STEAM Snack: Unplugged Coding – Valentine’s Day

Hello! Welcome back to our monthly post that will focus on STEAM activities and snacks you can do at home with your family or with your troops. 

February is here! With this new month comes Valentine’s Day – a day filled with treats, sweet messages, and often a lot of sugar. This unplugged coding activity will maximize the nice messages, while minimizing screen time (and cutting back on eating too many sweets!) Girls will be making binary bracelets with a Valentine’s twist! There are so many more STEAM projects out there and if you have a favorite or a new topic you’d like to see please let us know in the comments. 

Why unplugged coding?  

Basic coding activities are a great way to have fun without screens or computers. Introducing your girls to the binary alphabet can help them gain a better understanding of the technology, apps, and games they use every day. If they already understand the basics of coding, this is a great refresher and a fun way to showcase their existing knowledge. 

What is binary code? 

Binary code is the code used in digital computers that is based on the binary number system in which there are only two states – off and on. Off and on are symbolized by 0 and 1. A binary code signal is a series of electrical pulses that represent numbers, characters, and operations to be performed. In binary code, each number or letter is represented by a set of four binary digits, also called bits.  

What if I’m not an expert? 

We are not all coding or computer specialists, and it is okay to feel like we don’t know enough to lead the girls in computer science activities. But remember, you do! Focus on the basics of binary code and let the girls lead their projects and see where it goes. Each girl will have a different design/set of code. If you are feeling you want more expert knowledge reach out to your troop parents, friends, relatives or other GSHPA troop leaders on the GSHPA Facebook page to see if there is a computer science professional you can invite to come talk to your girls.   

How do I get started? 

Take some time to look over the basics of binary coding and computer science. Take a look at this resource that helps explain the Binary Alphabet.  Review the Binary Bracelets lesson from code.org for more information. 

Now’s the time to gather supplies for you to do the activity – it’s always easier to guide girls through the process when you have done it yourself. Once you have everything, read through the directions in “The Activity” section below. 

  • Pink, white, and red craft pipe cleaners  
  • Pink, white, and red pony beads 
  • Paper and pencil 
  • Print out of the Binary Bracelet Worksheet from code.org  
  • Scissors  
  • Tape  

The Badges 

This activity is a great way to introduce coding to your girls or troop. You can change the level of difficulty by having girls code their initials or an entire word/sentence. Complete this activity just for fun, adapt it to fit other holidays, or add this activity into your meetings for any of the following badges: 

  • Daisy Coding for Good 1: Coding Basics 
  • Brownie Coding for Good 1: Basics 
  • Brownie Robotics 1: Programming Robots 
  • Junior Coding for Good 1: Coding Basics 
  • Junior Robotics 1: Programming Robots 

The Activity  

Need enough materials for each girl participating: pink/white/red craft pipe cleaners (ribbon or yarn will work), pink/white/red pony beads (need a lot since each letter girls’ will be coding takes 8 beads), paper, pencil, print out the Binary Bracelet Worksheet for each girl, scissors, and tape.  

Introduction to the girls 

  • Today’s activity is all about coding – but without technology or computers! Where is coding used? 
    • Computers, phones, robotics, technology, etc.  
    • What is coding? (Give girls time to think and answer). 
      • Coding is defined as “A specific language or series of commands that tells a computer what to do.” 
  • For this activity, we will be learning/review Binary Code. 
    • Binary is a way of representing information using only two options. 
  • Has anyone seen the inside of a computer? 
    • What’s in there? (Share a photo of the inside of a computer) 
  • Wires carry information through the machine in the form of electricity. 
    • The two options that a computer uses with respect to this electrical information are “off” and “on.” 
    • When computers represent information using only two options, it’s called “Binary.” 
    • That theme of two options doesn’t stop when the information gets to its destination. 
  • Computers also store or save information using Binary. 
  • How can we convert/translate/change the things we store in a computer into binary? 
    • Let’s use letters!  

Step 1: Binary Decoder Key/Paper Bracelets 

This first activity is a great introduction to binary and gets the girls comfortable before creating their Valentine’s hearts. Make sure girls have paper, pencil, and a copy of the Binary Bracelet Worksheet. Explain the following: 

  • Have girls take out the Binary Decoder Key. This is how a computer might represent capital letters. 
    • Look at the letter “A” 
    • It’s represented by black and white squares 
  • Look at each letter and explain to girls that the letters can be written in a code using the black and white squares 
  • For Brownies and Juniors (before creating bracelet) 
    • If it was written in a computer, the black squares would be zero’s and the white squares would be one’s 
      • 0100 0001 
    • Use your blank piece of paper and pencil and write the first letter of your first name, and the first letter of your last name 
      • If your name starts with “A”, find “A” on the Binary Decoder Key 
        • Example: A = 0100 0001 
  • Once the girls understand, have them complete the following: 
    • Find the first letter of your first name. 
    • Fill in the squares of the bracelet to match the pattern of the squares next to the letter that you found. 
    • Cut the bracelet our and tape it around your wrist to wear! 

Step 2: Valentine’s Binary Hearts 

Once the girls feel comfortable and understand the basics of binary, they are ready to create their Valentine’s hearts! Make sure they have the Alphabet in Binary Code, paper, pencil, beads, and pipe cleaners. More information on this activity can be found here

Have girls pick what they want to code for their hearts. Keep them simple, remember each letter takes 8 beads. Once they pick their word/letters, have them write them on a piece of paper using the Binary Decoder Key. Girls can make multiple hearts for words or attach more pipe cleaners for longer words. Tell them to pick TWO colors for their beads – REMEMBER one color represents the zeros and one color represents the ones. Choose another bead color as a separator between the letters.  

  • LOVE 
  • HI 
  • BFF 
  • MOM 
  • DAD 
  • CUTE 
  • NICE 
  • ROSE 

Example: LOVE, zeros are pink and ones are white, purple bead to put between each new letter. 

  • L = 0100 1100 (add purple bead to separate) 
  • O = 0100 1111 
  • V = 0101 0110 
  • E = 0100 0101 

Bonus: to extend the activity, have girls write simple messages in binary and trade with someone to see if they can decode the message! 

Congratulations, you did it! You deserve a snack – let’s make Valentine’s Fruit Kebabs!  

Valentine Fruit Wands

Materials: 

  • Watermelon 
  • Strawberries  
  • Any fruit that you like! 
  • Small heart cookie cutter 
  • Knife for cutting fruit 
  • Wood/metal skewers or even straws 

Cut your watermelon into ½ to 1 inch slices, then use the small heart cookie cutter to cut watermelon into smaller heart pieces. Use a knife to remove the stems off the strawberries (can get creative and cut the stem off and make it look like a heart). If you want to add raspberries, blackberries, or even grapes go for it! For extra sweetness, add some whipped cream topping or melted chocolate to dip your fruit in! 


Post by Liz Bleacher

STEAM Snack: Cookie Creations!

Hello! Welcome back to our monthly post that will focus on STEAM activities and snacks you can do at home with your family or with your troops! 

January can seem like a time when there’s not much going on – the holidays have passed, decorations are being put away, and it feels like it gets colder each day. January is also the perfect time to incorporate fun and creative STEAM projects for your family and Girl Scouts to overcome those “January doldrums.” This food science activity combines BOTH the STEAM and a snack! There are so many more STEAM projects out there and if you have a favorite or a new topic you’d like to see please let us know in the comments. 

Why food science? 

Food science is simply the study of food! Food Scientists use various scientific and engineering methods to explore the food we eat every day. They take a closer look at the physical (what we can see), microbial (what we can’t see), and chemical makeup (how different ingredients interact) of food. Food Scientists apply their findings to develop safe, nutritious, and sustainable foods. They also create innovative packaging that are used in stores and supermarkets. A Food Scientist’s job contributes to ensuring that our food supply is: 

  • Safe 
  • Nutritious 
  • Tastes good 
  • Economical 
  • Abundant 
  • Easy to prepare 
  • Sustainable  

Food Scientists use creative thinking to solve problems and come up with brand new food products and packaging. So this is a great opportunity to enable girls to think outside-of-the-box and expand their creativity to help make the world a better place. A great way to guide your girls’ thinking is through the stages of creative thinking: 

  1. Preparation: The very first step of the creativity process; it refers to the curiosity of an individual to explore a problem. At this stage, you identify the problem and collect all the information you need in order to properly formulate it and start thinking about possible solutions. This is when you have to set your goals, conduct research, map your thoughts and brainstorm. 
  2. Incubation: During this stage, you might stop thinking directly about your problem as you begin to combine your thoughts putting your imagination in action. You don’t have to find a solution now, but this is the beginning of its construction. 
  3. Illumination: This is when your ideas come together becoming one piece in a logical manner. It is what is known as the “aha” or “eureka” experience. 
  4. Evaluation: At this stage, you need to evaluate the solution that came as an epiphany into your mind. Ask for feedback and make any adjustments needed in order for your solution to be valid and finally approved. 
  5. Implementation: The final step of the creative thinking process is to transform your solution into a final product. Implement your ideas and make changes until you are pleased with the result. 

(Source: https://engage.erasmus.site/creativity/5/)  

What if I’m not an expert? 

We are not all food scientists, and it’s okay to feel like we don’t know enough to lead the girls in a food experiment. But remember you do! Think back to the time when you were young and were told not to play with your food – for food scientists, using food for something other than a meal or snack is actually their job – so embrace what comes along with this activity and refer back to the 5 stages of creative thinking.  

If you are feeling you want more expert knowledge reach out to your troop parents, friends, relatives or other GSHPA troop leaders on the GSHPA Facebook page to see if there is a food scientist or someone who works in the food industry that you can invite to come talk to your girls.   

How do I get started? 

Take some time to look over the 5 stages of creative thinking. These stages are not only helpful for this activity, but can be applied to almost all activities and situations in life and Girl Scouting.  

Take a look at the following links to read about cooking experiments and the different branches of food science. If your girls are interested in learning more about food science, have them do research on different colleges, universities, and companies that offer or utilize food scientists.  

The Badges 

Our activity is a great start to partially completing Step 2: Discover the Possibilities in the Brownie, Junior, and Cadette STEM Career Exploration Badges. This badge explores 6 different fields of STEM careers and food science is listed under the Food & Agriculture field: 

  • Computer science 
  • Creative technology & design 
  • Engineering 
  • Food & agriculture – a field that focuses on growing, cooking, and consuming food. It includes careers such as a baker, farmer, food scientist, chef, agricultural engineer, urban farmer, and agricultural scientist. 
  • Health & wellness 
  • Nature & environment  

The Activity 

Materialsat least 2-3 kinds of cookies (use your favorites, granola bars work great too), frosting (as many flavors as you like, or you can use Nutella, jams, etc.), sprinkles, plates, cups, spoons, butter knives, paper towels/towels, multiple pieces of paper, pencil, things to color with. *(Cookies and frosting can be swapped out for healthier choices, use whatever snack foods you like!) 

Set up a separate table or section of table where you are working with all the food supplies: cookies, frostings, sprinkles, etc. This is where girls will go when they need more supplies. Use plates for the cookies and small cups or bowls for the frosting and sprinkles. 

For this activity, the girls will act as food scientists to come up with a brand new cookie! Girls will use existing cookies and materials to create several cookie samples, document their cookie creation steps, design cookie packaging, and then share their ideas. Throughout this activity, break the steps into each of the 5 steps of creative thinking. Remember – creativity is a process that results in generating new ideas OR transforming old ideas into new ones. You will help the girls create new cookies OR transform ones into a brand new idea. 

Introduction to the GirlsStart the activity by talking to the girls about what a food scientist is and introduce the 5 stages of creative thinking process. Refer to the list of questions & talking points: 

  • Have you ever heard of food science/food scientists? 
  • Raise your hand if you like to cook or bake – some of you are closer to food science than you think! 
  • Have you ever wondered how different foods or snacks at the grocery store are created? They are designed and developed by food scientists! They think of new and innovative ways to create food for us to eat every day. 
  • Ask about favorite snack foods and things they’ve seen at the grocery store. 

Step 1: Preparation 

  • Explain to the girls that they are acting as food scientists that have been tasked with creating a new cookie. They’ve been given certain samples and need to create a new combination.  
  • Pass out paper and pencil. Have the girls fold their paper so it creates three different sections. This is where they will write down their notes for the three different kinds of cookies they will create. Girls should include the following info for each cookie: 
  • Name, ingredients/samples used, and a brief description of what the cookie is like/tastes like. 

Step 2: Incubation 

  • This is where girls are able to gather supplies to create their THREE cookie samples. 
  • Encourage them to try and make three different types of cookies if possible. 
  • Let girls’ creativity and imagination run wild in this step. Remind them that we are scientists, so we must write down our ideas and steps we take in designing each cookie so we can refer back to them later.  

Step 3: Illumination 

  • During this time, girls should have all three cookies made.  
  • Once they have their three samples, they will choose ONE cookie to move forward with. 
  • This step is important, as food scientists create many different samples but only ONE ends up getting chosen.  
  • Have them review the notes they took about each cookie.  
  • Who would like this cookie/who is the best consumer? 
  • Is this cookie easy to eat or really messy? 
  • Remind younger girls that even though they have to pick just one cookie, the time they took to create all three is so important! Without creating and testing their cookies, they wouldn’t know which would be the better of the three they created.  

Step 4: Evaluation 

  • Have the girls share their cookie ideas with each other and get feedback. 
  • Feedback is great because it can help the girls improve their cookie designs and make them even better.  

Step 5: Implementation 

  • The final step is to transform their solution into a final product – implement the changes they received from the feedback. 
  • Once their cookie creation is complete, girls will complete the last step – use their imagination to create what their cookie packaging will look like!  
  • Girls will use paper, pencil, and things to color with. 
  • To help them think of ideas, grab any boxes or packages of food in your kitchen and have the girls take a look: 
  • Colors, shape, size, where the name of the cookie is, etc.  
  • If you have extra boxes, tape the girls’ pictures onto a box to bring it to life! 
  • When they are ready to begin, have them draw what their cookie box/packaging looks like. 
  • For older girls, take it one step further and ask about packaging materials (plastic, paper, etc.), are the materials sustainable or environmentally friendly, how many cookies are in each package, etc.  

Present their products 

Make sure to leave 10-15 minutes, depending on how talkative your group is, to review with them. 

Once the girls have finished creating their packaging, have each of them share their cookies! Have them share as much information about their new creation as they want. To help guide you, ask girls these questions: 

  • What is the name of your cookie? 
  • How did you decide on the flavor? 
  • How did you decide on your cookie packaging/box? 
  • What’s your favorite thing about your cookie? 
  • Who do you think would buy your cookie if it was sold in stores?  
  • Has this activity inspired you to learn more about food? 

Congratulations, you did it! You deserve a snack – eat your cookie creations! Remember those cookies that didn’t get chosen? Time to snack on those! If you have extra cookie creation supplies, design another snack to enjoy!  


Post by Colleen Park, Program Coordinator

STEAM and Snacks (No experience required!)

Have you ever thought, “How do I talk to my girls about STEAM when I have no experience?” Do you want to encourage them to learn more about science, technology, engineering, art, and math, but worry because you aren’t an expert? 

STEAM is important in our world today. As you look around you will notice so much of our world is STEAM-focused, including jobs, programming, architecture, engineering, biology, app building, construction, and much more.  STEAM also teaches creativity, problem solving, logic, and teamwork.  When keeping this in mind it can be hard to know where to start and how to best design activities for your girls when looking at Girl Scout Badges and Journeys.

GSHPA is here to help! We will be posting a monthly activity and snack that will be focused on a principle of STEAM that you can do at home with your family or with your troop.  You don’t need to be a scientist or engineer to include STEAM into your troop meetings! It is important to try to incorporate STEAM into your troops meetings to the girls’ learn through skill-building opportunities in robotics, programming, and citizen science. And most importantly these activities will boost their confidence in STEAM-related fields.  We have 4 easy tips to help you feel more confident to lead the girls and present them with STEAM ideas.

  1. Learn alongside them (you don’t have to know everything)

Do not worry about not having all the answers or knowing everything about the field you are talking about.  STEAM emphasizes skills like critical thinking and creative problem solving.  Ask the girls to observe, ask questions, and experiment.  Show them that it is ok to not know the answers and model how to look up questions and find the answers from reliable websites or books.  Seeing an adult enthusiastic about asking, investigating and learning with them is the best way to teach the girls about STEAM. 

2. Present them with strong female STEAM role models for inspiration

There are so many amazing women leading in the diverse STEAM fields and they are excited to share their knowledge and experience with your girls.  Knowing a STEAM role model likes to do the same things as they do, hike, play sports, knit, cook, or binge watch shows helps girls see the STEAM experts as people just like them. 

These role models could be friends or family of a troop member, volunteers from a local non-profit, business, or school.  If you need help finding a mentor reach out to your Girl Scout council, they should be able to help. 

GSHPA is hosting quarterly Career Chats with professionals in various fields. Our next chat is Monday, Dec 14, 2020 you can register here to talk with an American Airlines Pilot and the first female commander of F-16 pilots in Israel.

3. Let the girls’ interests guide the meeting

Sometimes when a topic is new or intimidating we tend to over plan and worry about if we are presenting all the facts.  We encourage you to take a step back and focus your plans toward asking questions rather than providing a list of facts. Questions allow the girls to take the meeting in any direction they like to discover the new ideas!  All this can mean the meeting might go in directions you didn’t plan, that is okay, just go along with it! When the girls lead the discussion it increases their learning and inspires them to follow their curiosity.  Also, let the girls do the hands-on work themselves.  I know it is tempting to step in and “fix” something for the girls, but it is important in building STEAM confidence for the girls to work through it and discover that she can do it herself.

4. Do hands-on projects with everyday materials

When planning keep in mind these two points: hands on and on hand! You don’t need the expensive, technical equipment to do amazing activities.  Taking chances, making mistakes and getting messy is the best way to explore STEAM! STEAM learning can happen anywhere with easy-to-find materials to design, build, and experiment. 

Hands on projects keeps their interest and gets them engaged.  It also allows the girls to work at their own pace while testing and adjusting their own ideas.  Think of your role as a Troop Leader to be a guide while asking questions like, “What can you do to solve the problem?”, “What inspired that idea?” or “Is there another way?”, rather than giving the girls the answers.

Ready to get started? First project.

STEAM is fun and encourages girls to be creative like with this cereal box turned organizer!

Cereal Box Invention

Materials Needed: cereal box, scissors, tape, glue, markers/crayons, string, anything you find at home you want to use to build.

Introduction:

Inventors tend to look at the world differently than most people.  The average person might look at a coat hanger and only see its intended use, to hand clothes. An inventor might look at that hanger and see all the other uses for the hanger, such as an antenna, a hot dog cooker, a hair curler, etc. In this activity the girls will look at the world like an inventory, through a lens of creativity!

The Engineering Design Process:

Step One – Define and Brainstorm: You have 3 minutes to come up with as many uses for a cereal box as possible.  You want to generate as many unique uses as you can. Wild ideas are encouraged! Ready, set, GO!!!

Step Two – Select: Now that you have a list, review it, is there an idea on that list that really excites you? Or you are curious about? Circle it!

Step Three – Design: Draw it out and make a plan! I have found that telling someone about your plan helps flesh it out.  Find someone to tell about your design.

Step Four – Prototype and Test: Start by building your prototype. A prototype is a physical representation of one or more of your ideas to show others. Just remember a prototype is a rough draft, you can make adjustments later!

Step Five – Evaluate and Improve: Evaluate your design: what is working, what isn’t? Make changes and test them out. Repeat this process until you are happy with your design.

Wrap Up

Ask questions about the ideas and process. What was difficult in the Engineering Design Process? What surprised you about your design? How can you use this process moving forward?

Badge Requirements

By completing the activity above your girls will fulfill the requirements for the badges listed below.  We recommend taking a look at the badge requirements for your level on Badge Explorer to see if you can adjust your prototype to fulfill another step or badge as well!

  • Daisies: Think Like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
  • Brownies: Inventor – Steps 1 & 2, Think Like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
  • Juniors: Think like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
  • Cadettes: Think like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
  • Seniors: Think like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
  • Ambassadors: Think like an Engineer Journey – Step 1

Post by Liz Bleacher