The Girl Scouts are going mobile in the Sacramento region to help close the science and technology gender gap for low-income girls – by rolling out a STEM space in a renovated 30-foot RV.
The Girl Scouts Heart of Central California regional council already has two permanent STEM centers in Sacramento and Modesto. Its Sacramento center, which debuted in November 2017, was one of the first Girl Scouts STEM centers to open nationwide.
The first year, the two spaces hosted 1,700 girls, according to Beth Peters, manager of STEM initiatives at Girl Scouts. “And already this year, we’ve served 2,100 girls, so we are just growing and amplifying and expanding, and it’s really exciting,” Peters said.
However, the two STEM centers weren’t reaching all 18,000 Girl Scouts in the council’s 18-county region stretching from Yuba to Merced, including Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto as well as the Sierra foothills. So the mobile STEM Center + MakerSpace, a customized recreational vehicle, was created to reach more girls, especially those in undeserved populations and remote areas.
“If you live a little far away, and it starts at 5:30 or 6, it’s so hard to get here from work as a parent, so we want to bring it to them,” Peters said.
Girl Scouts wants to help close the low-income gender gap by bringing their curriculum for STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – to girls most at risk for failing in school as identified by Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
“We built this because we want girls to get more involved in STEM, but if parents don’t know how to do it, then they’re not going to, so we are bringing that to them,” Peters said.
The new mobile STEM center has brand-new workshop benches and stools for girls to participate in activities ranging from solving crime scenes to building their own Mars rovers. Work spaces are meant to be as versatile as possible so girls can work on any of their badges in the new mobile STEM center. However, it does include one permanent feature called the “marble activity,” a popular engineering exercise in the first two STEM centers.
Organizers plan to drive the mobile STEM center to specific locations, park, and then put awning and tables in front of the RV so that girls can participate in activities both outside and inside.
“It’s actually built from scratch. It’s all custom made,” Peters said of the RV. It also has a wheelchair lift to make it more accessible.
The $250,000 cost of the mobile STEM center was covered by donations from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the county of Sacramento, and an anonymous donor – and by Girl Scout cookie sales.
GSHCC is hoping to serve more than 2,100 girls just on the new mobile STEM center alone. It will begin its journey Monday with its first stop at an elementary school in Sacramento. “I want to visit every region at least once in our first six to eight months,” Peters said. “We’ll take a grand tour.”