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Girl Scouts Get to Know Nuclear Patch Workshop


a get to know nuclear

The Girl Scouts (GS) of America do not currently have any nationally recognized badge for nuclear science and technology. As a result, the American Nuclear Society has established the Get to Know Nuclear patch with the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana council that can be distributed to all of ANS. local/student sections. The Girl Scout patch requirements are similar to the Boy Scout Nuclear Science Badge, except with a focus on girls and teamwork . The requirements are suitable for Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors, however variations can be made to meet educational level of Brownies, and Daisies as well.

Preparations for the Workshop

ANS has established requirements for the Get to Know Nuclear Patch for the following Girl Scout memberships:

  • Juniors (grades 4-5)
  • Cadettes (grades 6, 7 & 8)
  • Seniors (grades 9-10)
  • Ambassadors (grades 11-12)

The workshop is about 4 hours long for a group of 20 girls. More time will be needed to accommodate larger groups. You must complete at least 5 of the 7 stations to receive the patch.

Daises/Brownies (grades K-3) – Basic concepts: 1 hour (at a scheduled meeting) Certificate only.
icon Get to Know Nuclear Certificate Template

The Daises/Brownies workshop should include the following basic concepts:

  • Meet the Atoms Family - use the Atoms Family Activity Book
  • Atoms make up everything.
  • Atoms gain neutrons and become unstable isotopes
  • I'm radioactive and you are too
  • Detecting radiation
girlscout image

Project Planning
Recommended 6 months in planning

  • 6 months . Select a chairperson or co-chairs and core team for the workshop.

    ANS encourages each section to contact their local GS Council to organize a Get to Know Nuclear patch workshop in their area. Going through a council is also an important first step is ensuring that you have attendees for your event. You should plan on attending a council meeting to introduce the program and explain what the patch is all about or request that the GS Council representative do this for ANS. Word of mouth begins here, since those in attendance will take the information back to their troops. Note: Council.s publication schedules vary from state to state. The sooner you get to know your council the more likely you are to have your workshop mentioned in their publications (print, web, email).

    Create a paragraph for GS publications. Create a flyer to distribute to local troops at their regularly scheduled meetings, via email, or via letter. Note: If you create a mailing piece, and provide postage and blank labels many troops will send a mailing on your behalf (they do not rent lists).

    Select several dates, confirm final date with local GS Council and facility where workshop will be held.

    Establish a budget, obtaining necessary funding, and determine the cost of workshop. Even if your workshop is sponsored by a facility/corporation it is a general good practice to charge a minimal fee ($5-$15) to cover the cost of the patches and other administrative costs. Also, charging something ensures that scouts actually attend the workshop. Note: Some councils add an additional fee to promote your workshop and manage registration. Take into consideration their fee, when establishing yours.

    Assign volunteer(s) for publicity and begin to publicize the workshop.

  • 5 months – Check with the facility about special onsite requirements (i.e. insurance (Girl Scouts and leaders are covered by Girl Scout insurance), badges, etc). Some labs, universities, and power plants require you to obtain insurance for special activities.
  • 12 weeks – Recruit volunteers for logistics, presentations, activities, registration, and evaluation. Set deadlines.
  • 11 weeks – Ensure your volunteers know their roles and coordinate presentations so they are seamless and consistent, without repeating topics.
  • 8 weeks – Remind troops about the workshop and to RSVP. This should be coordinated through the council, who will send an email announcement to the troops in your area.
  • 6 weeks – Manage registration; be sure to count parents and leaders. Have forms for registration, photo release, evaluations, etc., as needed. Order Get to Know Nuclear Patches.
  • 4 weeks – Finalize on-site details.
  • 2 weeks – Order lunch (if applicable). The scouts can be asked to bring a sack lunch if facilities for providing or purchasing lunch are not available.
  • 1 week prior – Send update to registrants informing them of anything they need to know prior to attending (security, lunch, IDs, location details, directions, etc.), This is also when the homework assignment is sent (Cadet and Seniors only).

It is a good idea to build in some flexibility in case your facilities or resources change in the future.


The Cadette, Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts must meet the same homework requirements as the Boy Scout Nuclear Science merit badge. The Junior Girl Scouts do not require homework.

To insure every Girl Scout is on the same level when arriving for the workshop, it is recommended that a prerequisite worksheet and presentation are made that can be completed beforehand and which covers the basics of nuclear science (What is an atom?; what is an electron?, etc.). Samples are provided below in the "Nuclear Science Basics" presentation and the "Nuclear Science Basics Worksheet". This will enable your workshop to be shorter and provide a new experience for all Scouts, regardless of past instruction level.

icon Nuclear Science Basics
icon Nuclear Science Basics Worksheet
icon Nuclear Science Basics Worksheet ANSWERKey


Set a registration time 30 minutes before your workshop begins. This will give you time to collect registration fees (if applicable), and allow everyone to get settled before the workshop begins. If you have a small number (<15) of scouts registered, you can run this program straight through. However, if you have more scouts, you will need to break them into multiple groups. If you know the troop number for each registrant, it is helpful to pre–assign the groups (by troop/by age) 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. However, troops do not always register together and it may create some chaos at the registration when leaders are asking to change the grouping. Ensure that each group has at least 2 adult Girl Scout leaders as part of the group. Assign ANS volunteers to act as an escort for each group.

All scouts should be together for the introduction and closing/tour sessions. At the opening session, discuss safety and security rules of the facility. The Scouts and their leaders will rotate through five (5) stations with in their assigned groups. ANS has provided several options. You must complete at least 5 of the 7 stations to receive the patch.

Each station should take about 15–30 min. Each station should have at least one ANS lead volunteer and helpers, as needed. The ANS escorts will serve to keep the groups on-schedule and will lead the groups from one station to the next.

The closing session should bring all the groups together and feature a presentation about what they have learned, and a questions/answers session.

icon Sample schedule

Introduction: Get to Know Nuclear (15 – 20 minutes)

Welcome scouts. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance and introduce them to lay of the land. Begin by introducing the volunteers and their line of work, give a safety message, explain facility safety (fire alarm) and any security rules, and give an outline of the day.

  1. Introduction to the basics of nuclear science. This can be done with a power point.
  2. Discuss protons, neutrons, and electrons and how atoms are structured
  3. Discuss basic terms
  4. Discuss the difference between atoms and isotopes.
  5. Discuss isotopes, stability, and decay chains.
  6. Discuss ionizing .vs non-ionizing radiation

At the end of the introduction session tell each group which station they go to next and have the ANS escort guide them there.

Station A: Half-life (choose one) – 15 minutes

  1. m&mTM Half-Life Demonstration
  2. Licorice Activity
  3. Flip-Out (pennies)
  4. Half–Life of Paper
Resource: icon Half–Life

Station B: Fission vs Fusion (choose one) ‐ 15 minutes

Discuss how you use fission to make electricity. Discuss the how fusion is different. This can be done with a power point.

  1. Balloon chain reaction (critical mass)
  2. Mouse trap reactor demonstration (long set up time, can only be done once)
  3. Dominoes chain reaction
  4. Fission balloons (energy release)
  5. icon Nuclear fusion (Marshmallows)

Station C: Careers – Girls in Science (choose one) – 30 minutes

Discuss at least 5 careers: job descriptions, required education and training. This can be guided with a power point. Bring in nuclear professionals to discuss: what they do, why they chose their career path, how they prepared for it. Share any stories about interesting opportunities due to their involvement in nuclear. Professionals can also participate in a Q&A session with the girls.

  1. Dress up/role playing.
    • Obtain materials for outfits for at least 5 careers (e.g. lab coat, eye protection, dosimeter, Geiger counter for a radiation worker; radiation training suit, a business suit/ jacket for a manager; a backpack and notebook for a college student, etc.).
    • 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.
  2. Who runs the World? Girls.
    • If you do not have access to career items, present a power point on famous women in nuclear history (Marie Sklodowska Curie, Harriet Brooks, Lise Meitner etc), current women in the field (Shirley Jackson, Allison M. Macfarlane, Kristine L. Svinicki - NRC, J'Tia Taylor – Survivor); and the future (THEM)

icon SAMPLE Presenters Careers
icon ANS Careers in Nuclear Science

Station D: Radiation and radioactivity are a natural part of our world (choose one) – 30 minutes

  1. Calculate your annual dose
    • Have each girl fill out the icon ANS Radiation dose chart. This can be done online or using the worksheet in the brochure. A volunteer should walk the group through this step–by–step to ensure they know what each item is.
    • Explain distance and shielding concepts – cover the basics.
  2. Detecting Radiation
    • Obtain Geiger counters, sources (alpha, beta, gamma*), and shielding materials (paper and lead) *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.
    • Place sources at different heights/lengths to demonstrate distance.

Station E: Seeing the Unseen (choose one) – 30 minutes

Discuss basic information about radiation

  1. icon Build a cloud chamber
    • Girls can work in groups, or alone if there are enough supplies. Discuss what they are seeing is not actually radiation.
  2. icon Build an electroscope (ionization chamber)
  3. Radiation photographs (prepared in advance. Discuss how it was done and what is being seen)

Station F: Modeling an Atom (choose one) – 15 minutes

Discuss basic atomic structure

  1. Rutherford Boards
  2. Modeling atoms (marshmallows)
  3. icon 3D Anatomy of an atom (cut-out)

Station G: Nuclear technology works (choose one) – 30–45 minutes (Cadettes/Seniors/Ambassadors Only)

ANS members conducting GS workshops are encouraged to coordinate a tour whenever possible, since this is often difficult for troops to do on their own. If you are working with a facility for a tour, they may have restrictions on when the girls can tour. This session can be moved to accommodate the facility. If a tour is not possible, Cadettes/Seniors/Ambassadors can be assigned option #4 as a prerequisite (homework), or the workshop could feature an additional lecture (at the closing of the workshop).

  1. Visit a local nuclear power plant training facility
    • During the tour discuss, how a reactor works, what a reactor operator.s job is like, and what training is needed.
    • For more Cadettes/Seniors/Ambassadors, discuss the nuclear fuel cycle and how fuel is made. Make sure to include mining, processing, enrichment, fuel assembly (or fuel bundle), nuclear reactor, nuclear waste, and reprocessing.
  2. Visit a local laboratory (national labs) or research reactor (universities).
    • During the tour discuss the variety of experiments performed at the facility, what a researcher.s job is like, and what training is needed.
  3. Visit a hospital that uses nuclear techniques for diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
    • During the tour interview professionals you meet and learn about the different parts of nuclear medicine.
  4. If a site visit is not available, discuss the various applications of nuclear technology (space, consumer products, industry, food, health/medicine, archaeology, power generation) and how it benefits your everyday life. This can be done with a power point. Resources: icon Day with the Atom, icon Sustainable Solutions for Our World, icon Sample Medical Users of Radiation
    • Key messages:
      • Discuss the various 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.
      • Discuss current research in the field, where famous experiments occurred (i.e Argonne, CERN etc), and what the future holds for new research.
      • Discuss the importance of a diverse energy mix (i.e. coal, nuclear, gas, and renewables).
    • Activities can include:
      • icon Playing Energy Action Game
      • icon Playing Energy Jeopardy
      • Human Power Plant
      • No more empties (isotopes in consumer products demo)
      • How thick is it? (isotopes in industry demo)
      • NS&T kiosk – set up items (or pictures) illustrating uses of nuclear technology (i.e. space vehicles, events, a smoke detector, a soft drink can, permanent press clothes, non-stick frying pan, ice cream, computer disks, etc.) Each item should have a card with a caption explaining the connection to nuclear technology. Have the girls match the card to the item.


During this time get everyone back in the same room, thank them for coming. Distribute evaluation forms/survey to the scouts, and leaders & parents. As the girls turn in their evaluation form, hand out Get to Know Nuclear patches. Use the feedback to improve your next workshop.

Last updated August 13, 2014, 4:23pm CDT

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