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Idaho Enterprise

Girl Scouts Host STEM night at Park

Last week, Kristen McAdams of the Girl Scouts Program Department brought a grant-funded night of STEM activities to Malad as part of the organization’s Eastern Idaho outreach.  The night was designed to introduce girls to the possibilities in the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs in a variety of hands-on ways.  The primary activities of the night, locally hosted by Laura Dickerson and Lisa Lamb, involved a biology scavenger hunt and a demonstration of binary code.

McAdams, who had stopped in Malad on her way to a number of surrounding areas to perform a similar series of classes, introduced herself to the group of gathered girls by explaining that “I went to school to study how things worked.  For me, I wanted to know how living things worked, so I went into a subject called Biology.  I got to write a long story for other biologists about some things that I found out, and I got what’s called a doctorate.  But here’s the thing—you don’t need to do all that to find things out.  There are all kinds of things you can find out in your own backyard, or in a park like this one!”

The girls were given notebooks and pens and then sent off across the park to find as many “natural” things as they could within 10 minutes.  Afterward, the girls gathered around a white board, while McAdams listed out the things they had found.  “Grass! Dandelions! Ladybugs! A spider! Twigs! Clouds!” Ultimately, the list ended up with twenty or so items, and led to a conversation about observation and looking at things like a scientist.  Laura Dickerson and Lisa Lamb smiled as their girls jumped into the conversation about what other things might count as natural.  “Us! The Sun!”  

At the end of the first session, McAdams encouraged the girls to keep making notes in their notebooks.  “Those are for you—I’d like to encourage you to take them home and keep discovering things.”

The next activity involved making keychains, on which the girls converted their initials to binary code in beads.  “We’re going to be making these with a secret code,” she said to the table of talkative girls.  “It’s the language computers use to talk to each other.  The same way that words are made out of certain combinations of letters, that’s how words get made in binary too.  Except binary only really has two letters, so it looks a little different.”  As they began to figure out the connection between the binary code “alphabet” and their names, the conversation shifted to involve computers themselves, which is what McAdams was hoping for. 

“This is one example of a thing—computers—that’s a major part of everyone’s lives that we don’t always think about.  For me, it’s important to expose the ideas in STEM to girls as young as possible.  It’s great for them to see how these kinds of sciences are part of their everyday lives,” McAdams said.  “And the basic STEM skills are so useful for a lot of things as you go through life.”

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