In July, the Girl Scouts announced that the organization had added 23 new badges related to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The initiative was designed to show girls how they can improve the world through STEM and encourage them to enter into STEM careers.
Sylvia Acevedo, who took over as CEO of Girls Scouts in May, said that the change was also meant to address the lack of exposure many girls have to STEM. Acevedo believes in the power of Girl Scouting because she became a scout when she was just seven! The first time she built a rocket was in Girl Scouts.
“From that I learned that I could do science, and that led me to have the courage and the confidence, in a time when not very many girls were studying engineering, to be an engineer,” said Acevedo.
Acevedo’s first job as an engineer was as a rocket scientist for NASA’s jet propulsion lab! She also worked for IBM and Dell before creating and selling a business software startup. Acevedo is a long time advocate for STEM education for girls, so it is only natural that she became a part of the Girl Scout team.
“I understand how [Girl Scouts] changes destinies, and that’s what I’m about. I’m about ‘how do we get more girls, more families in the Girl Scout movement, so we can change their lives, their destinies, forever?’” said Acevedo.
A month before the STEM badges were included, Girl Scouts of the USA announced they will introduce cyber security badges in 2018 in partnership with Palo Alto Networks.
A month before the STEM badges were included, Girl Scouts of the USA announced that they will introduce cyber security badges in 2018 in partnership with Palo Alto Networks. These programs focus on data privacy, cyberbullying, and online safety and protection. Cybersecurity workers are in high demand, and it is expected that there will be 1.5 m cyber security jobs by 2020.
With the introduction of the STEM badges, scouts can now earn badges for writing algorithms, designing model race cars, and writing codes! The badges were created with help from organizations like Code.org, SciStarter ,GoldieBlox, and the Society of Women Engineers.
The categories that these badges are sorted into changed along with the addition of these programs to better reflect girls’ interests and to focus on skills needed in the 21st century. The categories are Naturist, Digital Art, Science and Technology, Innovation, and Financial Literacy. Partnerships and sponsors of the Girl Scouts, like the National Science Foundation, Dell, Google, and NASA, offer additional ways for girls to learn while having fun with STEM.
Girl Scout STEM programs benefit girls in so many ways. The Girl Scout Research Institute has found that the programs prepare girls to be leaders, increase girls’ interest in STEM, develop STEM skills and understanding, and builds confidence. 3 in 4 girls who participated in Girl Scout programs that focus on STEM say that they would participate in the same or a similar program if one were available and would recommend their Girl Scout program to a friend.
Girl Scouts has over 1.8 m girls enrolled, with over 160,000 of them participating in STEM programs annually. The Girl Scout team hopes that the gender gap in technology fields will be narrowed due to exposing girls to STEM programs early in their lives. Perhaps one of them could be the next rocket scientist for NASA; they know it can be done!
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