Despite the season’s first measurable snowfall, hundreds of Wisconsin Girl Scouts turned out to Monona Terrace on Sunday for a chance to learn about science and technology.
At the fourth annual ACTIVATE event, Scouts had a two-hour opportunity to explore STEM fields — the acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and math — through projects and activities sponsored by local businesses and organizations.
Some 500 Scouts and their families from across south central and southwest Wisconsin participated in activities including seeing a Mars rover prototype and looking at a microscopic image of their cheek cells.
“What we do at this event, and every event that we do, is really show girls science, technology, engineering and math do make the world a better place,” said Allison Martinson, a STEM program specialist for Badgerland Girl Scouts.
Josie Russo, a UW-Madison junior, was teaching girls about the properties of different fluids by combining dish soap, whole milk and food coloring to make “milk rainbows” at a booth run by the agricultural and life sciences sorority Sigma Alpha.
“There’s just such a disparity of women in science that we thought it would be good to reach out specifically to Girl Scouts to encourage them to get involved in science through fun activities,” Russo said.
The occasional shriek could be heard from Scouts and parents as they passed a booth where snakes and turtles were being handled, while others joyfully played with the animals.
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“Everything here is so cool,” said Lily O’Hearn, a Scout from McFarland. “Except for the beetles — they’re scary — and I did not go near the snakes.”
For Maddy DeCabooter of Middleton, her favorite part was petting the snakes, because she was able to see a family friend who had brought the reptiles there.
Cheyenne Brink, 11, said the event has made her more interested in science and math, noting the turtles and rover prototype were among her favorite parts of the gathering.
While the inclement weather prevented a couple of the 26 organizations from getting to Madison, Sadie Nerswick, leader of Troop 2985, said she was able to make the drive from Columbus to take her daughter and other Scouts to the “phenomenal” opportunity.
Scouts who attended also went home with a reward — a patch specifically for ACTIVATE 2016, being offered for the first time this year.
Martinson said the event also counted toward the STEM Sisterhood and MAD 4 Science patches, which help expose girls to women in professional STEM careers and encourage them to use science to improve their communities.
“Right here in this room, we are inspiring young women to do this in their lives, to take what they learn here and use it to inspire them for the future,” she said.