I grew up a Girl Scout in Los Angeles during the ‘90s. It was a fun experience, and I’ll always be grateful to my mom, who became a Girl Scout leader, to give me the opportunity. However, being a Girl Scout in the ‘90s was a bit of a strange experience throughout my adolescent years: We were told we could be anything we wanted to be and learned the basics of science and engineering, but not in the same way as the Boy Scouts, who met at the same time and place we were. We also weren’t making headlines for being pint-sized inventors honored at the White House in capes or calling out subtle sexism.
To be fair to the ‘90s, however, learning STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) was difficult when the pinnacle of technology in the average home was a Texas Instrument graphing calculator.
So when I saw the Berges Family Girl Scouts Program Center—a collaborative learning environment for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri—I was instantly nostalgic and thankful for the spaces that are being created for the next generation of #girlbosses.
Designed by Oculus Inc., the Program Center provides girls with all the amenities a 21st century Girl Scout needs to take on the world: science and robotics labs to become engaged in STEM, health and money education, an open-learning kitchen, and collaborative spaces for meetings and more.
Built into a vacant office space, the location provided Oculus Inc. with a plethora of design challenges, particularly when it came to lighting. Minimal natural light was compensated for by raising the ceiling and suspending round light fixtures and acoustical ceiling clouds.
Due to the collaborative nature of the Program Center, furniture needed to be lightweight and mobile. Stools, nesting tables, and mobile markerboard screens allow the girls to rearrange the rooms to fit their needs on their own, promoting independence and teamwork.
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The cherry on top, in my opinion, has to be the bright, whimsical color choices. Color psychology shows that bright hues energize and stimulate the brain. The Program Center’s colors tie back to the Girl Scout levels:
- Blue: Daisies (grades K-1)
- Green/Brown: Brownies (grades 2-3)
- Purple: Juniors (grades 4-5)
- Magenta: Cadettes (grades 6-8)
- Orange: Seniors (grades 9-10)
- Yellow: Ambassadors (grades 11-12)
The fun and pop-inspired center speaks perfectly to the young women who are using the facility while also creating a functional space. Color is used to inspire, stimulate, and encourage girls in age-appropriate ways without looking sterile. Even the labs incorporate color through the lime green task seating, orange barstools, and bright wall details.
But even in such an energetic environment, Oculus Inc. took into considerations the larger needs of the space:
- An existing garage door was utilized to allow for indoor and outdoor activities in the robotics area.
- Science lab tables are chemical resistant to withstand experiments.
- Kitchen countertops are ADA-compliant solid surfaces with multiple elevations for girls of all ages and heights (as the shortest of her Girl Scout troop, 8-year-old me thanks you, Oculus).
- Laminate floors and cabinets were installed for easy cleaning.
Completed in April 2016, the Program Center was booked throughout the following year, proving the need for a space for rural, suburban, and urbans girls to meet, learn, and interact.