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Famous physicist Carl Sagan once said that “we are all made of star-stuff.” The universe is full of exciting discoveries happening every day and you can be a part of it. If you want to explore our connection to the stars, dive into astronomy with your Girl Scouts! Whether your troop keeps up with every newly-discovered exoplanet or just likes to imagine alien civilizations, there are so many ways to connect with your inner astronaut, from the six new Girl Scout astronomy badges to STEM interest groups and more.
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Space Science Badges
The six new astronomy badges (one for each Girl Scout level) were funded as part of NASA’s Reaching for the Stars program, which also sponsored camps, Girl Scout astronomy clubs, and training for astronomers working with Girl Scouts. Released in 2018 and 2019, the six new Space Science badges were created by a team of astronomy and education experts organized by Pamela Harman, from cutting-edge organizations like SETI, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and of course the Girl Scouts of Northern California. Each badge went through three rounds of testing with Girl Scout troops, each time refining the activities until they were fun, informative, and worked for the girls and volunteers using them. The badges include engaging hands-on activities to try on your own or with a group of girls. Learn to take pictures of the night sky, discover what makes rainbows appear, or dance your year on another planet. The possibilities are limitless and the badges will guide you through each step.
Host a Space Science Troop Meeting
Ready to rocket your troop to the next level? Bring the majesty and vastness of space down to earth with a space-science-themed troop meeting. Discuss space science news like the all-woman spacewalk, talk about amazing female astronauts like Mae Jamison and Sally Ride, make a model of our solar system, or watch an episode of Cosmos. Even if you don’t have time to dedicate a whole meeting to a discussion, doing research and talking with your girls about the subject can be enough to catch their interest—you might find yourself with a troop full of space fans!
Join an Astronomy Club
Did you know that even if your town doesn’t have a big science museum, there is likely an amateur astronomy club nearby? Anyone can be a member of an astronomy club. All it takes is an interest in learning more about space. Whether you want to hear experts talking about the latest space stories or join a group observing under dark skies, astronomy clubs provide a social way to engage in your love of everything spacey. Club members welcome new astronomy enthusiasts, answering questions and helping beginners get started with the right gear and find your way around the constellations. Find your local astronomy club and any upcoming events nearby through the NASA Night Sky Network.
Pro Tip: Love space? Join a Girl Scout Astronomy Club, where Girl Scouts 8th grade and older can explore the cosmos, plan field trips, enjoy night sky viewings, and more space related activities!
Plan a Space Science Field Trip
As part of your working on a badge or just for fun, explore the stars outside your usual troop meeting! Astronomy clubs may help you get comfortable with the dark, but there’s nothing more exciting than camping with your fellow Girl Scouts under the night sky. Imagine lying back in a field, seeing the path of the Milky Way across the sky, and knowing where you fit into that great cosmic disk. At the next campout, you could be the one giving star tours on the night hike or showing off Jupiter’s moons in a pair of binoculars. All it takes is your interest and a few tidbits of wisdom from your local amateur astronomers or planetarium friends. Plan a hike or field trip out where you can see the stars better than you can in the city, visit a planetarium, or organize a tour of an observatory. The sky’s the limit!
Find a Citizen Science Project
If you prefer armchair astronomy you can still discover out-of-this-world opportunities, and maybe even contribute to new discoveries by working on a Citizen Science project. Form a team and search for asteroids or use an app to catch cosmic rays. Scientists need lots of help from us to search for the needle in the haystack of the sky. You can detect brand new craters on the moon or possibly find a comet passing by the sun. The Astronomical League offers pins for completing observing challenges. Start simple with learning some constellations or identifying the highlights of binocular astronomy. Then work your way up to deep sky objects and observing special events – like a solar eclipse.
Everyone can be an astronomer, from occasional stargazer to professional astrophysicist like the Girl Scout’s CEO Sylvia Acevedo. There are so many ways to for your Girl Scouts to explore the stars—and beyond. The universe is waiting to be discovered by you!
What to do next:
- Visit our website for more information on the Space Science Badges and learn how you can incorporate the badges into your troop’s year plan.
- Have experience in astronomy that you want to share with this generation of girls in STEM? Amateur astronomers can join the Night Sky Network and share their expertise with local Girl Scout troops. Sign up today.
- Stay up-to-date on the latest news about NASA’s Girl Scouts Reaching for the Stars program and learn about opportunities for your Girl Scout troop.
Vivian White—Vivian is the Director of Free-Choice Learning at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco. By day, Vivian works with amateur astronomers and museums, creating and sharing astronomy activities with those who love them. After work, she zooms across the Bay to an adventurous seven-year-old explorer and they wander far and wide, looking for adventures and trouble. (They are frequently successful.) Vivian can often be found stargazing, swimming, or throwing pots on my kick wheel.