Thanks In Giving
This month as many of you gather around your food-filled Thanksgiving table, you may be considering what you are thankful for this year. It is usually for family and friends, church, or health. I would like you to consider one more thing you could be thankful for: giving your time to help young girls learn about engineering and science with you as their mentor and role model.
November is the start of our outreach season that lasts until June with numerous programs and activities that you could be involved in, with various age levels of young people that we in SWE-NESS reach out to, trying to enlighten them about science and engineering. We start off the season with our famous Girl Scout badge programs that we have run since 1994. Yes, believe it or not, this year marks the twentieth year since I developed the first SWE-NESS badge program for Junior Girl Scouts, awarding participating girls the Science Sleuth badge.
As the saying goes, we’ve come a long way, baby. We’ve gone through several different badge programs that I created over the years, trying to alternate between two science badges so girls had the opportunity to earn both in consecutive years if they wished. Juggling the requirements necessary for them to earn the badge while making the activities more hands-on and fun for them to do the activity wasn’t easy at times, but that is where the feedback helped. At the end of each workshop, girls are required to complete an evaluation form about the activities they did: what they liked, didn’t like and why, what could be better, etc. (They hand me their form and pen, I give them their badge: incentive!) With these responses, along with the feedback from the station managers as to what they saw happen with their activities and materials, I can tweak the workshop as necessary to make each year better — or create a new one for a different badge, with more hands-on activities, which I did a number of times.
Being a Master Trainer for my Girl Scout Council, I was privy to changes to the badge requirements and/or new badges that GSUSA made before they were made known to the leaders, so this helped me get a headstart on the next year’s badge workshop for SWE-NESS. Of course, this didn’t help when GSUSA decided to do away with all the engineering and science badges in 2012, making new ones that were more girl-oriented (i.e., more personal) and requirements that I could not turn into a badge workshop to suit our outreach purposes.
But never fear, there are always alternatives. At that particular time, we had created a patch to be used for any middle school group with hands-on physics activities, as we were trying to get funding for such a program through the American Physical Society, thanks to member Michele Fitzpatrick. Unfortunately, we did not get the grant, but we held a pilot program for thirty Junior GS that year, and were able to tweak the activities accordingly to make it better for larger groups. We also created our own patch for it which the kids love getting because it is so unique – it actually says “Society of Women Engineers Physics” on it, helping us to literally brand this outreach program.
So now we are alternating a Physics is Phun! workshop with a former Society of Women Engineers Council’s Own badge workshop as our two Girl Scout Junior outreach programs. I say “former”, because the council in the northwest recently decided not to carry the SWE badge anymore, complying with the GSUSA edict of no more Council’s Own awards in the 2012 redo, even though I had phoned them and asked them specifically if they would continue to carry the badge despite this edict and they had stated they would as long as people would continue to purchase it.
Like I said, there are always alternatives. I ended up creating another set of SWE badges for this outreach program since we can no longer order them from that council. So now, despite curriculum changes and badge changes from GSUSA, Girl Scouts in the SWE-NESS area will continue to get engineering and science/physics from women role models in that field — as well as a unique SWE patch.
We could use your help in running these stations at URI from 9-noon on 15 November and at Connecticut College from 1-4 PM on 22 November. If you can help, please contact Kimberly McLean for Connecticut, or me for URI. We usually have students run them from the collegiate sections, but welcome any professionals to network with them and help with the girls as well.
Please consider helping at one of these events this month. Then you can be truly thankful this Thanksgiving — and the Girl Scouts will be as well! (If your schedule just doesn’t allow for it, then watch your emails and newsletter for other outreach events coming up – you’ll have plenty of chances!)
OUTREACH EVENTS IN NOVEMBER
15th: SWE GS Junior badge workshop at URI Kelley Hall, 9-noon; POC Sue Anderson
22nd: SWE GS Junior badge workshop at Connecticut College Olin Science Bldg, 1-4 PM; POC Kimberly McLean