The Girl Scouts of the USA is upping its recruiting game now that the Boy Scouts is also accepting girls
These new Girl Scout badges have real merit.
The Girl Scouts of the USA kicked off its summer recruiting season on Tuesday by announcing 30 new badges that will get girls ages five to 18 building robots, designing balloon-powered cars and mastering the college application process.
The new badge programs are strong in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) skills — key to closing the STEM gender gap, as women only make up 29% of the science and engineering workforce. And many address some of society’s most pressing issues at the moment, such as cybersecurity and environmental advocacy.
So girls in kindergarten through fifth grade can now earn badges in:
- Environmental Stewardship: The first-ever badge series focused on environmental advocacy teaches girls to take action to protect the natural world (funded by the Elliott Wildlife Values Project).
- Cybersecurity: Introduces girls to age-appropriate online safety and privacy principles; information on how the internet works; and how to spot and investigate cybercrime (funded by Palo Alto Networks).
- Space Science: Teaches girls about objects in space, and how astronomers conduct investigations (funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and led by the SETI Institute).
- Mechanical Engineering for Girl Scout Juniors: Fourth and fifth graders design paddle boats, cranes and balloon-powered cars; learn about buoyancy, potential and kinetic energy; and study machines and jet propulsion. This adds onto the Mechanical Engineering badges introduced to girls in kindergarten through third grade last year.
And girls in grades six through 12 can now complete badge programs including:
- Environmental Stewardship: Similar to younger scouts, this encourages middle and high schoolers to not only learn to respect the outdoors, but also to address problems, find solutions and take action to advocate for the environment (funded by the Elliott Wildlife Values Project).
- Robotics: Girls learn how to program, design and showcase robots, completing the suite of Robotics badges GSUSA first introduced to kindergarten through fifth graders last year.
- College Knowledge: This badge for 11th and 12th graders is the first dedicated to college admissions, which shows girls how to navigate the application process, including finding financial aid. This was a specific need that the girls have asked for, GSUSA said, as many did not have this kind of college research support outside of the Girl Scouts.
- Think Like a Programmer: This new Leadership Journey (or a curriculum of challenging and fun experiences such as going on trips, completing community projects and exploring science over a semester) funded by the Raytheon technology and cybersecurity company teaches computational thinking and computer science basics, and preps girls to compete in the first-ever Girl Scouts national Cyber Challenge in 2019.
- Think Like an Engineer: This second new Leadership Journey gets girls to understand how engineers solve problems, and to then use these new skills to take action to solve a problem in their community.
“Our programming is girl-tested and girl-approved: current Girl Scouts and volunteers rigorously test the new programming and give feedback to help make it even better. And the topics are cutting-edge areas that Girl Scouts themselves requested to learn more about through badges—such as cybersecurity, computer science, college preparation, and more,” GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo told Moneyish.
“One of the great things about Girl Scouts is that we offer a safe, all-girl environment where girls feel comfortable and confident trying new things and taking healthy risks,” she added. “This unique environment also allows girls to pursue areas of interest, such as STEM topics, that they might not be encouraged to pursue in school. Girl Scouts helps all girls take the lead early and often so that they can realize their full potential and discover their passions, just like I discovered my passion for space and astronomy as a young Brownie looking up at the night sky on a troop camping trip.”
The new badges are appealing to recruits in an increasingly competitive field. The Boy Scouts of America announced last fall packs will begin welcoming girls by next February, and it’s renaming its 108-year-old program for kids ages 11 to 17 to be Scouts BSA (the parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America). About 3,500 girls have already joined Cub Scout pilot programs, and some Girl Scouts who have already changed ranks told Moneyish that it’s because many of the Boy Scouts’ programs were traditionally more dynamic.
Virginia scout Alexandra Silverstone, 9, told Moneyish that she wanted to join the Boy Scouts because, “it’s fun, and you can do more stuff,” than in Girl Scouts. “We use pocket knives; you can cut stuff, and carve stuff,” she added. “We did rockets; we built them, and then we launched them. We met police workers and did fingerprints.”
The new Girl Scouts badges and programs have been in the works for more than a year now — so before the Boy Scouts opened to girls. “We don’t define ourselves by what any other organization may or may not be doing,” said Acevedo.
Still, the Girl Scouts are hustling to remind kids and parents alike that they have been doing more than just selling cookies for the past 106 years. The female-fronted leadership organization also created 23 new badges that focus on STEM achievements and outdoor activities last year, and introduced a Girl Scout Ranger Program with the National Park Service.
And Queen Latifah narrated a new PSA for the Girl Scouts in May that highlights the high-profile alum who’ve broken barriers in journalism, sports, science, politics and entertainment.“Not just making our mark but making a difference — now that’s a job for a Girl Scout,” the “U.N.I.T.Y.” rapper said in a voiceover for the “Lifetime of Leadership” ad.
Both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts have seen their memberships slip. The Boy Scouts’ youth participation is about 2.3 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013, and more than 4 million in peak years. The Girl Scouts have about 1.8 million girls, down from just over 2 million in 2014.
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