shaking the swamp water in the bottle–I couldn’t capture her in a photo.  She was shaking the bottle and her body as well.

S4S_Joslin_11_2013We made a water filter by creating a layer with pebbles, coarse sand, and white beach sand.  I couldn’t find a measuring cup, but Micha volunteered to be a measuring cup–actually her hands.  Amorianna, Ashley, and Brianna made the layer together.  Team work, yay!  Then we poured the dirty swamp water little by little through the filter.  We filtered the water twice to have a better result.

For journaling, I shared a little of my experience helping little children and women in India, where there was no access to the clean water even the restrooms.  The poor people that live on the mountain valley had no access to clean water, restrooms, and no schools at all for little children.  They would sleep on concrete floors.  My team and I joined the families and slept on the concrete floors for 15 days while building a small restroom for the mountain village people. Once I shared a little of my life in India, the girls had a better idea with “Clean Water Project.”  The journal prompt was: “Based on this experiment, how would you support or help others in order to provide the clean water?”

S4S_Joslin_11_2013_3Brianna said, “We can fund a trip to Africa.  We can educate them like teach this experiment then help them go to the school.”  Micha had stunning questions, more political, “Do the rich people know this?  Why aren’t they helping them?  Is there any way for the companies to do this?”  Honestly I did not have an answer for her.  I still don’t.  It is sad, very sad to see how unfair the world is, but I see hope right here in our classroom.  I believe we, Sisters4Science girls, are hope for this world.  We are taking a tiny step, but we are making an amazing difference together!