One of the things I like about the "new" Girl Scout programming is the natural scaffolding the badge booklets and Journeys have built into them. This is something we naturally do in education and it is a pleasure to see in other disciplines as well and speaks to GSUSA's push for more in depth programming for girls as opposed to the individual skills sets of the "old" badges and patches. I call them the new programing even though the newer programming has been out for 10 years! While there is still a need for more skills based activities the breadth and depth of the program is refreshing and meets the needs of so many girls.
So, as I said the badges scaffold, so the Junior badges build on the knowledge of the Brownie badges and the Brownie badges build on the skills of the Daisy badges. The the badges are scaffolded within each age level as well, building on the previous badge in the set making a cohesive scaffolded curriculum. One of the issues I find with the badge books is that they can often be ambiguous. To me, this means it is open ended and I can interpret how to fulfill the requirements based on the skills and needs of my individual troop. However, I have found through my experience working as not only a trainer for volunteers but as Council staff as well as in education that adults struggle with the ambiguous and have great difficulty thinking outside the box. With that said, the badge booklet has step one looking at artificial intelligence (AI) and biomimicry. While I understand the connection, I don't think it is as clear for others.
I love the little inset information that are included throughout all of the Girl Scout programming. In this booklet, there is a blurb about Elektro, the AI robot created by the Westinghouse COmpany for the 1939 Worlds Fair in New York. Here is a video about Elektro's debut!
As you can see AI has been around for many many years! The first thing to note that artificial intelligence is biomimicry. Robots and machines mimicking human actions and thought. Think IBM's Watson, Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, all are examples of AI. If girls havent completed the Brownie badge, I would suggest checking out my post on the Brownie Robotics badge 2 and doing some of the biomimicry activities I suggest. Then check out these short videos on exisiting and upcoming AI https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEiNvKERoBT0Oc9gaSsLS4JvOMTl4N4Wt
Step 2 is for girls to share one of their talents with their fellow troop members. They should choose a talent that they can create an algorithm or computer program for. I have shared this video previously, but it is a great video for this age level to get them thinking about how a computer "thinks".
The activity is to teach a skill through a program. Maybe you have a girl whose talent to draw something specific that they can instruct their peers on how to draw it step by step. Maybe they love cooking and they need to write (not copy) a recipe to create their favorite snack. Maybe they are a dancer and write the instructions for a specific dance move that they teach step by step. The important aspect of this step is that they are thinking about how computers communicate through computer programs and that they think about all the steps that go into an action not just what they automatically do. A recipe might tell them to add a teaspoon of an ingredient but a computer does not know how that is done. So they need to think about describing the spoon, opening the box or container from the top flap, inserting the spoon, leveling off the spoon and adding the ingredient to the bowl. If they need practice or do not understand how a computer thinks, have them complete the code a friend activity in the brownie and daisy badges that I previously wrote about.
Steps 3 through 5, dive into the Engineer Design Process.
Girls should make a design (plan), build a prototype, and then get feedback on their design to improve their prototype. This is the iterative process or trial and error. Anytime you start into the engineering design process, you start with a brainstorming activity to get the ideas flowing. I always like to start with a group brainstorming and typically have my students do this on the whiteboard as a mind map. I like the big visual and it is colorful from all the markers and doodles! This can trigger lots of ideas. It is important to allow the brainstorming to continue if the girls are on a roll. Don't feel you have to shut off the creative process due to a time constraint, unless of course you are out of time for your meeting. Brainstorming is a very important process in engineering. Start the brainstorming with an overall big idea or several big ideas and create several mind maps. Think globally but work locally. What are some issues the girls see in their town, school, neighborhood. So what are your big issues? This is the same process girls will use to create Take Action or the Bronze Award. It is important that girls are thinking about their local community to make the learning relevant however, they should understand the overarching concepts that affect that issue. this is your thinking
globally aspect. I'll cover this concept more in another post, I find this concept is difficult for many to grasp.