SciGirls at the Challenger Learning Center

SciGirls meet Juanita Raymond at the Challenger Learning Center!

This morning was a blast as we shuttled off to the Challenger Learning Center!

Juanita Raymond, Tallahassee Astronomical Society member and voice of the planetarium, greeted us as we arrived and took us into the planetarium.  Once there, we viewed the July skies over Tallahassee as Juanita told us her story. She is a self taught astronomer, after always being the caretaker of her younger siblings. She found herself always cooking, sewing, and cleaning. One day, when asked about her hobbies, she went to write down, "sewing," and realized that's all she knew, so she turned to the night skies and made herself a new hobby. She shared with us her education, her travels, and her career, including 6 years in the army and working at the post office. While working at the post office on the night shift, she would star gaze, which led to her joining TAS and eventually, began sharing her love of astronomy to students in schools around Leon County during the day, and when the Challenger Learning Center opened, she began working there. She wrote a novel, entitled, "Orion and the Skateboard Kid," and has been the voice of the planetarium since the Challenger Learning Center opened.

Juanita narrated the morning and night skies over Tallahassee, identifying stars, planets, constellations, and satellites. Then, as a special treat, Juanita spent a lot of time sharing with us information about the total solar eclipse, happening on August 21st, 2017, and what to expect, and how to view it. A few of our girls were unaware of this upcoming event, and are now very excited! Juanita gave each scigirl a pair of solar viewing glasses, which our girls used to view the sun outside of the building. When leaving the planetarium area, scigirls were saying how much they enjoyed Juanita's story, and how viewing the stars was astounding.

After the planetarium show and talk with Juanita, scigirls got a hands on learning lab about scale distances and sizes of the planets in our solar system. Our girls created a make and take of the scale distances of the solar system, and all thought it was relatively cool.

From the Challenger Learning Center, we boarded the bus to cool off at Wakulla Springs! Our girls enjoyed swimming, jumping off the high dive, and exploring with our GoPros! Of course, no trip to Wakulla Springs is complete without a trip to the lodge ice cream shop!

Towards the end of our visit, we got on a boat tour of the Wakulla River. Our girls were stoked and ready with their binders, to check off all the wildlife they were going to see from their scavenger hunts. On the boat tour, we saw alligators, many varieties of birds, including ibises and comarands, and lots of fish.

All in all, it was a wonderful ending to the first week of camp! Next week, we look forward to many more scientific endeavors!


Need materials to carry out a science activity in your classroom? The MagLab can lend them to you!

SciGirls visited the BASF quarry.

BASF hosted SciGirls, where we dig science!

Really hot, but oh so cool!  SciGirls I was met by a caravan to begin a wonderful day with the company whose slogan is “We create chemistry” – BASF.  We traveled to an attapulgite mining site in Quincy to search for fossils with Guy Means (Florida Geological Survey) and Howard Kirk (retired BASF geologist).  As soon as we arrived, we met and saw a real SciGirl in action – Ms. Natalie, the head of mining operations who holds a degree in geological engineering.  This site is one of five that actively mines attapulgite, a naturally occurring clay with a high capacity for adsorption.  We were excited to begin our dig, but first found out a few interesting tidbits about this wonderful place that we were about to uncover.  Understanding that our Earth is about 4.6 billion years old, some of the treasures we found today could possibly be in excess of 18 million years old.  Did we mention how AWESOME these SciGirls are???? In spite of the high temperatures, this group of girls found shark and alligator teeth, clam, gastropod, and oyster fossils, took a water break, and went back to hunt for more – proving they are SciGirls tough!

How do we maximize learning during SciGirls? Of course, you make the connection between experiences.  So it was only fitting that after leaving the mine, we ventured to the actual attapulgite plant in Quincy.  We were greeted by Ms. Paige Hilton, the new site manager, who shared a bit of her background on earning degrees in chemical engineering and technology management.  Uniquely, this plant employs approximately 70 permanent employees and around 30 contracted employees who work to produce Attagel, which is used in such common products as Emergen-C, Behr paint, makeup, and Cheerios (just to name a few).  BASF prides itself on working to make women 30% of the company's workforce.  This was evident during our luncheon, where we had the chance to ask questions of BASF’s women in pink:  Ms. Christie, the engineering and maintenance manager; Ms. Sarah, a chemical engineer; Ms. Solaine, a textile engineer; Ms. Regina, quality & continuous improvement manager at the Attapulgus site; and Ms. Claudia, the site nurse.  They provided thoughtful and insightful responses to the questions posed by this inquisitive group. The takeaway for the girls was understanding that science is often a way to bridge the gap between careers.  After taking a brief tour of the facility, the girls returned to the instructional lab to engage in a Kids’ Lab experiment on an oil spill simulation and clean-up.  Creating fun with chemistry was easy with such a willing and engaging group of young scientists.

Needless to say, this day was AMAZING!  A special thank-you to Walt Loomis, Kimberly Harrison, Paige Hilton, Blythe Lamonica, Silvia Medrano, Bria Johnson, Guy Means, and Howard Kirk for making this experience memorable.  SciGirls were treated to pink shirts, pink caps, pink goggles, and other goodies, including a filling pizza and sub lunch.  Join us tomorrow as we switch gears from using our hands to analyzing our minds and testing the waters. SciGirls definitely ROCK!


 SciGirls in front of Novey Animal Hospital

SciGirls in front of Novey Animal Hospital

What an amazing full day! This morning, we had the pleasure of being welcomed into Novey Animal Hospital, where we learned all about veterinarian medicine. From the front desk reception to learning about parasite prevention, our girls learned it all! The word of the morning was, "prevention," as girls saw actual heartworms, tapeworms, and even fleas! We also took a tour through the hospital and saw where the dogs and cats are boarded and surgical areas. We even got to see some surgical procedures! Our girls got lots of goodies, both for them and for their furry friends at home! We also met seven kittens and cats looking for homes and Winston, the vet's cat, who is in charge of socializing the kittens. Winston also serves as the blood donor and demonstration cat whenever necessary! Novey Animal Hospital always does an incredible job of making our girls feel welcome. We are very appreciative of all they do for us and for the community!

After a quick lunch, we were off to the Florida Center for Interactive Media (FCIM). Here we learned all about new technologies, including Virtual Reality, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and projection mapping! Our girls were able to play in a virtual world, moving balls into buckets, and step into some of the murals that are present at the Florida House of Representatives Chamber. With AI, we created creatures, and then asked the computer to identify them. To do this, AI needs three characteristics. It needs to understand the questions, understand the answers, and know the logic and thinking process behind it all! Here we also got to learn about how the computer learns to recognize with a fun program/game at

Each year, we are blown away by the technologies that FCIM introduces us to! We are so appreciative of Andrew Dennard and his staff for always allowing us to come in, interrupt their day, and showing us the latest and greatest in technology!

Tomorrow, we yet again switch gears, as we dive into astronomy and cool off at Wakulla Springs! It will be an amazing day to round out our first amazing week of SciGirls 2 2017!!!

SciGirls1 2017 at Shell Island, Panama City Beach

SciGirls take on Shell Island

Oh what a beautiful morning…oh what a fantastic day! Today we traveled to a different time zone to enjoy the wonders and sights of Panama City Beach. We started the day testing our fear of heights as many of the SciGirls tip-toed across the lines of the ropes course at WonderWorks. Some were braver than others, but this building of interactive science exhibits had something on each of its three floors for the girls to enjoy. From spinning in the Gyrosphere to venturing into Hurricane Alley, the girls made the most of their time here. Lying on a bed of nails was a piece of cake compared to completing the scavenger hunt that required the girls to search the three stories for answers to 22 science-related questions. Our apologies, but we can’t provide the answers: You have to try this for yourself!

Anticipating the opportunity to create the SciGirls version of “Dolphin Tale,” we boarded the Captain Anderson Sea-fari boat for a visit to Shell Island and potential dolphin encounter. Cruising out of the marina, we were not expecting to find the pristine and clear beach that encompasses Shell Island. This was a sight for many as we gathered our Beach Quest scarves, spread them on the beach, and splashed into the water. Our quest uncovered a scared hermit crab, schools of fish, lively sand dollars, and underwater laughs and smiles, all captured on the GoPro. We hated to get back on the boat, but were glad we did when the captain was finally able to spot a pod of dolphins along with a few loners. This was truly nature at its finest as we watched these beautiful specimens in their natural element. No jumping through hoops was necessary to appreciate these magnificent creatures of the ocean. We only hate that it had to end so soon. How do you end a long and eventful SciGirls day???? With compliments from the Sea-fari crew about the wonderful attitudes and respectful behavior of this AWESOME group of girls!!!! With very little left to share, stay tuned for tomorrow when SciGirls GO PINK!

SciGirls in Gulf World

SciGirls with Gulf World Education Coordinator Emily Pasch!

Today was an amazing day at Gulf World in Panama City!

We started our day bright and early, and arrived at Gulf World excited for what the day had to hold! When we first arrived, we got to see the African black-footed penguin exhibit that had just opened today! There were three penguins getting acquainted with their new habitat. These penguins don't need arctic temperatures, and our girls were interested in seeing the interaction between the penguins and the Gulf World staff. The staff was nice enough to answer any questions we had, including sharing some interesting facts. For example, the life expectancy of this species is 15 years in the wild; however they have one penguin that is 33 and another that is 31. 

Afterwards, we went to the sea lion and rough-toothed dolphin show! Salsa and Wendy, the sea lions, showed off while the trainers showed us how sea lions are trained using targets and positive reinforcement. We also met two rough-toothed dolphins, Ivan and Largo, both rescue dolphins, trained using the same techniques. Our girls were astounded by their abilities. These dolphins are different from the more popular bottlenose dolphins, as they are about 1/3 the size with 120 very sharp teeth. 

From there, we walked the scenic route through the outdoor garden, seeing several of the 17 species of macaws and other birds, including the oldest member of the Gulf World family, a 35-year-old flamingo. Through the garden, we also saw American alligators and a huge albino python. Our girls got a hands-on experience touching sting rays, and it was very hard to pull the girls away from Sting Ray Bay.

Next up was the bottlenose dolphin show, where the staff discussed the five oceans of the world, and characteristics about each one, including marine life found throughout. Our tour guides through the oceans were bottlenose dolphins, Comet and Cajun. Comet and Cajun showed off their behaviors, as they splashed the audience and threw the staff in the air.

To write about our whole day today would be a book; we'll let the girls tell you the rest, including experiences with sharks, turtles, and coral reef animals.

Lastly, we were treated to a presentation and Q&A with Lauren Albrittain, Gulf World Marine Institute Stranding Coordinator, and Emily Pasch, Education Coordinator at Gulf World. Lauren talked to us about the seven different species of sea turtles, including why they get stranded, their rehabilitation and release. She passed around a green sea turtle shell, a loggerhead skull, and discussed many facts, including how the leatherback shell is able to compress to allow the turtle to dive deep. Emily held up jaw bones of the rough-toothed dolphin, and explained how they use echolocation to see. She demonstrated this with each camper. Emily also passed around walrus tusks, and explained that sea lions, walruses, and seals are in the same pinniped group. Our girls had many inquisitive questions, and both Emily and Lauren commented on what a great group of campers we have! Big thanks to both Lauren and Emily!

All in all, today was a splashtacular day! Tomorrow, we focus on domesticated animals, as we visit Novey Animal Hospital in the morning, then switch gears in the afternoon to tackle technology with the Florida Center for Interactive Media! 

SciGirls1 2017 coding

These girls mastered the art of coding today!

What’s one way to begin a SciGirls I morning?  Try tracking a “quail” using radio telemetry in the Red Hills.  Luckily, after much searching, all five teams were able to recover their “quail” trackers.  The Red Hills area is a biodiversity hotspot of The North American Coastal Plain.  Part of the classification of this unique research site is the fact that over 1,500 plants are endemic to this area, and unfortunately over 70 percent of the habitat is lost.  This longleaf ecosystem is considered a portion of the 3 million acres that remain of this pine savannah, which was previously as large as 90 million acres.  To continue the SciGirls tradition (with a bit of a twist), a peewee was tagged and given the official SciGirls name of “Kiwi the Peewee”.  We also enjoyed the call of the red cockaded woodpecker that is native to Florida and a federally endangered species.  Saying so long to the timbers that cover the land, we then headed in to enjoy lunch and a small critter show-and-tell.  That’s right…. Bring in the Eastern kingsnake, the gopher tortoise, the tiger salamander, the pine snake, and the baby gopher tortoise.  A huge thank you goes to Kim, Brian, Diana, Jim, Mary Mac, Heather, Kaylyn, and a morning rain for making our trip to the Tall Timbers Research Station unforgettable!

If you think the morning recap was something, let’s talk about our amazing afternoon.  We traveled to Diverse Computing, where Miss Desiree and Mr. Noah created an obstacle course entitled “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.  This activity required two teams to input a series of codes and functions to move a Dash Robot with fluidity through coordinated efforts involving team input.  We had to determine distance, figure out speed, and regulate the number of times to use each action.  This was an unexpected but extremely fun activity in cooperative learning that incorporated all aspects of S.T.E.M.  Nothing compares to a SciGirls extreme challenge – and this it was.  Congrats to the 7thplus1 Team.  As our day drew to an end, our gears continue to turn as we get ready to pack up and hit the road in the AM.  What do an upside down building and a boat have in common? Only one way to find out!!!!

SciGirls2 2017 at the Tallahassee Museum

Two SciGirl Campers up in the trees!

Wow, what a day! SciGirls II conquered the Tree to Tree Adventure at the Tallahassee Museum! 

Despite nerves and anxiety, our SciGirls did an amazing job today! It's always so wonderful to hear our campers cheering each other on and giving words of encouragement, while facing fears! All in all, the course took a total of four hours. One SciGirl said, while up in the trees, "It's so beautiful up here!" It was amazing to soar over trees, a lake, deer, turkeys, and so much more! 

Once we finished the Tree to Tree course, we fed our appetites! Then, it was off to see all the animals! From wolves to foxes, turkeys to bald eagles, bobcats to panthers, we saw it all! We even went over to the farm area and visited the sheep, horses, cow, and goats! One of our girls had a special bond with a horse! Our girls were enthusiastic to check off many different species of plants and land animals on their scavenger hunt! 

Tomorrow is another fun-filled day, as we head off to Panama City to Gulf World! Marine Animals, here we come!

SciGirls I 2017 day1 group photo

SciGirls I 2017 is underway!

Yes! The moment you’ve been waiting for…. Welcome to the new blog for SciGirls I Tallahassee.  Not only is this a new site, but today was also the first day of SciGirls I 2017.  That’s right – check in here for information on the daily experiences of this group of dynamic campers for the next two weeks.  From making new friends to engaging in hands-on learning opportunities, this camp will be anything but boring.  Our motto this year will be FUN + LEARNING = SCIGIRLS Rock!

As stated previously, today was the first day the girls had a chance to receive official MagLab badges, tour the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, and begin making new friends.  A big thank you goes out to the following guest “Ladies of Science” who joined us for an AWESOME luncheon:  Wendi Cannon, Director of IT @ FSU College of Medicine; Dr. Christianne Beekman, Physicist; Dr. Asha Brewer, Chiropractor/Wellness Educator; Alissa McShane, UberOps; Dr. Sandra Brooke, FSU Coastal and Marine Lab; Dr. Amy Boca-Taylor, Ocean, Air, and Atmospheric Sciences (FSU); and Mika McKinnon, who joined us via teleconference from Vancouver, British Columbia.  After hearing the extensive journeys of this group of ladies, we then took a walk to WFSU to engage in the “Water Moves” activity that encourages teamwork, strategy, and patience.  Oh yes, the game seemed simple at first, but how would you like to try to transport water from a kiddie pool to a bucket with only a pool noodle, sand bucket, or water balloon? Did I forget to mention that you have to stand 2 feet away from the pool to retrieve the water and 6 feet away to deposit the water?  Go figure…. But hey, that’s what we did (some better than others).  Congrats to the Yellow Team for earning the victory.  Maybe everyone didn’t win, but at least playing with water was a fun way to beat the heat and humidity of a Tallahassee afternoon.  And guess what, this was just Day One: tomorrow brings challenges of its own.  SciGirls I….. Are You Ready??????

This is a first day group shot of SciGirls 2 2017.

SciGirls 2 2017 has officially begun! Today was a great first day!

Our day started with a bit of logisitics, as our girls went through a safety training for the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. From there, we all received our badges to become official MagLab campers. After our girls conducted their beginning of camp survey, it was time for the fun!

A physics student here at the MagLab, Haley Reid, gave us a grand tour of the MagLab. She toured us around the lab, including the magnet shop, where they build some of the world's strongest magnets. Some can take as long as eight years to build. There is a new magnet being built now at the lab, and when it is finished, it will be another world record. She then took us to the most powerful magnet in the world, housed here at our very own MagLab!

Once our tour was complete, it was time for our "Ladies in Science Luncheon!" Thanks so much to SciGirls I teacher, Toyka Holden, for organizing such a fine event. Our girls were able to sit with female scientists and ask questions about their professions. We were even able to teleconference with a science writer/consultant, who has actually worked in Hollywood with projects such as, Stargate Atlantis, Star Trek, and possibly even Sharknado! This really got our girls excited about the different fields of science.

When lunch was over, we walked over to WFSU for the Water Moves game! This is a unique game where our girls have to work together as teams to get water from a pool to a bucket, and face many challenges along the way. It was a great, wet time!

Finally, we ended our day with Jennifer Jones, the manager at Novey Animal Clinic. She took cultures on agar of our girls' fingers, after washing. We will see the results of these cultures on Thursday when we visit the clinic!

All in all, day 1 was fantastic! Tomorrow, we will be soaring through the trees as we take on the full zip line course at the Tallahassee Museum Tree to Tree adventure!

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