GSUSA Supports STEM Mentoring

Girl Scout Troop 10031 from Pulaski at a STEM activity at Jefferson Community College
Girl Scout Troop 10031 from Pulaski at a STEM activity at Jefferson Community College

The New York Academy of Sciences (the Academy) and Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) announced a joint Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America Commitment to Action to raise $3 million for a program to provide middle school girls with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) role models and curricula activities. The announcement was made at the CGI America meeting in Chicago, hosted by former President Bill Clinton.

GSUSA and the Academy will blend two successful program – the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and the Academy’s Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program – for a nationally scalable STEM mentoring program for girls. Together, the two organizations will plan, design, and implement a program to place professional scientists and volunteers together with Girl Scouts to teach hands-on, inquiry-based STEM lessons. The partnership aims to address the significant science achievement gap for girls by providing mentors to help change girls’ attitudes toward STEM-related careers by increasing engagement, interest, and confidence in STEM subjects.

“We’re delighted to partners with the New York Academy of Sciences to expose more girls to STEM. What uniquely distinguishes STEM exploration via the Girl Scout program is a girl’s ability to learn about how her expertise in STEM has the ability to help others,” said Suzanne Harper, Senior Director of Program Resources at GSUSA. “We know that in the years ahead, America will need three million more scientists and engineers, and that girls and young women are shying away from these careers, even though record numbers of them express interest. We need to work together and forge partnerships with organizations such as the New York Academy of Sciences to change this trend.”

Dr. Meghan Groome, Executive Director of Education and Public Programs at the Academy, said: “Girls start to drop out of science fields at predictable time points, starting as early as fourth grade. The trend continues into adulthood, as evidenced by the fact that women hold only 24 percent of STEM jobs. This has serious implications for their participation in our increasingly knowledge-based economy, in which STEM skills translate to higher paying jobs in faster growing job sectors. Having a mentor is a proven strategy to help more girls stay in the STEM fields.”

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, though a majority of today’s girls have a clear interest in STEM, they don’t prioritize STEM fields when thinking about their future careers. In fact, the study found that:

  • 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM subjects and fields of study;
  • 81 percent of teen girls see themselves as “smart enough to have a career in STEM,” yet only 13 percent consider it their number-one career option;
  • Girls say they don’t know a lot about STEM careers and the opportunities afforded by these fields, with 60 percent of girls interested in science and technology acknowledging that they know more about other careers than they do about STEM fields; and
  • Just 46 percent of girls know a woman in a STEM career.

The partnership between GSUSA and the New York Academy of Sciences addresses a critical need by training, through the Academy of Sciences network, young women scientists who can serve as both role models and mentors for girls and work in collaboration with Girl Scout volunteers to bring high-quality, informal science education opportunities to middle school-age Girl Scouts.

The program will draw on the Academy’s expertise in managing large-scale partnerships; implementing a training and support program for hundreds of scientists each year; and understanding the importance of excellent teaching and learning along the STEM pipeline.

Girl Scouts will bring to the table their expertise as the premier girls’ leadership development organization in the country, with 3.2 million members and 59 million living alumnae – a group that includes a long list of achievers in the STEM subjects, from Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, to nearly every female astronaut. GSUSA continues to build on STEM initiatives for girls and to offer STEM-related badges for girls, such as website designer, inventors, and home scientist.

In order to support the proposed program – designed to engage more than 700 middle school girls, 30 female troop volunteers, and 70 female scientists over three years – fundraising activities will kick off within the first three months, beginning this summer.

The organizations will jointly raise $3 million to support activities such as recruiting and training mentors and Girl Scout volunteers, placing mentors in Girl Scout troops, and implementing and running the program full-time at three initial locations. The ultimate goal is to scale-up the program so that all middle school girls have the opportunity to be exposed to STEM learning through an expert mentor and through the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

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