Over the summer, Girl Scouts announced 30 new STEM badges for girls as well as new journeys. In November 2017, the organization pledged to raise $70 million to help bring 2.5 million girls into the STEM pipeline by 2025. While many viewed this news with enthusiasm, some still ask why it matters. Others argue not every girl wants to be in a STEM field and worry Girl Scouts is moving away from its roots in the outdoors. We’re here to help you understand.
What is STEM?
Before we continue, it’s important to identify exactly what STEM is. The acronym stands for science, technology, mathematics, and engineering, four subjects most girls in the United States will be exposed to, yet few will pursue.
Why don’t more girls pursue STEM fields?
Think about the clothes you’ve seen in the kids section. The girls have frilly shirts covered with sparkles, claiming things like ‘when I grow up, I want to be a mermaid’ or ‘princess’ or ‘unicorn.’ Meanwhile boys clothes will say things like ‘astronaut.’
Realize it or not, girls are conditioned to think about more ‘feminine’ careers from a young age. This is encouraged through stereotypes and the underlying current of sexism that still plagues our society. One of our studies found that girls were less likely to raise their hand to answer a math question if boys were in the room, even when they knew the answer.
Since we started doing STEM programming, we’ve seen success in our Girl Scouts in a number of ways. One of the most startling is when a girl admits she thought boys were just better at STEM-related activities until she was engaged in them herself. If you want to read more about that and other revelations, check out the full report.
Basically, at some point it became assumed that STEM wasn’t for girls. We’re trying to change that perception.
It goes beyond the STEM pipeline
While we strive for equality in the workforce, both in job selection and salary, it isn’t our sole reason for encouraging STEM in our girls. Most people remember that Girl Scouts is about building girls of courage, confidence, and character, but they may not know the crucial second half: who make the world a better place.
We know there are things in this world that can be improved. Through our journeys and badges, we help girls learn about taking care of the planet and conservation. We encourage them to be away of their impact and what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Simply put, we were a girl-led green movement before it became popular.
We know it’s not for every girl
We’re continuing to add STEM badges in areas like cybersecurity, but it doesn’t mean we think every girl needs to become an engineer or scientist. We just believe every girl has the right to choose exactly what she wants to do, and we want to increase her chances of success by exposing her to different fields.
Maybe your Girl Scout wants to be a park ranger. Or a stay at home mom. Or an accountant. Or a veterinarian. Or maybe even a princess. We’re here to support her no matter what, so your girl can have courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place in her own chosen way.
It’s hard to believe that our 2017-2018 membership year is winding down. Then again, it’s hard to believe how fast 2018 is going! As October approaches, we’ve begun to assemble our new programming for next year.
While most of our opportunities are for the girls, like trips to Maine and hockey days, we do have something scheduled that is extra special for adults.
One of Girl Scouts main objectives is getting more girls involved in STEM, both as children and professionally. This year, GSUSA added 30 new STEM badges to help push this cause. Our girls have more opportunities than ever to experience science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While this is spectacular, you as a leader might be feeling overwhelmed. We’re here to help.
To aid in your understanding, we’re holding training for adults around the council. From October to April, you can pick a time and location that works for you!
Hosting STEM programs at camp this summer is like the marrying of two of the initiatives we’re most excited about. Girl Scouting has always been about enabling girls to do more and push themselves and their knowledge further. Because of this, our programs always take a progressive approach to dealing with problems faced by women every day.
This is one reason camp has been a part of Girl Scouts since the beginning. We believe in helping girls become leaders in the great outdoors by showing them important skills. Plus most of us can agree that some of the best memories are created at camp!
Our STEM focus is to battle the overwhelming majority of men who work in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. A major goal of Girl Scouts is to funnel more women in the STEM pipeline and close the gender gap currently found there. By exposing girls to STEM activities at younger age, they feel more comfortable with their place in that world.
With STEM-specific camps, we combine the outdoor fun with the educational aspects associated with these programs. With five programs targeted at younger girls, we want them to get excited about STEM and their potential future in the field!
- Citizen Scientist to the Rescue (Grades K-8)
- Science Wonders (Grades K-8)
- Silly Scientists (Grades 1-3)
- Zoologist (Grades 1-3)
- GIRLbots (Grades 4-6)
If you haven’t registered for camp yet, now is the time!
A Girl Scout studies the underside of a skull.
On Saturday, January 9, Girl Scouts of Western New York went to the University of Buffalo to learn about medical school. One hundred girls attended the program with 30 troop leaders and volunteer chaperones. The girls were all in the Cadette level, which includes students from 6th to 9th grade.
The Girl Scouts go to Med School program was run by volunteer medical students to get the Girl Scouts interested in pursuing a future in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).
Kaci Schiavone, a lead volunteer and 2nd year medical student, added, “We’re trying to get them as involved as we can. As long as we get them interested in science in general, we’re excited.”
Sember and Schiavone are both co-presidents of American Medical Womens’ Association, which has been organizing the program with the Girl Scouts of Western New York for a few years.
A Girl Scout gets a hands-on experience with a heart while med student Mary Kate Frauenheim explains the chambers.
By moving a finger in the shape of an H, you can test certain cranial nerves for functionality.
The girls worked their way through seven stations to learn about different parts and systems of the body and what career paths work with each. Girls learned about the brain and cranial nerves, the musculoskeletal system, the abdominal region and nutrition, the heart and lungs, and the nervous system.
Many stations included real organs that were donated for scientific purposes to the school. Donning gloves, the girls were welcomed to feel what the organs looked like and while learning about their functions.
Penpa Bhuti, a 1st year medical student was a volunteer at one of the stations where she taught about hearts. She taught the Girl Scouts about the heart and its valves, plus had them listen to each other’s heart sounds through stethoscopes. She said she volunteered because, “I like to teach. That’s one of my other passions. I think that’s really cool to be able to share your knowledge with other people. It’s really nice to volunteer. It’s fun.”
One girl shows off a real skull to another.
The Girl Scouts have fun getting a lesson in lungs.
Eighth-grader Hope Marshall and ninth-grader Courtney Jung from the Chatauqua Service Unit signed up for the program together. Both Girl Scouts want to work in or alongside the medical field one day.
“We signed up for this because we wanted to learn more,” said Marshall, “and we wanted to come and see how it was in the medical field.”
Jung added, “Most of this is interconnected to what we already know, so it’s helpful and informative and helps expand our knowledge about what we’ve already learned so far. I’ve wanted to be a pathologist for as long as I can remember.”
Marshall said, “I was thinking about being an engineer and I was going to maybe help out in the medical field by building machines to help with people’s problems.” She said a good example is that when a person gets a broken bone, they may need pins in their arm. She wants to find an alternate system that could help that person heal correctly.
Jung said that this program is great because she can narrow down her focus, but can get a glimpse into other possibilities. “Girl Scouts adds discipline and appreciation,” she said.
Using a stethoscope, they checked each other for healthy hearts.
At the end of the program, the Girl Scouts participated in a question-and-answer session with six medical students. Five of the six were Girls Scouts as children throughout the United States from California to Pennsylvania. They encouraged the girls in the audience to try out as many things as possible to know what they do and don’t want to do later in life. Many of the medical students had wanted to be veterinarians, but doing volunteer work in their teens changed their minds to caring for human patients.
Quinne Sember, a lead volunteer and a 2nd year medical student, said, “We just want to spark an interest in them and let them know that girls can be interested in science and medicine. This is the path to get to where we are.”
Have you been in a situation where you’ve honed your craft for years and kept asking yourself, when will my time come? Everyone else is being recognized while you wait silently for your chance. I think we’ve all experienced these feelings at some time in our lives. The important factor is that when the opportunity arrives, be prepared.
Sounds simple enough, but it takes dedication and commitment to continue to perfect your skills, talents, and abilities while waiting for your opportunity. My passion is in the sciences and I remember staying after school to perfect my science experiments. While my peers were outside playing after school, I was focused on my projects. In the end, my hard work paid off and I won several science awards.
I also remember hearing my mother tell me that the “early bird gets the worm.” Hearing those words now, has a different meaning than they did when I was a child. Being prepared sets us up for success because we are equipped to handle challenges that may come our way and we are focused on the end result, our goal.
I read that Kathryn Stockett, the author of the bestselling book, The Help, received 60 rejection letters. I don’t know how many of us would have continued on the journey to have our books published with so many rejections.
We’ve all heard about Walt Disney being turned down 302 times for financing for Disney World and JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter, whose publisher told her that she should get a job because there was no money in writing children’s books. By the way, she was rejected by 12 publishers.
If you noticed, each one of these persons had one thing in common. They found success when opportunity and preparation collided. Ask yourself, what are you doing to prepare for the opportunity of your dream?
When the curtain on the stage of life rises, will you be ready for your big performance? You will be if you rehearse, receive the proper education, and tell yourself that excellence is what you require.
If you fail to focus on your goal, chances are, you won’t recognize your opportunity when it arrives making your preparation in vain.
I’m reminded of what I often hear a friend say, “if you don’t prepare to succeed, then prepare to fail.”