On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch July 16, Marshall Space Flight Center Director Jody Singer was asked how NASA can recreate the nationwide enthusiasm for the space program that enveloped the country in 1969. Later that afternoon, Girl Scouts national CEO Sylvia Acevedo knew the answer to that question. Spreading her arms wide to encompass everyone in the room, she replied, “the Girl Scouts.”
Acevedo was in Huntsville to meet with Alabama Girl Scouts supporters and unveil 42 new badges with a strong emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM. Girl Scouts will learn about a variety of scientific pursuits from cybersecurity to coding to space science. As a former rocket scientist, it is a project close to Acevedo’s heart.
“Technology is all around us,” she said. “We want girls to not be just the users of technology but also the creators and the inventors and the designers.”
The Girl Scouts worked with a variety of subject matter experts, including NASA, to build the curriculum for the badges.
“We are experts on girls … we are spending extra time and effort to make it relevant to girls. It still teaches the concepts but does it in a way that is relatable to them,” Acevedo said.
The new badges also fulfill the requests for more programs geared toward older girls.
“We are teaching girls about coding basics,” Acevedo said. “We are teaching them app development and we use things like song. We use things like dance. Why, do you say, song and dance – how is that coding? How many times do you sing a song and there is a chorus? In computer language that is called a loop. … We are using a lot of elements that have traditionally not been used because frankly, the primary target was boys.”
After last year’s STEM programming was unveiled, almost 700,000 badges were earned in STEM –with 81,000 cybersecurity badges earned in the first six months alone. That positive response led the Girl Scouts to expand to include even more STEM opportunities for the upcoming year.
In addition to STEM, the Girl Scouts are also addressing the lack of civics taught in schools today, Acevedo said. The organization counts 73 of 121 women congressional members and 5 of 9 current women governors among its alumni. Its civics program is designed to be nonpartisan – “not blue or red but Girl Scout green.”
“Why I get so excited about what we are doing is that our programs are addressing what communities need and addressing the workforce needs,” Acevedo said. With this new initiative, she wants young Girl Scouts of today to be empowered to blaze a trail in government, science and technology – a trail that might ultimately lead to Mars.
“We want to make sure that girls can manage and live and thrive in this world that is being recreated around technology.”