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Wonderwise: Women in Science Learning Series

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  Afterschool Expert   Science Expert  

Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Maryann Stimmer

The Wonderwise 4-H series of learning kits features contemporary women scientists as positive role models. Scientists are featured in their labs, out in the field, and with their families. Each kit contains: a 15-20 minute "virtual field trip" video profiling the scientist and her work; an interactive CD-ROM containing a biography of the scientist and downloadable and printable versions of the activity sheets in English and Spanish; and five hands-on, inquiry-based science activities related to the scientist’s field of study, with assessment materials and links to National Science Education Standards. These materials are user friendly and designed to be implemented without training
Full Review:
Wonderwise is an excellent resource for both staff experienced in afterschool science and the novice instructor. This excellent program features a diverse group of scientists (who are women) engaged in field and lab work who share their experiences with the students. Activities for students that are related to the fascinating experiences are provided on the CD-ROM and are downloadable from the internet.

Wonderwise motivates, particularly girls, to pursue an interest in science and creates an awareness of scientific activities and careers. It creates a positive image of women and minority scientists, offer materials that are inquiry-based, multicultural, and ties science activities to the work of real scientists. It helps youth connect specific topics in science and their underlying scientific principles and encourages children's ability to use scientific reasoning.

Each unit is designed around a specific scientist and her field of science:
  • Brenda Ballachey Sea Otter Biologist: Students observe and record Sea Otter behavior, create a kelp forest community, learn about Exxon Valdez disaster and conduct and oil investigation, figure out how much food a set otter pup needs.
  • Peg Bolick, Pollen Detective: Students learn about plan parts and pollination, dissect a flower, analyze a pollen sample, design and build flowers to attract pollinators, dig for ancient pollen in artificial rocks.
  • Jannalee Caldwell, Rainforest Ecologist: Students test the strength and fat content of nuts, design backgrounds to camouflage poison frogs, construct a rain forest tree, and create a rain forest community.
  • Judy Sakanari, Parasite Sleuth: Students create a parasite classification system, make and dissect as Ascaris worm, examine a pet for ticks and fleas, solve mysterious diseases by finding the problem parasites, unravel the states of a developing tapeworm.
  • Fatimah Jackson, African Plant Explorer: Students discover the poisons in everyday foods, examine chemical properties of starch, follow world travels of common foods.
  • Carmen Cid, Urban Ecologist: Students use sampling transects to test the diversity of their environment, create a water bud and explore the effects of water pollutants, make a watershed to learn about toxic runoff.
  • Adriana Ocampo, Space Geologist: Students investigate how craters take shape, test the effects of weather on the surface of craters, create strata and learn how to read the past.
  • Tolani Francisco, Vet Detective: Students learn how to make sense of bison's' behavior, take vital signs and compare data to the vital signs of other animals, compare animal digestive systems and simulate the process of digesting grass.
  • Cathy Burson, Genetic Counselor: Students explore genetic features, discover what's different and the same about groups, complete a human chromosome chart, build a model gene and learn some secrets of DNA structures.


Each unit is user-friendly and designed to be implemented without training. Most materials can be purchased locally (for example, local supermarket or hardware store). Materials that are more difficult to find can be purchased from Wonderwise. Student activity guides are broken down into simple instructions, with materials lists, and drawings to guide the students. There is a helpful "Before You Begin" section and sections that help to keep learners on target like "What We Know" and "Think it Over." Each unit has extensions, ideas for projects and exhibits, and an opportunity to write the story of a scientist.

Access to a computer is essential for many of the activities.