Alanna Iannone Brianna Iannone

Alanna Iannone, left, and her daughter, Brianna Iannone, right, are long-time Girl Scouts members. Alanna has been a troop leader since Alanna joined the Girl Scouts 12 years ago.

The Girl Scouts launched 42 new badges exclusively for K-12 girls, providing even more opportunities for girls to engage in STEM and outdoor adventures. 

“The increasingly strong voice of young people who want to change the world and the lack of women in leadership positions in the U.S. contributed to reevaluating Girl Scout program focus areas and ensuring more opportunities were developed. Because these, of course, are two topics Girl Scouts is uniquely positioned to address,” said Tamara Woodbury, CEO of Girl Scouts—Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, which serves more than 20,000 local girls grades K-12 and has more than 10,000 adult volunteers.

For Troop 297 Girl Scout Brianna Iannone, 17, the new badges were music to her ears.

“I absolutely love that Girl Scouts is finally introducing some more STEM badges and some more outdoor badges,” the Chaparral High School senior and southern Scottsdale resident said. 

“This new set of badges has a lot of STEM opportunities for girls. Girls aren’t really going into STEM careers, and I feel like this will give a chance to inspire girls to go into more STEM fields,” she added.

The new badges available this upcoming member year include nine cybersecurity badges, three space science badges, 12 Outdoor High Adventure badges, 18 Coding for Good badges, and the Think Like a Citizen Scientist badge, during which girls practice observation techniques, collect data and share their findings with real-world scientists through an online network. 

Brianna, who has been a Girl Scout for 12 years, said these new badges are a long time coming. 

“I know a bunch of these badges were probably in the works for so long, but there are so many things to be excited about,” she said. “If we look at the Space Science Master Ambassador badge: First of all, that sounds so cool. Second of all, every woman sent up to space was a Girl Scout. Why have we not had this?”

“Girl Scouts has had overwhelming success in encouraging future female leaders,” added Tamara Woodbury, CEO of GSACPC. “Among Girl Scouts alum are 52 percent of female business leaders, 58 percent of women in the 116th Congress, 60 percent of women elected to Congress and 77 percent of girls considering careers in technology.”

According to Brianna’s mother and Girl Scouts troop leader, Alanna Iannone, Girl Scouts now offers more variety of outdoor badges than Boy Scouts of America.

“I’m familiar with the Boy Scouts, too, because I have an Eagle Scout,” Alanna said. “They do have a sustainability badge, a light-saving badge, things like that that are outside; but the outdoor badges that Girl Scouts have is a bigger variety.”

Girls earn badges by engaging in hands-on STEM activities, carrying out meaningful community service projects, exploring the outdoors, engaging in entrepreneurial and financial literacy programs and connecting with girls around the world.

The cybersecurity badges encourage girls to learn how to decrypt and encrypt messages, learn proper device protection methods, explore real-world hacking scenarios and more.

“I’m actually very, very excited about [the new badges],” Alanna said. “We’ve been adding some badges, it seems like, for the last couple of years. It gives more of a variety of badges that they want to earn.”

According to Woodbury, new badges have been launched every year since 2016 to provide more opportunities for learning in STEM, outdoors, entrepreneurship and life skills, marking the largest programming rollout in almost a decade.

In 2017, 23 new badges were added; in 2018, 30; and this year, 42.

“STEM and the outdoors are areas girls are not typically encouraged to explore outside of Girl Scouting,” Woodbury said. “By providing more ways to engage in STEM and outdoors, we hope to engage more girls in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience — to introduce girls of all interests to the range of possible careers in science and technology, and helping them discover the many ways they can make a difference with these skills.”

In addition to launching new badges, the Girl Scouts is hosting educational and hands-on programs this fall, including its PowerUp G.I.R.L.s event and its LEGO Challenge.

The LEGO Challenge on Sept. 15, is a collaboration with The LEGO Group and Girls Scouts of the U.S.A. that aims to engage future female STEM leaders in a rollercoaster-building adventure. 

PowerUp G.I.R.L.s was an information event held Aug. 17 in more than 50 locations across the state. 

For its second year, the event gave girls the opportunity to learn more about Girl Scouts, as well as take part in a variety of interactive STEM projects and other activities. 

Alanna and Brianna have attended the event both years.

“I liked the atmosphere of how most of this is girl-led,” Brianna said. “It’s just so wonderful to see these girls taking leadership at a young age.”

Both Brianna and Alanna said the PowerUp events have helped generate interest in the Girl Scouts and even help increase membership.

“Once parents see the other parents who are doing it and that the other parents are just like them, I think it gives them some of the confidence they need to sign up and they see that these girls are having fun and there’s so many different kinds of activities that they want their daughters to experience also,” Alanna said.

PowerUp G.I.R.L.s also educates women on the benefits of volunteering with GSACPC.

“It is important to understand the impact that these programs have on girls — and our adult volunteers — across Arizona,” Woodbury said. “Girl Scouts empowers girls to develop a strong sense of self and to strive to be leaders, and volunteers are able to help nurture and foster that development.”

One of GSACPC’s goals this year is to recruit new troop leaders, like Alanna, who said she became a troop leader as a way to not only spend time with her daughters, but watch them grow and make friends.

“Girl Scouts put experiences in front of your daughters that we all want to think we’d make time to do, but we don’t just because life happens,” Alanna said. “Girl Scouts help them have so many shared experiences together, like the camping and the badge work, and you can’t help but make not only friends but [also] sisters in that process.”

Alanna has also made friends, herself.

“I’ve actually made some of my very best friends with other troop leaders,” she said. “I literally just ran here from a meeting with other Girl Scouts leaders because we’re planning a camp, and I love the camaraderie I get.” 

Information: girlscoutsaz.org