Girl Scouts step up with badges tied to STEM, cybersecurity – NewHampshire.com

Posted: July 30, 2017 at 2:29 pm


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Now going into eighth grade, she's setting her sights on a topic a bit more complicated than the cookie business: cybersecurity.

The 12-year-old from Palmdale, Calif., is one of 1.8 million Girl Scouts nationwide who will have the opportunity starting in 2018 to adorn their vests, tunics and sashes with merit badges for information security, an addition announced in June.

And last week, Girl Scouts of the USA introduced another 23 new badges in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and the outdoors.

"Girl Scouts will be able to design robots and racecars, go on environmentally conscious camping trips, create algorithms, collect data in the great outdoors, try their hand at engineering," the Girl Scouts said when announcing the badges.

The moves illustrate the ongoing evolution of the 105-year-old organization, which in recent years has expanded its merit badges beyond those associated with traditionally feminine skills - think "babysitter" or "dinner party."

It's a shift Lewelling appreciates.

"I'll definitely be trying to get cybersecurity badges," she said. "I'm going into eighth grade now and we use technology for everything so I want to know how I can protect myself online."

The 18 cybersecurity badges - earned by mastering online safety, dealing with cyberbullies and coding, among other skills - are the result of a multiyear partnership between the Girl Scouts and Palo Alto Networks, a security company in California's Silicon Valley.

It's not the first technology-and-Scouting collaboration. Girl Scouts of the USA recently partnered with Google to offer coding activities.

Young Daisies and Brownies won't be fending off cyberattacks from hackers and rogue nation states - there's an age-appropriate curriculum designed with help from Palo Alto Networks that includes basic computer skills, techniques for staying safe online, and practice in keeping private information private.

All of the new badges join an increasingly contemporary array of insignias ("computer expert," "inventor," "product designer" and "website designer" were all added in recent years), though the organization has not purged longstanding badges or themes.

The badges will be available to troops across the country, though local chapters can supplement them with additional patches and programs.

The expansion of science and technology-related badges and programs marks "a real transitional moment for the Girl Scouts," said Kathleen Denny, adjunct professor of sociology at Trinity University, who has researched the Girl Scouts.

"A historian writing about the Girl Scouts once said the organization was looking to develop a traditional, up-to-date woman," Denny said. "They've always had that progressive, feminist impulse - but never losing sight of the preparation for more traditional roles of wives and mothers."

The new badges could help young women see a place for themselves in the technology industry - a booming sector, but one known for its gender gap.

A study by research firm Frost & Sullivan found that women hold only 11 percent of information security jobs globally.

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July 30th, 2017 at 2:29 pm