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On the first day of camp, I broke out into terrible, itchy hives all over my body. I refused to see a doctor because I didn’t want to pay money to be told I had an allergic reaction (and I missed free healthcare in Canada). My face was puffy, and though I still somewhat resembled a human, I definitely did not look like myself. To say the least, this was not a great start to the day.

I was also slightly nervous to teach the STEM lesson plan for the first time. This week I was teaching “Balloon Astronaut”, which was about the intersection between fashion and technology. Specifically, we talked about spacesuit design and hazards that astronauts have to be protected from. I wanted it to be interesting for the girls. I wanted them to ask questions, work well with each other, and have fun. I also had to fill up a 3 hour time slot each day for each STEM lesson, which was another challenge.

To start the lesson, I went through the powerpoint that I had spent several hours making in about 10 minutes. I was definitely expecting to spend longer on it. I asked some questions to which I received some participation and discussion, but I didn’t feel that we really reached as deep into the lesson as we could have. The activity went fairly well; girls were really into making “spacesuits” (layers of newspaper, tissue paper, tinfoil, etc.) for their “astronauts” (water balloons). By the end of the lesson (which was only an hour and a half long this day because of the orientation day schedule) the girls were tired and ready to move on. I was a little worried because we had barely managed to fill up an hour and a half of time, how were we supposed to extend the lesson to three hours? Also, my hives were getting worse. Also, I couldn’t remember names. Et cetera.

Although the lesson could have been improved, I was scratching myself all day, and I forgot most of the girls’ names 5 minutes after they had told me, I don’t consider this day a failure. I learned so much about effective class facilitation and management (and the American healthcare system). There were some parts that could use improvement, sure. But that’s the same for everything in life.

The lesson got better with each day, and so did my hives. I learned how to ask questions, which questions to ask, and how to facilitate discussions. We started talking about pollution in space and how astronauts treat their urine to get clean water. Girls started asking tough questions that even professional engineers and scientists haven’t totally figured out yet. I grew closer to the girls. I am so impressed by how smart they are. I’m so excited to continue working with them.

The end of last week was probably one of the times when I’ve felt the most confident in myself. Something about successfully facilitating meaningful discussion and seeing girls’ curiosity sparked is so empowering. I hope they feel it too.