There’s no question that STEM fields are important. The academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics form the foundation for many of the fastest-growing and most well-paid career paths in the world, and the work of individuals in these areas has long fueled innovation and improved the quality of life for individuals across the globe.
In addition to being a valuable stepping stone for lucrative career opportunities, STEM education is crucial to students’ overall development. STEM courses instill valuable skills such as critical thinking, resilience, and thoughtful observation. This is why nonprofits such as the Phillips Charitable Organization have included support for aspiring STEM graduates as a core part of their philanthropic missions.
Young children often possess all of the traits necessary to excel in STEM fields—inquisitiveness, cooperativeness, and a knack for experimentation—yet all too often, forces both within and outside of the classroom divert promising students away from the STEM pipeline. Unfortunately, a lack of access to STEM resources and relatable role models, combined with outdated stereotypes regarding STEM careers, have led to the underrepresentation of specific demographics in STEM fields, including children from certain minority backgrounds and female students.
Despite holding over half of all bachelor’s degrees, American women make up just under 20 percent of the nation’s engineering, computer science, and physics graduates, and they currently comprise fewer than 25 percent of the STEM workforce. This reality, however, is by no means due to a lack of interest. In fact, a recent study by Girl Scouts of the USA found that 74 percent of female high school students are interested in STEM subjects. Many of these students hope to build careers that improve the lives of others and make the world a better place. However, without experience with advanced STEM topics—and a lack of visible female role models in STEM fields—these students rarely make the connection between STEM careers and their broader personal goals.
To help bridge this gap, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has launched a new effort to introduce girls to STEM as early as possible. The initiative, titled the Girl Scout STEM Pledge, introduces Girl Scout programs designed to inspire an understanding of the diversity and global impact of STEM fields. This programming provides opportunities for girls of every age to discover new passions, career possibilities, and opportunities for personal and social growth.
For over a century, Girl Scouts has empowered girls to achieve their dreams and change the world. In helping girls of all ages develop the knowledge and confidence needed to make a difference in their communities, the organization has consistently prioritized activities that let Girl Scouts explore the world around them. The Girl Scout STEM Pledge continues this longstanding goal by providing engaging opportunities for girls to explore STEM subjects.
The Girl Scout Research Institute recently found that girls who report being interested in STEM have had more hands-on experience with subjects like math, science, and technology. The organization is now working to facilitate these experiences for girls of all ages across the United States. In this way, Girl Scouts hopes end the gender gap in the STEM pipeline. Specifically, the Girl Scout STEM Pledge aims to reach 2.5 million girls by 2025.
Already, more than 160,000 Girl Scouts are taking part in Girl Scouts’ STEM programs. In most of the Girl Scout councils across the United States, Girl Scouts have more than 10 unique, hands-on programs to explore.
Fun with a Purpose
The structure of Girl Scouts’ STEM programming enables girls to learn about academically relevant topics while building valuable life skills. Each hands-on activity enables Girl Scouts to take the lead on their own projects, offering valuable opportunities for them to develop their scientific reasoning skills in a collaborative environment. The wide range of Girl Scouts STEM programming includes Leadership Journeys that focus on distinct subject areas, such as environmental science or computer programming. There is a vast expanse of activities for girls to choose from, from constructing robots to extracting fruit and vegetable DNA, and Girl Scouts is introducing several new badges to recognize girls for their mastery of STEM subject areas.
In July 2017, the organization unveiled 23 new STEM and Outdoor badges covering useful topics such as Digital Art, Science and Technology, Innovation, and Financial Literacy. In the near future, Girl Scouts will also introduce badges in the areas of Cybersecurity and Space Science.
A Collective Effort
The Girl Scout STEM Pledge represents a significant step in the process of building a strong, diverse STEM pipeline, but the nonprofit isn’t alone in its efforts. The organization has partnered with a number of organizations throughout various STEM sectors to create exciting educational opportunities for Girl Scouts. To help train its dedicated volunteers to guide girls on their STEM journeys, GSUSA received support from Techbridge, with additional funding from the Noyce Foundation. Other organizations, such as Dell, Google, and AT&T have helped to ensure that Girl Scouts from every community have access to STEM materials and experiences, while other institutions, such as NASA and the New York Academy of Sciences, are helping connect girls with STEM mentors while assisting them as they explore the numerous career paths that STEM education makes possible.