STEM is awesome—it’s innovative, girls want to do it, and it teaches girls great skills they’ll use regardless of their future path. You may be concerned about your ability to dive into STEM activities with your girls, especially if you don’t have an explicit background in science, technology, engineering, or math. That’s why we want to empower you with the knowledge and confidence so that you can lead your troop to an awesome STEM victory.
STEM is one of Girl Scouts’ four main program areas. It’s not just about careers (although we’d love to see more Girl Scouts take on roles in these fields as adults, of course!). Positive STEM engagement promotes leadership development and confidence in girls, and these attributes help girls in all their endeavors. The Girl Scout Research Institute has found that of girls who are interested in STEM, 95% agree with the statement “If I try really hard at something, I know I will succeed.” 91% of girls interested in STEM agree that “Obstacles make me stronger.” Both of these metrics are lower for girls who are not interested in STEM. Plus, girls overwhelmingly want to try STEM activities, and the all-girl, girl-led Girl Scout environment is the perfect place to build their confidence!
Read on for three tips to help your girls engage in STEM—even if you’re not a STEM “expert”!
1. You’re a science person. No, really, you are!
One of the best things you can do for your girls is role model excitement and positivity about science. When they see that you’re interested, they’ll be interested too! Avoid saying things like “I’m not really a science person.” You don’t have to be an expert to love STEM. If you have any interest in star gazing (astronomy), cooking (chemistry), video games (coding), DIY (engineering!), and more, you’re interested in STEM!
2. Let go and learn with the girls.
I always say that the cool thing about STEM and Girl Scouts is that you can problem-solve with your girls! Imagine that girls are working on an engineering challenge. They’ve been tasked with building a model tower and they’re struggling. You might not know how to fix it either. No worries! Just ask questions to guide the girls—you can figure it out together. That interaction is significantly more impactful than telling them the answer anyway. Let go of the need to know-it-all—girls love an adult who can say, “Great question! Let’s look it up together because I want to learn that too.”
3. Encourage critical thinking, not memorizing facts.
Girl Scouts’ programming in STEM focuses on teaching girls how to think like a scientist—and scientists are all about open-ended and critical thinking. Girls don’t need to memorize scientific factoids to have fun with STEM—cultivate their curiosity instead, and bolster their problem-solving attitudes. Help girls learn how to make careful observations, or how to try again if their first attempt failed. This is a deeper level of engagement, and your girls will have a more meaningful experience (bonus—you don’t need to memorize a bunch of facts either!).
If you needed more encouragement than that: Yes, you can do STEM! Here are some parting words from Hope Jahren, a geochemist and geobiologist (who is native to Austin, MN!), and author of the great memoir Lab Girl: “People will tell you that you have to know math to be a scientist, or physics, or chemistry. They’re wrong…What comes first is a question, and you’re already there.”
Hannah Gilbert – Hannah is the STEM Program Coordinator at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She received her Bachelor of Arts in environment studies and anthropology from the New College of Florida. Prior to relocating to Minnesota from humid Florida, Hannah worked as an educator at the Orlando Science Center and was an outreach and grants coordinator at the Oakland Nature Preserve. In her free time, she loves watching movies at Uptown Theater and trying new restaurants. Hannah lives in South Minneapolis with her partner, and six-pound rescue dog, Figgy.