Last weekend StemBox hosted it’s first workshop on DNA strawberry extractions!
We had fifteen awesome girls attend the event who, in my opinion, are the kind of girls that are going to be leading the charge in shaping STEM fields in the future.
The event started with parents checking in their children and getting some questions answered before we got going.
Then it was time for a round of hang-man led by one of our StemBoxers, Sophia, where each girl at the table introduced herself and guessed a letter. By the end of the game it turned out that Sophia, an excellent speller, had chosen “Albert Einstein” as the secret word.
We moved on to our DNA lesson. I was so excited to show the girls the powerpoint presentation I had put together for them, but according to Murphy’s law, whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and so my projector adaptor did not match the model we had available for the day. Which means… a good old fashioned white board lesson! Which I must say, might have been the best way to go in the first place as the girls really enjoyed making fun of my idea of a strawberry, insisting that I had drawn a radish and that our experiment involve radish DNA extraction.
It was so exciting to see the girls interested in science and DNA by the questions they asked. One of my favorite teaching moments went like this:
Kina: “You get half of your DNA from your mom and the other half of your DNA from your dad.”
StemBoxer: “What about my step-mom? Do I get DNA from her?”
Hopefully I was able to answer her question gracefully enough by explaining that although she does not have any of her step-mom’s DNA, she was still emotionally and spiritually very much related to her step-mom.
After the DNA lesson everyone made their way down to the lab to do our experiment! The girls had their StemBoxes waiting for them and were able to open their boxes and see what was inside. After explaining what each item in the box was for, we got started on the experiment, and it was by far one of the most exciting and rewarding things to see. The girls took their science seriously and worked diligently on their experiment. My favorite part of the experiment was watching how quiet everyone got once they added the isopropanol to their strawberry/DNA buffer mix and precipitated their DNA. Everyone was so excited to see what DNA actually looked like and some of the girls wanted to keep their DNA on a necklace to show off after the workshop.
Once everyone finished their experiment the girls went to wash their hands and rinse out their reusable lab equipment while our volunteers refilled all of their kits with new reagents so they could go home and explore more DNA extractions.
We finished off the day with photos, snacks, and cupcakes (courtesy of The Geeky Hostess). Girls were sent home with some awesome DNA posters to hang up in their rooms and full StemBoxes to use. All in all I am so thrilled that the girls enjoyed themselves and the event was a success.
I sent parents some surveys after the event to get their feedback and one parent’s comment really meant a lot to me and absolutely makes me feel like StemBox is something girls really need right now:
“The girls were so excited after and just couldn’t stop talking about the things they learned. … This conversation transitioned into theorizing about other things (“What does the air have to do with gravity? Are they related mom?”) I love how once their gears started turning they just didn’t stop. I asked if science class at school was as fun and the response was a resounding “No way!” Their minds were absolutely blown about if the DNA were placed end to end how many times it would reach to the moon and back, they seriously couldn’t stop thinking about it and saying “I just don’t understand how that’s possible!” Later in the day they took inspiration from what they learned in their imaginative play. [A friend] played the role of a scientist who has this amazing discovery (fruit DNA theory) and brings it to a kid-run organization in the hopes of securing a job. [My daughter] played the part of very tough interviewer. The role entailed basically facilitating an experiment where the kids are teaching the grownups.
Here’s some awesome sound bites for you:
“I can’t wait to make more DNA!”
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could put these on necklaces and wear them to school to show everyone? I have some perfect string for this”
“Science is overwhelming, just because of the big words”
“It’s fun to be overwhelmed!”
And now some photos!