The National Science Foundation recently reported that women -- at only 25 percent of the science, engineering and technology workforce -- remain underrepresented in most technical professions, while our nation's need for scientists and engineers remains unmet. In an attempt to overcome such daunting figures, NASA researchers, education professionals and the Girl Scout Council of Colonial Coast (GSCCC) have developed a series of interactive lectures for local Girl Scouts, encouraging more young women to study and enjoy science and engineering.
The third lecture of this year's series, "A tour of the planets: exploring other worlds," took place last weekend with an attendance of more than 75 participants. The Saturday morning Girl Scout Lecture Series in Earth and Space Science, now in its seventh year, is the inspiration of Arlene Levine of Langley's Science Directorate. Two years ago, the series moved from Langley’s Pearl Young Theater to the campus of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.
"It is very gratifying that so many Girl Scouts and Girl Scout leaders attend these lectures. We realize that there are many competing activities going on Saturday mornings, and yet these girls choose to explore topics in science," says Arlene Levine.
Image right: Girl Scouts trying out telescopes that they just made at a Saturday morning lecture presented by Langley Research Center personnel at Christopher Newport University.
Joel Levine, a senior research scientist in the Science Directorate, presented the lecture. He gave an overview of what we have learned about the planets in our solar system and how we better understand Earth through the study of other planets. He showed up-to-the-minute pictures from the Mars Exploration Rover, the Cassini/Huygens Saturn mission and the European Space Agency's Mars Express, as well as many images from the earlier NASA planetary missions. Following the lecture, the Girl Scouts and Girl Scout leaders built small refracting telescopes with kits provided at the workshop. The participants were also given a series of star maps showing the positions of the planets in the evening and morning sky.
"One of the goals of NASA is to inspire the next generation of explorers and that is what we are doing with this lecture series to Girl Scouts," said Joel Levine. "Women are an underrepresented group in the atmospheric and space science community. The Langley lecture series gives girls a chance to get excited about science in a non-threatening, all-girl environment."
An added benefit of the lecture series is its association with some of the science and technology badge requirements. The Girl Scout organization uses badges and awards to help girls test and stretch themselves. Arlene Levine has worked with the Girl Scouts to ensure that each lecture centers on a topic that can be applied to a Girl Scout badge. There are also activities included in each lecture that help the girls learn even more and work even closer to attaining their badge.
"One of our national goals is to introduce girls to science," said Marcy Germanotta, communications director for the GSCCC. "With that goal in mind, it is people like Arlene Levine who are so valuable to scouting." The GSCCC would like to encourage more women engineers and scientists to become involved in Girl Scouts by volunteering for programs like the lecture series.
Image left: The Girl Scouts of the United States of America, is the world's largest organization dedicated to helping all girls everywhere build character and gain skills for success in the real world.
The lecture series is sponsored by the Solar System Exploration Program of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Christopher Newport University (CNU) and the GSCCC. CNU hosts the events that are held on campus at least four times each year. Earlier lectures this year included "Planetary Magnetism" by Professor Martin Buoncristiani, Department of Physics, Computer Science and Engineering at CNU, and "How Airplanes Fly" by Mark Guynn of Langley Research Center. This year's final lecture will take place on Dec. 10. The lecture, "An Introduction to Weather," is open to all Girl Scouts and leaders. To participate in the lectures, Girl Scouts and leaders must register in advance with the GSCCC.
For more information:
Visit the Girl Scouts Council of Colonial Coast Web site: + http://www.gsccc.org/