Welcome back to Halford! The first day of Halford Sisters 2018-19 (10/13) was equally exciting for both big and little sisters. A mix of new and familiar faces arrived on the circle, and everybody created identity maps to introduce themselves and allow them to reflect on parts of their lives and themselves that are important to them. The scientific method was also introduced during our science activity and sisters were encouraged to ask any and all questions they had about plants in the Casti garden.
The second session of the year (10/27) focused on Halloween themed activities and discussion topics. Sisters learned about the concepts of cultural appropriation and objectification of women in Halloween costumes, as well as in the larger world around them. A lighter activity followed during science, and Halloween candy was brought out to explore the concept of density. The Little Sisters made hypotheses about different candies, asking themselves if a particular treat would sink or float, and provided their thought process behind their claim. Each group tested their hypotheses, and after each trial, the concept of density began to make a little more sense in the real world context provided.
This Saturday we focused on human rights. Last Sunday, Halford Little and Big Sisters joined together to watch the Arts with a Heart 2018 production "Rights." The show focused on the declaration of human rights and educating the public on the importance of them, and securing one's rights. For our meeting this Saturday, Little Sisters made posters of human rights violations that they felt had been violated in their community. Big Sisters helped them understand the importance of advocacy, and how necessary it is to stick up for yourself or a peer when you feel one of their rights has been denied.
For our science activity, Little and Big Sisters were each given a small piece of tin foil and were asked to make a boat that they felt could hold as many weights as possible before sinking. We then placed the boats in bins of water, and placed different sized weights until the boat sank. We measured how much each boat could hold, and kept track of which group was the best "boat builder!"
For our January 27th meeting, we talked about an extremely important recent event: the Women's March. Many members of our community have participated in ones in surrounding areas. The Little Sisters watched an informative video on the Women's March, and we held a conversation surrounding the different branches of the government and what each one does. Next, the Big Sisters helped their Little Sisters write letters to their congresswoman, Jackie Speier. We gave them some guidelines and prompts to lead them in the right direction:
What change would you like to see in your community?
How would you like to make change?
For the March 4th meeting, little sisters worked on building bridges out of paper, straws, and tape. They then tested the strength of the bridge using pennies to see how strong their bridge was. Some of the bridges held over 1,500 pennies! They then split into 2 groups to help build their confidence. The 4th graders completed a worksheet in which they completed 20 prompts to get them thinking about things they were proud of or liked about themselves. Then they wrote anonymous complimentary letters to all of their fellow 4th graders so each of them could leave with a note that builds their confidence and puts a smile on their face! With acceptances for private schools coming out Friday, the 5th grade little sisters had a meaningful discussion about how to deal with rejection and disappointment. They heard examples of how their big sisters deal with disappointment, and advice for moving on, no matter the outcome.
In mid-February, we took our Halford little sisters to see Castilleja’s annual dance performance Arts with a Heart (AwaH). Each year, the show selects a theme around which to raise awareness and an organization that the show’s proceeds will benefit. This year the theme was about mental health in partnership with Art Lifting, an organization that helps artists who are homeless or struggle with mental health issues sell their art. The show was a wonderful pretext to begin our discussion of mental health with our little sisters. We talked about different types of mental illnesses and the stigma associated with them, so they would have basic context for the issues discussed in the show. Between the dances in the show, the screen would project different pieces of art while a voiceover explained the artist’s inspiration. At the end of the description, a picture of the artist would appear along with a description of the mental illness they suffered from. These moments seemed to really resonate with the little sisters; they seemed to recognize that people who suffer from mental illness are still intelligent and capable and can contribute amazing things to the world. Overall, the little sisters really enjoyed the show, especially when they saw some of their big sisters or Halford little sisters from the year before, and they took away many important lessons about mental health.
Fourth and fifth graders learned different ways to make their voices heard. We watched a video of the women’s marches on January 21st, and talked about how marches, protests, calling, and writing can make a statement. With the help of their big sisters, little sisters wrote letters to their congresswoman, Jackie Speier, about issues that mattered to them. For the science activity, each Little Sister and Big Sister pair created their own lava lamps. In a vial we put together water and cooking oil and observed how the two liquids reacted. We discussed density, polarity, and chemical reactions.
To celebrate a fun and successful first semester of our Halford program this year, the Big and Little Sisters went ice skating at Winter Lodge. For many Little Sisters, this was their first time ice skating and the Big Sisters loved teaching them! After many laps around the rink, we enjoyed pizza and hot chocolate around the fire. In order to celebrate the holidays, the Big Sisters gave their Little Sisters a goody bag with one of their favorite books, candy, snap bracelets, and some holiday themed school supplies. Each Big and Little Sister pair also exchanged holiday cards with each other, sharing some of their favorite activities from first semester and looking forward to more time together second semester.
Our science activity of 12/3 was creating a candy model of DNA. We used different colored gummy bears and toothpicks to represent the base pairs and used redivided to represent the sugar phosphate backbone. The girls had a lot of fun learning about why DNA is important and how to visually represent a scientific concept. For the second half of the session, we talked about bullying and what it means to be a bystander, up-stander, etc. The girls made bullying scenario skits in response to prompts we gave them. After performing the skits, we all discussed the different ways to deal with bullying.
This session was right before Thanksgiving, so we started out by discussing what we’re grateful for. Family, friends, and food were some common themes! Next, we began reflecting on the meaning of identity, and, more specifically, who we are and what matters to us. We explored these concepts through individual identity maps. The science activity focused on “oobleck,” a substance known as a “non-Newtonian fluid” because it’s hard to categorize as a solid, liquid, or gas. We followed up with a discussion about those phases of matter and other examples of non-Newtonian fluids (ketchup, quicksand, etc.) At the end of the session, we sat in a circle and participated in a confidence-building activity. Students in the middle of the circle were given prompts -- “Tap someone who is adventurous,” for example -- and tapped the heads of people who they felt exemplified that trait. At the end of the activity, the students described feeling pleasantly surprised by the qualities their peers saw in them.
During our third Halford session, the 4th grade sisters practiced improving their confidence while public speaking through a fun activity. Each 4th grader was given a random trinket, something like a small coin purse or a stuffed animal. They had to give a speech to the other Little and Big Sisters about why they loved the item more than anything, even though they didn’t necessarily actually feel that way. The little sisters then went around and gave feedback and constructive criticism on their presentation skills, like eye contact, excessive movement, and vocalization. The 5th grade Little Sisters analyzed magazine advertisements and deciphered how women are portrayed in the media. Each 5th grade sister received an advertisement and, along with their big sister, filled out a handout that asked them to describe the piece they had received and whether its portrayal of women was positive or negative. If negative, they were asked to draw a new advertisement that would depict women in a more empowering way. For our science activity, all the Little and Big Sisters were asked to build a structure that would contain the egg and make sure it didn’t crack when being dropped off the balcony. They had to make the structure from only cotton balls, newspaper, foam cups, and tape.