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Center for Engagement and Community Development

Girl Scouts Partner Up

Although U.S. women are currently leading the way in terms of higher education, a 2015 National Science Foundation report found a lack of representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors. “While women receive over half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far fewer in the computer sciences, engineering, physics, and mathematics and statistics,” said the National Girls Collaborative Project.

Kirsten Zoller, Professional Education and Outreach Events Coordinator for K-State Salina, wants to change the number of women in STEM education. K-State Salina has recently joined the Girl Scouts' Program on Demand initiative, designed to be a resource to troops and provide courses tailored to their distinctive interests. Zoller hopes this partnership will open the girls’ minds to a career in STEM.

K-State Salina had previously been working with the Girl Scouts for over five years. A more in-depth need for programming was realized, so in late August, the partnership was formalized. Zoller said the programs will now be tailored based on what the Girl Scouts needs are.

Zoller has begun offering several programs she hopes will inspire the Girl Scouts to pursue a STEM education. One such course fulfills the Girl Scouts Product Designer badge. This allows the girls to see how products are made, as well as brainstorm ideas of their own.

One particularly popular program was the interactive use of entertainment technology. The girls used digital animation to create a fish flying in and out of a fish bowl. They used a voice recorder and developed sound effects. Zoller said the idea behind events such as these is to “help them see that a STEM education is exciting and it’s fun for both male and females… they can make an education and career out of it.”

Zoller advises that unique engagement opportunities such as the Program on Demand initiative involve thinking creatively. “That doesn’t mean you have to recreate the wheel,” said Zoller. “Look at what you’re doing. What’s already available?”

Long term, Zoller sees benefits not only for the Girl Scouts, but the community as well. By fostering what Zoller calls “lifelong learning”, the Scouts will be confident in their pursuit of a STEM education, and K-State Salina will have gained valuable, hardworking students.

Zoller noted that considering what gains there can be for both the community and the university is important when pursuing engaged work.

The most rewarding aspect for Zoller is “seeing the girls learn something, get excited and say ‘I never thought I could do this.’”

There is no doubt the Girl Scouts are ready to take on the world of STEM. “We’re very proud of our partnership,” said Zoller.