It was 75 degrees and sunny at 9 am Saturday October 7th when girls rolled in with their parents at Friends of the Rappahannock to learn how to discover, connect, and take action as citizen scientists. We had 48 women and girls participate, 36 Girl Scouts and 12 moms, in this Journey in a Weekend. This was a free event for the girls and women involved thanks to the Women and Girls Fund.

The citizen scientist journey reaches to Brownie (2nd and 3rd grade girls) and Junior (4th and 5th grade) girls in the Girl Scouts. In addition to these age groups, we had some Cadets (6th-8th grade girls) join us too, since they can earn a badge by helping Brownies complete a journey. Overall, this citizen scientist journey is tailored for girls to practice the scientific method through environmental activities and by undertaking a take action project.

The girls went through a series of educational and hands on activities focused on aspects of riparian quality and connecting this to daily use of water. Just like real scientists optimize the use of journals and keeping record of discoveries, the Girl Scouts created their own nature journals so they could document their own experiences. We had the girls split up and rotate through four 45 minute sessions where they experienced collecting macroinvertebrate, playing a game about the water cycle, taking a nature hike, and learning about insects and habitats of the Rappahannock River. These activities encouraged the girls to explore diversity of plant and animal life within the riparian habitat and connect it to the overall protection of our Rappahannock River watershed.

Our last activity for Saturday, explored the concept of water and energy. The girls grouped up to make their own STEM water wheels using only plastic plates, aluminum dishes, straws, tongue depressors, duct tape, hot glue, and corks. After they created a wheel, we tested them in a riffle of water in the river. Despite the river being extremely low, impacting the speed of the wheel, most groups were successful in creating a spinning water wheel with just those simple supplies. This concluded the first day, and we ended with a friendship circle.

20 girls camped overnight at our campsite in 10 and 14 person tents. They cooked dinner together and went on a late night glow-stick hike.

We all woke up to a cloudy and damp Sunday. This did not stop us from having another great day. All girls would complete a take action project and learn how to canoe. Take action projects are projects that the girls come up with as a solution to a problem.


First they learned about mapping and identifying plants. They did this by matching leaf shapes on a map of the plants in the garden. The girls then discussed how an abundance and diversity of native plants near the river helps to reduce erosion, slow water flow, and encourage uptake of nutrients through plant roots. As a result, they concluded that the best way to protect the riparian system was to plant native plants to maintain a forested buffer. The Girl Scouts planted 20 native, shade-tolerant plants in order to maintain and improve our local Rappahannock River riparian and watershed habitat.

While most girls and moms had experience planting before, the majority of them had never been canoeing before, so this was quite an experience. In preparation for the on-water activity, we gave a water safety briefing and taught the proper way to paddle. They spent an hour on the water, and by the end everyone had the hang of it!

And with that, the journey was complete! We handed out our “Healthy River Starts at Home” booklet for the girls to continue being citizen scientists at home. This booklet informs people of ways they can conserve and keep water clean at home. They also have postcards to send back to us sharing the actions they choose to complete for a healthier Rappahannock River. So maybe this journey is not complete. Maybe they will continue thinking as citizen scientists and take what they have learned this weekend to how they live their daily lives.

By the end of the weekend, Brownies and Juniors earned the 3 consecutive citizen scientistbadges. In addition, Brownies earned the bugs, hiker, and outdoor adventurer badges; Juniors earned the animals habitats and gardener badges. All badges were purchased and provided by individual troop leaders.

It was great to have our nature preserve filled with girls camping, canoeing, and enjoying the same outdoor and recreational activities as the boy scouts who visit us. We hope to see more girls on property and continue this program in the near future!

Meredith Palumbo

Field Trip Coordinator





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