Girl Scout troops create new merit badge to attract girls to science

The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles have introduced a new merit badge to help girls get into science and technology — a Game Design badge.

From Mashable.com:

“The L.A. Girl Scouts chapter partnered with the Women in Games International organization to create a curriculum for the patch. Girls will be required to program their games as well as design them, using software called Gamestar Mechanic.”

“The Boy Scouts of America introduced a Game Design merit badge last month, but it does not include the programming requirement.”

“The Girl Scouts’ version hasn’t been approved by the national organization yet, thus it is only available to Girl Scouts in the Los Angeles chapter. According to NBC News, it’s designed for girls in 4th to 6th grade.”

“The games industry has recently been more aware of the gender discrepancies in its ranks. A few months ago game creators took to hashtag #1reasonwhy to talk about reasons the industry doesn’t employ enough women, uncovering issues like sexism in some workplaces. A game design merit badge could certainly be one way to get more young women interested in programming and creating games as a career.”

So I just checked out the software link, and I think I am going to buy this for my son. I think he would love to learn more about video game design. I have been looking at two summer camps for him in game design but hadn’t called on them yet. I need to get moving on that. However, in the interim I think he would love this. Here’s what the website says about the software.

From the Gamestar Mechanic website:

“About Gamestar Mechanic

Q: What is Gamestar Mechanic?

A: Gamestar Mechanic is a game and community designed to teach kids the principles of game design and systems thinking in a highly engaging environment. It is designed for 7- to 14-year-olds but is open to everyone. We’ve included features in Gamestar that make it useful for kids playing the game on their own or with family members at home, as well as in moderated and educational settings. For more information about the features of Gamestar Mechanic and the learning theory behind it, please see the For Parents and For Teachers sections.

Q: How much does Gamestar cost?

A: Gamestar Mechanic includes a self-paced learning experience that uses game-based “Quests” to help youth learn how to design games while they build critical 21st century skills. Each Quest contains missions that challenge you to play, modify and design games to help you level up from player to designer. As you complete these missions, you earn items that you can use to make your own games.

Registering an account at Gamestar Mechanic is free and includes access to your first game design Quest, the ability to make and publish your own games, and access to the Gamestar Mechanic community.

“Addison’s Complete Quest” is our full introduction to game design and is now available for a one-time cost of $19.95. This three-quest series includes the free Quest (”Addison Joins the League”) and two additional Quests (”Addison Joins the Rougue” and “Dungeon of the Rogue”), where you’ll explore diverse styles of game making and dive deeper into the practice of game design. Together these Quests include over 100 missions, the opportunity to earn over 130 items to use in your own games, and the ability to add your own art to your games through custom backgrounds.

We also offer custom “Sprite Packs” with prices that start at $1.99. These themed packs contain fun and powerful items like the ones you earn in the Quests. Sprite packs are fun ways to extend your game making capabilities and personalize your games.

Lastly, for those designers that would like to learn with real instructors and game pros, we offer an Online Learning Course for $299.

What do you think about the merit badge? What do you think about the software? Would you get this for your child to use at home?

34 comments Add your comment

A reader

April 26th, 2013
5:47 am

I am speechless. How in the world will playing video games, even under the guise of “designing” a game, help anyone get interested in math and science? This sounds like a ploy for Gamestar Mechanic to sell more product.

Jeff

April 26th, 2013
6:30 am

Hey, I’m all for doing whatever works to attract the next batch of talent. Seriously.

But wasn’t it just yesterday we said math was th problem for girls?

Have a good weekend all.

Mayhem

April 26th, 2013
6:52 am

Yup. Another boring topic.

See ya. I’m out.

Mayhem

April 26th, 2013
6:53 am

Probably for good. This blog has lost its luster and I’m no longer interested.

motherjanegoose

April 26th, 2013
8:03 am

@Mayhem…topics can be suggested at any time. No sense in being cranky.

I have nothing to contribute on this topic but there is always another day. I believe you had mentioned something about summer vacations and TWG did touch on that with camping. I do not camp but I did not complain about the topic. Others were interested. If you do not like the blog, then do not read it. People have come and gone over the years. I have let some of my own magazine subscriptions lapse. No longer interested.

Why not let TWG know a few things you would like to discuss and she can check into them.

FCM

April 26th, 2013
8:06 am

I am all for kids learning and doing. My first computer was a TRS 80 you had to program (actually write code) on before you could play a game. We had a few cartridge games, but my parents knew that computers were coming and this was skill we could use. Since neither of us ended up IS/CS majors….

However there is more to science than computers or video games. I just bought the book “Science Experiments You Can Eat”. My kids will have some school work (Summer Bridge Books) this summer but mixed with fun new ways to look at things that might not work in a classroom. We are also looking at “The US History Cookbook”.

Parental involvement and encouraging the learning at home probably goes farther than praise, good grades, or even merit badges to getting kids engaged.

The kids whose parents go kick a ball with them in the yard probably do better at soccer than the ones whose parents just take them to practice then take them home.

I know we discussed Tiger Moms on here before and they do make sure the kids are learning and doing outside the classroom. They have them in chess, music lessons, sports, and may other activities. All of these have been shown to grow the brain in ways that encourage learning and help increase school scores particularly in MATH and Science.

Side note: my teen got after me wanting to know why I was acting like an Asian mom when I am not Asian. I said maybe because I want you to do well and know that when you look for work it will be in a GLOBAL market!

Additional Sidebar: Cobb County Schools has Fine Arts back on the list of proposed budget cuts–including getting rid of ES music/art, MS & HS art, band, orchestra, and chorus. There is a vote scheduled Monday. Please contact the CCSD Schoolboard and tell them this is not acceptable. That these programs are essential in keeping kids well rounded, increase school performance, and are needed. Thank you!

Techmom

April 26th, 2013
8:24 am

Boy Scouts created a STEM initiative a couple of years ago and Game Design was also one of the new merit badges this year; and it’s not just computer games but all kinds of games in general. I assume the GS badge is similar.

GS need to do more than just offer a new merit badge to keep girls. The reasons I hear girls drop out of GS? It’s all focused on selling cookies. It’s boring. We don’t do as much fun stuff as Boy Scouts (most of the girls have brothers in Boy Scouts). There’s too much drama (then again, should we expect anything less of a female-centric organization run by and for females?)

bgb

April 26th, 2013
8:24 am

“Why not let TWG know a few things you would like to discuss and she can check into them.”

- The blog is often written in a very lazy manner – poor spelling and grammar on the few sentences that are not copied/pasted; how can you not spell correctly – given software spellcheck – when your only job is to write and supposedly you have a degree in journalism?
- Why provide the blog-writer with topics – its her job – lazy; if she can’t put effort into it – get her off the page and put someone else in
- 3 Barbie blogs in a week – nothing but lazy

While MJG may not care enough about quality to “complain” or perhaps prefers to be a sheep and go along with everything – other people prefer to complain. To each their own.

To me:the lazy quality of writing and selection of topics is demeaning to women and the “profession” of journalism

Where is Dadmania – for busy dads? I guess the thinking is that women like to babble about lame topics over and over – while men – work and are too busy to babble?

Really?

April 26th, 2013
8:45 am

When will they get boys interested in Home Economics? Where’s the Boy Scouts merit badge for cooking and doing laundry properly???????

When will they get boys interested in cooking, cleaning, and child rearing? Why don’t we focus on what the boys aren’t getting, and quit worrying about the girls with math and science.

Let’s teach the boys something worthwhile. Like – How to Help Around the House 101. How to Keep your Pants Zipped while in a relationship 101? How about Birth Control for Men 101?

Then, we will discuss Yard Work for Women.

Wow, very exciting topics coming your way……..can’t wait.

Uh, Mayhem...

April 26th, 2013
8:52 am

…again, another nice contribution from you – two days in a row…and even motherjane is chastising you, and she never chastises anyone…

And, Really? is not far behind in snarky comments…how about this Really?, a topic on how women could be less snarky to their spouses; or how about, if a man says something and no one is around, is he still wrong in his wife’s mind; or, the all time favorite, how to use sex as leverage in getting the woman her own way all the time…

motherjanegoose

April 26th, 2013
9:06 am

@bgb…I am a writer too! I often develop things based on suggestions from my clients. I am certain I am not the only one. Some businesses do have a suggestion box and TWG has mentioned that she will take suggestions! What is wrong with that?

bgb

April 26th, 2013
9:11 am

She can take alllllll the suggestions she wants,
given 3 Barbie blogs in a week and the other lame topics -
apparenly no one cares enough to send them or she is tooo lazy to investigate many of them.

I guess sheep need to be told that, yes indeed, you can send an email – even one with a suggestion, to someone writing a blog.

As a writer, do you publish, to the front page, of a supposedly major paper, sentences with the basic spelling issues that TWG puts forth?
Lazy – pure and simple – doesn’t care about the topics or quality

Really?

April 26th, 2013
9:12 am

How about men stop sneaking around on their spouses and actually COMMIT to them?

How about if you aren’t happy in your current relationship, why don’t you get out? Like @Uh Mayhem. He/she seems to be extremely unhappy. Those are the ones who continue to pick on others, to make themselves feel better. You know, pointing out spelling mistakes,.

Let’s try something new…..step outside. See that big yellow ball, that’s called The Sun. And that blue stuff, Sky……now step out of mommie’s basement and get a freaking life!!!

SJ

April 26th, 2013
9:43 am

Theresa,

I saw your links to Gamestar Mechanic on Facebook and am planning to get this for my daughters this summer. We tend to do a lot of enrichment projects in the summer. This could be anything from science projects like volcanos or (tame) explosions, to math, reading, foreign language or cooking. We call it “mom camp.”

Both my girls love Minecraft, and I love the idea of helping them explore designing their own game.

As far as the rude comments above – I’ve said before that I am impressed by your thick skin in dealing with some of the jerks who comment on your blog. There has never been a blog where I found every single post to be relevant to my interests, but I’m happy if I gain a little new insight every so often. I’m glad that you have continued with the blog even with the attacks on your, your children, your marriage, etc.

Thanks,
SJ

beth

April 26th, 2013
9:50 am

Goodness Mayhem, self involved Much? I happen to have a daughter in 1st grade and was thinking of trying out Girl Scouts next year… so YES, I am interested! I’m glad to read this because my daughter is a tomboy and would rather do archery, hike/camp, learn survival techniques much more than learn the art of bracelet making. Also, my husband works in IT and is a gamer himself so he would love it if she learned some basic programming skills.

SJ

April 26th, 2013
10:08 am

With regard to @Mayhem, please keep in mind that she’s the one that believes that Sandy Hook was faked. That should tell you all you really need to know.

Uh, Really?...

April 26th, 2013
10:37 am

…those are strange comments from someone who posted “Let’s teach the boys something worthwhile. Like – How to Help Around the House 101. How to Keep your Pants Zipped while in a relationship 101? How about Birth Control for Men 101? Then, we will discuss Yard Work for Women.”…only to follow that up with “How about men stop sneaking around on their spouses and actually COMMIT to them?”

Methinks thou doth protest too much, as in your significant other must have done that to you…so, try to follow your won advice, hon…

DB

April 26th, 2013
11:21 am

I was a Girl Scout leader for 13 years, and have been working with Gold Award girls for the last few years. I was also active with my son’s Boy Scout troop, where he earned his Eagle. So I think I’ve got a decent perspective on both organizations.

One: Girl Scouts do NOT have “merit badges”. Those are Boy Scouts. Girl Scouts have just “badges” and “interest patches” and they differ from level to level — sort of like how skills and achievements are marked in Boy Scouts from Cub Scout to Webelo, etc, etc.

Two: @TechMom: As with any organization, it’s only as good as what you are willing to put into it, and only as good as the leadership is committed. It’s not afterschool babysitting. Any Girl Scout troop whose emphasis is on selling cookies has completely lost sight of programming and girl involvement in the process. Cookies are a footnote, they aren’t a goal. I kept the same troop from Kindergarten thru seniors in high school — we had to morph and stay flexible to accommodate their needs when they hit middle school scheduling conflicts, but I’d like to think that they stuck with it because it was fun and they learned a LOT about event planning, budgeting, and working with other people. By the time they were in high school, they were pretty much running the troop themselves as far as goal-setting, service projects, event planning and management and budgeting with me as an advisor. Sometimes you’ll see troops who change leaders, because a leader who is good with planning for the little ones may be too controlling for the older ones, etc., etc. I was a service unit director here for a very busy group of troops in Atlanta, too, and saw LOTS of leaders come and go. Most of them did a good job for a few years, and then burned out or their daughter dropped out. Cookies are fun, but they are NOT the defining experience of Girl Scouts — at least, they shouldn’t be. The trick is to find a troop where the girls are actively engaged in something fun and interesting that your daughter is also interested in (more important when older than in 1st grade). Our troop didn’t do much camping, because that’s not what the girls wanted to do. They were interested in the arts, in theatre, in SCUBA, and animals, and that’s what we focused on.

It’s my observation that Girl Scouts constantly tries to redefine itself in order to make itself relevant to ‘today’s’ girls, whereas Boy Scouts has had basically the same programming for decades. Girl Scout’s penchant for reinvention has led to what I consider their biggest fault: Trying to be everything to everyone. As a result, the message gets muddled. Everyone knows what Boy Scouts stands for. Not so much with Girl Scouts.

Three: Many areas have their own badges and patches that are indigenous to their specific area — for example, the council in Washington, DC has a wonderful series of activities designed to help girls explore different facets of DC. Others have historically-based themes, such as the Underground Railroad in Richmond, Lewis and Clark in St. Louis, etc.

Four: I think ANYTHING that gets a girl interested in poking around with a computer for anything other than Facebook is a GOOD thing. I don’t see how using this program as a resource is any different from using any other resource available to a girl. Good for the LA council!

Five: Finally, @Really?, Boy Scouts DOES have merit badges for cooking — which requires knowledge of nutrition, food safety and meal planning and preparation. And it DOES have one dealing with chore — under the Family Life badge, which is also a required merit badge for those interested in getting an Eagle. As far as learning how to keep their pants zipped? Well, buddy, that comes under the category of “morally straight”, part of the Boy Scout oath. (”straight” having nothing to do with sexual orientation, but rather, having to do with making life choices based on a moral code.) Those guys that do keep their pants zipped and avoid indiscriminate sex are often derided for being “such a Boy Scout” — as if that was an insult. :-)

(Stepping off the soapbox)

irisheyes

April 26th, 2013
11:22 am

FYI, there is a Boy Scout Cooking badge. Here’s the merit badges for BS.

http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Merit_Badges

DB

April 26th, 2013
11:31 am

@FCM: My first home computer was a Commodore 64. Fun times, saving that little programming on a tape cartridge! When I was in college, I took several programming courses, and of course, the statistics, etc. that was my minor eventually required computer power — not as easy to access in the 70’s. My honors thesis had eight boxes of 500 keypunch cards each, each card containing a line of programming or data. I spent many an hour patiently keying at the keypunch machine, and taking my results as a supplicant to the Gods of the Computer Lab, those august beings who lived behind the glass wall in air conditioned Computer Lab, and who accepted your cards as if they were doing you a favor, only to spit out a two-page computer sheet that announced “ERROR ON LINE 17″ (out of 4,000 . . .) Odd to think that I now have more computer power in my smartphone than was in that entire computer department . . . !

Really?

April 26th, 2013
12:32 pm

I call BS on DB having the same GS troup kindergarten through high school. I have yet to meet an active Girl Scout at the High School level. They usually peter out around middle school, when they realize boys are cute.

Georgia

April 26th, 2013
1:10 pm

I knew a girl scout who tried to show me some science once…….ONCE WAS NOT ENOUGH!!

DB

April 26th, 2013
1:28 pm

@Really? Just because you can’t conceive of something being done, means that no one else can do it, either? The limits of your imagination are not my problem. You’ve met one, now. Lots of Girl Scouts go “underground” at the high school level, mostly because of people like you, or ignorant people like my daughter’s 7th grade math teacher, who commented, “You’re too old for Girl Scouts.” Or the clueless man who refused to buy cookies from our booth sale when they were Cadettes, belligerently declaring that because they didn’t have a green uniform, they weren’t “real” Girl Scouts. (The Cadette uniform was tan/khaki.)

113 girls in Atlanta received the Girl Scout Gold Award this year — so obviously yes, there are girls in high school who are still active in Girl Scouts. My troop was definitely not the only high school troop active in our area. I even had girls joining the troop late in middle school/early in high school because we were doing fun things and were highly involved. All but one of the girls earned their Gold Award, and all of them are graduating from college this semester — one is getting her masters next year, another one is going to law school, another has a sought-after internship in a competitive field. They’ve gone from success to success, and I am very proud of them.

Now — go eat crow. :-)

SJ

April 26th, 2013
1:33 pm

Go DB!! My daughter is continuing Girl Scouts into Middle School, along with many of her friends.

Denise

April 26th, 2013
1:58 pm

A friend of mine from college was a GS through high school and even went back to her old troop to help sometimes. It’s not unheard of. I think it’s great to show dedication to something from a young age through teenage years.

As for the repetitive blog content, the only thing I would prefer is that TWG state up front that a topic would have multiple parts. I thought the Barbie “series” was interesting but I can see how folks who didn’t know it was going to be a “3-parter” would be annoyed by seeing 3 Barbie blogs in one week. To me, if Theresa would have said that she had 3 topics planned for the week OR waited until she had enough information to compile them into one blog that would have been better. Between today’s and yesterday’s blog the topics are similar enough to have been compiled into one with a possible theme of getting girls interested in math and science. This would, of course, require a lot more personal writing and a lot less cut and paste from other sources which, I agree, is preferable.

qt

April 26th, 2013
2:35 pm

Are ther any leasbian Girl Scouts? Is ther a badge for it?

FCM

April 26th, 2013
3:41 pm

@DB….I remember the Commodore 64. I also remember keypunch cards, but never had to do anything with them.

Fun times indeed.

catlady

April 26th, 2013
5:49 pm

MJG, I agree. Let Mayhem come up with a great topic,or two!

It would be great if the GS would instead focus on getting matches made between young women and folks in the STEM world doing it. My elder daughter got excited about biology by talking with a world-renowned marine biologist as a middle schooler. Then she shadowed a vet.

My younger daughter got excited in a similar way to astronomy.

Denise

April 26th, 2013
9:39 pm

My parents were not real involved in getting me “interested” in any school subject or career really. But they did tell me that I was smart and could accomplish what I wanted to and, basically, that I “better”. If people would stop focusing on what girls do not stereotypically do or like that would be great. If no one tells them they aren’t supposed to like math they might just like it. Or if no one tells them that girls don’t typically like science they might just like science. Stop creating limits in their minds before they get a chance to see what is out there and decide for themselves. So many things are math and science that you can do at the house with young kids that you can excite them about both without even saying “I am trying to get you interested in science in math because girls aren’t typically interested in science and math”. Heck, recipes are math and science. If this is what the Girl Scouts are trying to do, great.

Also, this coming from a chemistry and chemical engineering dual major – everyone does not have to be interested in everything. I would LOVE to see more female engineers and scientists, of course. Now we have 4 women in my department of ~30 and two of the 4 are not science focused. I pray that when my imaginary/future kids get here they like science because we can bond over being science and math nerds but if they like history and economics or whatever other of the humanities that I don’t care about, then great…for them.

DB

April 27th, 2013
12:42 am

@catlady: This is where programming comes in, instead of selling those overpriced cookies. The girls in my troop spent a day as pages at the Georgia capitol one day when they were in middle school — one of them was so entranced, she has a goal of becoming an elected representative — and knowing her, I wouldn’t be at all surprised, she is very active in a social cause that she is passionate about.. Another one was so captivated by a behind-the-scenes tour and dolphin training session at Discovery Cove that she is now graduating with a degree in marine biology. They’ve been exposed to marketing via a retail marketing program at the Mall of America, learning how retailers target their marketing made them more aware as consumers. They’ve been behind-the-scenes at a major Broadway play, ice-skated in Rockefeller Center, gone scuba-diving in the Caymen Islands. They have considerable experience in planning and executing group activities for groups from 5 to 250, working their way through obstacles and mishaps. The more experiences, the broader the world!

catlady

April 27th, 2013
6:46 am

You nailed it, DB!

Gaming Teacher

April 28th, 2013
7:00 pm

@SJ and others – don’t buy Gamestar Mechanic unless your daughter works her way through the free stuff and wants more – there is a lot there to do, and you and she will see if she likes it. It is a great resource for learning the basic elements of game design.

There are other options, too. You can download Scratch, which is a programming language developed by MIT and/or Alice which was developed by Carnegie-Mellon. Both are very visual and use a sort of “block” programming, not tedious lines of code some might remember if they learned BASIC or PASCAL or some of the other old languages. If your child has done any programming with LEGO robotics, it is similar. Two others I am aware of but not familiar with are Game Maker and Kodu. Finally, if your daughter wants to get really serious about coding, she can try Code Academy.

I had students this year successfully complete games to enter the National STEM Video Game Challenge – it’s a great opportunity, too.

The blogs are sometimes wonky about losing posts that include links, but everything I suggested is easily found on Google or Bing.

Happy gaming!

HB

April 29th, 2013
6:55 pm

Of course there are high school Girl Scout troops! In my hometown, a Brownie troop of 2nd graders represented Switzerland at the local Taster’s Tea and set a goal of going to Our Chalet in high school. That troop stayed together, had enough successful fundraisers to take a 3-week trip to Switzerland and Italy the summer after their junior year, and they all earned their Gold Awards.

SJ

May 2nd, 2013
9:53 am

@Gaming Teacher – Just now seeing your comment. Thanks! Very helpful. I will definitely be taking your advice.