Girl Scouts get ‘Lost in Steamboat’ | SteamboatToday.com
Susan Cunningham

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Girl Scouts get ‘Lost in Steamboat’

— When Crystal Larson, 12, of Grand Junction, heard there was a Girl Scouts camp focusing on Global Positioning Systems, she knew she wanted to go.

She didn’t know anything about GPS, which uses satellites to guide users within 6 to 20 feet of known coordinates. But that didn’t deter her.

She admitted that before starting camp, she thought it would be boring at times, but on Wednesday, she said it had been nothing but fun. The camp focused on map-reading and compass skills, using GPS technology for games such as geocaching — a sort of GPS-guided scavenger hunt.

One of the best parts, she said, was how GPS “tells you where to go.”

“I want to learn how to use maps and stuff because I have no idea how to, and it’s a good idea if you get lost or something,” Larson said.

And while it may not have been her focus Wednesday, the adults organizing her camp know that skills in GPS and other new technologies, along with a focus in science, math or engineering, can open doors into high-paying careers. Those are exactly the sorts of fields that Girl Scouts wants to make sure girls have an opportunity to pursue.

“If we want our girls to have those options as adults, we need to start now,” said Jenny Peed, assistant executive director of Girl Scouts of Chipeta Council, which organized the camp.

Studies show that girls start to lose interest in science and math in the fourth or fifth grade, Peed said. That intensifies during high school, until girls are scoring lower than boys in science and math.

But some of the girls attending the camp disagreed with those trends.

Karlie Zajac, 15, of Aspen, enjoys science and said she plans to get a GPS device and do some geocaching on her own.

Erin Duran, 12, of Steamboat Springs, agreed.

“It depends on what you are going for and what you want to achieve,” Duran said. Her own interest is theater, and though she enjoys science, she said it’s not one of her strengths.

“Girls are into it a lot more than people say,” she said.

Still, introducing girls to science and math in a fun, easy-going atmosphere can’t hurt.

The camp is one in a series of programs to encourage girls to explore science, math and engineering. Fourteen girls ages 11 to 17 from across the Western Slope attended the weeklong camp based at the Colorado Mountain College campus in Steamboat Springs.

The series, sponsored by a $5,000 Lockheed Martin grant, started with a focus on energy through a Saturday program during the school years. Next, there was a day camp on rockets. The “Lost in Steamboat” overnight camp is the third in the series and will be followed by a final program about the science of motion.

The Chipeta Council has offered additional science, math and engineering programs, and interest in the programs is growing, Peed said.

In last week’s camp, girls started off learning basic compass and map skills.

“Before you get into the real technology piece, you’ve got to understand how it works and why it works,” Peed said.

The girls then learned the ins and outs of using GPS, working on those skills by playing different games. In one game, a group would “hide” from another group on the side of a building. The hiding group would radio back the coordinates of their location, then the other group would use the coordinates to find the first group.

On Wednesday, they got to do “virtual caching” in which they receive hints and coordinates to follow to get to a destination — a store, the library or another spot.

“It’s like having a treasure hunt with no clues,” said Emily Miller, 11, of Grand Junction.

The activities culminated to geocaching, in which they found hidden boxes with small treats based on coordinates available online.

For more information, or to volunteer, call 1 (800) 288-0463, or go to http://www.chipetas.org.