Florida State University’s College of Communication & Information (CCI) has partnered with the Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle (GSCFP) to help with the organization’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative by offering “Girl Scouts do STEM: Technology Camps” during the month of December.
Florida State students, including members of the FSU STARS (Students & Technology in Academia, Research & Service) Alliance, offered four different free classes to help girls from different age groups earn STEM related badges. Age groups included: Brownie (2nd-3rd), Junior (4th-5th), Cadette (6th-8th) and Senior (9th-10th).
Recent graduate Allison Loehr, a member of FSU STARS and a former Girl Scout, is credited with spearheading the partnership after seeing how the College’s various STARS outreach projects had impacted middle and high school students over the last few years.
“It was interesting to see how much emphasis we put on outreach as a College,” Loehr said. “I never remember any student coming and speaking at my high school and telling me how important technology is or talking about careers. It was nice to be part of a group that does that.
“I wanted to come up with a project on my own and create something that could continue past my graduation. I remembered my experiences with Girl Scouts and did some research on the Girl Scouts of the Florida Panhandle’s website, which had information on STEM badges and STEM initiatives. That clicked with me.”
Loehr, along with Associate Dean Ebe Randeree, met with GSCFP to set the short-term goal of offering classes with a long-term goal of getting girls more interested in technology at a younger age. Only 25.6 percent of information technology professionals are female in an industry that is one of the nation’s fastest-growing sectors of the economy and predicted to add 1.4 million jobs by 2020.
“Getting girls interested in technology early is important,” Randeree said. “It helps to build lifelong passions and the College has had numerous outreach programs to reach young women and keeps girls interested in STEM.”
According to the report “Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” by the Girl Scout Research Institute released in 2012, “girls are interested in STEM fields and aspire to STEM careers the study shows, but need more exposure and adult support to carry this interest into the future.”
“This partnership is good start for the Girl Scouts and for our students,” CCI Dean Larry Dennis said. “Our students are able to share their knowledge and skills while they mentor the next generation, and we will help to close the gender gap by getting more females interested in STEM.”
“It’s never too early to start dreaming about what you want to do,” Loehr said. “I hope these classes help them figure that out.”
The classes were held in the Mac Lab in the Johnston Building on Florida State’s campus. The Brownies earned their Computer Expert badge and the Juniors earned a Digital Photography badge on Dec. 7. CCI taught Cadettes their Digital Movie Maker badge and Seniors their Web Designer badge on Dec. 14.
Lynnsey Weissenberger, a doctoral student in FSU’s School of Library & Information Studies, taught classes for the Brownies and Juniors. The Brownies focused on information seeking literacy and basic computer techniques, while the Juniors took digital photos and used free web-based tools to edit the images with different techniques.
Michael Helfrich, an undergraduate IT student in FSU’s School of Library & Information Studies, taught classes for the Cadettes and Seniors. The Cadettes focused on digital video production and iMovie, while the Seniors designed web sites.
“It’s tough to cover everything in only three hours, but I think it will pique their interest to finding more information using different keyboard shortcuts or different programs on their home computers,” Weissenberger said.
“We will offer follow-up programs and ongoing training beyond the introduction classes, ” Randeree said.
The Brownies and Juniors classes were full, and parents are already expressing interest in more workshops in the Spring.
“Mr. Randeree and his team have been instrumental in bringing STEM to our local Girl Scouts,” Amy Jones from GSCFP said. “We are extremely excited that this pilot program will be given another opportunity in the Spring.”
Florida State is the only college or university that has partnered with GSCFP to teach STEM classes. GSCFP serves the 19 counties in the Florida Panhandle.
For more information on Girl Scout STEM Camps, contact Amy Jones of GSCFP at 850-386-2131 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For students interested in assisting in this outreach project, contact Ebe Randeree at Ebe.Randeree@cci.fsu.edu.