CEDAR FALLS | Just when you thought about shedding pounds from holiday gorging, the Girl Scouts are ramping up for their annual cookie sale.
It's an essential fundraising source that makes attending camp and other events affordable.
Starting Feb. 8, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois will canvass neighborhoods for cookie orders. Troops get to keep 50 cents per box as "cookie credit" to spend on summer camps or even international trips to one of four world Girl Scout centers.
About 20,000 girls are enrolled in the 38-county area. In the Waterloo region there are about 3,000 Girl Scouts.
The local council is making a concerted effort to create activities that get young women involved in science, technology, engineering and math.
Robyn Smuck, leadership experience manager, said they got a World in Motion grant from the governor's STEM Advisory Council to promote the idea.
"Women are largely underrepresented in STEM fields, so I think a lot of girls feel like they can't do STEM," she said.
Smuck is organizing STEM activities at the annual World Thinking Day event in The River Center in Davenport in March. This year's theme is called Journey the World, where girls can explore the culture of over 40 countries.
Anptjer STEM event is happening next week at the University of Iowa called "Mini Medical School for Girls and Parents."
On Jan. 25 at the U of I's Carver College of Medicine, fifth- through 12th-grade students can participate in hands-on stations and simulations, learning the latest about staying healthy and safe.
Schools typically receive those grants, but Smuck thought if STEM was infused into Girl Scout programming more women would pursue these careers.
In fact, 80 percent of women business owners, 69 percent of female U.S. senators, 67 percent of female members of the House of Representatives and virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space were Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts is actually a global organization, the U.S. being just one of 145 participating organizations worldwide. Scouts can visit one of four world centers in England, Switzerland, India and Mexico to explore other cultures.
Juliette Gordon Low started the organization more than100 years ago in Savannah, Ga., pulling the first troop of 18 girls from patriarchal chains to explore sports, camping and wilderness living. Today, Girl Scouts of the USA has a membership of over 3.2 million girls and adults, according to the organization's website.
Like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts hold service to the highest regard. Their top award, the Gold Award, is equivalent to that of an Eagle Scout award in Boy Scouts. Girls must create a project with sustainable benefits, meaning the project will be repeated in years to come even if the Scout moves on from the organization.
Smuck said they're always looking for volunteers to help lead troops in the area. Those interested may call (319) 232-6601.