Women are underrepresented in STEM, holding only 25 percent of U.S. STEM jobs. Much needs to be done to improve things, but one priority needs to be supporting girls’ interest in STEM early. Fortunately, the Girls Scouts are on it: The Girl Scouts just released 23 new badges in STEM and outdoor activities to encourage girls to embrace math, science, tech, engineering, and outdoor conservation from a young age. It’s an important cause — and the badges are pretty kickass, to boot.
On Tuesday, the Girl Scouts of the USA announced the launch of 23 new badges — the largest new crop of badges in nearly 10 years— themed around STEM and the outdoors. Girl Scouts, from young Daisies to high school-aged Ambassadors, will be able to earn badges in computer programming, robotics, and engineering; and they’ll have the opportunity to become citizen scientists. In June, the Girls Scouts also announced the arrival of badges in cybersecurity.
According to a blog post from the Girl Scouts of the USA,
The new Girl Scout programming builds girls’ skills and encourages their interest in STEM and environmental conservation from an early age — areas girls are not typically encouraged to explore outside Girl Scouting — increasing their confidence in an all-girl, girl-led environment where they feel comfortable to try new things, take appropriate risks, and learn from failure.
To create the new badges, the Girl Scouts teamed up with organizations like GoldieBlox, the Society of Women Engineers, WGBH/Design Squad, Code.org, SciStarter, and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Girl Scouts, told the Associated Press that the purpose of the initiative is to empower girls to see how they can contribute to and participate in STEM. “A lot of girls haven’t made that shift from using technology to, ‘You can actually be a programmer,’” she said. “That you’re the one who can make that coding. For a lot of girls, they need to have that hands-on experience so they feel confident.”
Acevedo is an engineer herself, having worked at NASA’s jet propulsion lab before becoming a tech executive, and she credits her time as a Girl Scout for sparking her interest in science. “My troop leader looked at me and saw me looking at the stars, and she taught me that there were constellations, she taught me there were systems and patterns to the stars,” Acevedo told the AP. “Because I got my science badge I developed that courage and that confidence to study science and math at a time when girls like me weren’t studying science and math. Girls like me, statistically, weren’t even finishing high school.”
The new badges are available this week. For more info about the Girl Scouts and their new badges, check out the Girl Scouts of the USA website.