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Afton resident earns Gold Award for Girl Scouts science program

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Far too often, girls and science don’t always mix, Afton resident Francesca Tinucci said. 

“Some kids, myself included, just thought science was hard,” she said. “But women are the doers and the shakers of the world because they are so motivated, they have the energy, they have the passion and they have the curiosity. 

“However, girls get less credit for their curiosity and their desire to learn, but science is an awesome field for them to really let that curiosity and passion run wild.” 

Tinucci, a 2015 graduate of Hill-Murray School, has earned the Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of America for her efforts to reintroduce girls to science. 

“The facts show that our students are underperforming in science,” she said, “and one way to maybe change this is to give students a positive experience with science because if something piques their interest at a young age they might be driven to do better in the classroom.”

For her project, Tinucci conducted a five-day afterschool science camp for girls in fourth and fifth grade at three elementary schools – Bailey, Battle Creek and Dayton’s Bluff elementaries. 

In order to earn the Gold Award a Girl Scout must complete various prerequisite work including leadership community service, career exploration and self-assessment. 

The culmination of the Gold Award is the service project. 

In order to achieve the award a Girl Scout must identify a service project in the community that is unique, sustainable and addresses a community need beyond Girl Scouting.

“It’s such a unique opportunity for girls,” Tinucci said. “I just always thought I’d love to do something that would impact the community.” 

EXPLORING CAREERS IN SCIENCE

When brainstorming possible projects for her Gold Award, Tinucci said she started to think about where the needs were in and around her community. 

“I started to think about what the issues are that I wanted to address,” she said, “and I’ve always thought about being a teacher in the back of my head because I love working with kids so much, so I thought about doing something with kids, maybe in a classroom setting.” 

For her project, called Exploring Careers in Science, Tinucci said she decided to target some of the lower-income students in the area because often they are the ones who struggle the most with science. 

During the five-day camp, which was held at all three schools between March and May 2014, Tinucci discussed with the girls possible science careers in the areas of veterinary medicine, chemistry, electricity and meteorology, through lessons, games, hands-on activities, experiments and speakers. 

Tinucci said she spent almost two years developing the curriculum for the camps. 

While the primary focus of Exploring Careers in Science was to introduce young girls to what science careers are available to them, Tinucci said she primarily just wanted to show girls that their options are endless. 

“I wanted to empower them to choose a career they love,” she said. “I want them to be confident enough to pursue their dreams and a career that they love.” 

Following the completion of the camps Tinucci handed off her curriculum to each of the three elementary schools in hopes that they would continue the program. 

In fact, Battle Creek Elementary has already decided to offer a science day once a week during its afterschool program. 

“That made it all worth it,” she said. “Plus, I had so much fun with it.” 

A LIFELONG GIRL SCOUT

Tinucci first became involved with Girl Scouts when she was a kindergartener at St. Ambrose Catholic School in Woodbury. 

Some of Tinucci’s favorite aspects of Girl Scouts were the camps and the service projects. 

“Everyone thinks Girl Scouts is just cookies,” she said. “It is so much more than that – it is empowering girls to be leaders and to reach for the stars.” 

Some of the key lessons that Tinucci took away from Girl Scouts, she said, were leadership, responsibility and communication. 

Even though earning the Gold Award required a lot of work and time, Tinucci said she considers it to be one of the biggest accomplishments of her life. 

“It is really an honor because only 5 or 6 percent of all Girl Scouts will ever achieve the Gold Award so it’s a very elite group,” she said. “I’m happy that I even had the opportunity to complete this project – I learned a lot about myself.” 

Tinucci will be attending Sienna College in Albany, N.Y., this fall. She hopes to one day have a career as an occupational therapist. 

Even though the Gold Award is kind of the final frontier for Girl Scouts, Tinucci said she intends to be a lifelong member and hopes to one day maybe have her own troop. 

“Girl Scouts has made me the person I am today,” she said. “It taught me girls do not have to be limited to what society says they should be doing – you can really do anything you put your mind to.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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