Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary Exhibit
FAIR PARK — One-hundred years have passed since Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah, Georgia, and this fall, Dallas will play an instrumental role in propelling the organization into its second century. The State Fair of Texas will provide a hub of education, preservation, and empowerment by hosting the Girl Scout 100th Anniversary Experience in the Hall of State from September 28 through October 21.
Free with general admission at the fair, the tech savvy exhibit was conceived by the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas and is sponsored by Dallas-based AT&T. Uptown’s Corporate Magicdesigned and produced the interactive exhibit, sparing no bells or whistles for its glimmering electronic campfires, computer-generated virtual troops, and brightly designed giant cookie boxes. But, the future-focused organization has not forgotten its past. Well-aligned to the overarching Girl Scouts ethos, the exhibit melds historical artifact with digital information, emphasizing the group’s sense of resourceful independence and progressive attitude toward the role of science and technology.
To this end, visitors are encouraged to download a special Girl Scout app, compatible with both iPhone and Android. With it, they can scan QR codes found not only throughout the exhibit, but also around Fair Park. The adventure – the “Big Texpediation” – is available in both English and Spanish and can be customized for varying age-levels. It leads guests all around the fairgrounds to solve riddles, find clues, learn trivia, and connect through social media. Upon completion, participants are awarded a special patch for their courage and cleverness.
Commitment to science and technology is particularly crucial to the future of the organization. GSNETX Chief Program Officer Gwyneth Lloyd said, “Girl Scouts encourages and empowers young women to visualize themselves as tomorrow’s leaders. That’s where the careers of the future are, so we want girls to know they don’t have to sit at the back of the classroom and be shy anymore.”
As such, a room in the exhibit dedicated to the ToGetHer There program allows guests to literally visualize themselves as astronauts or at the head of a boardroom with green screens and virtual reality. “We don’t always know what we can achieve until someone tells us that it’s within our reach,” Lloyd said.
On a national level, the organization has created programs like the STEM Center of Excellence which provides access to science labs and art studios. An acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, STEM activities include extracting DNA from bananas, creating their own compost, examining with microscopes, playing around with cameras, and even learning to clean up oil spills.
Declaring 2012 the “Year of the Girl,” the organization has refocused its emphasis on courage and personal ownership, with a reinvigorated push toward financial literacy, healthy living, and the environment. “In the 21st century, we want girls to finally own the language of leadership,” Lloyd said. “More than 80 percent of women small business owners are Girl Scout alumnae, and we want those numbers reflected in engineering, mathematics, and medicine.”
The organization has even revamped its most prominent symbol: the cookie box. New boxes will show young women kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking – images that evoke a sense of owning one’s space and owning one’s life more than the retired boxes’ less proactive and more seemingly docile images. But, not everything has changed; guests will be offered complimentary cookies each day at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., while supplies last, and vendors around the park will offer a special treat: deep fried Samoas.
While the centennial celebration at Fair Park is comprised primarily of items from North East Texas – Lloyd tells us that more than 99 percent of the historical items displayed are from private collections that had been preserved locally, and all of the images and voices used throughout the exhibit are of actual North Texas scouts – it has already garnered buzz nationwide.
The national board chair visited early in the week and was so impressed that talks have been initiated about the practicality and logistics of bringing the exhibit, which wasn't originally designed for travel, back to headquarters in New York.
On the local level, Lloyd tells us that State Fair organizers have predicted that the exhibit will break all attendance records. “They’ve said the State Fair really hasn’t seen anything as elaborate before and that we should expect a home run,” Lloyd said.
She added, “We’re thrilled to have new audience that we haven’t been able to reach before, and that the information is accessible for 24 days. Girl Scouts is in it for the next 100 years! We’re not going anywhere.”