Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brownie Badge: Inventor at Drake Planetarium

Earlier this summer, I was considering programming options for our younger girls who were beginning their second year as Brownies.  I came across the Inventor Badge program offered by Drake Planetarium which is located at Norwood High School in Cincinnati.  Here is the course description as printed on page 33 of our Council's 2014-2015 Program Events publication:
"Building with Legos and other materials can ignite the imagination and creativity of your 2nd or 3rd grader.  Your girls will invent and then build a myriad of models that will bring invention to life and get them thinking like inventors and engineers, and show how invention improves people's lives.  Girls will brainstorm, design, build, test, evaluate, and redesign and then share their solution.  Girls will earn the Inventor Badge during this workshop.  This program is held at Drake Planetarium and Science Center on the third Monday and Tuesday of each month (except on holidays).  Start time is at 6:00pm and each badge program is 1 hour.  Many of our groups choose to sign up for two badge programs on the same day in which case the program time is 6:00-8:00pm.  This workshop can also come to your site if you have at least 20 participants."
Two badge programs in one evening?  Fantastic!  I then read the description of their Home Scientist badge program, decided this was the pairing for us, and called to get a date on the calendar.  I will admit there were scheduling issues on our end that required me to change the date twice, but I had booked a couple months in advance and gave plenty of notice when switching datesWhen scheduling, I was in communication with two different individuals via email and telephone.  Unfortunately, they presented conflicting information when answering my questions.  Originally I was told the cost is $5/girl per program, but we had to have at least 15 girls (which would be $150 for both programs).  We were encouraged to bring friends, neighbors, and siblings since our group was smaller than the minimum.  I was then told "the cost for the Inventors/Scientists Badge is $125, and this covers up to 25 admissions.  A $50.00 deposit is required to hold the reservation, and this deposit can be paid with a credit card or a check."  I soon learned the $125 for 25 admissions was the cost of one program.  A few weeks prior to our scheduled date, I was contacted by a Drake staff member and asked for permission to schedule another Brownie troop for the first of the two programs.  I agreed.  When I asked about our balance, I was told I would receive a call with that information. 

As the date approached, I called twice to inquire about our balance since the other troop's attendance would potentially affect our program costs.  I was not able to talk with the person in charge for one reason or another, and I never received a return call.  Even after attending the program, I still don't feel like I have correct pricing information to share here. 

The day before we were scheduled to visit Drake Planetarium, I called to confirm our reservations, and I spoke with the program instructor.  She instructed us to park on the street near the school, and she provided directions to the lab.  She spoke passionately about the topics of studyDuring our conversation, I explained that I had Junior Girl Scouts attending this Brownie badge program.  Though these older girls had already earned the Home Scientist badge, they were going to participate with the younger girls for fun. Upon hearing this, the instructor strongly suggested we change the agenda, substituting a visit to the planetarium for the second portion of the program.  She told me it would be easy to do the Home Scientist badge at home, and the girls could earn the Astronomer badge at the Planetarium.  I hesitated because I was unfamiliar with this badge.  Additionally, one major reason I chose this program was so I didn't have to be responsible for the badge activitiesAfter some additional thought, I agreed to change our plans.  I was then asked to send an email providing the badge steps the girls would need to complete to earn the Inventor and Astronomy badges.  This was odd to me since we were paying the Planetarium for an activity they advertised they were prepared to host, and what was she planning to do if I hadn't called her?  But I did as requested.  A quick Google search revealed the Astronomer (Sky Search) badge had been retired, but I was able to find a list of the badge requirements.  Though it meant spending more money, I also decided to order a planetarium fun patch for the girls. 

Upon our arrival at the high school, I was discouraged because the entrance to the lab was not labeled as was described to me. As we asked students for directions, an assistant staff member located us and led our group to the lab. When we entered the room, there was no official welcome or greeting. The girls were instructed to find a seat at a table, and the instructor commented on our tardiness.  We were five minutes late because we couldn't find the lab.


Envelopes containing pieces of paper labeled with vocabulary words associated with the Design Process were distributed.  The girls had to place the words in the correct order on a diagram.  No context was provided, and our girls were completely confused.  The program is intended for 2nd and 3rd graders, yet our 5th grade girls were struggling with this activity 
 This Design Process discussion led into the model building segment of the program.  Each girl was given three cardboard rectangles, a couple of brads, a piece of string, small segments of a drinking straw, and tape.  After an awkward conversation about muscles and their attachments in the lower arm, the girls were asked to design a model of a robotic arm using the materials they had been given.  They were told there was no "right" way to do this, but we soon discovered there obviously was.  This just added to everyone's frustration.  We spent the rest of the time fiddling with the cardboard arm.  Where were the Legos?  Where was the "myriad of models"?  Where were the five badge steps?


We could possibly say the Design Process vocabulary exercise satisfied Step 2 for the Inventor badge (find lots of ways to solve the same problem), but that is a huge stretchThe girls had not earned their badge.  Though we were all disappointed with the first hour, we were looking forward to the program in the Planetarium.

We walked from the lab to the planetarium, and our girls needed a bathroom break.  Once we settled into our seats, the instructor covered many of the Sky Search badge requirements.  The girls seemed to be having fun locating planets and constellations in the night sky.  This presentation lasted about twenty minutes, and then the instructor turned on a video.  Though the film was full of information, the girls thought it was boring because the characters were unrealistic and "cheezy."  I don't disagree.  Once the video ended, the instructor said, "Thank you," and we were ushered out the door at 7:55pm.  

We were terribly disappointed with the entire evening.  The instructor's personality throughout the evening was abrasive.  Her interactions with the kids and teaching style did not foster a rich learning environment.  There were so many red flags leading up to the event.  I now wish we had tackled these badges during a regular meeting and saved the money.  It upsets me to have to write a negative review.  If I'm not going to be honest, I shouldn't be publishing anything.  By sharing our notes from this experience, I hope other troops will think twice before booking programs at Drake Planetarium.  

Our girls will be drawing in December.  I hope you check back soonWishing all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving! 


  1. I love your blog! So many good ideas! I am a first year Girl Scout troop leader and its brownies and juniors, I was never in Girl Scouts so it's all new! First meeting in a week!

  2. Thank you so much for the positive feedback, Misty! It's reaffirming to know the information I'm posting is helping other leaders. I hope you have fun with your girls. Good luck!