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Girl Scouts Introduce STEM-Focused Badges

Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) recently announced that several new badges to support STEM programs will be available. The organization’s site states: "Through hands-on and age-appropriate experiences for girls as young as five, Girl Scouts is both enhancing the important outdoor opportunities the organization is known for and addressing the lack of exposure many girls have to STEM."

Some of these new badges combine with existing badges to create "journeys" for members of the Girl Scouts, including:

  • Think Like an Engineer, with hands-on design challenges
  • Think Like a Program, with the opportunity to solve problems in interactive computational-thinking activities

Some of the programming around the new badges were created with collaborators including, GoldieBlox, SciStarter, Society of Women Engineers, and WGBH/Design Squad Global.

The new CEO for GSUSA, Sylvia Acevedo, found encouragement to from her experience in the Girl Scouts. As a former engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories, she recognizes the value of hands-on learning and how that helped her pursue her dreams. These new badges will be earned through hands-on activities and mentoring.

Additionally, the Girl Scouts will create 18 new Cybersecurity badges in association with Palo Alto Networks, a security company based in Canada. This program, with plans to introduce cybersecurity education to girls as young as five, is a step toward "eliminating traditional barriers to industry access, such as gender and geography."

The use of hands-on activities and more exploratory learning will not only increase the girls' understanding of STEM subjects, but will also increase confidence in that understanding. One study discussed in Science shows that 35% of women in college who drop out of STEM-based classes state that a lack of confidence is the main reason for dropping (compared to 14% of men). The study noted that while the rate of confidence loss is the same between men and women during their class, women enter the program with less confidence.

According to GSUSA’s press release: "The new Girl Scout programming builds girls’ skills and encourages their interest in STEM and environmental conservation from an early age, increasing their confidence in these areas—in an all-girl environment where they feel comfortable trying new things, taking appropriate risks, and learning from failure."

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