Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hear It from a Girl Scout: Confidence, Compassion, and Curiosity

From 2013 to 2017, Girl Scouts of the USA partnered with the Arconic Foundation to provide ten Girl Scouts with the Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship, which was available to Girl Scout Gold Award recipients who complete projects related to science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Gabriella Smith of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts received the scholarship in 2013 and will soon graduate from Boston University. Check out her story, what she has to say about her experience in Girl Scouts, and what her life as a scientist is like.

What have you been up to? Did you graduate with a STEM-related degree? Tell us about your college experience.

I am proud to be a part of the graduating class of 2017 from Boston University, with a BA in biology, a specialization in behavioral biology, and a minor in Italian. I am very grateful for the college experience I have had, which included two opportunities to study abroad, a course load catered to my favorite subjects, and fluency in two new languages.

My first semester abroad was in the spring of 2016 to Padua, Italy, where I studied Italian for four months and then traveled to Naples, Italy for two and a half months to study octopus cognition at the historic Stazione Zoologica. It was here that I had the opportunity to perform research within my major of behavioral biology combined with the language skills of my minor. I hold my memories of Italy very close to my heart, as I not only learned Italian for my minor, but I can now speak to my family in Sicily, gaining an emotional and familial closeness that is very special to me. While in Naples, I wrote a blog for my family and friends back home, documenting my experience and my love for Italy, and I continued writing during my second study abroad.

My second study abroad was for five months in the fall of 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, where I took ecology courses in the different ecosystems of Ecuador: the mountains, the coast and the Galapagos Islands, and the Amazon rainforest. Between field trips to different tropical habitats, I stayed with a host family in Quito, where I learned the bulk of my Spanish and experienced Ecuadorian customs. This study abroad encouraged my classmates and me to perform research projects on any subject material in the context of ecology in the most biodiverse place on Earth. Due to my specialization of behavioral biology, some of my projects included social recognition of Galapagos sea lions, group calls of woolly monkeys of the Amazon, and pheromone trail-following of ant species.

While on campus in Boston, I continued research in an evolutionary phylogenetics lab of which I had been a part during high school, and in my sophomore year, I coauthored a paper on butterfly phylogenetics in Nature Communications. For my major, I took courses on general biology and chemistry, ecology, genetics, neuroscience, ethology, endocrinology, neuroethology, physics, psychology, anthropology, statistics, and computer science. One of my proudest achievements in graduating from BU was entering freshman year and graduating senior year with the same major of biology with a specialization in behavioral biology. My major is still my passion, and I continue to find joy in learning about subjects like animal sociality, cognition, and communication.

Looking back, how has Girl Scouts and the Chuck McLane Scholarship affected your life?

I owe so much of my confidence, ambition, compassion, and curiosity to Girl Scouts and the Chuck McLane Scholarship. My Gold Award, much like my other Girl Scout projects and even my biology research projects, allowed me to use creativity to design a meaningful project in the context of my passion for STEM. In my years as a Girl Scout, I earned extraordinary skills that have equipped me with the ability to make my life my own and my goals possible. I give thanks to Girl Scouts, the Chuck McLane Scholarship, and my Arconic mentor Kelly Weiler for providing me with the platform on which to blossom.

What are your goals moving forward?

This summer I am taking two more courses for my major, and I will receive my diploma in August. After Boston University, I plan to perform more research in the field of behavioral biology, possibly exploring evolutionary cognition at Harvard. After a yearlong break, I will explore a PhD position concentrated on nonhuman animal behavior, possibly in dogs, birds, or elephants.

How do you take the lead?

I want to make science and biological research more accessible to the public, and I am a strong believer that anyone can ask questions, use creativity to design and perform experiments, and incite enthusiasm by sharing their findings. I think the first step is to write scientific papers in layman’s terms to make curiosity about the world around us a shared experience. I will use my position as a researcher to encourage this idea, focusing on younger generations to encourage a passion for the study of STEM.

Girl Scouts offers the best leadership development experience for girls in the world. Everything a Girl Scout does centers around STEM, the outdoors, development of life skills, and entrepreneurship, and is designed to meet her where she is now and to grow along with her. Learn more about the Girl Scout Difference.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summer of Service: What This Summer Is All About

Girl Scouts is all about helping every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ empower herself to take action and make the world a better place. That’s why Girl Scouts and Disney have collaborated to bring girls the Elena of Avalor Scepter of Light Award, which is rightfully modeled after Elena of Avalor and her characteristics of leadership, compassion, critical thinking, collaboration, and courage—just like a Girl Scout. The first recipient is 17-year-old Ashley Chico, who is making a huge difference in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and healthcare fields through her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

Ashley’s Gold Award project extended STEM and healthcare to people who did not previously have access. Her first project, titled Project CODE, provides STEM resources like classes and workshops for students in underserved communities. Impressive! But she didn’t stop there. After Project CODE, Ashley developed a healthcare app called CHICO HealthCare that allows illiterate patients to share their personal and medical information using voice recognition in any language, easing communications and registration for medical care.

Want to be like Ashley, but don’t know where to start? Check out Disney’s Summer of Service initiative, which offers suggestions for how to help out your community all summer long (until September 30). Big ideas require lots of planning, dedication, and leadership, so Disney wants to help girls by offering a $500 grant (yes, free money) to support their ideas for service! Of course, there’s more than one way to support your community. Whether your idea is as big as Ashley’s or as simple as volunteering at a food pantry, your efforts are important and make a difference in the world. Remember to share them using #SummerofService!

Photo: CEO of Girl Scouts of Citrus, Maryann Barry (left), and Executive Vice President of Original Programming and General Manager of Disney Junior Worldwide, Nancy Kanter (right), award Girl Scout Ashley Chico of Orlando, Fla. with the inaugural Scepter of Light award representing The Gold Award. (Photo credit: Kent Phillips)

Avoid Tick Bites, Like a Girl Scout!

As much as we love the outdoors, it isn’t always the gentlest on us—mosquito bites, sunburns, poison ivy, and even tick bites are an ugly part of summer. Protecting yourself from ticks is especially important because deer ticks (found primarily in the eastern United States) can carry Lyme disease.

Before you hit the trails to explore, keep this advice in mind to help ward off ticks in the summer as well as all year round.

• When you’re deciding what to wear, pick light-colored clothing, long sleeves and pants, and closed-toe shoes. And don’t forget to tuck your pants into your socks!

• Spray tick repellent over your shoes and ankles. (Ticks climb on your body first by crawling up your shoes and socks.) Before buying a repellent, check the label to be sure it works for ticks. If you’re allergic to any of the ingredients, look for one with oil of lemon eucalyptus as an all-natural alternative!

• Stay on the trail and avoid places with high grass, brush, and leaf clutter.

• After every outdoor activity, check your body for ticks (ask a buddy for help!). Don’t forget to check small crevices, like armpits, between the toes, behind the knees, the navel, behind the ears, on the scalp and under the hair, and on the nape of the neck.

• If you spot a tick, remain calm and ask an adult for help removing it. You can remove it by grabbing the tick as close to the skin as possible with a pair of tweezers and quickly pulling it straight out. If you’re in an area where Lyme disease is common, save the tick in a sealable plastic bag and ask your doctor test it.

• To be extra safe, when you return from camp or hiking, throw your clothes in the dryer and run it on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill any stowaway ticks.

• Ticks and tick bites are not always easy to spot, so if you feel any of the common Lyme disease symptoms, see a doctor.

• If you have cats or dogs, check them for ticks frequently, too! Ask your veterinarian about tick preventives for your pets.

Spending time outdoors is fun, but always remember to wear the right clothing and check yourself for ticks afterward. Better safe than sorry!

For more information about ticks and Lyme disease, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Girl Scouts and Patriotism: 10 Fun Facts to Celebrate July 4

Girl Scouts has a long history of showing support for their country, and it all started at the source with our beloved Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low. Our amazing founder was a lot of things; she was brave, inventive, giving, loving, passionate, outdoorsy, and self-reliant, just to name a few. She was also a patriot through and through with her always-on focus on duty, selflessness, and service.

Today, Girl Scouts continue to uphold Daisy’s tradition of patriotism by making cards and sending care packages (including yummy Girl Scout Cookies, of course!) to U.S. servicemen and women, participating in Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day parades and activities across the country, taking part in flag retirement ceremonies, placing flags at local cemeteries, and so much more. All of this helps to build a sense of pride in our country and its rich history, while also nurturing important skills for many of the great leaders who stand to mold its future—Girl Scouts!

So, we thought, what better way to celebrate our great nation’s birthday than to take a look back at all the inspiring ways Girl Scouts have celebrated and exhibited patriotism throughout history? Here are ten fun facts to share with your Girl Scout buddies around that barbecue, at the beach, or around a cozy campfire as you celebrate this Fourth of July, and remember why it’s such an important, memorable day.

  1. Girl Scouts offers a Citizen badge at every grade level that helps girls learn to celebrate their communities—from their towns and states to their country. The badges include Celebrating Community for Brownies, Inside Government for Juniors, Finding Common Ground for Cadettes, Behind the Ballot for Seniors, and Public Policy for Ambassadors.

  2. Patriotism, citizenship, and community service are core elements of the Girl Scout experience.

  3. Currently, Girl Scouts serves thousands of military families across 72 different councils. USA Girl Scouts Overseas alone serves more than 6,000 girl and volunteer members who are a part military families stationed abroad.

  4. Girl Scouting has a positive impact on civic engagement. A 2012 study found that Girl Scout alumnae are more likely to vote than non-alumnae.

  5. Every female secretary of state in U.S. history is a former Girl Scout.*

  6. Fifty-seven percent of women in the 115th Congress are Girl Scout alumnae.*

  7. During World War I, as a new organization eager to jump in and help in meaningful ways, Girl Scouts helped roll bandages and make dressings for wounds for soldiers.

  8. In the 1930s, with the United States consumed by the Great Depression, Girl Scouts participated in relief efforts by collecting clothing and food for those in need.

  9. During World War II, Girl Scouts knit socks for soldiers, planted victory gardens, and even sold war bonds. They also sponsored defense institutes that taught women survival skills and techniques for comforting children during air raids.

  10. Though it was never implemented, Juliette Gordon Low once developed a stars-and-stripes design for Girl Scout uniforms. 
Moscow: A few of the girls at Spaso House - the Residence of the US Ambassador. The Girl Scouts led 500 American citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance.

That’s a whole lot to be proud of! And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. What a wonderful tradition to uphold. We can’t wait to continue to serve this great country by always finding new ways to help others (no deed is too small!), and working to change the world, together.

Happy Independence Day everyone!

* Girl Scouts of the USA Public Policy & Advocacy Office, Washington, DC (2016)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Setting Girls Up for Successful STEM Careers

On June 28, Girl Scouts and the American Petroleum Institute (API) were joined by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) at a briefing to highlight to Congress the need to increase girls’ involvement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The group discussed programs and policies that encourage girls to pursue STEM careers, with Senator Capito, a co-chair of Girl Scouts’ honorary Congressional troop, emphasizing the value of empowering girls with the tools and resources to become STEM leaders. Representatives from both Girl Scouts of the USA and Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay (Delaware council) drove home the unique benefits of Girl Scouts’ STEM programming, and Girl Scout Ambassador Veyola Rezkalla shared how her experiences as a Girl Scout spurred her interest in biology. 

In front of a standing-room-only crowd, Veyola said that Girl Scouts provided her with hands-on STEM opportunities that instilled in her the confidence to succeed in the field. This fall she’ll attend the University of Delaware, where she plans to major in biological sciences, bringing her closer to her goal of becoming a pediatrician. 

Veyola and Senator Capito were joined by the API’s Tara Anderson, who discussed difficulties she’s seen in the energy industry’s efforts to recruit more women. Ms. Anderson noted that while growth in STEM jobs has tripled over the past ten years, many girls and women still struggle to see themselves in these careers due to a lack of role models and encouragement during their adolescent years. 

Hoping to build off STEM programming offered at local Girl Scout councils and boost girls’ interest in the fields, the API is partnering with councils to host “energy literacy” events for girls across the country. And this summer, Girl Scouts will debut a series of STEM badges girls can earn on topics that include cybersecurity, engineering, robotics, and computer programing.

Members of Congress and partners like the API are vital allies in advancing policies that allow girls to thrive in the ever-growing fields of STEM. Whether they choose to become the next accomplished astrophysicists or more generally appreciate the science all around them, when they engage in STEM, girls enhance their self-confidence, strengthen their problem-solving abilities, and are more likely to take on leadership roles in their communities. In other words, through STEM experiences, girls gain the skills they need to become successful leaders—regardless where their career paths lead them.