STEM Badges in Girl Scouting: Then and Now

January 15, 2018


“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!


Getting Outside This Winter

January 8, 2018

While most people are staying indoors this winter – we know our Girl Scouts want to get outside and explore what the nature around them has to offer. Girl are natural born adventure seekers and with over 100 years of experience in the outdoors, Girl Scouts provides excellent ways for girls to explore their leadership, build new skills, and develop an appreciate for nature all while having fun.

This winter, we encourage girls to get outdoors and explore the beauty that nature has to offer. Here’s a quick list of fun and engaging ways to get your girls outdoors this season.

Bird Watching/Bird Feeders

When the leaves fall off the trees, it becomes easier to spot birds! Take a short walk (or find a window with a view) to see how many you can find. Some birds will have darker, muted colors in the winter months, and many will look fatter than usual as they puff themselves up for warmth. What do you notice about the birds you find?

If you need a great reason to look for birds, check out the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) – an event that takes place each February to help scientists record and track bird populations all over the world! No need to travel to participate, simply make observations in your own backyard or park, and enter your observations onto the website. The next GBBC happens February 16-19, 2018 and requires just 15 minutes of observation to take part!

For added fun, make a bird feeder to help supply local birds with food sources when it’s cold out – spread some bird seed in a cake pan, then fill with about ¼ inch of water. Take a loop of string or yarn and place one end of the loop in the water, leaving the rest of the loop to hang over the side. Put in the freezer (or outside, if it’s cold enough!) until frozen solid. Once frozen, remove from cake pan (you may need to thaw it for a few minutes to loosen it up). Find a sturdy branch to hang your winter feeder, and watch the seed fall as the sun melts the ice! For a fun example with photos, click here.

Go to a Nature Center, Wildlife Center, Aquarium, etc.

Nature Centers are great places to visit when it’s cold outside…they often have short trails to walk, but also have indoors learning and fun opportunities! Check out a park near you, or find an organization in your county through our council Program Provider Resource Document. You can often call ahead and work with staff to put together a program that matches your interests, or fits a badge you are working on.

Play a Nature Game

If the weather is chilly but dry, you can enjoy time outdoors and warm up with an active game that involves running around and also helps us understand our environment a little more! Check out our Nature Play Day Activity.

Start the Citizen Science Journey

The new Citizen Science Journeys are a great way to engage in the world around you AND help provide information to real scientists! Leaders can access the Citizen Science Journey for Daisy-Junior scouts through the Volunteer Tool Kit. Think it’s too cold to start an outdoor journey? Think again – the first step of this journey (at all levels) can be done entirely indoors! Visit www.nccoastalpines.org and click on MyGS to check it out.

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