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Girl Scouts prove computer coding is for girls, too

From left are Ella McGough, Grace Marshall and Gabby Patterson, all middle-schoolers from Dover, NH. The girls are working to earn their Girl Scout Silver Award with their project, Coding with LEGIT, and selling Girl Scout Cookies to fund other projects. (Courtesy photo)

Girl Scout Silver Award project done with help from Liberty Mutual embodies STEM focus

DOVER, NH | If you had to program a computer to play a game, could you do it? Could you do it when you were just 13?

In Dover, a trio of Cadette Girl Scouts are not only learning how do to just that, they are working on a way to spark interest in computer coding among their peers and proving that girls can be successful in the computer fields. They are in the middle of earning their Girl Scout Silver Award with their project called Coding with LEGIT, and they are unleashing their potential as G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)™.

The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest  award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn, and it is available to girls in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. It requires a girl or small team of girls to spend about 50 hours to plan, share, and complete a project that makes the world a better place. It is the second-highest award a Girl Scout can earn, with the Gold Award being the highest, which is available to older Girl Scouts.

April McGough of Dover, leader of Cadette Troop 10931, found a perfect match for her girls through her employer.

“I work at Liberty Mutual in IT (information technology),” she said, “so I know the value to women in that area! My girls were talking about the Silver Award last year, about the time the new badges came out.”

Girl Scouts now can earn 30 new badges in the fields of computer science, robotics, space and more.

Liberty Mutual was already involved in doing an Hour of Code program with elementary school children, and was looking for ways to reach more students. McGough asked if they would be interested in working with Girl Scouts. “They were ecstatic,” she said. “It was a nice fit.”

The company has a mission to empower, support, and inspire the global community of women in technology, and has a Women in Technology group. A subset of that group is LEGIT, which stands for Liberty Encouraging Girls in Technology. That group wanted to build a program for girls to potentially earn a badge, said McGough.

“I met with the LEGIT people,” she said, “and thought: Why don’t we have the girls do it instead of me, and then thought it could be a Silver Award.”

McGough’s daughter, Ella, along with Cadettes Grace Marshall and Gabby Patterson, decided to work together as a team for their project, which is now in the works. They want to create a STEM workshop or curriculum and possibly even a smartphone app that would allow their friends to create a computer game. They’ve already worked with a training instructor from Liberty Mutual and collected feedback from their peers on what they’d like to learn through a questionnaire they presented at a World Thinking Day fair.

What is coding? It’s basically writing the directions to tell a computer how to do something. “There are many different parts of code,” said Gabby. “Some have a language like Python, or drag-and-drop bricks. Right now we’re experimenting with different ways.”

“We’re trying to make a new curriculum of code that’s different from what we do in school, said Grace. “It’s more of what girls would want. It’s targeted to older girls. It’s more in-depth.”

The end result would be a phone app, probably to create a game.

“It would be up to the girls to decide what to make on the phone app,” said Ella. “We want to make it as fun as possible.”

Gabby and Grace both got scholarships in sixth grade to attend a summer camp where they worked with computers. “I just liked the part where you get to create what you want,” said Gabby. “We took apart different machines to see what’s inside, and helped code a game we made.”

The girls all agreed that it’s important for girls in particular to learn more about coding and the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.

“There’s a lot of jobs you need to know how to code in,” said Ella. Gabby noted that pen and paper are going away. “We need to learn how to code,” she said. “It can’t all be men-dominated fields.”

Even though they are still in the midst of figuring out their Silver Award project, the girls have already learned new skills, like how to speak to adults and gather information.

“It helps you get out of your comfort zone,” said Grace. “We really want people to know that Girl Scouts isn’t just arts and crafts. It’s connecting with the world. We want older girls to try new things, like coding.”

The girls are currently focusing on their Girl Scout Cookie sales, which have not only helped them pay for their membership in Girl Scouts, but will also help in their plans to travel. They are saving for a big trip, likely to Cape Cod. They have also used their cookie earnings for community events like World Thinking Day, a Raingutter Regatta, and Cupcake Wars.

With Girl Scout Cookies,100 percent of the net proceeds stays local and helps fund troops and efforts like this project. For more information on the Girl Scouts Cookie Sale, visit the GSGWM website at or call 888-474-9686.

As the largest leadership development organization for girls in the world, Girl Scouts supports STEM, outdoors, life skills and entrepreneurship. Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains recently recognized 72 Girl Scouts with the Silver Award in the past year, along with 16 who earned the organization’s highest honor, the Gold Award. Gold Award Girl Scouts may earn college scholarships, enter the military at a higher rank, and are committed to creating a better future for their entire community.

About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our innovative leadership programs help girls discover, connect, and take action as they develop strong values, a social conscience, and a deep sense of self and their potential. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit