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Brownie Girl Scouts love to explore outside! Whether you’re on a troop camping trip in the woods or in the backyard with your girl, the outdoors is a great place for girls to develop their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills. Here are 6 Brownie badges and awards found on the Volunteer Toolkit and in badge booklets that girls can earn as they explore nature:
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1. Bugs Badge
Challenge the girls to find three different bugs and watch them closely; could be an ant carrying food, a beetle chewing on a leaf, or a butterfly gathering nectar from a flower. Encourage them to look on the ground, on leaves, and near water. Find a spider web and see if the spider is still spinning its web, or has snagged itself a meal! Encourage girls to ask questions about what they are observing and do further research by asking experts, visiting museums, zoos or nature centers, or finding the answers on their own at the library or online.
Pro Tip: Some girls may be genuinely afraid of bugs, and that’s ok! Be sensitive to their feelings and create an environment where they are encouraged to participate, but never forced to do something out of their comfort range.
2. Senses Badge
While outdoors, be sure girls take time to use their senses and be aware of their surroundings. On a nature hike, have the girls stop and stand as still as possible for one minute. Have them put up a finger for every different sound they hear. Encourage girls to share their observations. Play a scavenger hunt game where girls find different textures in the natural world such as smooth, bumpy, hard, soft, cold, and prickly.
Pro Tip: Be sure that girls can identify poison oak, stinging nettles, and other plants that may irritate their skin. Also, do not have them touch animals or insects in the wild, as they may bite, sting, or cause skin irritation. Never give girls wild plants, mushrooms, or berries to taste.
3. Eco Friend Badge
Stress the importance of protecting the natural habitats with your girls. Have them stop to closely observe the environment. Brownie Girl Scouts love to use magnifying lenses and bug boxes to help them observe. Instead of taking items home from nature, create art projects about what was seen. Campfires are a lot of fun, but can be dangerous, too. Share the science and safety of fires with girls.
Pro Tip: Be sure to share the Leave No Trace philosophy with the girls. Remember, Girl Scouts always leave a place cleaner than they find it.
4. Space Science Adventurer Badge
Whether you’re outside during the day or at night, have the girls look up! Can they see the moon? What other sky objects do the girls see? Have girls draw how the moon appears to change over a month. See if there is a Night Sky Network Club in your area and attend one of their events.
Pro Tip: Telescopes are great, but not necessary to view the night sky. Often binoculars actually work better for Brownie Girl Scouts to observe the moon and other night sky objects.
5. Outdoor Adventurer Badge
Do your girls crave adventure in the outdoors? Join them on an after-dark hike and listen for nocturnal animals, or do a night-time scavenger hunt to look for crickets or the Big Dipper. Observe the clouds on a sunny day. Find an outdoor space the girls would like to improve and have them make a difference.
Pro Tip: Be aware that some girls may crave adventure while others are very reluctant to step outside of their comfort zone. Some may have very legitimate reasons for why they are not comfortable. Before going on an “adventure” be sure you know how individuals may be feeling. While some may be ready to go on a night hike without flashlights, others may be anxious about going into a redwood forest during the day.
6. Citizen Science Journey
Do your girls want to contribute to current scientific studies? As budding citizen scientists, they can take photos of clouds or streams to document changes in nature, count visible stars to assist in scientific studies on light pollution, use natural products to see what deters ants from approaching a bait, and more! Girls use the scientific method while participating in a citizen science project. They make observations and collect data which they send to scientists. The scientist analyzes the information received and uses it to better understand their research questions.
Pro Tip: After reviewing the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey on the Volunteer Toolkit, review the various SciStarter projects with the girls and have them choose their topic. It may also be helpful to view the multi-level K-5 meeting overview.
One of my favorite Rachel Carson quotes is, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder… he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Whether you’re a volunteer, parent, family member, or friend, you can be that adult who shares your enthusiasm for the natural world and keeps a Girl Scout’s sense of wonder alive!
So get outdoors to explore the world with a scientist’s curiosity, and bring your girls to inspire them to do the same!
What to do next:
- Explore the VTK to get started on all those outdoor badges and awards.
- Take on more STEM activities that can take place inside or outside. Outdoor activities aren’t just for Brownies! Try out these nature activities for Girl Scouts of all ages.
Jean Fahy, M.Ed—Jean is the STEM Program Director for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she and her team partner with experts and volunteers throughout the council to offer unique STEM experiences to girls. She has taught math and science at elementary through high school and has spent many summers as Girl Scout Camp staff sharing her love of nature with girls. When she is not involved in Girl Scout activities, she loves to hike in the Oakland hills and camp in the Sierras with her family and dog, Tyler.