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!

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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!