“Doing, not talking or writing is the principle of the Girl Scouts.”- Scouting for Girls, 1927
Girl Scouting and science go back a long way to the earliest days of our Movement. Proficiency tests and special medals in science included Bee-Keeper, Electrician, Rock Tapper and Star Gazer. The handbook gave local councils the ability to determine proficiency with the help of people “competent (in the opinion of the council) to judge it.” The tests were topic outlines of what a Girl Scout needed to know, as well as a list of reference books she could consult on her own or perhaps study with her sister Girl Scouts as a group during meetings.
“It is important that every Girl Scout should understand the winning of any one of the following Merit Badges does not mean that she is a finished expert in the subject,” stressed the guidelines in our early handbook. The Merit Badge indicated a girl’s “intelligent interest” in a subject, with knowledge of its broad principles and the ability to present some proof of her knowledge to the judge, going beyond merely reading up on the subject in a book.
The Electrician badge in the 1927 Scouting for Girls was symbolized by a lightning bolt. Requirements included explaining the use of magnets for attraction and repulsion, as well as how they were used in the electric bell, telegraph and telephone. Girl Scouts learned to define low and high voltage current, how current was sent through wire to produce heat and light, as well as how it could be converted to energy to power a motor. Even in the late 1920s, Girl Scouts learned how they might rescue someone from contact with live wires and use electricity to resuscitate someone in shock!
Today, ninety years since the publication of the handbook, we’re teaching about robots! And, we’re giving girls an early start. With the “What Robots Do” badge, girls as young as 5-6 years old can learn about machines programmed to do things automatically, and to do jobs that humans can’t or don’t like to do. By the time a Daisy has completed the steps of the badge she can tell others what she has learned about robots, name some things that robots can do and team up with other girls to design her own robot.
In addition to robotics badges for younger Girl Scouts, there are new badges to teach about mechanical engineering and new Journeys themed to orient girls in grades K-5 to principles of engineering, computer programming, and the scientific method. For more information on the new STEM badges, go browse our badge explorer! And we can look forward to new STEM badges and Journeys for older Girl Scouts to roll out next year! It’s an exciting time to be a Girl Scout!