Guiding the way to STEM

When I tell people that I am a Science Communication graduate student, I get many of the same questions as I get when I tell people that I am a Girl Guide leader: “What’s that?” “How is it relevant in today’s world?” “How did you land there?” I won’t go as far as to try to explicitly answer these questions in this blog post. But the way in which I have linked Guiding and my field of study may be of interest.

For my culminating research project, I am seeking to understand the relationship between Guiders and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). I want to find out how Guiders feel about STEM, how they bring it into their units, where they get resources, what types of Guiders plan more science into their meetings and hopefully the reasons behind the answers as well.

2nd Lockerby Guides experimenting with friction, using the boxcars they engineered.

2nd Lockerby Guides experimenting with friction, using the boxcars they engineered.

The Girl Guide program book divides “science and technology” badges into their own separate section, but that isn’t the only place science can be found. When you cover the first aid badge and talk about the ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation), you are discussing life sciences. When you go on a hike and find animal tracks, you are learning about the natural world. When you cook with the unit, you are doing chemistry. When your girls create a budget for an outing, you are bringing math into your activities.

STEM subjects aren’t ones that can or should be scheduled into a single meeting once every three years. In Canada, although women account for 66 per cent of all university graduates, they only account for 39 per cent of those graduating with a STEM degree. As Guiders and role models, we have the opportunity and responsibility to increase this number. Guiding is a girl-led movement and I’m not suggesting that we should push girls to go into the sciences regardless of their interests. But we have to show the girls that science isn’t scary and to do so, we have to believe it ourselves.

If you are a Guide Guider and would like to help me with my research, please take a few minutes to answer the short survey found here. Thank you!

I am incredibly grateful for the number of responses I have already had. It’s wonderful, although not surprising, to see Guiders helping Guiders!

By guest blogger Elizabeth Knowles. Elizabeth is a Guider with the 2nd Lockerby Guides in Sudbury, Ontario, where she is completing a graduate diploma in Science Communication at Laurentian University in part thanks to the Roberta Bondar Girl Guides of Canada scholarship she earned. She is also the provincial Deputy Program Advisor in Quebec.

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