Youth STREAM Girls

STREAM Girls builds confidence in STEM and the outdoors despite COVID

Learn more about this youth program in an online session this evening

The Girl Scout motto is “Be prepared.” I feel like there is no better motto for 2020. Maybe it should be something like, “Be prepared for a bunch of stuff you thought you could never be prepared for but actually we just have to be flexible and adapt.” That sounds about right.

In partnership with the Girl Scouts — so wise with their motto — Trout Unlimited takes girls outdoors to build confidence in STEM subjects, angling and stewardship to engage them in our mission to conserve, protect and restore North America trout and salmon and their habitat. These two missions combined make the resulting program — STREAM Girls — unstoppable, even in 2020.

Unfortunately, the pandemic meant cancelling many youth programs to keep our communities safe. When this happened, TU volunteers, partners, and staff began looking into virtual programs and how to keep kids engaged. In a surprisingly short time, different STREAM Girls groups produced alternative options to the typical in-person, overnight event. Using a combination of videos, contactless equipment drop-off programs, mentor groups, and new methods for administering the program, STREAM Girls continues in a safe fashion.

“One of the highlights is that we’ve gotten families involved,” says Barbara Luneau, chairperson of Colorado TU’s Headwaters Youth Committee and STREAM Girls leader. “All these kids out there, in the outdoors, doing an activity, bonding with their parents — I think that’s pretty cool. That’s a different outcome than the volunteer run STREAM Girls but it’s still a positive outcome.”

STREAM Girls in Michigan study macroinvertebrates as part of the eight core activities of the program.

Overcoming many hurdles along the way, Colorado reached an impressive 60 young girls and their families in different regions of the state. The formula for their success was a hybrid model where families could complete the activities over the course of 10 days via a couple of live Zoom sessions and the tools and resources needed to do the outdoor activities on their own. Colorado Youth Education Coordinator Geoff Elliot created the videos alongside Luneau in the first few weeks of his job.

The only state where the program continued in-person was Michigan where a plethora of adaptations and precautions were put in place. The typical overnight schedule was changed to a one-day event and all participants and volunteers wore masks and socially distanced. Equipment was either not shared or sanitized between uses. While this meant the number of participants was cut in half, the girls still had a meaningful experience.

Jamie Vaughn, project coordinator for Michigan’s Rogue River Home Waters Initiative, reflects, “At the beginning of 2020, it was unclear what would become of the year’s three highly anticipated STREAM Girls camps in Michigan. While all were eventually cancelled for safety reasons, two programs were later salvaged in the early fall when outdoor activities were deemed safe again. Thanks to the dedication and support of the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, some fantastic volunteers, and diligent participants, we were able to get girls outside and exploring their local stream after all.”

Join TU for an introduction to the STREAM Girls program along with a showcase of how different programs across the country are making it work in COVID times by registering for a free Zoom webinar tonight, Dec. 3, at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Tara Granke is the Youth Program Coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters youth initiatives program.

By Tara Granke.