Innovating and finding ways to stay connected to members has been a challenge for almost every organization during 2020. The Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida Council (GSSEF) were able to connect virtually through the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey on SciStarter during the summer of 2020.
This effort allowed the Council to safely reach a larger geographic area of girls (including overseas participants) and keep them engaged with the Girl Scouts program, helping them discover and further their interests in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as well as the outdoors.
About the Journey
The Girl Scouts and SciStarter have partnered to bring a unique opportunity to Girl Scouts of all ages. As part of the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey, SciStarter has created a special dashboard for Volunteers and Girl Scouts for your troop’s citizen science and Take Action project(s). SciStarter has almost 3,000 citizen science projects, events and tools listed for people of all ages to choose from — so the dashboards showcased in the Journey include a handful of citizen science projects that are well suited for Girl Scouts. There are projects that can be done in any season, keeping in mind that some parts of the country have 70-degree days in February, and some have blizzards!
GSSEF and the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey
GSSEF did a phenomenal job leveraging the Journey for a one-of-a-kind science experience. Vivien Tolley, STEM Program and Education Manager, led participants through a three-part event held on Saturdays that combined traditional Girl Scouts activities and targeted outcomes, developing skills by using the scientific method to make observations, form a question, make a prediction, record the data and share the results. The journey culminated during the third Saturday when girls shared their Take Action project through the use of a video or mini-billboard to encourage others to protect species or habitats and sustain biodiversity.
The Three Saturdays
The program was divided into two levels; Daisy/Brownie/Junior and Cadette/Senior/Ambassador Girl Scouts. Each level required participation in activities held on successive Saturdays.
The first Saturday’s activities included a prerecorded video to prepare the participants for the live virtual event on the following Saturday, covering an introduction to citizen science, the SciStarter online Girl Scouts platform, an explanation of biodiversity (along with directions and ideas to make SWAPS, which are traditional Girl Scout crafts — standing for “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere”), and snacks that tied into the Journey theme.
Attendees were also provided with a lab book that was colorful, packed with information and appealing to girls. The printable book had instructions and supporting material covered during the recording. The video provided a discussion of the equipment and possible alternatives needed to participate in the following week’s experiments. The girls were also given the equipment requirements as a checklist in the lab book. Finally, participants were asked to take a nature walk and make observations using a variety of their five senses, and record those observations in the field guide section.
During the second Saturday, girls watched a pre-recorded video, while Council staff monitored the streaming video chat to answer questions. Participants began working on experiments to sharpen a variety of skills to make them better citizen scientists. The event included an introductory video and step-by-step instructions for one of the select citizen science projects featured in the Journey (see https://SciStarter.com/girlscouts/info for details): ANT-vasion, a project to help scientists learn which foods deter various species of ants. Anyone of any age can learn about ANT-vasion on SciStarter, but we urge Girl Scouts to discover projects through the Journey, just like GSSEF did!
The last part of the event provided a series of short videos from environmental and educational organizations regarding biodiversity issues and problems faced in the natural world. The videos set the foundation for the girls to research a related topic for their Take Action video or create mini-billboard to help inspire others to preserve biodiversity. The lab book provided a link to the “Internet Safety Pledge” to remind the girls how to safely do research for their Take Action project.
On the third and final Saturday, participants had the opportunity to share their video or billboards with other Girl Scouts by uploading their work through the Council’s form builder. The event celebrated the girls achievements in becoming citizen scientists, and providing data to advance real scientific research. The Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey is a model of how to successfully offer virtual events when safely gathering in large groups is not possible, providing a way to reach out to members who may be too physically distant to participate face-to-face.
Get Started with Citizen Science through the Journey
As Citizen Science Month approaches in April, it’s the perfect time for more Girl Scouts across the United States to earn their Journeys across every Troop level. If conditions allow, troops could contact their local libraries, allowing plenty of time to accommodate library staff scheduling for a library tour to give tips on how to research a topic for valid and reliable information. Your local library may have public computer access to allow participation for those Girl Scouts who don’t have technology available at home.
Some libraries can host Girl Scouts meetings, and an increasing number of libraries are circulating citizen science kits containing everything needed to engage in projects!
Girls and their families can get started now to learn about citizen science and the Journey on SciStarter. For additional information on citizen science, visit SciStarter.org/Education to access an Introduction to Citizen Science tutorial. Scientists need help answering questions, and with citizen science, anyone can turn their curiosity into impact!
For more information about GSSEF’s Journey event, get in touch with Vivien Tolley.