For more than 100 years, the Girl Scouts of the USA has been encouraging young girls to meet challenges and explore new fields.
Those challenges and fields are growing as the youth-development organization has begun to stress the importance of introducing Girl Scouts to lessons in science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM, as well as continuing lessons in community service, recreation, fundraising, leadership, friendship and helping people at all times.
Saturday, more than 70 Girl Scouts, representing troops from Ardmore, Coleman, Davis, Healdton, Lone Grove and Sulphur, engaged in STEM activities as part of a two-day camp out at Lake Murray. The camp out also included cooking s’mores over a campfire, recreation, troop time and a bridging ceremony Sunday afternoon, but the scouts took time Saturday to integrate engineering exercises into the twice-a-year camp out for area troops.
Daisies through Seniors scouts gathering in a lodge at a Lake Murray campsite to participate in the STEM projects taught by Chris Simon, the STEM coordinator for the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.
One project was called the lunar lander challenge. Girls were given paper, straws, tape, a paper cup and mini-marshmallows. Simon asked the girls to design and build a shock-absorbing “lander” that would protect the marshmallow “astronauts” when they landed.
Simon said it was a project designed for the girls to work together as a team, learn to build a lander with items with which they were familiar and testing the lander to learn how to improve the design.
Once Girl Scouts said their lander was ready, the girls gathered around as Simon dropped the lander. If the “astronauts” bounced out of the cups, the girls were asked to explain what could have been done differently to keep their “astronauts” safe in the landing process.
“This was about problem solving and giving the girls an opportunity to engage in engineering and the engineering design process,” Simon said.
Daisies and Brownies also engaged in a lesson called roto-seeds, creating a paper helicopter to learn about the germination of seeds. Juniors, Cadets and Seniors participated in a banana DNA project, where Simon showed the scouts how to extract DNA from a banana.
The Girl Scouts organization has taken interest in adding STEM curriculum to the organization after recent studies show girls are interested in STEM and aspire to STEM careers. However, girls tend to lose that interest once they hit their teenage years, Simon says.
“Girls are initially as talented as boys in the STEM fields at early ages, but as they enter middle school and high school, they lose interest,” Simon says. “That’s not the case with boys. We want girls to realize they are talented and they have the skills to be successful in engineering and science. That way when they are older and in school, they can remember they did something similar in Girl Scouts and they will be confident and continue to engage in STEM subjects.”
Advocates of STEM education believe the focus on the four subjects builds skill and knowledge, and prepares youth for potential career fields. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the 10 fastest growing occupations from 2008-18 are all STEM careers. Some of those careers listed where biochemists, biophysicists, medical scientists, biomedical engineers, and network systems and data communications analysts.
Some say professionals in STEM careers are in charge of solving the complex problems of today’s world and making the world a better place, Simon says.
Similarly, Girl Scouts live by the promise of “to help people at all times.”