By Meagan Douches
While most middle school students are excited to spend their summers care-free, four members of the Robbinsville Girl Scout Cadet troop decided to put themselves to work improving the community.
Last summer, troop members Anushka Biswas, Sydney Maccagnan, Elizabeth Margeotes and Nicole Terry spent their time working to establish a new children’s education program at the Robbinsville branch of the Mercer County Library. Called “Story time with STEAM,” the program ran through March, with most of the children returning each week.
The girls have now been recognized by the Girl Scout Association for their efforts, and will receive the Silver Award in June. The Silver Award is the second highest award that a Girl Scout can receive. Only Cadette Scouts in grades six through eight are eligible. The four girls are eighth graders at Pond Road Middle School.
The girls completed 85 hours of service working on “Story time with STEAM,” a program that teaches kindergarten through third grade students about science, technology, engineering, astronomy and math through interactive workshops and activities. They said they enjoy learning about STEAM subjects in school and have been interested in sharing their enthusiasm with others. This inspired the Cadettes to teach children and provide them with more science and math background for their Girl Scout Silver project.
Although many Girl Scouts complete the Silver Award assignment on their own, the group aspired to create a large-scale project that would make a big impact on the community. Knowing that this would require a great deal of time and effort, the girls decided to team up in order to conduct “Story time with STEAM.”
Each week, one of the four girls read a book to the children on a specific subject matter and presented age-appropriate information on the topic. Afterwards, the group participated in an experiment or activity to further explain the lesson. The girls also provided pictures and posters to give the children a visual representation of the topic.
The library program turned out to be very popular with an average attendance of 15 to 25 children each week.
“We loved working with the kids,” Maccagnan said. “A lot of the same kids kept coming back and were so excited to see us and learn each topic.”
Preparations for the weekly STEAM lesson turned out to take more time than the girls had originally expected. The Cadettes agreed that the most difficult part of the process was planning enough activities to keep the children entertained and having fun.
For their first program, the children ended up going through the activity much faster than the girls expected, which caused them to plan extra activities in subsequent weeks, said Bette Lee Margeotes, Leader of the Girl Scout troop and mother of Elizabeth Margeotes.
The girls even made take-home packets including facts, puzzles, coloring pages and word searches for the children to help keep them entertained while serving as a reminder of what they learned that day. The program also included weekly prizes related to the lessons, including lava lamps and pony kits, which helped keep the children excited about learning.
One of the Girl Scouts’ favorite lessons was an activity on volcanoes and the different types of volcanic cones. As part of the lesson, the group conducted an experiment to explain how a volcano erupts. The girls used a plastic water bottle containing vinegar and baking soda to show how a volcano releases gas and then erupts.
The children really enjoyed participating in the volcano experiment and other interactive lessons, Maccagnan said.
“I have a 6-year-old sister who came to all the sessions, and she loved it,” she said.
Overall, the Cadettes said that their favorite part of the program was working with the children.
“It was really exciting seeing the kids,” Biswas said. “A lot of them began in summer and then kept coming back in winter. It was great seeing them learning and understanding. It was really fun.”
On top of the enjoyment, the girls also were able to gain a lot of experience through the Silver project.
“It was worth it!” Maccagnan said.
With the large success of “Story time with STEAM,” Mercer County Library plans to continue using the interactive program, as well as the lesson plans and activity packets the girls created.
The girls are set to receive the Silver Award from the Girls Scouts Council on Sunday, June 14. They are each planning to continue with Girl Scouts, and in May they will bridge to the Senior level troop.