Girl Scouts take lead with STEM over Labor Day weekend

COURTESY GIRLS SCOUTS OF HAWAII A Girl Scout named Alana, above, prepared Saturday to launch the rocket she made at STEM Camp at Camp Paumalu on the North Shore.

A Girl Scout named Alana, above, prepared Saturday to launch the rocket she made at STEM Camp at Camp Paumalu on the North Shore.

By Susan Essoyan.  Source:

Shari Chang, a fourth-generation Girl Scout, cringes when she hears anyone say Girl Scouts just do “camping and crafts and cookies.”

The CEO of Girl Scouts of Hawaii says the organization is actually a leader in launching girls into careers in the fields known collectively as STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Girls Scouts nationally for the past 10 years has been on a very progressive and aggressive STEM push,” Chang said in an interview. “It has always been part of Girl Scouts, but this has been the biggest push. … Our Girl Scouts make up the largest pipeline of future female leaders in STEM fields.”

A Girl Scout named Alana, above, prepared Saturday to launch the rocket she made at STEM Camp at Camp Paumalu on the North Shore.

Statistics show already that Girl Scouts pursue STEM careers more often than non-Girl Scouts, and the organization is committed to putting 2 million girls into the STEM career pipeline by 2025, she said.

That focus was clear over Labor Day weekend at the Girl Scouts’ STEM Camp at Camp Paumalu on Oahu’s North Shore, above Sunset Beach. Nearly 200 Girl Scouts converged at the 135-acre mountaintop site, which is owned by the organization.

There they tried dozens of activities with guidance from 29 professionals in the fields, mostly women. They launched compressed-air rockets with the help of volunteers from the U.S. Coast Guard, used solar energy to power small cars, grasped the physics of shooting a bow and arrow, and learned about LED lighting while assembling light sabers, for example.

Leigh Anne Eaton, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, tackled a timely subject — tropical cyclones — and how they form, supplying the girls at Camp Paumalu with ingredients needed to create “the perfect hurricane.”

“The goal is to teach them about hurricanes but also to expose girls to science fields, and there’s lots of options for careers out there,” said Eaton, a meteorologist and Girl Scout who remembers visiting the National Hurricane Center as a child.

The weather service is still a male-dominated field, she said, but the numbers are shifting. About 15 years ago one of Eaton’s colleagues — also a Girl Scout gold award recipient — was the only female meteorologist in the Honolulu Forecast Office. Now there are seven who can work the operations floor, among about 25 staff, she said.

The Girl Scouts are offering 30 new badges in STEM fields this year such as cybersecurity, space science, environmental stewardship, mechanical engineering and robotics. The badges offer programs geared to different age groups.

Two new Leadership Journeys are also being introduced, offering a more in-depth exploration of the subjects. “Think Like a Programmer Journey,” funded by Raytheon, will give girls in sixth through 12th grade a foundation for the Girl Scouts’ first national Cyber Challenge in 2019. “Think Like an Engineer Journey” will give girls hands-on experience in how engineers identify problems and find solutions.

“Everything is girl-led,” said Charelle Silva, who planned the STEM camp and ensures the new badges and journeys are woven into all Girl Scouts Hawaii programs. “We always want girls to take the lead.”

Girl Scouts of Hawaii has deep roots in the islands and marked its centennial last year. Queen Lili‘uokalani chartered Troops 1 and 2, and the organization is still growing.

Membership in Girl Scouts of Hawaii has increased 3 to 5 percent in each of the past three years, Chang said. Altogether there are 3,000 active Girl Scouts in Hawaii, plus another 2,000 adults involved.

“The whole thing about Girl Scouts is keeping up with today’s interests for girls,” Chang said. “That’s why Girl Scouts launched a national partnership with Raytheon and with NASA and with Palo Alto Network,” a network security company.

“Girl Scouts is dedicated not only to exposing Girl Scouts to careers in the STEM fields, but also pairing them with valuable and supportive mentors who inspire them to pursue their goals,” she said.


Girl Scouts cite these statistics to show how their organization helps create female leaders:

>> Most female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were Girl Scouts.

>> Ninety percent of female astronauts were Girl Scouts.

>> Eighty percent of female technology leaders were Girl Scouts.

>> Seventy-six percent of female U.S. senators were Girl Scouts.

>> All of the three female U.S. secretaries of state were Girl Scouts.

Source: Girl Scouts of Hawaii