Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma STEM Initiative

Oklahoma NSF EPSCoR RII Award No. OIA-1301789

Although gains have been made, women are still underrepresented in America’s science and engineering workforce, holding just 28 percent of S&E jobs, according to a report released by the National Science Board in 2014. 

Oklahoma EPSCoR is influencing the next generation’s participation in this sector through a strategic partnership that was forged with the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma (GSWO) last year.  Through the EPSCoR-GSWO STEM Initiative, young girls are becoming more confident in their ability to participate in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

GSWO has a strong, established network in Oklahoma, with approximately 12,000 girls participating in the program each year.  The group’s territory covers more than half of the state’s 77 counties.

Through Oklahoma EPSCoR grant funding, GSWO now has a STEM coordinator whose singular role is to help the organization’s Scouts and troop leaders discover STEM. 

Coordinator Chris Simon, with support from EPSCoR researchers, Drs. Renee McPherson and Jody Campiche, developed hands-on environmental science kit curriculum for all ages of Scouts. 

The original curriculum has been partnered with newly developed STEM kits-in-a-box to complement the Girl Scouts It’s Your Planet—Love It! Leadership Journey books. Through these specialized kits, Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior and Ambassador Scouts explore topics that range from discovering plant structure and function to engineering an aqueduct. All of the supplies that troops need to perform the experiments are provided, as are easy-to-follow guides that convey clear understanding of the scientific process.

The materials were recently presented to attendees at the Girl Scouts National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“The response from troop leaders and CEOs at the convention was one of elation and excitement because nothing like this exists anywhere else in the country,” explained Simon.

Before experiencing the EPSCoR kits, only 47 percent of Scouts surveyed indicated that they could see themselves working in a science or engineering field.  After participating in the project, those same Scouts’ confidence levels soared to 83 percent.

More than 9,000 girls have experienced STEM through these unique environmental science-themed kits, with every troop in the service area having access to the kits.

As Scouts complete the curriculum, they earn EPSCOR STEM badges that can be proudly displayed on their uniforms as proof of their accomplishments. More than 3,000 Scouts have earned badges to date. 

The EPSCoR/GSWO partnership will provide long-term benefits for troop members, as GSWO has committed to sustaining the STEM coordinator position and science kits post-grant award.

For more information, contact Sharica Robinson at srobinson@gswestok.org.

Program Update (12/1/2016):
With the State of Oklahoma facing cuts to the education budget, the Oklahoma NSF EPSCoR Girl Scouts STEM Initiative has stepped up to help fill the gap in science education by providing STEM kits-in-a-box and instruction to more than 30 schools across the state to date in addition to the thousands of Scouts that have been served through traditional programming. One of those schools served is Positive Tomorrows, Oklahoma's only elementary school specifically serving homeless children and their families. Susan Agel, Positive Tomorrow's President and Pricipal, says this about the importance of STEM education to her students:

“For the students at Positive Tomorrows, STEM is so much more than the scientific process. STEM to our students instills not only a sense of curiosity and wonder, but also problem solving and challenges their thinking. STEM introduces them to a world outside of the trauma and scary things they endure on a regular basis. Homeless children are not typically exposed to nature or basic kitchen science, so STEM programming pushes them outside their comfort zone and encourages them to ask questions and be curious. Programming like this can change their outlook on the world around them, giving them hope for a brighter future and that tomorrow can look much different than today.”
--Susan Agel, Positive Tomorrows President and Principal

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Kit tutorials can be accessed via the GSWestOK's YouTube Channel.
Girl Scouts STEM kit request form