Vail Daily column: Silliness and the science | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Silliness and the science

Nicole Abrams
Valley Voices

“Do you know how many bones there are in the human body?” 9-year-old Jahanny Machigua asks wildlife biologist guest speaker Jennifer Austin. Austin has been speaking about her field work relating to protecting the habitat of sensitive species such as the greater sage grouse and doesn’t have the answer to that question. By the time the Girls in Science program met again the following week, Jahanny had found the answer and shared it proudly: 270 total bones!

Little moments like this sum up Walking Mountains Science Center’s Girls in Science program. Run in partnership with Eagle County Schools and funded through the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and United Way, Girls in Science nurtures and inspires a love of science in young girls (grades 3-5). Creative connections and many questions arise as we awaken a sense of wonder in these young women. As both the coordinator and an instructor for this awesome after-school program, I revel in the Q and As that my girls come up with. The courage to ask questions is a valuable life skill that ignites curiosity and can lead to children finding and following their true passion.

I met the hyper-inquisitive Machigua girls at Avon Elementary School last year as the Avon in-school science teacher, another program offered through Walking Mountains. Although they were born in Denver, Jahanny and Jealynn spent much of their early years in their family’s native Honduras. In Honduras, they attended English classes, but told me that they struggled a little bit when they later lived in Kansas City. Jealynn giggled as she recalled one experience of a girl trying to compliment her earrings in the bathroom at school, but Jealynn just repeated the compliment back because she didn’t quite understand the exchange. Regardless of the struggles, these girls were far from shy second-grade students. They let me know immediately how much they loved science and would spend their recess time plying me with questions while practicing their handstands.

After a year of watching these girls successfully rise to new challenges at a new school, I was excited to welcome them into Girls in Science as third-graders this year. I have learned they both have grand aspirations for their futures! Jahanny told me about how interested she is in Dr. Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees; she wants to work with dolphins and educate others about these marine mammals. Jealynn hopes to become a doctor or a vet and teach others about living bodies and how to keep them healthy.

To the Machigua twins, Girls in Science is not just for fun, “even though it really is so much fun,” adds Jealynn, but they express that the lessons and activities also introduce them to things they never knew before. They were eager to compare our Girls in Science group to their favorite television show, “Project MC2,” a miniseries about four teenage girls who use their science know-how to save the day!

“I like that I get to do these experiments with my sister because we learn from each other,” Jealynn said. “It’s like sometimes we can read each other’s minds,” chimes in Jahanny, “My sister is the brains and I have the strength, but we share the same heart.”

Both of these ladies agree that Girls in Science is a special experience for them and one they will always remember. “We all treat each other like a family,” Jealynn said. “You are the tiger mom and we are all your Electrifying Girls!”

Both zap me with a quick imaginary lightning bolt, just like our group always does when anyone refers to our team name. A smile breaks across my face and I think, this is what it’s all about, the silliness and the science. We are young women bonding over the curiosities of the universe, unafraid to take risks or make mistakes, building upon each other’s strengths, and realizing our exceptional potential in an ever-changing, fast paced world, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. To learn more about Walking Mountains Science Center’s Girls in Science program, please visit http://www.walkingmountains.org/gis.

Nicole Abrams is the Girls in Science coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center and can be reach via email at nicolea@walkingmountains.org.