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.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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