By creating complicated concoctions, children at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig sample science
Sessions give girls — and boys — a chance to develop their love of science
April 29, 2016
Craig — In the Concoctions, Contraptions and Controlled Chaos after-school session that Tanya Ferguson directs, children at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig make complicated objects — and they watch the way various objects and chemicals react when they encounter each other.
In other words, as Ferguson says, they do science, even if they're not always aware of it.
She described an experiment with a Mento candy and diet soda.
"When you drop it in diet soda, it has a reaction with carbon, and it will shoot foamy stuff about 10 feet up out of the two liter bottle," she explained. "So we talk about different chemical reactions."
The Tuesday afternoon sessions, which Ferguson also calls C-squared, until recently were referred to as Girl Science — sessions in which girls were encouraged to do science on their own. Ferguson said the center will now rotate the Tuesday sessions, with girls one week and boys another. The boys, she said, were feeling left out, and so the staff decided to make the change to balance things out.
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Still, Ferguson explained, it's important to carve out time for girls to do science since many girls still seem to receive the message, subtle or otherwise, that science is a subject for boys. Ferguson said when the club conducts activities that involve mechanical play, girls are less likely to participate.
"If LEGOs or K’Nex are offered, I would say probably 90 percent of the (children participating) are boys," she said.
Encouraging girls to participate in scientific or mechanical activities, she said, is helpful to do.
"It's just kind of nice to have a girls' only (session) to encourage them to come," she said.
On Tuesday, Ferguson presented a dozen girls at the club with tubes, duct tape, string, marbles and other materials to create a "contraption" that would deliver marbles to the girls' desired destination. The girls had to work together, and they also had to experiment to determine the most effective angles that would send the marbles to the target spot.
When the girls explained what they like best about the science experiments, their responses seemed to defy, or at least to blend, traditionally accepted gender patterns.
"We can discover really cool stuff," said Alondra Rodriguez-Quintana, a fourth-grader at Sandrock Elementary School. She said she especially likes to "make soda explode" and watch it shoot up in the air.
Sandrock second-grader Trinity Garcia said she likes to practice construction techniques as she builds dollhouses.
"My favorite thing to make is dollhouses out of cardboard boxes," Trinity said.
Ferguson noted some scientific concepts that come into play on these Tuesday afternoons at the club. During the most recent session with the tubes, for instance, geometrical shapes and angles were under study, even if that sort of terminology wasn't used. Ferguson said other experiments involved density.
"We did density bottles, or rainbow bottles, layered with vinegar, dish soap, honey, shampoo," she said. "Everything had a different density, and (separated) so they made a rainbow."
For Stella Tate, a Sunset Elementary School second-grader, a session with just girls worked well. She noted her favorite aspect of the Tuesday activities.
"It's girls only," Stella said. "Boys that are kids are sometimes very noisy."