Friday, May 13, 2011

Science With Girl Scouts, Is It A Lesson or Is it a Craft? It's Both, Thanks to Steve Spangler!

Some of you may be surprised to learn that I am a Girl Scout Troop Leader. I volunteered to take on the position after a group of girls showed interest in forming a troop (Sj included) in the Fall. When I was a child, I spent only a year in Girl Scouts as a Brownie, so my experience with the organization in general was very limited. I didn't let my inexperience stop me, I just went for it. Luckily for me the girls are very eager to learn and always happily jumped right into whatever activity I had planned. In many ways it was great to be working with a group of children again, even sweeter that it wasn't over 30 students, which I was accustomed to when I was teaching full time.

Of course, the first association I make with Girl Scouts is to cookies, but moving past that I generally assumed the activities I would plan would be very crafty. As it turns out, I've done a lot of science based activities with my Troop so they could earn a Science Try-It badge. I was given the opportunity to partner with Steve Spangler Science and try out a few of their science kits with my girls.

The kits we tried were the UV Beads and Sun Paper

The UV Beads look just like regular pony beads, but they are special (and magic as a few girls exclaimed) they cost $6.99 for a bag of 250. We spent one entire meeting just working with the UV Beads, it was such a great learning experience. The beads are sensitive to Ultra Violet light, they look plain white when you have them inside, but step outside and they turn bright colors such as blue, red, yellow, and green. It's so cool! 

Beyond the fun of creating bracelets with the beads, we also did many experiments. It was amazing to give the girls a visual cue (the beads turning color when exposed) for something like UV light, which of course we know our eyes do not interpret from regular sun's rays. The lessons were endless, we slathered some beads in old sunblock, new sunblock, and just regular lotion to see if they would change color when exposed. We put the beads behind the lenses of sunglasses and on the other side of a window to see if the glass would block UV light or let it pass through. The girls couldn't wait to try the beads inside plastic containers or behind the tinted glass windows in their parent's car. 

Through the simple use of these special pony beads the girls took away the importance of wearing sunscreen even on a cloudy day (turns out there were intermittent clouds which I loved to help instill that we are still exposed to UV through clouds). It was so nice to solidify a concept that otherwise is very intangible to them. Brilliant Steve Spangler! 

The next activity we did was prints on sun sensitive paper, which costs $6.99 for a pack of 15 sheets. It was fun to create "sun art" with objects we found in nature. We just simply thumb tacked the paper to a piece of cardboard, so it wouldn't blow away in the wind, placed the objects on the paper, left them there for 2 minutes to expose, soaked the paper in a bowl of water for a minute, and voile- a print appeared! 

The best part of these kits to me was the learning that happened organically. My Troop was just thrilled with the craft activity on hand, but it turned out they were soaking in all the important scientific information. I had 3 parents contact me about our bead activity alone, their daughter's were so enthralled with the UV beads! 

Yeah for girls and science! I've already bookmarked my Steve Spangler Science catalog for activities I am going to purchase to do with my children this summer. By the way, in case you didn't click on the links to the products below the photo, I just want to let you know they all have super cool videos on the webpage demonstrating the product! The girls and I just hang out watching all the Steve Spangler videos. 

Steve Spangler also has an "Experiment of the Week" that arrives via email, you can sign up for the mailing here

Disclaimer: The science kits were donated to me by Steve Spangler Science. The writing of this post was driven purely by the excitement of actively engaging children in new and fun ways! As always, with all posts written at Eat Play Love, all ideas and content are original and written by me. A huge thank you to Steve Spangler Science for the opportunity. 



  1. Denise - I'm so glad your girl scouts had fun with the sun experiments. I loved reading about all the activities the girls came up with to "test" the beads. My girls used the beads as a science fair project a few years ago. They are fun, fashionable and full of discovery. Thank you for your wonderful review!

  2. Excellent post just ordered some!

  3. Thanks for letting me know about this! I'm all signed up now!


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