Tag Archives: GEMS

Our GEMS learn about crystals

At the beginning of GEMS this year, the girls wrote one sentence about what they would like to do in GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) and many said “study gems”. Perhaps we did not do a good job explaining what the acronym GEMS meant.  Even so, one week we decided to focus on the topic of crystals.

The science fields of Minerology and Gemology are closely linked which is why we started with crystals. We had two stations and rotated the girls through after they made a GEMS journal which was a handmade “burrito style” book.  After working at the two stations the girls could free write in these journals.  I was so pleased to see the amount of drawing, writing and detail they put into their work.

GEMS journals writing in their new GEMS journals

One station was making their own rock candy.  We watched a youtube video to learn how and then each girl made their own.  We had to be patient and wait until next Saturday to see the results but we can check on them during the school week.

The second station was a “mining” activity.  Last summer my family went to Moat Mountain in NH and picked up rocks with smokey quartz inside.  You can read the blog post from August 21 to find out more about our trip.  The girls took these rocks which were about the size of two adult fists and cracked at them with hammers and chisels to get out some crystals to view with the camera microscope we have.

Moat mountain smokey quartz sample

Moat mountain smokey quartz sample

Earthquake in the STEM lab

GEMS club designed and tested earthquake resistant buildings today.  We engineered our “buildings” with toothpicks and mini-marshmallows built on a foundation of Jell-O.  Once constructed we wiggled the Jell-O to simulate S waves and pounded on the base of the jello pans to simulate the compression and primary waves of an earthquake.  Here are the directions we used and some pictures of our activity: http://www.teachengineering.org/view_activity.php?url=collection/cub_/activities/cub_natdis/cub_natdis_lesson03_activity1.xml

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GEMS begins again

This is our second year to have a GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) club at Herndon Elementary.  We are able to have two sessions of 21 girls each this year.  They range in grade from 4th through 6th.

Today was our first meeting for this school year and we took a quick sample of what the girls said they wanted to do this year and Mrs. Powell, our School Based Technology Specialist, typed their sentences into a Wordle.  Here is a photo of our wordle on the screen.

Wordle from GEMS club

Wordle from GEMS club

Then we watched an inspiring video of a young woman who through persistence and desire became a mechanical engineer and a race car driver.  Here is the link to the video.  http://pbskids.org/designsquad/video/racecar/

So, we decided to engineer our own race cars BUT we did it out of PASTA!  Here are some of our race cars.

"Ready, Set, ..."

“Ready, Set, …”

Mrs. Stets made this car but the axel broke on the second test drive

Mrs. Stets made this car but the axel broke on the second test drive

"Riptide" was the name the makers gave this car

“Riptide” was the name the makers gave this car

This car even had a seat

This car even had a seat

We used hot glue to fix the pieces together

We used hot glue to fix the pieces together

This car even had a canopy

This car even had a canopy

A and J made this car

A and J made this car

Math Geeks and Math Phobes will both like this…

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Yesterday, 7 female teachers took 24 girls to the Math Alive exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution as our culmination of the GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) club at Herndon Elementary School.  It is a temporary exhibit lasting only until June 3.  http://www.si.edu/Exhibitions/Details/MathAlive-4731

Since the cherry blossom parade was staging on the mall it was a bit difficult to get to our drop off point but that meant the girls got a quick sight see of the mall area, the US Capitol building and the staging for the parade.

We spent and hour and 45 minutes in the museum and everyone was active and engaged the entire time, especially the adults!  Afterward we ate our lunch in the beautiful Haupt Garden behind the castle building.  It was simply a lovely day.

One mind at a time…

Two years ago when I went with Herndon High School’s FIRST Robotics team to the national championship in Atlanta GA I signed up for the Connect a Million Minds project.  http://connectamillionminds.com/

During the 2011-2012 school year I continued to support the Herndon High team as a meeting chaperone and by accompanying them on a really long bus ride to chaperone the Bayou Regional outside of New Orleans, LA.  That also involved spending most of one day at an urgent care center with a sick student.  Then came the DC Regional which was a short bus ride but another sick student and I had to get the bus to stop in McLean where his parent picked us up and took me over to the Metro to ride into the competition at the DC Convention Center.  It was a long season that year.

I have been helping the Herndon High team for over 10 years and since my youngest son graduated last spring it was now time to do something else to help connect those minds.  This fall, several colleagues and I started a Saturday morning club for girls called GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science).  We had 32 girls come during two six week sessions.  It was tons of fun to see them interact with each other, the female teachers and our female guest speakers in this single sex environment.  Most sessions started with a female role model from a STEM career who spoke about their job and then helped us with a hands on activity.  We were lucky to have so many outstanding female mentors to share their expertise including a former IT professional, a nurse supervisor from Inova Hospital system, a DNA researcher from Georgetown University, an engineer working for the US Army, a technology specialist from the  Fairfax County school system, the COO of Reston Hospital, a data specialist from the school system and two amazing college freshmen who shared their senior high school science fair project that took them all the way to the International Science Fair.

However, FIRST Robotics seems to be in our family blood now and my husband, Bob, has mentored the FIRST Tech Challenge Team at HHS for a number of years including this year and was either the field supervisor or the score keeper at three different FIRST regional competitions this year. On Saturday, March 31 I went down to the convention center (this time on the Metro intentionally) to check out the teams and cheer Herndon on (they made it all the way to the semi-finals)!  A colleague of mine from the elementary school brought five young boys down to see the competition too.  It was so much fun to explain the bots and how they are made and then explain the game to these eager young guys.  They went back to the pit area (where robots live and are repaired when they aren’t on the game field) and got to ask questions and see some robots up close.  One day, they may be on a FIRST team too!  One mind at a time…