STEM van sparks excitement among NH, Vt. Girl Scouts

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Ashley Garon, program specialist with the Girl Scout council, brought the geology lesson to Loudon in the council's STEM on-the-go van. (GSGWM photo)

BEDFORD - They smash rocks to find geodes, learn how to see in the dark, engineer LEGO structures, play with oobleck, build and test paper airplanes and cars, discover polymer clay science, and more. They are Girl Scouts who are making the most of the council's science, technology, engineering and math program, brought to them by a special STEM on-the-go van.

Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, the council serving Girl Scouts in New Hampshire and Vermont, acquired the van just before the pandemic shut down in-person activities. It is now on the road, fulfilling its primary mission of making sure location is no barrier to bringing its exceptional experiences to Girl Scouts across the two states.

The council schedules regular "STEM months," giving each of the two states its own month to minimize travel and maximize the number of programs offered. Often troops and individual members will come together to schedule their visit from the van.

The purpose of STEM Month is to bring STEM programming to troops across the two states. By giving each state their own month, we were able to minimize travel and maximize the number of programs we were able to offer. With there being no limit to geographic location, all troops were eligible to participate.

For the spring STEM Months, the council brought 35 programs to Girl Scouts across Vermont and New Hampshire, serving 450 members, according to Cassandra Jillson, program lead for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. Girl Scouts participated in programs that allowed the discovery of polymer clay properties, gave them a chance to hammer open a geode and sift through dirt to find rocks and minerals, engineer bridge designs for strength with dry lasagna strips, and explore solar science as the eclipse hit the news.

"Troops that were previously unable to participate in the in-person council-run programs due to cost or travel were able to attend their first council run program," she said. "Each troop fee included materials for up to 24 Girl Scouts, bringing the per girl cost to $3-6 depending on the program. By travelling with the STEM van to troops, troops were able to have the programs during their troop meetings or at another convenient time and place."

"We look forward to continuing to bring STEM programming to troops and one day hope to visit every town in Vermont and New Hampshire," said Jillson.

"As word has spread, I've gained new troops in different locations," said Ashley Garen, program specialist with the council. "They have been craving programs and can't wait to sign up again and share these opportunities with their communities. This unique program brings the perfect combination of learning and fun together, and to witness their enthusiasm for each activity as they learn has been very rewarding. I can't wait to bring more STEM van programs to our Girl Scouts across the council."

Women comprise half the workforce, but occupy only 27 percent of STEM jobs, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering and computer science. Girl Scouts from kindergarten to 12th grade have over 100 STEM-related badges they can earn, which can unlock new passions and possible careers. Exposure to even one Girl Scout STEM activity has been shown to increase girls' interest and confidence in these areas.

October will be STEM Month in Vermont, and November will be STEM Month in New Hampshire, with programs on non-Newtonian fluids, chemical reactions, and kinetic energy. Anyone interested in learning more about how Girl Scouts supports STEM learning can find out more at

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