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Girl Scouts Go Polar: Exploring Arctic STEM Careers

Girl Scouts from troop 16190 sit around a bouy.
Girl Scout Troop 16190 from Basalt, Colo. explores Arctic buoys with Sarah Johnson, a climate change educator, and an Arctic field scientist.

I'm a Colorado Girl Scout Global Action Team volunteer, a climate change educator, and an Arctic field scientist. Girl Scouts has always been for me a place and an opportunity to build community, make friends, explore new things, and go on adventures together with kind and generous girls and women.

A buoy with small decorated wooden boats attached. Signs next to it read "Cub Scouts Pack 132, Easy Brunswick, New Jersey" and "Girl Scouts Troop 16190, Basalt, Colorado."
Cadette troop 16190’s boats deployed at the ‘top of the world’ on the Arctic Ocean sea ice on April 4, 2023.

The Arctic Ocean is really far away from us in Colorado. Sharing my Arctic experience with Girl Scouts advances Global Girl Scouting while also exploring STEM careers at every age level and earning a badge. In January 2023 I reached out to my local Cadette troop of 6th graders as well as the Girl Scouts in Utqiaġvik, Alaska at the top of the world to find out if they would be interested in me sharing the Arctic buoys, weather and sea ice along with the Float Your Boat program.

You may be wondering how you find the Girl Scouts near the Arctic Ocean. At the Farthest North Girl Scout Council, headquartered in Fairbanks, Alaska, the staff graciously received my phone call and then sent me an email with the two (yes there are two troops in this rural Arctic village) troop leaders' contact information. And with a bit of communication, we had a plan in place to visit one of the troop’s early April 2023 meetings at the Utqiaġvik middle school cafeteria.

My teammate from the US National Ice Center, Lt. Sarena Padilla in Washington DC joined me during the meeting and we shared our stories with the girls while also learning from them. We learned about many different women scientists using comic cards designed by Karen Romano Young. We also explored USGS Earthshots satellite imagery to better understand environmental change.

Girl Scout Troop 16191 sits in a circle around a map of the Arctic and a buoy.
Sarah Johnson teaching Colorado Girl Scouts in Basalt about Arctic buoys and sea ice motion of the Arctic Ocean.

Back home in early March in Basalt, Colorado I shared the Arctic with Cadette Troop 16109 led by Katie Hone Wiltgen. More than a dozen 6th-grade girls learned about Arctic ocean currents, sea ice, weather buoys, polar expedition gear, and participated in Float Your Boat. Each girl decorated a small wooden boat with a unique serial number that was deployed with a parent buoy on the Arctic sea ice on April 4, 2023. I had the opportunity to personally deliver and place the boats on the sea ice along with nearly 400 others from young people and community members around the world. Now, as the sea ice drifts with the ocean currents, the small wooden boats will ride along for the next year or two and perhaps make their journey all the way across the Arctic and North Pole to Iceland or Norway via the Trans Polar Current and be found by a beachcomber who then reports it found to the Float Your Boat team such as these have been.

Even while in the field for a few weeks in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, my volunteer roles with the World Association for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) continued with virtual meetings and correspondence. It's incredible to have connections with young women mentees and friends around the world while at the top of the world. I also shared my Arctic work during the March 11 WAGGGS global STEM event that happened at 1 a.m. for us in our mountain time zone. View WAGGGS STEM webinar recording.

When you are considering traveling across the state, the country, or as far as the Arctic Ocean always consider finding the local Girl Scouts to exchange in fun, connections, learning about the region, and really getting the ‘local’s view’ on the place you’re visiting weather with your troop, your family, professional travel, or with friends. Your experience could create a deeper, richer and more meaningful experience as you look wider.


1 Comment

It's cool, especially cool that you are studying this at such a young age, I hope you will put your knowledge into practice in the near future, it will be the best experience of your life. When we were scouts, unfortunately, we didn't get to practice, although we went through all the theoretical aspects, even the topics of applications for economic research , and I personally did well in this. In general, the boys were very upset that they were unable to visit the Antarctic, it was their childhood dream that unfortunately did not come true.

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