All Girls Expedition travels to Glenhagen Farms

by | Oct 30, 2018 | Access to STEM Learning, Broadening Participation, News, Out of school time, Project Exploration, Science, STEM |

Alina’s All Girls Expedition Reflections

When I was hired by Project Exploration, I was thrilled to be teaching STEM and quickly started to think about science topics that I wish I knew when I was in middle school. Fundamental ideas such as what chemical reactions are, understanding how all life is made out of cells, the difference between particles in matter and wavelength quality of light and sound are some of the topics that came to mind. My love of chemistry, biology, and physics run deep which consequently, gave me a passion for arts and nature. So when I heard that one of my first work experiences with Project Exploration was to be a STEM Facilitator for All Girls Expedition a weekend camping trip at Glenhagen Farms in Princeton, IL, I was nervous yet excited. Nervous and excited to be getting away from the urban grind for a few days. Nervous and eager to experience time away from concrete and steel with my PE colleagues and 33 middle school girls. Then I read the forecast for the weekend. Rain and thunderstorms. My mind instantly went to, what would the girls think about this?! Are we prepared?! As the weekend approached, I arrived at Orozco Fine Arts and Science Academy to meet the girls I would be teaching for the semester. The nervous smiles on their faces matched mine, and we made our way to meet the rest of the group at Union Station where we would board our train. Upon reaching the rest of the group we all introduced ourselves and embarked on a weekend, we will never forget. As someone who has studied biology and physiology in hopes to learn more about health and medicine, I quickly realized it did not take much studying of cellular mechanisms to instantly know that this trip was a hefty dose of medicine for all of us in the group. It was tiring and challenging work for PE team members to make sure that time was utilized in an artful balance of productive learning in our nature journals mixed with open play and bonding time. It also took a lot of work to make sure that everyone was fed a nutritious and delicious meal three times a day and had all the necessary items for camping, yet we all did it.

Time to be in the moment

Time away in nature to laugh, play, and bond with each other was priceless. Time away to create memories such as a night hike with only the light coming from lighting in the distance guiding us along the way was priceless (thank goodness it did not rain yet). So, did you know rods are the cells in our eyes that allow its to see in the dark and that cones are cells in our eyes that will enable us to see in color? Walking through the forest in the dark led by a guide who knew the terrain would train our rod cells in our eyes to eventually adjust in the night, and sure enough, outlines of each other in our ponchos formed as we finally forayed deeper into the woods. We made s’mores by the fire, heating up marshmallows and trying not to catch them on fire, yet laughing as soon as someone’s marshmallow lit up into flames. We made popcorn over the fire and stove and taught the girls how heat causes molecules to move around and create reactions to happen such as the popping of a corn kernel. I taught some very eager girls how to knit, and it did not take long before they eagerly maneuvered their hands to create stitches on top of playful chatter as we gathered around a circular table over some early morning chamomile tea. We even saved a baby mouse that was left in a tent by a mother trying to protect her offspring from the thundering rain. The girls named him/her Jacoby. We were all sad to say goodbye to the mouse, as they left Jacoby with the owners of the farm. We also had a talent show where the girls and facilitators showcased their best dance moves and heartfelt poems for the whole group to watch and hear. So much happened that weekend. So much good.

Was it cold? Yes.

Did it rain? Yes.

Did it thunder? Yes.

And boy… was it muddy!

But the girls were such troopers, and it surprised us that most of them only saw the bright side and fun out of it which encouraged us all to do the same.

Lessons Learned

I learned from this trip that it is all about perspective and that we have tremendous power to create the moments we want. This experience could have easily been a glass half empty due to the inclement weather. However, together and with the amount of rain splashed on our tents, it was more than a glass half full (…of rainwater). I certainly filled up on laughter and bonding moments with the girls and my  PE colleagues. This expedition was a great solution to bringing about experiential STEM learning experiences for all of us. If you are reading this, please continue to support STEM education and Project Exploration. It is a noble and necessary mission in our world. All Girls Expedition was an unforgettable experience. THANK YOU to everyone who was able to be part of it and had a role in making it happen.

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