A national initiative to reduce the gender gap in STEM fields by bringing 2.5 million girls into the STEM pipeline over the next eight years was announced by the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) in 2017. “Girl Scouts has the largest pipeline of future female leaders available, and no place is this more important than in STEM fields,” said GSUSA CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, as she pledged to thousands of business leaders, “By working with individuals and companies that understand the importance of investing in all girls, we can fundamentally change the STEM pipeline and the future of its workforce.”
Now, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains (GSGWM) is helping to make good on that pledge by working with ARMI | BioFabUSA on a collaboration which includes new biofabrication curriculum and a patch for girls ages five to 17.
GSGWM offers a wide variety of outcomes-based STEM programs to over 10,000 girls across Vermont and New Hampshire every year and it is one of just a few of Girl Scout councils in the US to see membership growth for three consecutive years. This is a tremendous regional achievement, not only because membership is declining at the national level; but also because New Hampshire and Vermont have declining populations of younger girls in the two states.
According to Tricia Casey, Director of Advancement at GSGWM, “This collaboration with BioFabUSA will include the development and roll out of a Biofabrication patch and curriculum for girls as well as virtual programming, summer camp activities, volunteer training resources for biofabrication learning at the community level, and outcomes analysis to measure how girls are responding to the program.”
Recognized nationally as a model of Girl Scouting excellence, the success at GSGWM shows they are effectively engaging girls with curriculum relevant to their needs and interests. Their local STEM research shows that while girls are interested in STEM subjects, many don’t see a future for themselves in the field. At GSUSA headquarters in NYC the research indicated while 74% of girls say they are interested in STEM only 13% said a STEM career is their first choice. One national study found that 77% of girls said that because of Girl Scouts, they are considering a career in technology.
“Not only do we have a large and growing membership base; but we are diversifying and expanding program delivery to reach even more girls. This includes outreach to low income girls through partnerships with local schools as well as the anticipated introduction of a Mobile STEM Lab (2020 membership year) which will deliver STEM programs to all corners of Vermont and New Hampshire,” Casey explained.
“We have learned from the successes of other Girl Scout councils who have STEM vehicles that mobile program delivery can result in a wholesale change in STEM engagement by breaking down geographic barriers to service. We estimate that, in its first year, we can serve at least 180 girls per month, or 2,160 girls per year, through a STEM Mobile Unit,” she noted.
To help grow girls’ awareness of STEM’s value to society, GSGWM has access to nationally-developed tools to track these outcomes to analyze how local STEM programming is impacting girls. This will allow the Biofabrication curriculum to be flexible, with an opportunity to make changes where needed to maximize outcomes.
“Partnering with BioFabUSA will not only allow us to give local girls the opportunity to see a new STEM future for themselves and gain exposure to an exciting STEM field they may never have otherwise knew existed; but to track outcomes specifically related to a curriculum and analyze how best to engage girls with this subject matter,” Casey concluded.