There’s a common misconception that math is an indoor activity. When asked to describe a mathematician, many of us picture a person huddled over a giant blackboard inside a classroom solving complex equations full of numbers and odd symbols. But in reality, math is all around us all the time! And many mathematicians find inspiration (and the roots of their mathematical concepts) by observing nature.

To spotlight that connection between the great outdoors and the M in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) and inspire a whole new generation of math enthusiasts, Girl Scouts partnered with Johnson & Johnson to create the Math in Nature badge sets for Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors.

These badges live in the intersection of science and math, helping girls discover patterns and shapes in nature, explore symmetry and tessellation (tiling a flat surface with geometric shapes), and learn how to use math for data collection and measurements. The activities may seem simple; for example, Daisies go bird watching and tally up what types of birds they see as a data collection experiment, or Juniors go on a search for the Fibonacci sequence in nature (hint: find the spirals, girls!). But they’re building their STEM skills and growing their confidence with each activity. What a fun and active way to explore math!

Girls will also have the opportunity to use their creativity to apply the concepts they have learned as they “Design with Nature.” What kinds of things could they design? Daisies can design a neighborhood map to build their understanding of how to create a sequence. Brownies will use their math skills to explore concepts like volume as they measure and build a bird feeder. Juniors can create radial art using bird seed or other natural objects.

By linking math with activities that girls love, exploring the outdoors and creating things, we can help girls find the creativity and grow their interest in this topic. Why is this so important? Research shows that while girls and boys do not differ in their math and science abilities, they do differ in their interest and confidence in STEM subjects. And as early as second grade, youth agree that “math is for boys, not girls.” The skill is there, we just need to support our girls in growing their interest and confidence. And Girl Scout badges are a great way to do this!