Girl Scouts of the USA are most notable for their delicious cookies (looking at all the Thin Mint lovers) sold a few times a year to raise funds. Last year, the organization announced a new array of STEM-oriented badges, including three cybersecurity challenges.
In collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Girl Scouts of Nations Capital (GSNC) are bringing new opportunities to their troops in the form of cyber skills. With more than 60,000 members in total, Junior Girl Scouts from age’s nine to 11, will be permitted to play a customized game teaching about security, cyberbullying, online identity, and privacy.
After completing the game, the scouts will earn their HPE Cybersecurity patch, along with some new-found knowledge about technology.
Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO of GSNC, says, “We know that children are going online at younger and younger ages. We want to equip them with the ability to navigate online as smart, cautious consumers protecting their identity, their data, and their safety.”
HPE developed the game in conjunction with Romero Games to provide real-world scenarios the scouts may come across as they get older. Named Cyber Squad, the came instructs scouts regarding digital footprints that everyone leaves when they scour the internet.
HPE’s Chief Information Security Officer Liz Joyce says, “As we look at the world around us, and how much happens online, and how early on kids are engaged online, I think this does become a set of fundamental life skills.” She further goes on to say, “Since we are talking about working with kids, we all know that kids find stuff way more memorable if it’s fun and exciting. It was important to us that this was a fun, interactive experience that would hit the right note with the girls.”
A Girl Scout parent, coincidentally married to an HPE executive, wanted to teach her troop more about cybersecurity since the girls were entering an age where computer and internet use was beginning to grow. GSNC voiced interest, and the HPE executive got Joyce involved to lead the project.
The scouts seem to really enjoy the game, and they are beginning to understand the good and bad regarding the internet. Joyce says, “All of a sudden they felt confident enough to explain it to somebody else in their own words. That translation, hearing that they absorbed it and they were confident to talk about it, was a really important thing.”
GSNC has streamlined 30 new STEM-related badges as of July 2018, with the HPE patch becoming a regional achievement.
“Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital is committed to building a pipeline of women in STEM careers—starting with girls,” says Soto-Harmon. “Partnering locally with HPE allowed our council to enhance the national cybersecurity badge program.”
Both organizations are hopeful that the development of the game and badges will spark interest around the country for both boys and girls to get involved in STEM projects.
“These are fundamentals that don’t just apply to girls,” says Joyce. “Girls, boys, frankly adults. There’s no shortage of need for this.”