What Do Acids and Bases Have to do With Sytrofoam!?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 – written by STEM Facilitator Kiara Byrd

Today at Woodson North, we started off with a discussion about our future. I wanted the girls to start thinking about their future and where they see themselves heading! This started a discussion of them becoming amazing people one day and that it can possibly start with Sisters4Science. We then went over the code of conduct so there was a solid agreement of who we want to be towards each other. Respectful, kind, supportive, polite, etc.

I asked them if they have ever heard of the scientific method and that we will be making our own with the experiment for the day. I first started asking the girls to think about the drinks they usually drink on a daily basis. I went around the room and had various answers. “I like to drink pop” said Tahnya. and others have  told me they drink water or a type of juice like fruit punch. I then explain the pH scale to them so they could learn about common acids and bases they may never have known. I then started to set up for my demonstration. My demonstration was to show pure acetone allowing a styrofoam cup “melt” right before your eyes!!! Semajah would say “oh my gosh the cup is disintegrating!” Each girl had a chance to have their own cup being able to be no more by the acetone. Stephanee and Rachel, my eigth graders, helped with control of the experiment and also really caught on with how the cup was dissolved. Stephanee also showed patience and courtesy by allowing the other girls go in front of her to do her own experiment with her cup. We used the scientific method today and wrote down the proper information to the right “step”. The girls were really excited with this experiment and wanted to show their families at home.

Everyone was involved and had a great time! We then made our own scientific method so we could apply it to what we learned for the day. We later had a couple of visitors and without me even having to say anything, they briefly explained the experiment to our guests perfectly and even gave the explanation of the chemical reaction. I was really proud of them. I will say Tahnya and Donya were my go-to girls with helping me conducting the experiment and making sure all of the girls were being involved. I really appreciated their help. The girls are really impressive and shows more and more potential every session.


Welcome back Woodson North!

Feb 26 - 5 We are back Woodson!!!! Today was a wonderful day at Woodson. I managed to see a few returning girls and a few new ones. The returning girls especially Doniya and Tahnya, gave me the biggest hug and were so excited to see me. Doniya even told me “I am going to be in Sisters4Science forever!!! Every time you guys come back I will be there.” It was also very sweet to hear Tahnya say after she found out I facilitated at another school she says “What? You have other girls? No you are only supposed to be here with us.” I really appreciated the girls feeling comfortable in our program where they truly feel they associate it with their happiness. Because it was the first day we started with the two truths and a lie ice breaker. We also had a special guest Jacki come in and help with taking our Pre-surveys. After the paperwork, I wanted my Woodson girls to get down and dirty!!! I wanted to also do something different so everyone can be surprised if the activity. Today they learned how to make slime!!! There is one girl named Alana and she was very curious in what we were going to be doing. She automatically wanted to Feb 26 - 6help me with passing things out. Semajah, a returning girl, also wanted to help me pass out the supplies. I explained to the girls I wanted them to do the activity themselves while I gave direction so they can really build their confidence. They all seemed a little skeptical in getting their hands dirty so I also supplied spoons for the mixing part. The girls really got excited when everything was coming together and the slime became amazingly sticky. Alana even helped me assist the other girls who wanted their slime to be more like hers. I really liked to see Alana stepped out of her comfort zone and helping the other girls, for she really didn’t know a lot of the girls in the beginning. I loved seeing that. An 8th grader, Rachel, even was being more open with me in how she was actually having fun with this activity. Of course it was not long until the girls wanted a round 2 in making slime. I saw that in round 2 materials were dwindling and a 5th grader Asia explained to me that it was hard to make her second slime. So by working together, she successfully made her second bag of slime and I Feb 26 - 1could see the biggest smile on her face. Sisters4Science is really for these girls to be better as leaders and also for us as the facilitators to make sure every girl has a memorable experience and that they enjoy it!! This was a huge successful first day and the girls will really be opened up to new things sooner than they think!!

Leadership Retreat to the Surgical Museum

On December outsidephoto13th, Project Exploration’s Sisters4Science program took our 4 participating schools (Carter G. Woodson North Middle School, Ariel Community Academy, Frederick Funston Elementary School, and Marquette School of Excellence) to the International Museum of Surgical Science (IMSS) in Chicago’s own Gold Coast neighborhood! The students were really excited to visit this wonderful building, that not only holds some of the greatest innovations from the medical surgery world, but also has a rich history within the walls of the building itself.   AccordingIMG_0538 to the IMSS history, the historic lakeside mansion belonged to a prominent Chicago family in the early 1900’s. The overall designed is based on French chateaus that belonged to Louis XVII and Marie Antoinette.  The building has four floors and many rooms within it, making it an amazing location for the museum.  Our wonderful STEM Facilitators lead our students through the day and the girls learned a ton!  Each facilitator wrote a short reflection of the day and their students’ experiences so we can learn about the day from all different points of view!

Angelina Jaimes

STEM Facilitator, Psychology student at Northeastern Illinois University

IMG_0542 image3As a Chicago resident, I have lived here my entire life. I have visited Chicago museums such as the Field Museum and others, but I found that visiting the International Museum of Surgical Science was different from the other museums. At the entrance, I was surprised that it used to be a house owned by a well-known family in Chicago. My very first impression was the history of surgical science and how before scientist were not aware of the existence of germs and their journey to discovering them. I believe this was a great learning experience for the girls, it provided them a chance to learn about surgical science have some fun at the same time. The girls did not only have the chance to tour the museum and learn but they had the chance to watch a surgical demonstration on how scientist/ doctors in the past perform surgery, amputations in particular.  This retreat not only provided the girls with a learning experience but an opportunity to engage with their fellow classmates, their facilitators, and with other Sisters4Science girls from other schools.

Kiara Byrd

STEM Facilitator, Woodson North and Marquette IMG_0559

The experience at the retreat was very interesting! I really liked that the girls could learn so much history at this place and were also able to make friends with other girls from the other Sisters4Science schools. I was able to witness the girls ask lots of questions and also react when they were blown away by information they never thought existed. I also saw that it helped the girls get a better understanding on certain things while on the tour as well. For this being our first field trip, I felt it turned out great. The girls also expressed more empathy towards what had happened to the people in the past when there were other alternatives when it came to medical treatment. I know that really opened their eyes to the advancements we have accomplished and are truly blessed for coming a long way in the medical field. They really enjoyed themselves and so did I.

Eugenia Ruiz

STEM Facilitator, Anthropology student at DePaul University

image1The day had finally com!. All the schools that have Sisters4Science were finally coming together for the Leadership Retreat.  The girls from Funston Elementary were beyond excited because they had never even heard of the museum. Once all the girls had met in a room to take off their coats, they were all mixed up together and separated into different groups. The group that I was a part of was group A. I had a few of the girls from Funston but also from the others schools. It was good to be able to meet the different girls and ask how they were enjoying the experience with FullSizeRender12Sisters4Science so far. The girls were given a tour and when we entered a different room you can hear some of them go “ahh that’s so cool”. It was refreshing to see that this part of science can bring the girls to an awe of its history. They even showed a demonstration of an amputation were two girls volunteered to be the either the doctor or the patient. It was super cool to see all the girls get into the demonstration. Overall, I think the girls enjoyed themselves very much. Many of them left the museum with questions or comments about how cool it was and if they could go visit with their families. Definitely a great day!



Nedum Aniemeka

STEM Facilitator, Pre-Medicine student at the University of ChicagoIMG_0557

The retreat to the Surgical Museum was a blast! It was great to be able to see all of the girls from different programs get together and meet each other for the first time. I think they all loved the experience and  learned some awesome things at the museum! Antimia told me that her favorite part was the exhibit about anesthesia because it was crazy to see how surgical procedures happened when things had to be done the old-fashioned way. “Amputating a leg with no anesthesia would not be pleasant.” On the other hand, Rhema was impressed that they invented some of the tools they used before modern technology made surgeries quicker and more efficient! Overall, I think the trip was a huge success and all of the girls are looking forward to the next retreat!


IMG_0582 IMG_0578 IMG_0575woodson

Woodson’s Reflections of Knowledge!

Dec 9 - 3Reflection of Knowledge, show me what you can do girls! These girls have worked so hard in wanting to make sure they have great presentations. I am so proud of them and truly feel they have a better understanding on what science is all about.

We have two groups presenting two amazing experiments they have learned to do. One group was to show how the girls extracted their own DNA. In this group we have Ashaunti, Tahnya, Donya, arianna, Jakaylah, Janiah, and Victoria. They were a little nervous at first, But after talking to them and allowing them to go over the experiment, they were more confident in their presentation. Jakaylah even stepped up and said “I want to welcome people inside and pass out flyers.” She knew this was her chance to really get involved since she has been here only a few weeks.

We had our second group with Pop rocks. I can tell this was one of the most memorable experiments for the girls. We all know children love candy, so it was interesting for them to think of candy of not something you only eat, but to use for a bigger reason. In this group we have Sarah, Mariah, Caremah, Dec 9 - 2and Olivia. They were asking questions on how they should say certain things and also how to explain what exactly caused the balloons in the experiment to inflate…Carbon Dioxide!!

We had a couple of groups of people coming in to see each group present and the guests were impressed to learn what the girls know about science. We even had Syda Taylor, our Director of Programs, make a visit to each group. Syda definitely helped calm the girls nerves some more and also helped them to know to not think so much. It is about how they feel about science and with confidence in that, there is nothing to worry about. With more visitors, the girls gained enough experience where they were not scared anymore, especially when their parents arrived. I could see the smile on their faces showing their family members that they can enjoy science.

Dec 9 - 5We took a moment to show appreciation to the girls. Tiffany, my teacher fellow, and I presented the girls with certificates to show their completion of the first half of our program. I will say this, despite of what the girls have been through, these certificates really meant a lot to them. Each one rushed and claimed their certificate with excitement and they felt proud in what they have done today. I am proud of them for I see the girls potential, becoming incredible women in society.

To Another Galaxy of Learning!

It finally came. The last day of session before our presentations. The girls were ready to get down to business and work on their boards. We have come a long way and I will say that I have seen changes in the girls and they enjoy learning science.

Of courseDec 2 - 7 to end our last day, we have to remind the girls that science is all different types of things and who better than Dr. Elise Jennings to help the girls learn about astronomy. Dr. Jennings first introduced herself and what do you know, she has an accent. She allowed the girls to try and guess where she was from. “I think you’re from England.” Said my 8th grader Victoria, and she was close but not quite. Ashaunti took a turn and guessed London. She was also close but not exactly the right place. After the girls were stumped Elise told them she was from Ireland. This was nice for the girls to not only meet women in science but also expand their minds to meet women from other countries as well.

Dr. Elise Jennings had an activity for them where they were able to distinguish different types of galaxies. They had 2 separate sheets of paper with numerous pictures of galaxies on them. The girls were put into teamsDec 2 - 2 and with those pictures, which galaxies looked alike? And why did they look alike? We had 3 separate groups and today I was extremely proud of Jakaylah, Semajah, and janiah’s group. They created their own chart, took turns in picking out the galaxies, and also put they’re own opinions on why they thought the galaxies looked similar. After all the groups were done they had their chance to present to the class. I noticed that most of the girls picked the same similar galaxies which helped to know as a whole they were on the same page.

The girls enjoyed learning about galaxies and thanked Dr. Jennings in coming in. I spoke to the girls about their projects and it was time to continue that team work in decorating their boards. I helped the group with the DNA extraction and Ms. Harrell helped the group that wanted to present the pop rocks experiment. The girls are looking forward to next week and I’m excited for them to show they’re family and friends what they have learned so far.

Preparing for Presentations!

November 18th was an important day at Woodson! It was our ‘Reflections of Knowledge’ Prep Day. Today it was time for the girls to really prepare to show others what they have learned thus far while a part of Sisters4Science. I brought all the materials they needed to get everything started and practice their demonstrations! Now in prior sessions, we have asked the girls what exactly did they want to do for their presentation. One of the groups of girls decided to do the pop rocks and soda experiment that we did at the beginning of the semester; and another group was inspired by the DNA extraction experiment with Dr. Shulla. In the DNA group, Arianna had said that she actually wants to try the experiment where you extract your own DNA. I was impressed that they wanted to try something new and we gave it a try.

The girls were separated into their respective groups and started figuring out the scientific method process related to their chosen experiment. What was their purpose, what were the materials, and what will be our conclusion? After the girls had written out what they needed, they were ready to dig deep into the scientific aspects of their process. The DNA  extraction group had used Gatorade in order to start the experiment and of course they were happy about that. “Can we drink it after we are done?” Tahnya was the first to ask that question. Overall they were able to complete the experiment and know what they were going to explain on their poster board. It was nice to see the girls get excited while they were preparing. Jakaylah was very attentive today and I could tell that she really is open to new things. She is one of many who loves to learn.

The girls had a great time revisiting what they have learned from our Sisters4Science sessions so far! We are so excited to share them with others at our Reflection of Knowledge/WOW! event on December 9th!

Creating a Squirrel Display!

How much do you know about squirrels? Yes, we have seen them in our backyards, while we are walking down the streets, and even in our windows; but the girls were going to learn a more detailed view on squirrels. Yes, today we did a squirrel dissection!!

Today we had a special guest, Dr. Anna Goldman, who works at the Field Museum in Chicago!  Dr. Goldman came to our program to teach the girls about biology and mammal anatomy, through dissection of a squirrel. She first showed the girls how she skins the squirrels first, very carefully to show the tendons and the muscles/fat of the squirrel. She also had to slide the skin off and that’s when more shouts from the girls began. Mya, a 7th grader, was the most curious one and never left Dr Goldman’s side. She was not scared one bit and was very eager to see the inside of the squirrel. She soon got her wish.

The before dissection picture!

The before dissection picture!

The girls were fascinated during the dissection!

The girls were fascinated during the dissection!

After skinning the squirrel it was time to show the insides; in order to show what really goes on inside the body. A few girls grew squeamish, like Sarah and Don’ya, and others were perfectly fine with the extra blood. The girls overall were disgusted but fascinated at the same time. Some of the bravest of the girls were our new 5th graders, Jakayla and Semajah. They were not scared one bit to touch the squirrel and paid very close attention to what Dr. Goldman was teaching. Another 5th grader, Janiah, was the animal lover of the session. She actually reminded myself of a young me. She said “how can she just cut the squirrel open like that, that is so mean.” She asked Dr. Goldman, “You don’t feel bad in cutting up this defenseless animal?” Dr. Goldman and I explained to her that this is all part of research. The squirrel is no longer living, do it doesn’t feel a thing and it is not suffering. It was nice to see that she truly had sympathy for the squirrel.

Looking at the insides, looking up close and personal!

Looking at the insides, looking up close and personal!

The main parts the girls had learned about was the liver, vagina, tendons, the trachea, the intestines, and of course the heart. The heart was a nice lesson for Dr. Goldman made the girls make a fist and said “As your fist grows, so does your heart”. A valuable metaphor for all of us. I could tell this was a very memorable experience for them because they continuously asked Dr. Goldman to come back. I know the girls loved today just as much as I did.