STEM focus of Hampton scout's quest for gold award
Lauren Duderstadt, a senior member of Girl Scout Troop 01 and a junior at Hampton High School, recently received the Girl Scouts' Gold Award, the highest achievement in the organization, for providing an after school program focused on STEM concepts for girls at the middle school.
Even at just 16, Duderstadt is an active advocate in promoting education focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, especially for girls. So to earn her Gold Award, she created an afterschool program for girls at Hampton Middle School centered on hands-on STEM activities, hoping to encourage young girls to become more involved in these often male-dominated fields.
“I wanted to help younger girls get interested in that, making them see STEM is a thing to do and get into,” she said.
She said it's important to get past the stereotype that these subjects are only for boys.
The Gold Award, which Duderstadt said is equivalent to the Boy Scouts Eagle Scout award, is reserved for high school-age scouts who demonstrate ”extraordinary leadership through sustainable and measurable Take Action projects that address important community needs,” according to the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, which presented the award to Duderstadt.
The Allison Park resident started the quest for gold in June 2015. From there she had to research her ideas, write a proposal to present to the local Girl Scout board and even sought out funding, receiving a mini grant of $400 from local nonprofit Hampton Alliance for Educational Excellence.
After advertising through flyers and school announcements, 10 girls in Hampton Middle School signed up for the after school program which met for approximately an hour for six sessions.
Some projects included building spaghetti bridges, which analyzed tension and compression, and filing a foil boat with pennies to study the effect of buoyancy. They also tried the egg drop challenge, designing the safest package to protect an egg from breaking when dropped.
After each project, Duderstadt had the students complete a survey on their experience through her own website stemlikeagirl.com, which will also act as an ongoing educational tool for others.
Gwen Cohen, an enrichment facilitator at the middle school, acted as Duderstadt's mentor. The educator was impressed by Duderstadt's work, which included coordinating all STEM activities, from gathering materials to planning and teaching the lessons. Cohen said she also awarded prizes to top performers.
“The girls were totally engaged each session. It was such a pleasure to assist and work with Lauren, who was extremely positive, motivated, and responsible,” said Cohen.
She also was guided by her troop leader, Patti Coholich, and mentor Kriss Svidro.
Gold Award recipients are benefited with college scholarship opportunities, according to the Girl Scout website. Duderstadt said she is interested in studying mechanical engineering after she graduates.
Along with scouting, she also is the starting goalkeeper for the Hampton girls varsity soccer team, a mentor for middle school mock trial teams, and a karate instructor.
Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.