For more than 100 years, the Girl Scout Movement has captured the imagination of girls and young women. The program has accomplished this through fun activities that build sisterhood and expose girls to interesting new experiences that are both intellectually and physically challenging. With the establishment of this iconic organization, Juliet Gordon Low (“Daisy”) inspired girls to step outside of acceptable boundaries to expand their horizons and make a difference in their communities. Today, Daisy’s legacy lives on as the organization continues to encourage girls to break barriers and reach for the stars.
In a Fortune Magazine article published on Dec. 22, 2016, Colleen Smith reported that women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science and the physical sciences. She added that women make up half of total U.S college-educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce.
The Girl Scout program has long been recognized for introducing girls of every age to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Our local council, Girl Scouts of Citrus, offers a number of creative programs that engage girls in a fun, collaborative atmosphere, but also recognizes the need to do more. The question was raised — how can we better help girls to see themselves with a future in a STEM field?
“Girls who have participated in Girl Scout STEM programs report an increase in confidence in science classes by up to 82 percent and math by up to 61 percent.”
Fortunately, one of the council’s long-time supporters, the Crymes family, is also interested in providing girls with more STEM opportunities. Barbara Crymes’ enthusiasm for Girl Scouts becomes apparent when she speaks about girls and their future. “Nothing gives me greater joy than to share in the excitement a young girl experiences when she learns something new and realizes her potential,” she said. “My family and I have experienced rsthand the impact scouting has on a girl’s life.”
When the Crymes family pledged $100,000 as a matching grant, Girl Scouts of Citrus worked to meet the challenge. Several philanthropists o ered to help; the funds were subsequently raised and a plan was made to create a state-of-the-art STEAM center.
So, how did STEM evolve into STEAM?
According to EDUDEMIC, an organization that focuses on connecting education and technology, students who study arts tend to perform better academically than those who do not, but there are further reasons why the arts are an important part of an effective education. Arts help students build confidence, develop motor skills and hone their decision- making and problem-solving skills. This reasoning has given rise to STEAM, which incorporates the arts into traditional STEM programming.
During a groundbreaking for the new project, Walt Griffin, Ph.D., Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools, stressed that incorporating the arts reinforces performing and visual arts offered by our schools and nurtures creativity and design — skills that are critical to all STEAM occupations.
“Seminole County leads the nation in providing STEAM opportunities to our students,” he said. “We begin teaching kids how to code in kindergarten, and our schools are known for amazing gender-equity programs — programs like the ones offered at Lake Brantley High School, which was recently asked to address a national conference on how to engage girls in STEAM educational opportunities.”
The new facility, to be named the Crymes Family STEAM Leadership Center, will embrace design elements that blend natural landscape features into an environmentally-friendly structure. It will be located at the Mah-Kah-Wee Program Center, a 250-acre property in Seminole County, which has introduced generations of girls to the area’s natural beauty.
County officials are excited about the new plans. “Women are taking the lead across Seminole County. They comprise 70 percent of the county’s leadership roles, running critical services such as our fire departments and environmental services,” said Commissioner Bob Dallari of the Seminole County Commission. “Programs offered by Girl Scouts of Citrus, such as the new STEAM center, will help us groom tomorrow’s leaders, and I can’t be more excited to see what they will do.”
Laptop computers equipped with digital design programs, coding tools, and programs for physics, chemistry, biology and space exploration will be featured in the lab. ere will also be a light chemistry lab, robotics, a 3D printer, rocket building, launch kits and environmental science projects such as water testing. In addition, a third-floor platform with an elevator will provide opportunities for star gazing and may ignite dreams of space exploration.
Building Girls Who Build a Better World
The Girl Scout Movement is known for “building girls of courage, confidence and character.” These young women then go on to make the world a better place. Recent research shows that confidence is a cornerstone of success in STEM professions. As Smith noted in the Fortune article: “Girls who have participated in Girl Scout STEM programs report an increase in confidence in science classes by up to 82 percent and math by up to 61 percent. Confidence is the ultimate differentiator between women who fully pursue a career in STEM and those who remove themselves from the STEM pipeline.”
Dallari added that as a Walt Disney World cast member, he has the pleasure of working with female engineering interns, and they are amazing. He finds they take a more holistic approach to solving problems and have a natural talent that allows them to excel in STEAM jobs.
The Crymes Family STEAM Leadership Center will not be restricted to Girl Scouts, or just to girls. Girl Scouts of Citrus will be working with Seminole County Public Schools to reinforce STEAM courses learned in the classroom, making the center available to teachers across the Central Florida region as a eld trip destination for students. Hopefully, some of the young people using the center will be challenged to pursue vocations in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and math. It will also help them to keep dreaming of what might be.