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How to Host a Juniors Girl Scout Workshop

Introduction

The Girl Scouts (GS) of America do not currently have any nationally recognized patches for nuclear science and technology. However, they do have the ability to do locally based patches. As a result, some places have established local Girl Scout patches. For the Cadet and Senior aged girls (the same age as the Boy Scouts), typically the Boy Scout Merit Badge workshop is done.

This document outlines a workshop targeted at Juniors, girls who are ages 8-11. Because of the younger audience, the workshop is shorter and at a more general level. This guide demonstrates one way to host such a workshop. The structure of this program will hopefully make it easy for the user to use whichever stations and ideas are the most sensible for them.

Requirements

Because these patches are done locally, there are no official requirements. At the University of Wisconsin, we took our program to the GS Council in our area and let them define requirements based on what we were intending to do. We were able to work with them so that they could get things into a form that worked for them.

I encourage you to contact your GS Council and define a program that best fits your needs. It is a good idea to build in some flexibility in case your facilities or resources change in the future. The workshop outlined below is about 3.5 hours long. Feel free to change the time and activities to meet your needs.


Logistics of Finding Attendees

An important first step is ensuring that you have attendees for your event. We have had no problem generating interest in our Junior level workshop. There are not many Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) type programs for this age group, but there are many scouts. For this reason we have had very high interest. When we first introduced the program we went to a GS council meeting and explained what the patch was all about. The mothers in attendance then told their troop leaders about the program. We have sold out (60 scouts/workshop) the three workshops we have held since that time.

I would suggest contacting your council and asking if you can do a similar presentation. Be aware that councils will often publish one book per year advertising all of the upcoming events. Check what the timeline is for your council's publications and work with them to make sure you send announcements with enough lead-time. Typically, the GS council will also handle event registration. Tell them the information that needs to be collected, and by when you need to have it. You may want to charge a fee for the workshop, depending on the cost of your supplies, fundraising needs, etc. Be sure to check if your council adds an additional fee for the workshop (ours does).

The scouts can be asked to bring a sack lunch if facilities for providing or purchasing lunch are not available. Due to space or other constraints, you may need to set a cap on the number of participants. Be sure to include parents in your count. Many will not plan to attend, but some will want to be there. The participation of parents can be good because they help keep the scouts under control and they learn a lot during the day. However, be aware of adults "taking over"; the day is still for the girls.

Homework

Unlike the Boy Scout merit badge (and/or the Cadet and Senior GS program), the Juniors program does not require homework.

Workshop

Set a registration time 30 minutes before your workshop begins. This will give you time to collect registration fees (if applicable), provide some cushion time for arrival, and allow everyone to get settled before the workshop begins. If you have a small number of scouts (<15) registered, you can run this program straight through. However, if you have more scouts, you will need to break them into multiple groups. It is helpful to pre-assign the groups (roughly by troop) ahead of time and tell everyone which group they are in during registration. Doing this ahead of time ensures you can control group size and that each troop can stay together. It also avoids some chaos at the outset. All scouts will be together for the opening session, but rotate through the five stations in their groups. This guide contains a presentation suitable for the opening session along with the material required to run the various stations. An example schedule of the day is included, gs_schedule.xls. Note, in this schedule we held two workshops in one day. We found that two volunteers per station were adequate.


Opening Session

Begin by introducing yourself and the other workers and give an outline of the day. A PowerPoint presentation entitled juniors_opening.ppt has been created to guide you through this session. The introduction goes over some background terms with which they should be familiar, and introduces three famous female nuclear scientists. All of this only takes about 20 minutes; anything longer is too much sitting for this age group. At the end of the introduction session tell each group which station they go to next and have a volunteer guide them there.


Stations

Each station takes about 30 min. At UW that was not quite enough time for the reactor tour, so you may want to consider this. We allowed 5 min between each station for cushion and transition time. At the end of each station, have the volunteer in charge of said station tell the scouts where to go next. Adapt as needed based on your setup.

Have volunteers talk about what they do and why throughout each station. Have them try to give a few interesting details about themselves; think of the mini-interviews of "hot" celebrities that can be found in magazines targeted at this age group. This style of interaction helps the girls see themselves in STEM careers by making the volunteers "real" people with "normal" interests.


Station A: Nuclear Reactor - Feator Facility

  1. Give a standard reactor tour.
  2. During the tour discuss what a reactor operator's job is like and what training is needed.
  3. Discuss different types of power plants (especially coal vs. nuclear, can include hydro, etc.)

Station B: Fission Game

  1. Each scout gets two balloons (neutrons) to hold and they stand together in a close-packed group.
  2. When hit with a balloon that is in the air, the scout will "fission" by throwing their two balloons into the air.
  3. The reaction starts with a balloon (source neutron) being thrown into the group by a volunteer.
  4. Add "control rods" (a person who grabs balloons out of air making them unavailable to cause fission) one at a time. Discuss how adding control rods affects the chain reaction: more control rods = slower reaction. Keep increasing the number of rods until reaction proceeds very slowly or not at all.
  5. Discuss chain reaction, critical, sub/supercritical, and reactor control.
  6. If there is enough time, discuss how you use fission to make electricity, then discuss different electricity generation types.

Station C: Nuclear Myths and Careers

  1. Discuss at least 5 careers: job descriptions, required education and training. This can be guided with a power point, see careers_in_nuclear_science.ppt. It is best to approach this activity as a dress up event. Each job has one outfit (e.g. lab coat, eye protection, and a Geiger counter for a radiation worker; a suit for a manager; a backpack and notebook for a college student, etc.).
  2. Break the scouts into sub-groups and each group gets one career. The girls work as a team to explain the job that goes with the outfit. After a few minutes have everyone come together and each group can take a turn telling about their career.
  3. Feel free to discuss your own choices: what you do, why you chose your career path, how you prepared for it.
  4. Talk about nuclear/science/energy questions that they have.

Station D: Other uses of Radiation and Counting Experiment

  1. Have each girl fill out the ANS worksheet for calculating background radiation dose (see: Personal Radiation Dose Chart). A volunteer may need to go through this step-by-step to ensure they know what each item is.
  2. Explain distance and shielding concepts cover the basics (you could make a ppt for this if you wanted).
  3. Use counters and shield kits a few different shelf heights and materials to show these ideas. If you don't have counting stations you could use other detectors with rulers to show distance and use various materials as shields (please contact me if you need more information about how to do the counting experiments or what materials are needed).
  4. If the group is advanced and there is enough time, introduce the basic differences between alpha, beta, and gamma and use the counters to investigate.

Station E: Cloud Chambers

  1. Explain some information about radiation and how cloud chambers work.
  2. Explain how to do a Cloud Chamber demo (please contact me if you need more information about how to do cloud chambers or what materials are needed).
  3. Have them do the Cloud Chambers themselves.
  4. Talk about what they are seeing and that it is not actually radiation.
  5. Answer general questions. If the group is not talkative, discuss your career choices and why you became interested in science. Share any stories about interesting opportunities you've gotten because of your involvement in nuclear (e.g. I got to spend a summer doing x and it was really cool because y).

Other stations that you can switch in for any of the above depending on what resources you have and what works best for your group (compliments of Southern Cal Edison's WIN chapter via Sarah Kleeb):

  1. How Its Made
    How do we make the fuel that goes into a power plant? Learn about the nuclear fuel cycle and draw a picture showing the big steps. Make sure to include mining, processing, enrichment, fuel assembly (or fuel bundle), nuclear reactor, nuclear waste, and reprocessing.
  2. Radiation in Medicine
    Visit a hospital that uses nuclear techniques for diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Interview your tour guide and/or some of the professionals you meet and learn about the different parts of nuclear medicine. OR invite someone who works with nuclear technology at a hospital to come to your troop meeting to talk about what they do. Ask about the types of nuclear-medicine tests that are performed, the protection used by people who work with radioactive materials at the hospital and how they dispose of their radioactive waste. Report your findings to your troop or another group.
  3. Get Energized
    Learn about nuclear power plants. Visit a nuclear power plant. OR invite someone from a nuclear power plant or university nuclear engineering department or research lab to talk about where they work and the different types of power plants. Make a drawing of a nuclear power plant and explain some of the differences and similarities between a nuclear plant coal plant and natural gas plant.
  4. High-tech Waste
    Learn about radioactive waste. We have three major sources of nuclear waste in the United States: radioactive waste, used or spent nuclear fuel, and contaminated soil and water. Find out how much waste there is in each category, where it comes from, and how it is stored. Learn about the different ideas for long-term waste storage or disposal.

Closing Session

During this time get everyone back in the same room, thank them for coming, and hand out patches. An idea to help figure out what worked and what didn't work is to create surveys about the day to hand out to the adults. This can provide some good guidance since the parents know the girls and can give a good assessment of what was interesting, etc.

Good luck, and if you have any questions refer to Cloud Chamber "How-To" Tips or contact Ms. Rachel N. Slaybaugh.

Resources

You can download all of the additional resources in one zip archive (gs_juniors_program.zip), or download individual files below.

Last updated September 19, 2013, 7:35am CDT.

 
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