The problem with ‘Science with a Sparkle’

Published by adviser, Author: Kevin Squires, Date: October 2, 2014


As a feminist, a science major and an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, one of the things I’m highly passionate about is the destruction of the gender barrier that exists between males and females in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in programming for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. 

The Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh administration has recently been under scrutiny for their unequal programming for Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups.

While Boy Scouts have multiple opportunities to learn about chemistry, engineering, astronomy, weather and robotics, Girl Scouts have one day where they can learn “Science with a Sparkle,” a program focusing on the science behind cosmetics. Seriously?

In response to the negative comments directed to the Carnegie Science Center, a Facebook post Wednesday  explained, “Regarding Girl Scout-specific programming, we have struggled when it comes to enrollments for our Girl Scout programs. In the past, we have offered engineering, chemistry, and robotics programming for Girl Scouts. We created programming to go along with the new Journeys that Girl Scouts use. Unfortunately, no troops signed up for these. The programs that consistently get enrollments are ‘Science with a Sparkle’ and our sleepovers at the museum.”

The science center went on to say that if a troop was interested in booking a private session it could be on the topic of their choice and listed the different camps open to any individual with no Boy Scout or Girl Scout affiliation. 

“We want girls to know there is a place for them in science and to inspire them to overcome the damaging stereotypes that still exist,” the post said. 

It’s rather difficult to inspire girls to overcome damaging stereotypes that exist when you’re perpetuating them in your publicized programming.  Even if additional resources are available for girls, how can anyone be inspired to take advantage of them when they are buried in the glittery shimmer of “Science with a Sparkle,” an expression of everything the women in STEM movement stands up against.

As an Eagle Scout, I know that a large emphasis is placed on science in the Boy Scouts, and one that continues to grow. There is a clear curriculum that explores topics exactly like the ones the science center presents. However, looking at the Girl Scouts website, there is undeniably not nearly as much of a science presence. In fact there’s only one senior science badge: “Science of Style.” With such a poor example for girls and guidelines for the science center to base its programming, certainly not all the blame can be directed at the science center. It’s time this stereotype is addressed in all media so that any person of any gender knows that science, and not just the science of makeup, can be for them.



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