Girl Scouts can earn 30 new badass badges in cybersecurity, space science, and more.

Girls Scouts can earn new leadership badges — and they’re awesome and relevant.

Girls Scouts introduced 30 new badges to its lineup, giving girls a broad range of STEM and environmental goals to reach. According to the organization's website:

"The new programming will prepare girls to address some of society’s most pressing needs through hands-on learning in cybersecurity, environmental advocacy, mechanical engineering, robotics, computer science, and space exploration."

Girl Scouts is partnering with industry leaders, such as Raytheon, Palo Alto Networks, and NASA to help launch the new programs.


Image via Girl Scouts of the USA.

That's good news for girls interested in science and technology — and great news for a society that needs more female representation in those fields.

Cybersecurity and mechanical engineering for kindergarteners? Yep.  

The new badges are split between two age groups: kindergarten to fifth grade, and sixth to 12th grade.

Badges for girls in kindergarten to fifth grade include cybersecurity and space science, introduced in age appropriate ways that encourage curiosity. Girl Scout Juniors — girls in fourth and fifth grade — can now earn badges in mechanical engineering for designing cranes, balloon-powered cars, and more as they learn about buoyancy, energy, machines, and jet propulsion.

For girls in grades sixth through 12th, badges can be earned in categories like robotics and environmental stewardship. Stewardship has been part of Girl Scouts since its founding in 1912, but the new environmental badge is designed to mobilize girls to be advocates who address problems, find solutions, and take leadership roles to protect the earth. Girls in 11th and 12th grade can earn badges in college knowledge as they prepare for the college admissions process, including navigating financial aid.

Image via Girl Scouts of the USA.

Older girls also have new STEM "Journeys" they can explore.

In addition to badges, Girls Scouts added new "Journeys" to its programming for grades six-12. In a Girl Scout Journey, a girl teams up with friends to identify a problem in the community or world, brainstorm solutions, make a team plan, put it into action, and share what she's learned from the process and what she'll do next.

These "Journeys" include the "Think Like a Programmer" program, which gives girls a foundation in solving problems through computational thinking and can help prepare girls for careers in cybersecurity, computer science, and robotics, and the "Think Like an Engineer" journey lets girls engage in hands-on design projects, teaching them how engineers think through problems and create solutions.

Image via Girl Scouts of the USA.

Encouraging girls in STEM fields and giving them real-world experience serves both individual girls and society at large.

Women have made big strides in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but they're still underrepresented in those fields. According to the National Science Foundation, women earn half of college degrees in the U.S., but only make up 29% of the science and engineering workforce. And that gap widens when you remove biological sciences from the equation.

For example, women make up:

  • 35.2% of chemists
  • 11.1% of physicists and astronomers
  • 33.8% of environmental engineers
  • 22.7% of chemical engineers
  • 17.5% of civil, architectural, and sanitary engineers
  • 17.1% of industrial engineers
  • 10.7% of electrical or computer hardware engineers
  • 7.9% of mechanical engineers

When fields are heavily dominated by one gender, stereotypes are reinforced, discrimination becomes easier, and we all lose out.

It's vital for girls who are interested in science and tech fields to have support and opportunity.

As Girls Scouts spokesperson Stewart Goodbody says, "Not only is it imperative that girls today are prepared to fill the STEM gap in the workforce, but we also know that girls’ passion for STEM increases when they see how it can help others and the world. Learning to use STEM to solve real-world problems is an unparalleled skill that will help Girl Scouts be the next generation of visionaries to solve countless environmental issues — as well as those in health, education, the economy, and more."

Goodbody points out that all Girl Scout programming is girl-led and designed around what girls have expressed interest in. This new programming will "push girls to be forward-thinking and equips them with skills that will help them become the innovative leaders of today and tomorrow."

Go, Girl Scouts, go.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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