How girls in Guiding are going full STEAM ahead as they experiment, design and create

Guiding has always been a place where girls can experiment, design, create and imagine as they explore the infinite possibilities of science and technology. (After all, Aeronautics was one of the first badges ever in Canadian Guiding.) Now, Guiding’s new Girls First program takes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) exploration to a whole new level.

As a civil design technologist by day and Girl Guide volunteer by night, I’m a huge fan of Guiding’s new Experiment and Create program area that’s part of the new Girls First program. It really lets girls explore not only science, technology, engineering and math, but also the world of design. This pulls the program in alignment with the new acronym of STEAM – an acronym that integrates the importance of art and design in STEM careers, whether in the form of prototyping, modelling, programming, and conceptual sketching. It can also involve using 3D printers, laser cutters, computer coding like Sketch, or plain-old paper and pencils to learn how to create new inventions or improve existing ones.

Through activities in the Science Lab and Design Space themes, girls will discover how engineering can now be so much more than marshmallow bridges, and math can be so much more than a Pi day party. Instead, units might explore robotics or digital arts at local makerspaces. They might tour local science-based employers like technology companies, composting facilities, research institutions, smelters, pulp mills or farming operations, and do related experiments and activities in the unit. Or, they might use Skype a Scientist to learn about something they’ve never imagined. It’s totally open to girls to explore what the Design Space and Science Lab themes mean to them.

Not every Girl Guide exposed to STEAM will pursue a related career, but that exposure can be invaluable to members who discover the STEAM career that is perfect for them. I was in Grade 11 when I googled “who builds bridges” and discovered civil engineering. Even then, I struggled with self-doubt and a lack of confidence that, as a woman, I could pursue such a career. The Girls First program’s exposure to STEAM at every age will help girls discover and hone their interests, and help them see that they can be biologists, mathematicians, geoscientists, or get a job in a field that may not even exist yet (lunar engineer, anyone?). Regardless of a girl’s chosen path, a solid introduction to STEAM will give her a foundation to solve world problems and make a difference in shaping her world.

Guest post by Anne Simonen, a Guider with the 1st Nelson Guides in B.C. and Kootenay Area PR Adviser.

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