Bridging the STEM Gap for Girls: Girl Scouts Mobile STEM Learning Center offers opportunity
We had a chance to sit down with MLC Member Briana Rickman, Director of Fund Development of the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming (GSMW) to learn more about their Mobile STEM Learning Center.
GSMW is the largest geographical Girl Scouts council in the nation and serves 6,148 girls and 2,518 volunteers. GSMW provides hands-on STEM experience by offering STEM badges (must complete requirements), outdoor and summer camp programming, virtual and in-person programming, and their new Mobile STEM Learning Center.
The footing of Girl Scouts remains the same as it did in 1912 when founder Juliette Gordon Low wanted girls to have the same opportunities as boys to develop physically, mentally and spiritually. From the beginning, the organization embraced diversity – including geography, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and ability.
And this is no different for GSMW, where an estimated 67% of Montana and Wyoming schools are in rural areas. This translates to hurdles that can include a lack of access to honors courses, high-level technology business exposure, as well as limited access to quality curriculum and vigorous and engaging math and science courses. This is where the GSMW Mobile STEM Learning Center and other programs come into play.
GSMW’s Focus on STEM
Briana and her GSMW colleagues are passionate about bringing women into the STEM workforce.
“As we all know, STEM is critical to solving today’s problems. Overcoming challenges like natural disasters, poverty, cyberwarfare, climate change, and declining resources will rely on people employed in STEM fields to provide a comprehensive view of the problems along with specialized knowledge and the vision to help build a better future [...] Women remain vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce, in holding STEM degrees, and in opportunities to develop STEM interest as youth," said Briana.
GSMW is dedicated to positive change and providing opportunities. The Mobile STEM Learning Center brings STEM programming to the girl, no matter her geographic location.
Briana stated, “Girl Scouts provides countless opportunities for young girls to jump into STEM and explore their interests and passions with fun, challenging activities. From over 100 STEM badges to choose from, to council-sponsored robotics teams, to various STEAM-related programs, girls gain early and frequent exposure to STEM through Girl Scouting. Girl Scouts K-12 curriculum helps bridge the gender gap by ensuring that girls of every age have opportunities to participate in progressive, multiyear STEM experiences".
The GSMW Mobile STEM Learning Center idea was born during COVID-19, which as can be imagined, came with unique challenges. It took 2.5 years to complete but since has taken off – already holding 49 programs so far and serving nearly 400 kids!
Click to see examples of GSMW STEM Van Programs:
Anatomy: Life-size anatomy model teaches kids about anatomy and function. They love learning about their own organs and how their bodies work.
Microscopes: Microscopes teach about microbiology and how to look at things differently. Kids also have access to magnifying glasses and pocket scopes so they can observe objects at various focal points and record their observations.
3D printer and pens: kids learn about 3D printing and applicable applications. Kids utilize 3D pens to engineer their own 3D structures.
Drones: kids learn about lift, gravity, velocity, and improve hand and eye coordination.
Stethoscopes: kids learn about their heart by listening to their heartbeat (resting and after exercise) and can also listen to their digestive sounds and lungs.
In conclusion, Briana shared the following sentiments: “I want ALL girls, no matter their socioeconomic status, geography, race/ethnicity or ability to have equal access to STEM. I want girls to feel empowered to try new things and step outside of their comfort zones. I want them to know they can do anything that boys can. This is what Girl Scouts is about; building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. If our STEM van or any STEM program for that matter can spark interest in just one girl, who later turns her experience into a passion or career, I’ll have done my job. This is what keeps me going.”
We couldn’t agree more.
To learn more about the GSMW Mobile STEM Learning Center program, visit their website.