Typically, the cookie market is as involved as the general public gets in Girl Scouts, but these badge-sporting girls warrant more attention than their smiling, Thin Mint-toting exteriors let on.
Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma is taking its motto for creating girls of courage, confidence and character to the next level, including the week-long day camp activities taking place throughout summer at Camp Cookieland in Newalla. From building robots and directing a sci-fi film to spicing up a junked car and analyzing evidence in a mock CSI lab, Girl Scouts are redefining their image while discovering their untapped strengths.
A Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum is emphasized in many of the camp activities this year, trumping the stereotypical crafts and nature hikes. Megan Stanek, director of outdoor education and properties, develops the programs for Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma. Each summer, she organizes the activities for participants, revamping the agenda for each program while staying consistent with the age levels of each camp group.
Saving the more mature topics for older scouts, she based some activities on current, popular subjects girls might not usually get the chance to explore.
"The things we found with the CSI camp is that that's a topic that's pretty hot right now, so we wanted to incorporate some of those techniques into the camps," Stanek said. "We are just trying to think outside of the box as far as some of the new opportunities for women to get into with their professional careers."
Incorporating STEM into many of the camps is part of Girl Scouts' strategy to combat discouraging statistics for women in these fields. A study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that women comprise only 13 percent of the engineering workforce. This statistic is supported by studies indicating that in the fourth grade, girls are as interested and as good at math and science as boys, yet by the eighth grade, half as many girls as boys still show an interest in these subjects.
By involving younger Girl Scouts in camps with engineering-related subjects, Stanek said Girl Scouts hopes to anchor the children's interest in a field that is taking off in today's technologically driven world.
"They get the opportunity to see that this might be something they'll be great at," she said. "It gives them that sense of learning how to be an engineer, but they're learning how to do it while having a good time. We're really giving them the opportunity to try new things, to kind of expose them to new activities so they can keep progressing within the field to go on to high school and college."
Emily Foisy, 10, of Troop No. 941 in Edmond has already caught the engineering bug. Science is her favorite subject in school, and during the week-long session of the "How It's Made" day camp, she and her fellow Girl Scouts learned all about the inner workings of common household appliances.
Foisy said she knew she would be learning how to make things as a Girl Scout, but that she didn't realize she would be encouraged to take things apart, like toasters and can openers. Scouts have the opportunity to earn badges while participating in these camps, and the motivation to earn these symbols of achievement has inspired her to pursue science-related activities.
"Sometimes, earning badges makes you want to do that more when you're older and just do it every day," she said. "You could even make up a job doing that."
This is exactly the attitude Girl Scouts' STEM curriculum hopes to inspire.
"We're just trying to get them hooked on it at a young age," Stanek said. "Our intention is to let them know that this is definitely something for them and give them that exposure so that they stay with it." "Renee Selanders