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An Introduction to the STEM Girl Scout Journeys


STEM

Written by: Jamie Madden

AmeriCorps Member – STEM Specialist

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First of all, what is STEM?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Some use STEAM interchangeably, which broadens the acronym to add an Art element. Since I try to encourage art to be a part of everything, I will just continue to use STEM.

The national push to combine these specific subjects started sometime in the early 2000’s. The idea was to improve education in these subjects and to introduce initiatives to meet the country’s needs. By 2008, it had become a common educational term. (source).

“Currently, women in the U.S. earn over 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in all fields, yet they receive less than 20 percent of degrees in computer science, engineering and physics. A recent study by the American Association of University Women found that, in 2013, 26 percent of all computing jobs were held by women, a drop from 35 percent in 1990.” (
source ).

The push for STEM education for girls and women is crucial. Why is it so important?
There are currently more jobs in STEM than any other industry and most of these high-tech jobs are well paying. Also, getting more women into STEM could reduce the gender pay gap that this country is still experiencing. Women have the potential to fill 50% (or more!) of all STEM careers…so what are we waiting for? One problem I often see is that some girls love science, math, and engineering but feel less included and or intimidated because they are in the minority. As Girl Scouts and Leaders, we can encourage and empower the girls of Southern Arizona to become interested in and pursue a career in STEM!

Enter: The Girl Scout Journey’s

A neat aspect of each level of the Journey’s is that at least one is STEM related.  These all fall under the It’s Your Planet – Love it! Series. In this series, girls get the opportunity to learn about environmental issues such as clean water and air, noise pollution, global warming, soil contamination, and agricultural processes. Each Journey is packed with current environmental information and offers ways to interact on topics that affect everyone on the planet (source).

·         Daisy: Between Earth and Sky Earth Science

·         Brownie: Wonders of Water - Investigating Water (conservation, chemistry, recycling)

·         Junior: Get Moving! - Physics

·         Cadette: Breathe - Environmental Science

·         Senior: Sow What? - Investigating Food (How it’s grown, harvested, processed, distributed, consumed)

·         Ambassador: Justice - Global Environmental Issues

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Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Daisy Troop 205 of Ft. Huachuca! Troop leader Ja’Von invited me out to Sierra Vista for the meeting.

Our goal: To learn about STEM and integrate STEM into the Daisy Journey: Between Earth and Sky.

Chapter 1 introduces the girls to Lupe and her Powder-Blue, Pedal Powered Car. The chapter also asks the girls to think about parts of a flower, fireflies, tree shapes/colors, nature smells, and how to prepare for a trip. I decided to take parts of the chapter and focus solely on the STEM aspects.

Our Activities:

·         First, we discussed the topic of STEM. I asked them what STEM means to them and we talked about each subject more in-depth.

·         Next, we examined clippings of flowers, leaves, berries, and seeds to learn about parts of a flower. We also talked about how this relates to certain fields of science, such as biology and natural history.

·         Then, we engineered a petal-powered car from materials out of an Inventors Box. You can search online if you are interested in ideas to make your own. Basically, I gathered different items (like string, pipe cleaners, paper clips, toothpicks, tape, glue, toilet paper rolls, zip ties, etc.) and put them in a box. These inventors’ boxes are great ways to get girls creating, making and engineering ideas. I have prompts associated with them as well. Look for a blog post in the coming weeks on Inventor’s Boxes.

·         Finally, one of the questions at the end of the chapter asks girls, “How can you be considerate and caring in the great outdoors?” The girls had some really great answers! I also told them my own answers: We can learn about the outdoors by studying it; we can design and engineer solutions to outdoor problems; and we can plant more plants! The latter answer led me to our next activity: Germination.
We “planted” bean seeds in a Ziploc bag with a moist paper towel. The girls were instructed to tape it to a window where it would receive sunlight daily. We talked about what we will see in the next few days: a stem and roots popping out!

·         At the end of the meeting, we discussed outdoor careers that are STEM focused.

We had a lot of fun and everyone learned a lot about STEM! It was so great to meet Justice, Kaya, and Xorayah. I am so looking forward to these wonderful ladies pursuing STEM careers in the future!

If you and your troop are interested in a STEM Troop Visit, please contact Jamie at jmadden@girlscoutssoaz.org