Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida’s Model for Staying Virtually Connected to Citizen Science

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.

Troop 24016 met in-person as a socially distanced troop to complete the Think like a Citizen Scientist Journey.

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.

Jiya, a junior from troop 1434 picked a beautiful day to go for a walk in nature to practice her observation skills.

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!

Katie from troop 12010 set up her ANT-Vasion experiment in her back yard.

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.

Zoey from troop 223 practiced her observation skills on her nature walk

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.

Arianna from troop 2334 chose a butterfly theme for her traditional Girl Scout Craft known as SWAPS

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.

Think Like a Citizen Scientist Lab Book to accompany this virtual program.

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.

Julia from troop 20435 enjoyed a nature walk with her family as part of the program.

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!

Isabella from troop 3200 chose a bee theme for her traditional Girl Scout Craft known as SWAPS

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.

Madison from troop 706 enjoyed experimenting with an orange to find out more about density and making predictions.

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.

Kamal from troop 855 loved making her snail theme stack as a treat while working on her Girl Scout Journey.

Get Started with Citizen Science through the Journey

Rosie from troop 4875 enjoyed getting out in nature on her walk.

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.

Aria from troop 331 and her mom took a little break after all their hard work tallying the living things they observed on their nature walk

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!

Kara carefully set up her ANT-Vasion experiment is a spot in her yard where she had seen ants before.

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.

Vivien Tolley has been the STEM Program and Education Manager with the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida for just over a year. This position is made possible through generous sponsorship from Florida Power & Light. She is responsible for the creation and execution of Council-sponsored girl programs, as well as coordination and oversight of the comprehensive expansion of STEM program opportunities for girls in Southeast Florida. Girls are natural-born scientists! They look at the world around them with inquisitive eyes, experiment and push boundaries, and learn as they go. The GSSEF team introduces Girl Scouts of every age to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to help them see how they can actually improve the world—whether they’re discovering how a car’s engine runs, contributing to a citizen science project discovered on SciStarter, or caring for animals.

Categories: Citizen Science, Girl Scouts

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About the Author

Robin Salthouse

Robin Salthouse recently retired as an Adult Services Supervisor Librarian at Maricopa County Library District in Arizona. During the last two years, she served as public library liaison for an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant which is funding Arizona State University (ASU) and SciStarter's project, Libraries as Community Hubs for Citizen Science. The project worked with six Phoenix Valley libraries, and their communities to develop, create, and now check out five kits with tools, and directions that allow patrons to gather, and submit data. The kits and subsequent data submissions have successfully helped several research projects. Current and future grant goals are to scale the kits throughout Arizona and U.S. libraries. Robin, now a Kingston, Washington resident serves as a consultant to both ASU and SciStarter.