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Today was the first day of camp and I did not know what to expect. We all woke up early at 6:30 am in the morning and arrived with more than enough time to set up our classroom. At 8:30 am, the girls came filing in and our Girls’ Inc. facilitator began her fun icebreaker “Remote Control” where she had them do silly moves to energize them and grow comfortable with not only us, but alsowith the other students.

Sakura and I had a guideline for our roller coaster lesson plan, but we ended up not following exactly. We realized that the girls had an hour less than their usual STEM lessons, and had to rearrange some of our activities around accordingly. We taught elementary physics of roller coasters with a diagram and it worked well—the girls were able to understand it and incorporate the information they learned into their roller coaster. We decided to continue using this method of teaching for the rest of the week to test their understanding, and the roller coasters grew more and more advanced as we neared the end of the week. Our first STEM class ended successfully—the students built amazing roller coasters out of paper and though many were frustrated that they could not finish, I think that they all enjoyed the class and were even more excited to go to Knott’s Berry Farm after the lesson.

July 11

We were a little bit behind schedule in the morning due to traffic and rushed to set up our classroom. Our Girls’ Inc. facilitator helped us by doing two icebreakers to give us more time, and the rest of the lesson went smoothly. The diagram of a roller coaster helped them understand kinetic and potential energy, and the girls built increasingly advanced roller coasters than the day before. Overall, STEM was enjoyable for both us and the students.

The most difficult portion of the day was in the afternoon. I volunteered to facilitate a Girls’ Inc. class—8th grade leadership—and I was a little nervous to be the lead of this class at first, but the first day went by quickly and all the girls participated. But today, the girls were chaotic and rowdy. No matter how many times I tried to tell them to listen and respect others when they were talking, one voice would climb over another and the volume would keep increasing. Multiple reminders were ignored and I felt a bit defeated not being able to manage them. However, I maintained focus and concentration to finish the rest of the lesson and was very tired that day, accidentally falling asleep at 7 pm. Today was when I realized that sometimes having patience is not enough and even clear communication may not work, but to have the grit and persist through the lesson is important.

July 12

I think that the girls enjoy STEM very much—the morning classes are the longest but time seems to go by the fastest here. Not only are the roller coasters becoming more and more intricate, seeing the girls collaborate, communicate, and build teamwork skills makes me very proud that they are establishing lasting friendships at the same time. Every day, when we ask who would like to be an engineer at the end of the lesson, more hands go up. It is so exciting to see that more and more girls are loving, entering, and pursuing STEM!

Today’s Girls’ Inc. class started with classroom guidelines. The girls understand that listening and paying attention is important—I think that they just need to be reminded that this space respects all opinions. And it worked! The girls really listened to what others had to say and offered serious responses to further the discussion. I am fortunate the class I have is not very shy and participate in conversations that fosters insight and critical thinking.

There was a sudden change in lesson plans today—instead of a panel, we decided to do a “Before I Die, I want to…” activity where the girls wrote down their personal goals as well as impactful dreams they wish to achieve within the community. The girls scribbled fantastic goals—some wanted to change the homeless system, others mental disorders, and even more cared about the issue of equality. It was inspiring watching them write their dreams on the board and I appreciated that they took this issue earnestly and sincerely.

July 13

I finally made friends with one of the girls! She is in my 8th grade leadership class, and she is funny and outgoing. She always participates in class with great answers and is a really sweet child. We bonded over basketball, and one of her favorite players went to Duke (Jayson Tatum!!). The girls have swimming this week as their elective, but this girl stayed back to play basketball with us on the outdoor courts in the hot dry heat. She loves the sport and practices everyday even during the summer. I can see that she is very dedicated towards her passions, which is motivating to me as a facilitator. The pickup game on the outdoor basketball courts really tightened our bond and I am sad that I won’t be facilitating this class (called “Inspire”) anymore. She created a fun atmosphere for the rest of the girls to be more open and talkative, and I am really going to miss not being in her class. I am helping support the 9th graders next week, which I heard are tough to manage. Hopefully, it will go swell!

July 14

On Fridays, we get to go on field trips with Girls’ Inc. to promote camaraderie and have fun. This week, we went to Knott’s Berry Farm. It was my first time there and I was surprised at the size of the theme park. They had a few thrilling roller coasters and we rode on quite a few, such as Xccelerator, Supreme Scream, and so forth—I love roller coasters! The only downsides were that the heat was very severe though and we were drenched after the rapids ride (I didn’t bring a change of clothes). I wanted to take this opportunity to develop friendships with some of the girls, but it was only in the late afternoon when we so happened to ride with four of them. They were 7th graders and they were adorable and friendly—they went straight for the first row seats (I guess they love roller coasters too!). I enjoyed my time at Knott’s, though I wished we had more time there since we didn’t get to see and ride everything. However, I appreciated having the opportunity to relax and have fun after the first week of facilitating, especially with the girls. Whenever we saw them in passing, they all waved ecstatically at us, especially my 8th grade leadership girls, which made me very proud that we were all growing closer!