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This week flew by incredibly quickly. It was Duke Engage week at Eureka, which meant that all of us were teaching the lessons we had developed. My partner and I had a lesson centered around water power. We planned it so it would begin with a fun ice breaker activity, move to a woman in STEM discussion, next talk about what water power is, and then end with all the girls creating water wheels and drawing designs.

We had received all the materials necessary and we were really excited for the first day of lessons on Monday. The girls were a little hyper and talkative, but seemed enthusiastic about what we would be doing. Once it came time to make the water wheels, we started to run into problems. Cutting the plastic bottles was tricky, and trying to get a rod through the entire bottle proved to be impossible. The girls were visibly upset and my partner and I were very frustrated. The plan that we thought was essentially foolproof was falling apart and the two of us were struggling to keep the girls focused while trying to find solutions. We ended up testing their water wheels outside, which all failed, and then facilitating a discussion back inside the classroom about what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what improvements could be made.

This discussion became a staple in our lesson, as the water wheel activity effectively failed the next three days that we taught the lesson. Each time the girls were initially upset, but as the discussion developed they got excited about what could be changed for the future. We even facilitated discussions about why failure is important and how to move on from it.

My favorite part of each day we taught the lesson was when we opened a conversation about the sexism the girls had experienced in their lives. We heard stories about microaggressions at school, times the girls felt as though boys were taking credit for their ideas and work, and my partner and I even opened up about what our experiences were. Hearing that the girls were already aware of this because they had to be was not a great feeling, but the fact that they felt comfortable sharing and that they knew they weren’t alone made me feel a lot better.

We even discussed how they could help each other, with suggestions like backing up ideas and choosing subjects that are female for research projects. Overall, it felt really good to help start these important conversations that the girls will hopefully continue until they are no longer necessary to have.