Erosion + Dirt, Rocks, and Mulch = Fun and Learning!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 – written by STEM Facilitator, Nedum Aniemeka

April 2 - 11 Let’s be one with nature. It is important for us as people to understand nature and try to understand what happens when things change and how we fix problems that may come about.  Today our special guest was Ms. Natalie Mills, a civil engineering for the US Army Corps of Engineers, and she wanted the girls to get dirty today. She wanted the girls to further understand flooding and the efforts that are made to prevent it. She wanted to explain how different flooding can be with different minerals. The process she chose to emphasize was erosion. She showed the different types of flooding that can occur with slopes, which is more April 2 - 1capable of minerals to be carried away. The girls were first asked what they knew about flooding and was given pictures of bad flooding so they can see how severe things can get.

After a short lesson the girls were on their way to get their hands dirty. They were put in 3 groups where they had soil, mulch, and dirt. The first group had dirt and with extra rocks in the mixture, when the girls viewed what happens when it is sloped some minerals were carried away but stayed on top. Our next group had mulch. In this group they learned about absorption and April 2 - 8how mulch actually helps with decreasing the chance of flooding. Stephanee had noticed this and explained that she doesn’t think that there is erosion because the water that was added just sank to the bottom. Last but not least, we had soil with our third group. When the girls added water to this, they noticed there wasn’t anything absorbing the water and it mainly stayed above the soil, allowing more flooding. The girls also got a chance to see how soil softened and how when sloped, more soil is carried with the water as well.
It was important for the girls to really get in touch with Mother Nature and have a better perspective in how natural disasters can happen and possibly getting into a career in helping others being victims in these tragedies. It was the last day of April 2 - 5school for them, before Spring Break, and the girls explained they enjoyed themselves and will miss the program. One of the girls, Rachel, even told me that I remind her of her older sister, someone she can look up to. It was wonderful to learn this before the break and for the girls to appreciate the sessions we bring to them more and more! Cannot wait to continue our amazing Sisters4Science program after Spring Break!
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Building and Skyscrapers Popping Up at Woodson!

Thursday, March 26, 2015 – written by STEM Facilitator, Kiara Byrd

March 26 - 11The girls had previously learned about floods and now they were going to learn about buildings and more structures. Our guest scientist Christina Sedighi, a civil engineer who works for the US Army Corps of Engineers, really wanted the girls to learn key words to use when it comes to buildings and the materials need to be used. She had the best pre activity for the girls too! The words were tension and compression. First she demonstrated with a piece of string how tension means strong and how compression means weak or loose. By pulling the string from opposite ends, tightened it and made tension. Compression is the opposite and showed by using a marshmallow that when there isn’t any force on the marshmallow, it is loose and easy to pull apart. Now it was the girls turn to be force!! She had the girls stand up and partner up. They were to hold each other’s hands and pull to understand tension and then for them to lean against each other’s backs to understand compression. The girls enjoyed it a lot. After they were being force they had a challenge. Christina had the girls have a competition with each other, in March 26 - 10three groups the girls had to build the tallest tower they could in a limited amount of time. The winning group would win a prize. The trick is, they have to build the tower from marshmallows and spaghetti.

The game was on and it was very interesting because not one tower was the same. Each group had their own strategy on the kind of foundation they wanted for their tower. Each tower had their own design, whether it looked familiar or a little abstract. I was proud of the hard work and creativity they put into this engineering activity. Semajah was really into this activity and wanted the foundation to work. In her group she was really giving her ideas and making sure her group was focused. I really admired Stephanee as well. In her group, she was focused and really worked hard in her group. At the end of the session we had a winner!!! At 1 ft and 10 inches, the tower of Stephanees group was the tallest!!! In that group, there was Stephanee, Jailan, Rachel, and Parriona. The prize was chocolate and March 26 - 8they were very happy about it. I know the girls really liked this activity and Christina was definitely a great scientist that engaged with the girls and helped them get a better picture on how it is to work for construction. It’s about focus, creativity, and let’s not forget trial and error!

Flood and Houses Floating Away!

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 – written by STEM Facilitator Kiara Byrd

March 12 - 7I am happy to say that we had a special guest today and her name is Ms. Lauren Vanden Berg.  She is a Civil Engineer and works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She had a presentation for the girls about flooding and how her job helps with that around the country. One of my 8th graders, Stephanee, was really asking questions on how flooding can have different effects in different areas. “I know when I see a flood warning, I want to get out of there as soon as possible.” The girls were also surprised to see a video clip that Lauren showed them of houses bring literally drifted away from flooding. Semajah asked if that can ever happen in Chicago, and Lauren replied that her and her colleagues try to make sure it doesn’t.

After the presentation, Lauren explained that it was the girls turn to build their own March 12 - 5floodplain and see the effects of flooding themselves. We split the girls into 3 groups and they each had their own river design they had to construct. The girls have learned they like to get dirty, so they were not against the activity after learning they will be dealing with dry clay. Each group was really working together and I noticed they each had their own idea and strategy on how to build the river to match the model they were given. When Lauren noticed that one group was finished, she decided to use them as an example of showing the girls a flood March 12 - 9and then the difference when you build certain structures to prevent that. The first group was Destiny, Alana, and Semajah. We asked the other girls to gather around and see what it should look like. Alana volunteered to participate in the demonstration. Lauren used water to show the flood and asked Alana to build a Levee using the clay. After adding the levee, Alana then showed the difference in how the water did not flood as much as before. The other girls had a better understanding and was ready for their turns to see how their floodplain would be. They really liked that this activity was very engaging and that they had a chance to get a little dirty with the clay. I witnessed very good teamwork and that you may be given the same thing but different strategies can arise and that is how engineers think. There is not a right or wrong way in creating something, for it is all about trial and error.