How I Became Involved with the
WCC—and How You Can Too
GPA-WCC volunteers for the Science of Style Girl Scout event included members from the ACS student chapters at the
University of Pittsburgh and Carlow University, as well as graduate
students and professors from Carnegie Mellon University.
I became involved in the GPA-WCC two years ago when the
local Pittsburgh WCC chapter had just formed. One of my profes-
sors, Michelle Ward, thought a WCC chapter would be a good
way for more women to get involved in the ACS and other chemi-
cal societies specific to Pittsburgh. I became the inaugural out-
reach coordinator because I had done a lot of outreach with ACS
and wanted to become more involved with organizing events
that would encourage girls to go into the sciences.
Want to get involved with the WCC or start your own local
chapter? The National WCC maintains a contact list of existing
local chapters on their website. If there is not currently a local
chapter in your area, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for informa-
tion on starting one!
For our final activity, we showed the girls another kind of
timeline: the journey from middle school student to chemistry
professor. The purpose of this was to allow the Girl Scouts to
picture themselves as future scientists by showing real people
going through the process. At the front of the room, we had
two Girl Scout volunteers (one in middle school and one in
high school). The next logical step, of course, is undergraduate
study as a chemistry major, so a college student joined them,
along with a graduate student, a postdoc, and finally a chemistry professor. Tara Meyer, a chemistry professor volunteer
from the University of Pittsburgh, explained to the girls how
to progress from one stage to the next. Seeing the progression
took the abstract idea of becoming a scientist and turned it
into something relatable and concrete. At the conclusion of
the demonstration, each Girl Scout received a certificate of
completion in addition to a badge.
To make her pendant, each girl cut a piece of plastic into
desired shapes about three times the size that they wanted the
final dimensions to be. Then they used a hole punch to make
a hole in each Shrinky Dink so they could hang it on a necklace
strand. Using colored Sharpie pens, the girls drew their desired
designs onto their pendants. Our volunteers used heat guns to
shrink the pendants. As the girls watched, the pendants curled
and flattened as they shrank on an aluminum foil surface. During this process, the plastic shrank to about one-third of its
original size and became five to six times as thick. Once the
plastic cooled, the girls added metal jump rings and strung the
pendants onto recycled yarn or twine. Girls could also use this
same process to make pins or bracelets!
Working with your local Girl Scout Council
You can become a program partner with your local Girl Scout
Council by contacting its volunteer management staff. They
are happy to work with you to help you develop a program
that works toward a badge, or is simply a fun activity for girls
of any age. The advertising for our event was done through
our local council’s website and print publications. We charged
a nominal fee of $10 per Scout, which covered the cost of the
food, badge, and most supplies. If your student chapter is considering a similar program, my advice is start early! We contacted the Girl Scouts in October for an event in mid-April.
Properties of fabrics
After the lab rotations, there was a 25-minute break for snacks
and juice. Afterward, we investigated the sociology of style
by conducting a short lecture-style presentation and demo
on women’s athletic outfits from the 1800s to the present.
We explained some big themes from a female historical perspective: the Health Movement of the 1800s, the creation of
women’s colleges, and Title IX. Of course, these explanations
were accompanied by hilarious pictures of old sports gear, from
corset-wearing tennis players to bloomer-style gym shorts. For
the demo, we gave the Girl Scouts small squares of absorbent
cotton fabric and technical wicking fabric. They used dropper pipets to put drops of water on each fabric sample. We
explained that technical fabrics had a similarity to the Shrinky
Dinks they had made earlier, in that they also contain synthetic
polymers. The girls were so amazed at how the water beaded
and slid right off the wicking fabric that they asked for more
fabric to take home with them!
Here are some additional tips we learned along the way that
your student chapter may find helpful. It is helpful if some
chapter members are current or former Girl Scouts because
they can have great ideas from similar projects in their past
that can be repurposed as a more science-oriented activity. If
these are new activities that no one has experience with (as
was the case with us) going through a dry run with your volunteers is essential because they need to understand the
potential safety issues and should be familiar with the procedure. Our event was such a success largely because of our
amazing volunteer turnout, so smaller chapters with fewer
members might find it difficult to host a large number of Girl
Scouts— we had at least one volunteer per participant. It’s
certainly not necessary to have your volunteers outnumber
the participants, but it was great to have so much help.
Smaller chapters should consider teaming up with nearby
chapters or other local science organizations to host something on this scale.
Rachel Harris graduated from the University of Pittsburgh
in 2012 after serving as co-president of its ACS student
chapter; she also is former outreach coordinator for the
Greater Pittsburgh Area WCC. Currently, she is a first-year
graduate student at Northwestern University.