Monday saw the official start of Girls Inc. Eureka camp! The first week was packed — from 8:30 am to 5 pm every day, the girls were involved in STEM class, a workshop, and field activities, swimming, and Girls Inc. curriculum class. First week was packed for us staff too — from preparing and teaching our paper engineering curriculum to supporting other staff in facilitating their lessons to getting to know the girls for the first time, it was simultaneously very busy and fun, tiring and fulfilling.
This week’s STEM focus was paper engineering, and the girls rotated through four classes: paper roller coaster, Tower of Terror, fun zone, and zip line. I had the paper roller coaster class, and every day I was more and more impressed with the roller coasters that the girls designed and built out of paper. The creativity and ingenuity of the rising 7th and 8th grade girls to build roller coasters that had twists, turns, drops, hills, and various loops was truly amazing to see.
In my class, the girls did not only use their creativity and imaginations to design and build their roller coaster, but they also got to apply their knowledge from the brief lesson we gave at the beginning on the physics of roller coasters and the engineering design process. For I and the other facilitators, this part definitely challenged us to be flexible and adapt and improve as the week went on, because we were teaching concepts like the conservation of energy, and potential and kinetic energy to students who have never heard of it before. But it was definitely rewarding when students would realize that they needed to design their roller coaster with steep or high drops in order for their roller coaster to gain enough momentum to keep going, because they needed to increase the potential energy that their roller coaster starts out with. It was also a challenge for me to test my own knowledge and my teaching skills, because stripping down the complex concept of energy to the very basics that could be understood at the middle school level forced me to examine closely my own understanding.