education outreach

Giving Back to Girl Scouts: Water Drop Patch Inspires Young Stewardship

By Michele Drennen

Some of the happiest times I experienced during my childhood in St. Joseph, Mo., were spent as a Girl Scout in St. Francis Xavier Troop #1385. As I look back, memories of going to campouts and field trips, making crafts, earning merit badges and patches, and volunteering to help others provided a positive influence in my life.

EPA team members Jessica Hing, Michele Drennen, and Margarete Heber

EPA team members Jessica Hing, Michele Drennen, and Margarete Heber

When I saw a posting on the One EPA Skills Marketplace website seeking employees who could assist the Girl Scouts organization, I jumped on it!

The Skills Marketplace is a voluntary program that expands professional development opportunities by allowing EPA employees, with supervisor permission, to spend up to 20 percent of their time working on a project in any part of the agency, without leaving their home office.

Before leaving work late one evening in July 2015, I checked the Skills Marketplace website to see if there were any projects related to the field of graphic design. I was excited to see a position for individuals to work with EPA’s Office of Water and the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian wanted to offer a “Waterway” link on their website, which would include free lesson plans for K-12 teachers on water topics, and they recruited EPA as a partner in this endeavor.

The Waterway program is a six-year education and awareness initiative to promote and encourage good stewardship of water. For the program to be successful, it is essential to connect with the public and educate them on the importance of protecting our waterways.

Water Drop Patch with five “rockers”

Water Drop Patch with five “rockers”

The anticipated outcome of this Skills Marketplace project was a completed revision and posting of an updated Girl Scouts Water Drop Patch on the Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital (GSCNC) website, along with requirement guides to engage Girl Scouts in grades K-12.

I applied for the position right away because I knew I could make a tremendous contribution to this project. In addition, I wanted to learn more about the Waterway program and reconnect with the Girl Scouts program that I had remembered so fondly as a child.

I was contacted the next morning by EPA’s Water Data Project Lead, Margarete Heber. After a phone interview, Margarete said she wanted to partner with another EPA applicant, Jessica Hing, whose outreach experience would combine perfectly with my graphic art background to work on the GSCNC Water Drop Patch. Margarete also added a NASA Communication Specialist, Dorian Janney, to the Skills Marketplace team. Dorian brought a vast amount of children’s education outreach experience.

Over the next several months, our team assembled content for requirement guides for each of the Girl Scout levels, containing hands-on projects that were age-appropriate for each level. Once we determined the content for each guide, I designed a draft guide for the GSCNC to approve.

Hands-on learning about Water Drop Patch at Girl Scouts 2016 Maker Day

Hands-on learning about Water Drop Patch at Girl Scouts 2016 Maker Day

I also had the privilege of designing the Water Drop Patch along with five “rocker” patches that fit under the main patch, which could be earned at each Girl Scout level. The rocker patches encourage Girl Scouts to continue to expand their knowledge of their water environment at each program level. Daisies learn about the water cycle; Brownies learn about groundwater; Juniors learn about watersheds; Cadettes learn about careers in the field of water; and Seniors/Ambassadors learn about water laws and water ethics.

On May 7, 2016, I flew to Washington, D.C., to join Margarete and Jessica at the rollout of the Water Drop Patch at Girl Scouts 2016 Maker Day. This event promotes hands-on learning across all levels and provides a place to explain, demonstrate, and share their projects with each other. The One EPA Skills Marketplace team, joined by two Senior Girl Scouts, generated enthusiasm and interest in the Water Drop Patch among the Girl Scouts and their leaders by offering demonstrations of the requirements for each level.

Water Drop Patch information, along with other patches Girl Scouts can earn, is available on the National Girl Scouts website.

About the Author: Michele Drennen serves as an Environmental Protection Specialist at EPA Region 7. She is also on the Process Excellence Team and serves as Skills Marketplace Coordinator for EPA Region 7. Michele has a degree in english with an emphasis in technical communication and a minor in business from Missouri Western State University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Education Outreach: Fun for All!

By Maureen Gwinn, Ph.D., DABT

Since 2007, the Girl Scouts Council Nation’s Capital Chapter has organized a Girl Scout Science Day to give local Girl Scouts an opportunity to learn more about science in a fun and friendly environment. 

I first became involved as a friend of the troop leader in charge of the event.  She and I would work on ideas, adapt experimental protocols and talk our science friends into volunteering at the event. 

EPA's Maureen Gwinn: "I enjoy every opportunity I have to encourage kids to have fun with science."

From the beginning, experiments have been led by Cadette or Senior Girl Scouts with the assistance of volunteers, including troop ‘moms’ and ‘dads’ and area scientists. We have hands-on experiments that address concepts of chemistry, microbiology, genetics, and toxicology.  We have had discussions related to what goes into your personal hygiene products, why DNA is unique to each of us, and how forensic science can help to solve a crime.

The Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts running the experiments at a recent event were the 4th graders who participated five years ago.  It has been a pleasure to see these girls not only learn the scientific concepts well enough to teach them to the new Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts, but to watch them take on more responsibility for the event itself.  Through my involvement in this event, I have been privileged to watch those young, giggly ten-year-old girls turn into responsible young ladies – that still giggle, but do so while teaching or setting up for the next group of girls. 

This event inspired me to volunteer in education outreach at other events, including the Society of Toxicology Annual meeting, EPA’s Earth Day celebrations, and the USA Science & Engineering Festival

Volunteering in education outreach was not something I had considered in the past, but after participating in the Girl Scout Science Day for the past five years, I enjoy every opportunity I have to encourage kids to have fun with science, to ask questions about how things work, and to work together to solve scientific problems. 

The Society of Toxicology Education Committee has ways to help support these types of opportunities, and for K-12 in particular we are putting together a website of ideas, experiments, and how-to’s to get you started in the new year. 

Are you interested in getting involved in education outreach, but don’t know where to start? Or are you already involved and have some tips or favorite resources to share? Please post your questions or suggestions in the comments section below so we can join forces.

The impact these events have on the kids is worth the effort. 

About the Author:  Maureen Gwinn is a biologist in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment and works as an Associate National Program Director for Sustainable and Healthy Communities.  She is currently serving in her final year as the K-12 Subcommittee Chair for the Society of Toxicology and is always looking for ideas for scientific outreach.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.