Girl Scouts Learn from Forest Service “Women of Science”


SourDough News | March 6, 2013


Girl Scout photo.
Lezlie Murray, Visitor Services Director, Chugach National Forest, talks to a circle of Girl Scouts at the “Women of Science and Technology Day” held Saturday, February 1, 2012, at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Murray employs a “Web of Life” game to teach the girls about the connection between natural resources and the different life forms that depend on the resources. (U.S. Forest Service Photo/Jessica Isle).

Girl Scoout patch.
Girls from grades 1-8 attending the “Women of Science and Technology Day” held Saturday, February 1, 2012, at the University of Alaska, Anchorage engage in fun educational activities with women who work in a variety of scientific roles in municipal, state, federal and non-governmental organizations from across the region. The girls receive this badge at the end of the day. (U.S. Forest Service Photo/Lezlie Murray).

For many years, Girl Scouts from Southcentral Alaska have participated in a special event called “Women of Science and Technology Day.” Girls from grades  one through eight  attend special presentations and engage in fun educational activities with women who work in a variety of scientific roles throughout the region who represent municipal, state, federal and non-governmental organizations. The annual event, sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Alaska, is held at the University of Alaska in Anchorage in February. This year, as in the past, employees from the Chugach National Forest worked at the event as a team. I was joined by ecologists Betty Charnon and Kate Mohatt and wildlife biologist Jessica Ilse. We provided the girls with age-appropriate, science-based educational activities that were both thought-provoking and fun. These activities included a nature-based ecology Web of Life game, an avalanche demonstration, an owl pellet dissection, and a moose survival activity. In each case, the girls participated in hands-on activities and learned scientific principles that were new to them. We assisted more than 100 girls and their troop leaders and parents through these interactive games and demonstrations.

Girls who participate in the game learn about the direct connection between different life forms and their reliance on each other, as well as about natural resources and how life forms and resources are affected when a link  in the web is broken or altered. To play the game, a girl dons an animal, plant or resource tag. Then, holding onto the end of a ball of string, she passes the ball to another girl wearing the tag of a different life form or resource, relating  why she feels they are connected. This is repeated until all the girls are  connected in a true web.

The avalanche demonstration allows the girls to witness how a variety of materials representing different kinds of snow respond when the angle of the slope increases. They see how the various kinds of snow, if layered differently, would create poor bonds with one another, leading to perfect conditions for an A-V-A-L-A-N-C-H-E.

During the owl pellet dissection, the girls are  asked to break apart an owl pellet and look for small bones and fur, and  compare what they find to a chart of potential prey animals to determine what the owl had eaten.

In the moose survival activity, the girls “become” moose and “browse and munch” in the forest picking up poker chips as part of the game, and then add the calories found in all of the chips they collect on each round. As the game progresses, other factors are  added. For example, after a record snowfall year, less browse would be available. As a result when a moose (girl) does not find enough browse, they die and are  removed from the game. At the end of each activity, the girls discuss how different scenarios would change the outcome in the activity they are involved in and talk about what they have  learned. 

The collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service, the Girl Scouts, university, and other organizations allowed these young students to discover  their own potential to become women of science.


By Lezlie L. Murray, Visitor Services Director, Chugach National Forest