Can Girls Be Funny and Smart?

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 – written by STEM Facilitator Nedum Aniemeka
This week at Ariel the girls had another TrueChild lesson on a very important topic regarding the choices girls are forced to make between popularity and studies. Often, adolescent girls are told that being interested in school is nerdy or not cool, while on the other hand popular girls are expected to only care about their looks. To discuss this problem, the girls drew a picture of an imaginary girl on the board and were asked to think of things that people would say about the girl. On one side the girls wrote things that people would say if the girl were popular/pretty and on the other side the girls wrote things that people would say if the girl were nerdy/studious.
April 14 - 3The girls all agreed that the girl who was considered nerdy would not be as liked by boys as the popular girl. Shania said that boys may only want to talk to her if they are trying to get answers from her. When I asked the girls what they would say about the imaginary girl, they said they would think she was smart and hardworking but a little boring. For the popular girl, the Ariel girls thought that boys would say she was pretty and would want to date her. The Ariel girls said they would probably want to be friends with her.
The girls were then asked to think about what each imaginary girl thought about herself. Kiara noted that the nerdy girl would probably be sad because she didn’t have many friends and realized people only used her for homework. On the other hand, Alana said that the popular girl would think people didn’t want to get to know her past her looks.
So how do stereotypes affect girls’ desires to engage in science? According to Antoinette, if people always project ideas of what they think girls should be onto other girls, it will make girls only want to do things that make people like them. Because of that, a lot of girls may feel pressured to not come off as too smart or else people will think she’s weird or nerdy. But do the girls of Ariel buy that? No! We all want to make sure that girls feel comfortable exploring any interests they may have regardless of what people will say about them. Sounds like a good mission for Sisters4Science!

TrueChild Workshop: 10 Years Later

March 17th, 2015 – written by STEM Facilitator, Bori Kim

March 17 - 7It was another TrueChild day at Ariel!  TrueChild is one of PE’s partnerships that offers various programs and lessons about gender and gender norms with STEM related professions for young teenage students (for more information please click here:  These lessons help young girls, especially middle-aged girls, to understand what gender is and overcome gender stereotypes that have been persisted in our society.  Unlearning and relearning the concept of gender really encourage the girls to know their true selves and find path in STEM fields.

On this particular Tuesday, Ariel girls did an activity to find where they are at this present time, March 17, 2015 and where they would like to be in 10 years, March 17, March 17 - 62025.  Before the girls came in, I had four columns made on a white board, with a date in the center.  A left top column says, “Write 3 nouns or objects that represent who you are and explain why.” Next one is “Write 3 adjectives that describe who you are.” Then, “Write 3 places; any of your favorite places or places you have a special memory.” Last column says, “Write 3 colors that describes who you are.”

March 17 - 5 The girls had 15 minutes to think and respond to these in their journals.  The girls were very focused on writing these out and knowing who they are.  I asked three volunteers to share their present-time stories (wish we had more time so we could hear everyone’s).  Selena, who wants to be a famous MBA basketball player, shared her three adjectives.  Smart. Strong. Athletic.  She said, “I have a good grade. I live to work out a lot to get stronger. I love watching and playing sports, trying new things.”  Everyone gave her a round of applause.  Selena had a very solid plan and vision of what she wants to be.

“Everyone did a fantastic job!  Let me ask this.  We just did who we are as of March 17, 2015, but what do you think who you are ten years later, March 17, 2025?”  I asked the girls.  The girls were very excited (more than excited) to share what they will be doing or who they will be. “I will be a famous actress.”  “I will make a lot of money so I will be interviewed on TV.”

“Okay girls. Let’s calm down a bit.  I have one more question for you.  What do you think our society will be like in 10 March 17 - 4years?”  I asked again.  “You don’t have to answer this right now, but get into your group and create a collage of what you think our society will be like in 10 years together.”  The girls were split into two groups and started to create a collage on a big orange paper.  I walked around to see how the girls would respond to this.  I saw a 2025 food stamp with a feast table and asked this girl what this table means.  She said, “My mom is working really hard every day, but we never get a chance to have good food.  This is a food stamp that we will have in 2025.”  “Very nice!  I like it.” I responded and hugged her so tight.

We didn’t have enough time to finish up the collage.  This will be continued in our next TrueChild lesson.  I was very surprised that these girls are not babies anymore though I still think they are my babies.  They are well-aware of what is going on in their own lives and around them.  They want to make a difference.  I am so glad that TrueChild lessons help them shape their lives by their decisions—not by what society tells them to be.

Collages and Deep Thinking :)

March 13th, 2015 – written by STEM Facilitator Eugenia Ruiz
March 13 - 2 Greetings all once again! Chicago finally had a beautiful day and the girls at the Sisters4Science program at Funston Elementary took advantage of that wonderful day. This session, the girls and I had little one on one time. We look forward to our guest scientist the next week. For our ice breaker and due to the , we decided to take it outside. The game was called “Lava”. The girls were to stand on a low ledge in a straight line. Without talking, they were to order themselves from the month they were born. The tricky part, their feet could not touch the ground, hence the name “lava”. It was fantastic seeing the girl get active and have fun with the ice breaker.
As we went back to the classroom, I had prepared a TrueChild activity for the girls.The name of this activity is “Women and Girls in Media and Society”. For the activity, the materials were: magazines, pencils, glue, scissors, and neon cardstock paper. The girls were to cut out ten pictures in total; five of them were to be of how they think women should be and the last March 13 - 3five of women that had “imperfections” in the magazines. Seeing the girls’ process of thinking and the many images they were cutting out, it was intersting. Coming together to talk about it, many girls said that the women with flaws were women who were gardening and had either no makeup or too much makeup on. The women that were beautiful seemed simple and stunning. The girls really did enjoy the activity because they had not realized that the majority of them had chosen similar traits for each category.
Until next time, friends. Our next session we have a guest scientist and we are all very excited!

TrueChild Lesson #2

 This week at S4S we returned to TrueChild with another lesson about gender and gender norms! The girls were given magazines like Vogue and asked to pick out pictures of women that they thought did and did not fit societal standards of beauty. When the girls asked what that meant, MacKenzie said that she thought it meant things that girls have Feb 17 - 1to be to be considered beauty. “Girls are supposed to be skinny, have nice hair, and always dress well” said MacKenzie. With that definition in mind, the girls sorted through their magazines and found plenty of pictures to put on the board. The girls then were asked to put the pictures of women who did fit societal standards on one side, and those who did not on the other side. When the pictures were up next to each other on the board, the girls were able to see the requirements that the media sets for them when it comes to being a girl. Ja’nyha said that it was even hard to find any women who did not look perfect. When I asked the girls how I felt about this, many of them said that it was annoying. “If this is all we see then we feel like we’re not pretty enough unless we look like this”, said Antoinette. On a similar note, Bailey noticed that the magazines made it seem like a girl’s only concern should be how good she looks. However, the girls all agreed that they shouldn’t let magazines or the media tell them how to look and act. Women are often told to be a certain way but the girls of Ariel know that they can be whoever they want to be!  These types of revelations are so amazing coming from our middle school students!
To get their legs as well as their brains pumping, the girls did a quick physical activity after our discussion. Because we had just talked about female empowerment and what it really meant to be a woman, there seemed no better thing to do than to listen to some girl power music and have a dance party! Gabby said she loves the song BO$$ by 5th Harmony, so we put that on and got to groovin’!

Groovy, Oozy, Lava Lamps!

Jan 30 - 1 Another chilly day on January 30th and another beautiful session day with the Sisters4Science girls at Frederick Funston Elementary School. To start off this wonderful day, we did a brand new ice breaker called React and Act. With this game, each girls picks an event or instance that they have to act out. It can be from reacting to a having a stomach ache after eating a piece of cake to an exploding experiment. It was different ice breaker but the girls did the funniest reactions I have seen. It took some time to figure out what each of them were reacting to.
Then we moved on to what was planned for the day:  a TrueChild activity. TrueChild is an organization that helps children today to learn about harmful gender norms and hJan 30 - 5ow they can learn to move beyond them. This program helps give the girls the confidence to be who they want to be and the freedom to express themselves. The activity involved the girls drawing pictures or writing a paragraph about themselves. How they view themselves and how they think others view them. The second part of the activity is again drawing or writing about where they see themselves in ten years. Many girls wrote that they see themselves in school and having a significant other. After hearing many of those, we took the time and talked about how they don’t have to get married so quickly or be in a relationship. The main point that I got across is that they should all love themselves first.
Having completed a pretty serious activity for the girls, I ended the day with a small experiment. The supplies needed were: clear cups, water, Jan 30 - 4food coloring, oil, and salt.  The lava lamp was a completely new experiment forJan 30 - 6 me so I was learning alongside the girls. We filled the cups halfway with water and about 1/4 of the cup with oil. We let the two things settle before putting in the food coloring. We decided to make a rainbow lava lamp so some girls put a drop of each color. As we poured a bit of salt, the food coloring made it past the oil barrier and began looking like a lava lamp. The girls were super impressed! At the end, they started mixing the oil, water, and food coloring and the final product became a glittery water. It was great seeing the girls enjoy their experiment. It felt good knowing that after a good discussion of gender norms, they were able to relax with an entertaining experiment. Till next time!

What Does Being a Girl Mean To You?

On January 27th, the girls at Ariel Community Academy had an opportunity to talk about what it means to them to be a girl. TrueChild, which Project Exploration often works with, is an organization that focuses on the presence of gender norms in society and how these roles can affect young girls. The girls got the opportunity to talk about what they thought a gender role was. With one side of the board for boys and one side of the board for girls, the girls of Ariel went up to the board and wrote down various words and ideas that came to mind when they heard the word “girl” or “boy”. The girls had some really great thoughts, and the discussion got them thinking about how societal norms shape their everyday life. One of the new girls, Britney, mentioned that she thought the media often told girls to be submissive and underachieving, whereas boys are persuaded to be powerful and successful. Furthermore, Kiara said that boys are allowed to play sports and be rough but girls are expected to be pretty and delicate. I don’t think any of the girls are okay with that sentiment! Finally, the girls talked about how the science field is mostly dominated by males, and that’s probably because of stereotypes that say that boys are smarter than girls. Well, all I can say is I have a pretty smart group of girls on my hands :).

The physical activity of the day was Zip Zap Zop. All the girls all ready knew the game and so they were much better at it than I am. They even told me that I played with the wrong rules! I learn something new from them everyday.

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.