It’s back-to-school time again! And for thousands of kids and teens across western Washington, that means it’s back to science class … even if it’s not everyone’s favorite subject.
This is especially true for girls: only 14% of girls say they want to become scientists.
But this year, fourth and fifth graders in the Edmonds School District will be using something new to explore science, technology, engineering and math: special STEM Kits created by Gold Award Girl Scout Jessica Dyck.
“Science has always just clicked for me,” says Jessica. “I’ve always loved puzzles and how things work together, and I wanted to find a way to share my love of science with others. I wanted to help students understand the magic behind science.”
Spotting the Challenge
Jessica decided to focus her project on fourth and fifth graders, for one big reason: “At this age, kids often decide if they enjoy or despise science.”
If she could make the science something fun for youngsters, it could set them up for success further down the road.
“If elementary school kids really get the basics of science, they will do much better when they actually get to high school,” Jessica points out.
Jessica’s theory is backed up by research.
For example, when girls are shown exactly what an engineer actually does, 76% get interested in engineering.
Plus, to Jessica, science is way more than just teaching kids scientific concepts. “Science teaches people how to solve problems and think analytically, which helps with everyday activities,” explains Jessica. “STEM education can empower everyone to be their best—in the classroom and out!”
Making It Happen
“In Girl Scouts, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to simply have an idea,” notes Jessica. “To put it into action takes networking, communication and planning.”
So she started by reaching out to several advisors. “I don’t have a science degree yet, so I didn’t feel totally qualified to design all the activities.”
But with help, the science-inspired kits began to take form.
The end result: Each kit contains nine activities that have hands-on exploration and also tie into the Next Generation Science Standards.
The activities—which focus on ecosystems and energy—are meant to be fun (Jessica’s favorite one is called the Food Web game!) and easy-to-grasp. “For each activity, I tried to cover all forms of learning since students learn in a variety of ways. There are Prezi’s, worksheets, games and crafts. “
Cost was another challenge. “The kits have to be cost efficient and use supplies that are already at schools or in the community,” says Jessica. “If the kits are too expensive, they can’t be sustained very long due to budget.”
Through trial and error (and some creative recycling ideas), Jessica managed to reduce the cost of each kit to around $30. “Now it’s cost efficient and resourceful!”
Girl Scouts Rally to Support STEM
Even with the cost-saving measures, Jessica’s project required some initial start-up funds. So she turned to her Girl Scout community for help. And they certainly rose to the challenge—over two hundred Girl Scouts helped with a fundraising swim event!
“I would be lost without Girl Scouts,” Jessica confesses.
“Being a scout has shown me what I want to be in life and given me people to journey it with. It’s a community I can connect with and rely on. Girl Scouts is central to my identity.”
Jessica joined Troop 40812 when she was just five years old. Her mom is also a Girl Scout, so it’s really a family affair. “Technically I went to my first camp in the womb,” laughs Jessica. “So I’ve always been a Girl Scout!”
“Girl Scouts has taught me to lead and listen to others, speak up for myself, and so many other life lessons,” she adds. “It has opened up so many opportunities for me, and I know that even more doors are opening for younger girls. I’ll be a Girl Scout for life!”
The Finishing Touches
Jessica is waiting on the final approval from the Edmonds School District, but if all goes well, her STEM Kits will be distributed to classrooms in Seaview Elementary, Lynndale Elementary, Meadowdale Elementary and Beverly Elementary this fall.
In the meantime, Jessica’s looking forward to seeing the STEM Kits in action. “No matter where I go, I’ll know that I made a difference in my community.”
Jessica Dyck is a freshman the University of Puget Sound and is studying biochemistry. The Go Gold series features some of our amazing Gold Award Girl Scouts. If you know a Girl Scout you’d like to nominate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.