Girl Scout fun: Kids can Think like an Engineer with this project

Our Girl Scout Troop had a fabulous year. But there was one problem: We had these great new robotics and engineering badges to work with and I had no idea how to lead the girls through these. Sure, we have the new volunteer toolkit which gives us great ideas, but we have a multi-level troop so I often have to find activities that all of our ages can enjoy. This is tough: This year we have Daisies, Brownies, Juniors AND Cadettes which included girls from Kindergarten (5 years old) on up to 6th grade. As you can imagine, lesson plans are complicated for our weekly meetings! But, we make it work and the girls have THRIVED this year! My co-leader and I are usually able to split up the younger girls from the older girls so they can have age appropriate meetings. But, in the event of an emergency with one of us, the older girls hang out with the younger ones to work on volunteering hours and leadership skills. It’s a great mix.

Think like an Engineer: Because Girl Scouting is what we call Girl-Led as much as it can be, I had asked the girls earlier in the year what were some things they’d like to do as a group. Rainbows seemed contagious and everyone wanted to MAKE things – not just cards and crafts, they wanted to be creative. Since our second year daisies earned many of the petals last year and our Brownie’s needed something more, we thought the Think like an Engineer Journey would be perfect. And it was. It includes the Think like an Engineer badge and a Take Action badge/project. I had to branch out and search through Pinterest for a while on this one. We may all be different ages, but we’re all on the journey together. About half of the troop has been together for two years now with just a year’s age difference (second year daisies and first year brownies). The rest joined us this year. But I knew they hadn’t done much in the way of engineering except school activities.

Think like an Engineer is a Journey, or kind of like a themed unit in school. Girls have to complete a variety of tasks before they can earn their journey award (Think like an Engineer, in this case). Journey’s are really about learning something new and then taking that information and creating a take action project for that which is more than just a service project. Although we don’t have to do the exact activities suggested, girls must meet the standards before earning each award.

Design processTo put it simply, the Think like an Engineer Journey is designed so that girls can start thinking like an engineer. Knowing how to do that will give them the skills needed to build better projects in the future and otherwise lead their peers and communities. They learn about the “Design Process” as you can see pictured. This journey took us about a month to complete to ensure the girls took home the skills needed.

Catapults

I snagged this idea from my son’s Cub Scout group and thought, hey, we can do that! So I brought a variety of materials one night to our meeting and put a few questions out there for the girls. “What if we needed to get something from one side of the room to the other, but couldn’t walk there? How would we fix this problem?” We’ve defined the need, and now they were brainstorming. We got all kinds of answers. “Ask for help,” “Find something else to use,” and eventually, someone shouted out something we could make: a catapult. Luckily, I was prepared in pure Girl Scout fashion and had the things we needed: Popsicle sticks, rubber bands and something to shoot across the tables. This is a great activity because it’s something they can repeat at home with little direction.

catapult

This is an example of what we made. We did not use the Easter egg shell in our design, although I had planned on bringing some (best laid plans often fail!). We talked about the design before we built our catapults. Then, we tested them out! We did use cotton balls, though, as our item to catapult across the table. We practiced a few times all together which was great fun. Although we didn’t tweak our designs any this go-around since it was our first engineering project, we did evaluate our designs and each of the girls suggested adding something to hold the item to be catapulted (like the egg shell). This was so much fun for all of the younger girls (Daisies and Brownies) and any brothers who happened to join us for the night. Several came up sheepishly to ask if they could join the Girl Scouting fun.

Find the supplies:

This looks like a lot of money for one project, but you could lower the price point by ordering less of each if you have a smaller group. Let’s assume we had plastic Easter eggs for the night to help us out (We really only would have needed 10 Easter eggs if everyone gets a half of one). We had 20 kids participate in this activity, which came out to about $1.10 per child. Plus, we obviously had extras for future projects, including our take action project which we’ll talk about later. $1.10 for a meeting per scout/child is not bad at all! And the best part? They had a blast.

I’ll write about other projects we did for this badge soon! Stay tuned! What’s your favorite project to do with kids?


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18 comments

  1. It was great to see you used an exercise that traditionally was done by boys and get girls to do it. Gender equality start at youngest age. I heard that even at a young age boys earn more for allowances than girls crazy! Anyways hats off to you.

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  2. What a great idea for a project to think like an engineer. It is good to get the kids thinking of new ideas and creativity, who knows what they may make or impact later in life too. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Sounds like an amazing badge and project to help young girls learn to problem solve and think creatively! I remember in middle school I had to invent a contraption to keep an egg from cracking when you dropped it down from the rooftop! It was super fun!
    xoxo
    Annie

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  4. I think it’s great that badges have been added that are more geared towards STEM. I didn’t have a badge like that growing up (that I can recall). I remember being so jealous of the cars my brother built with the Boy Scouts. I might go and make a catapult of my own now. šŸ™‚

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  5. This is a great project, great way to build creative thinking and solution getting mentality, starting young is always key.

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    Xoxo,
    Tiffany

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