University of Miami Biologists Host 50 South Florida Girl Scouts for Naturalist Badge Day Activities

College of Arts & Sciences Ph.D. Student in Biology Allie Graham Inspires Young Girls to Explore the Fun in Science through Educational Event on Bugs and Flowers

More than 50 South Florida Girl Scouts spent an educational morning at the University of Miami on April 4, when Ph.D. student in Biology Allie Graham organized Naturalist Badge Day.

Graham – a biology Ph.D. student in the College of Arts & Sciences – created a curriculum on Bugs for local Brownies (2nd/3rd graders), and a unit on Flowers for Juniors (4th/5th graders).

Ultra-organized and energetic, Graham was a Girl Scout for more than 10 years, eventually earning a Silver Award for her accomplishments in scouting, her community and her personal life.

Allie Graham helps a Brownie make a bug mask during Girl Scouts of
Tropical Florida Naturalist Badge Day at the University of Miami on April 4.

“My experience in Girl Scouts was so important to me. I wanted to give back,” she said. 

In addition to planning interactive and educational activities, Graham recruited several faculty members and graduate students from the Department of Biology to share their expertise with the Scouts.

Director of Programs for the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida Lori Ross said, “The students who helped Allie run the program were great with the girls and so effective in ensuring the girls learned in a safe, fun and encouraging atmosphere.”

Professor of Biology Carol Horvitz – an international authority on plant ecology – worked with the Juniors on their Flower Badges. They explored UM’s Gifford Arboretum to gather specimens and investigate floral properties such as scent and color. They then visited a lab to create corsages and make their own perfume.

“Spending the morning in our living tree collection with the Girl Scouts was a delight,” Horvitz said. “They discovered the diversity of scents, colors, forms and functions of flowers as we had planned, but they did not stop with the planned lesson. Their natural curiosity took over as they explored on their own, collecting seed pods, big leaves, small leaves and marveling at the fibers and saps produced by the trees."

For their Bug Badges, the Brownies examined different bug species under a microscope, made bug masks and learned how insects are used in research to answer biological questions.

Ross said, “I am so grateful to Allie and her team of volunteers for developing and implementing this program. The program was so well organized, and Allie made certain that the activities were fun, hands on and educational.”

Graham said, “We had so many girls come up to us, telling us how much fun they had, and how wonderful the event was. I know I left campus feeling like I had really accomplished something; hopefully it got the girls interested in insects and plants, even if just a little.”

She added that another goal of the event is to humanize scientists for the Scouts. “Scientists are real people. I try and portray myself as a scientist, but also as a regular person. You don’t have to be a genius – you just have to have the enthusiasm.”

April 08, 2015