Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Girls Scouts Pave the Way for Future Scientists

The Alaska Journal of Commerce reports that Girl Scout Jania Tumey participated in the Girl Scouts of Alaska’s recent Women of Science and Technology Day, which provides young ladies access to scientific professionals for some hands-on learning. These professional women come from diverse scientific backgrounds, including engineering, health care, chemistry and veterinary science. And a recent report from the Girl Scout Research Institute states these are interests shared by most girls Tumey’s age.

Girl Scouts are well known for their must-have cookies, but the nonprofit organization offers several programs and hands-on learning opportunities for young girls beyond hawking cookies once a year.

“I think being a Girl Scout gives you a lot more opportunities like going to the Women in Science event,” Tumey said. “I probably wouldn’t have been interested in science if I had not been to Women in Science.”

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), 74 percent of high school girls nationwide are interested in STEM fields, yet still are not encouraged enough to enter such fields. It also states that girls interested in these fields tend to be high achievers and are more confident, with many wanting to make a difference in the world. Girl Scouts of Alaska communications manager Anne Gore said the girls, once they gain interest, generally will continue these interests through college.

“We were really excited to see this come out and what it does is sort of confirms what we observed in girls being interested in science and math,” Gore said. “We’ve seen other studies that say girls aren’t interested, but this shows they are.”

Marge Stoneking, CEO for Girl Scouts of Alaska, said two major things stood out to her in the report. One is that what their work in girls-only STEM projects are working. “Because we now see an increased interest in STEM by girls, and that’s not been found in studies to date,” she said, referring to studies outside the organization.

She said the focus over of such studies over the past 10 years has been about how to get girls interested in STEM, while this shows that the Girl Scouts involvement has worked and they are already interested.

“And what were doing specifically in Girl Scouts with the Women in Science program in connecting women scientists with girls is particularly effective in helping us get to the next level, which would be having more girls or women go into STEM careers,” Stoneking said.