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Girl Scouts Works with the SETI Institute and NASA to Skyrocket Girls’ Interest in STEM


Since 1920, Girl Scouts have had the opportunity to earn badges that encourage their interest in astronomy. Today, Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois and Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) are excited to announce a five-year program called Reaching for the Stars: NASA Science for Girl Scouts. Funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and led by SETI Institute, the program offers more girls opportunities to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through the first-ever Space Science badges.

Research shows women are still vastly underrepresented in STEM fields and exposing girls to these subjects at a young age is vital to ignite their curiosity and close this gap. In response, together with five partners—SETI Institute, Girl Scouts of Northern California, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the University of Arizona, and ARIES Scientific—GSUSA and Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois are equipping girls as young as five years old with the confidence and skills they need to take their STEM interest to the next level.

At the center of the collaboration are new Space Science badges for girls at every Girl Scout grade level. These badges, combined with GSUSA’s larger suite of national STEM programming, provide a seamless pathway for girls to develop a lifetime love of the cosmos and its endless possibilities. The badges range from Space Science Explorer, which introduces Daisies in kindergarten and first grade to the fundamentals of space science, to Space Science Master, which engages Ambassadors in grades 11–12 in their own explorations of space based on research that NASA scientists are conducting. Other badges include Space Science Adventurer (for Brownies), Space Science Investigator (for Juniors), Space Science Researcher (for Cadettes), and Space Science Expert (for Seniors).

By 2019, the Space Science badges will join GSUSA’s already robust roster of STEM badges for girls, and all badge content and activities will be delivered to volunteers through the organization’s national online Volunteer Toolkit. This “digital assistant” for troop leaders, volunteers, and parents not only makes it easier than ever to plan meetings and activities but also makes STEM programming more accessible and understandable for volunteers, reducing the intimidation some feel when guiding girls’ STEM experiences.

Additionally, thanks to NASA’s funding, this summer Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois and 90 Girl Scout councils across the United States received kits filled with materials that allow girls to explore space science and eclipse-related activities, leading up to the August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. The kits include instructions for educational activities, such as using smartphones or digital cameras to “see” infrared light, using the sun to tell time, and building a solar oven.

Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois CEO Sarah Durbin notes, "The girls are thrilled to be at the epicenter of the path of the eclipse. We are hosting a group of girls from around the country and the world to partake in a myriad of educational and empowering activities surrounding the Total Eclipse of the Heartland August 18-22, 2017. These events include a visit to the Saint Louis Science Center’s Live Sky Eclipse and Eclipse Lab program; a visit to the Challenger Mission Expedition Mars and Rocketry Workshop; a Skype session with Dr. Sandy Magnus, Girl Scout alumna and former NASA astronaut; and a trip to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois for the actual eclipse viewing. This is a very exciting time for our girls. We are so proud and excited to connect our STEM programming with such a vibrant opportunity that just happens to pass through our girls’ back yards.”

“We are incredibly grateful for SETI Institute’s partnership and the funding from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to make space-science learning even more accessible to girls,” said GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. “My experience as a Girl Scout prompted my love of all things STEM, and served as the foundation for my future career as a rocket scientist. It also empowered me with the leadership skills and confidence to excel within a male-dominated field. Now, through this collaboration, even more girls will have the opportunity to explore the exciting realm of space science, in the supportive and holistic environment that Girl Scouts provides.”

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (2012), though a majority of girls find STEM fields interesting (including 74 percent of teen girls), gender barriers persist: only 13 percent of girls say their first career choice would be in STEM, and 57 percent say that if they went into a STEM career, they’d have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously. In addition, extracurricular engagement in STEM among girls remains low. Only a third (36 percent) of girls who identify as having an interest in STEM report having participated in STEM activities outside school.

Girl Scouts has long been committed to challenging stereotypes and providing girls of all ages with interactive and engaging programs that increase their interest in STEM. In fact, the Girl Scout Research Institute’s The Girl Scout Impact Study (2017) found that Girl Scouts are more likely than non–Girl Scouts to participate in STEM activities, such as conducting science experiments, designing video games, and building robots (60 percent versus 35 percent). And Girl Scouts goes beyond offering STEM content by also providing a supportive all-girl environment that fosters social, emotional, and leadership development, the ingredients girls need to develop the confidence to persevere and succeed.

“Girl Scouts, SETI Institute, and NASA have a rich heritage of working together to give girls more opportunities to learn about space science, and we are excited to advance the cause,” said SETI Institute Director of Education Edna DeVore. “With the resilience, ingenuity, and courage Girl Scouts instills in girls, it’s no surprise that many female astronauts in the United States are Girl Scout alumnae. We recognize today’s girls are tomorrow’s STEM leaders, and with the new badges and programming, Girl Scouts everywhere will have access to even more of these opportunities, building the next generation of women leaders in STEM that we so desperately need.”

Along with the new badges and total solar eclipse events, GSUSA’s collaboration with NASA and SETI Institute supports leadership training in astronomy for Girl Scouts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Arizona.

To join or volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, visit or call 800-345-6858