You Go, Girl Scouts

Exploring STEM, Robotics, Engineering, and More

Cute girl stargazing at night

By Mimi Greenwood Knight

The Girl Scouts have been around as long as traffic lights, electric blankets, and zippers. In fact, all four came into the world in the year 1912. That was the year Juliette (Daisy) Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah, Georgia. She began with 18 girls and the idea of helping them “unlock their full potential, find lifelong friends, and make the world a better place.” Over the next 112 years, Girl Scouts did their part for the war effort, helped break down racial barriers, combatted environmental issues, and tackled problems like illiteracy, drug abuse, and child abuse while still promoting traditional outdoor activities.

Recent decades have seen continued efforts in all these arenas and a new emphasis on STEM subjects, including robotics and space science. Embracing these additions, the Girl Scouts introduced 30 new badges girls can earn in various STEM and environmental areas. The organization’s website, GirlScouts.org, promises, “New programming will prepare girls to address some of society’s most pressing needs through hands-on learning in cybersecurity, environmental advocacy, mechanical engineering, robotics, computer science, and space exploration.”

Group of primary school student enjoy learning and discussing about astronomy science

That’s good news for girls interested in technology and science. It’s great news for industries that can benefit from increased female representation. Focus on cybersecurity, space science, and mechanical engineering begins as young as kindergarten and continues with junior Girl Scouts (girls in fourth and fifth grade) earning badges in mechanical engineering for designing cranes, balloon-powered cars, and more as they absorb lessons in buoyancy, energy, machines, and jet propulsion.

Sixth through 12th graders work toward badges in robotics and environmental stewardship. While nature stewardship has been part of Girl Scouts since its inception, the new environmental badge is designed to mobilize girls to be “advocates who address problems, find solutions, and take leadership roles to protect the earth.” Troops are even helping 11th and 12th-grade girls navigate the college admission and financial aid process.

Introducing the Girl Scout Journey

In addition to badges, sixth through 12th-grade girls team up with friends in what’s called a “journey” to identify problems in their community and world, brainstorm solutions, develop a team plan, and put their plan into action.

Examples of “journeys” are “Think Like a Programmer,” which teaches girls problem-solving through computational thinking, helping them prepare for careers in cybersecurity, computer science, and robotics. The “Think Like an Engineer” journey involves girls engaging in hands-on design projects, teaching them how engineers think through problems and create solutions.

Women have made huge strides in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology since Girl Scouts first came on the scene in 1912. However, females are still significantly underrepresented in all these industries. These new Girl Scout programs, with their emphasis on real-world problems and solutions, promise to help girls interested in science and technology establish equal footing with men and position themselves to make a real difference in health, education, the economy, the environment, and more.

In addition to lessons in STEM, today’s Girl Scouts are also learning about car maintenance, woodworking, politics, money management, first aid, fitness, fine and performing arts, entrepreneurism, and more.

Black Girl Blowing on Wind Turbine Model in School

STEM Stats

Statistics from the National Science Foundation show that women make up just 29% of the science and engineering workforce.

Currently, women represent only:
  • 35.2% of chemists
  • 11.1% of physicists and astronomers
  • 33.8% of environmental engineers
  • 22.7% of chemical engineers
  • 17.5% of civil, architectural, and sanitary engineers
  • 17.1% of industrial engineers
  • 10.7% of electrical or computer hardware engineers
  • 7.9% of mechanical engineers

With the Girl Scouts’ new emphasis on STEM education, we can soon hope to see a more balanced gender demographic. 

Illustrious Alum

Many Girl Scouts have grown up to make their mark in sports, business, politics, and entertainment. Here are just a few.

  • Taylor Swift
  • Laura Bush
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Kendra Scott
  • Mariah Carey
  • Dorothy Hamill
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Queen Latifah
  • Madeleine Albright
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • Condoleezza Rice
  • Lucille Ball
  • Bette Davis
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee
  • Nancy Reagan
  • Sandra Day O’Connor
  • Tracee Ellis Ross
  • Katie Couric
  • Barbara Walters

Read more about STEM programs HERE on LivingMagazine.net

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