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Virus! Week - Day 5 - Week 4 - SF Day Camp

Molly MansfieldComment
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Virus! Week has been a really great camp week this summer! On Friday, the tinkerers prepared to share their project work with their families. As is so often true in life, the projects didn't get "finished" to the extent that the tinkerers had originally envisioned. We all agreed that if we had another week to work on these projects we could definitely keep adding to them and making them better. We're not sure they would ever be done! We discussed how finishing the projects is NOT one of the goals of Tinkering School Day Camp SF. Our four goals are:

Collaborate and Make Friends

Try Harder Than Usual

Build Something Bigger Than Yourself

Make Mistakes and Learn From Them

The tinkerers certainly did accomplish all of the four goals we set out to accomplish! By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, we had a giant human body cell, a climbable huge "dragon-cell" full of viruses that they could launch at the human body cell, and a huge immune system cell that was prepared to protect the human body cell from the viruses.

While these structures were not completely accurate scale models of the way our human immune systems protect us from viruses, it was one way of engaging young tinkerers in biochemical learning at a young age. The virus group learned about the influenza virus (among others) and the different surface molecules that facilitate the virus entering or exiting a cell. The human body cell group learned a little about cell movement and also cell membranes and how things are transported across a membrane. While the immune cell group learned some about how our human immune systems create antibodies for the microbes to which we are exposed so that we can fight them when we are exposed to them again in the future. It was a fun and engaging way to expose tinkerers to some advanced science learning at an early age!

As collaborators, we also wondered how an all-girls group of tinkerers would take on modeling an "attack" or a "battle" scenario. As humans, we often frame the viruses as the aggressor to be fought off in order to protect our own human cells. On Monday, without having been offered another narrative or way to frame the scenario, the girls in the immune cell group had already begun tossing around ideas for sorting the viruses they captured into "good viruses" and "bad viruses" as they explored their own concept that maybe not all viruses are bad and that some might be good and useful - already they were looking at the traditional narrative from other angles and through lenses of empathy! It was a fun and meaningful part of All Girls Week to talk with the female tinkerers about how stories with a "villain" and "hero" from one perspective can be viewed entirely differently from other perspectives.

This week we as collaborators also did a lot of talking about how to acknowledge and celebrate the special experience building and collaborating and tinkering with an all-female group, without reinforcing the gender norms that in the past have excluded girls and women from these types of activities. We didn't want it to feel unique and unusual for girls to be building with tools together, we wanted it to feel normal and commonplace. It was meaningful to us to discuss with the tinkerers what it is like to tinker, build and collaborate with all girls and to read their reflections about that experience. (See our earlier blog post to read some of those reflections.)

At the end of the week we also asked them "What is tinkering?" and "Why do we tinker?"  We have been asking that of all of our tinkerers this summer and we have been getting some pretty amazing answers.  Here are a few that we want to share with you...

"What is tinkering?" (scroll through to see the answers the tinkering girls gave)

"Why do we tinker?" (scroll through to see the answers the tinkering girls gave)

Be sure to stay tuned to our blog next week for another great week of Tinkering School Day Camp adventures! As always, you can find many more photos from All Girls Week on our Flickr Photo Page by clicking HERE.

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