Community Partner Spotlight: Northwest Missouri State University
“Getting your hands dirty” is an expression we hear when we’re about to jump into a task that will take a lot of work and involvement. For girls who attend the annual Girl Scout Science Day at Northwest Missouri State University (NWMSU), it means getting a hands-on experience with awesome STEM activities, especially in the earth sciences area. Hosted by Sigma Gamma Epsilon (the Honor Society for Earth Sciences) at NWMSU, the annual Girl Scouts Science Day is an event where girls can get amazing experiences with science and learn that college campuses are nothing to be intimidated by.
Aaron Johnson is the facility advisor for the Girl Scouts Science Day and he also happens to be a proud dad to Girl Scout Junior, Ella. He has a special love for Girl Scouts because of what it has taught his own daughter and what he sees in the girls who attend the event. “The girls learn new things and by the end of the day, they just soak it up like sponges. As a faculty member, it’s great to see our students teaching because they learn so much more by teaching someone else than they ever could in a classroom,” Aaron said.
At the Science Day, girls can do activities like geocaching, stargazing, geode exploration and get to participate in service by donating to a food drive. Using microscopes, the girls look at very thin slices of gemstones to see what they look like when you get up close! While the girls have an absolute blast, Aaron really loves watching the parents. “The best thing is to watch the parents. A lot of times, parents don’t understand exactly what we scientists do. Earth science is taught so infrequently, that there’s an ‘a-ha’ moment when they see what we do,” Aaron said.
The event goes beyond introducing girls to science – it brings them on to a college campus to show them it isn’t a scary place. Aaron has noticed that many of the parents and Girl Scouts come from places where college isn’t always in the plans, so it can be very intimidating. By bringing the girls on campus to let them explore, he believes it makes the college experience seem a lot more accessible.
Aaron and the students involved in bringing the Science Day to life each year love working with Girl Scouts because they know they are supporting an organization that positively impacts future leaders. “In general, what I’ve seen in Ella, Girl Scouts has enhanced her confidence in herself. She’s more outgoing, more likely go take a leadership role and think ‘that’s something I can do’ rather than it’s something she can’t,” Aaron said. “Overall, the message [of Girl Scouts] is: there’s nothing I can’t do, the only thing that limits me, is me,”
For the 2015 event, 22 students and Aaron put in over 180 volunteer hours, gave out 110 badges and showed 80 girls what a life as scientist can be. Girl Scouts from 4 states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri & Nebraska) participated, making it an extra special opportunity to meet new girls! What an amazing community commitment to empowering the future of STEM! But according to Aaron, there’s also a selfish angle for him, as a scientist, as well. “As a geologist, I’m greedy, I want to attract, retrain and recruit the very best people to be geologists. I don’t care what you look like, where you live, what your religion, race or gender is…so part of this is reaching out to kids, especially girls interested early, so that just maybe, some of the best ones become geologists,”
We are so appreciative to Aaron and all the incredible “Bearcats” at NWMSU! This event has been growing since the inaugural event in 2012 and we can’t see what’s in store for 2017. Thank you to our awesome community partner for changing the lives of girls – one STEM activity at a time.
If your Girl Scout or troop has attended a Girl Scout Science Day at NWMSU, share your experience in the comments below. Interested in attending the 2017 event? Check the NWMSU community partner page! Currently it’s planned for March 4, 2017, but be sure to watch the page in early 2017 to confirm all the details.