Achieving the Cadette Cybersecurity Badge: Teaching Girl Scouts about Cybersecurity

Tue, Jun 16, 2020 4-minute read

After attending WiCyS virtually, I was inspired by a presentation on how professionals can help inspire K-12 girls and minorities to learn about technology, especially cybersecurity. With COVID-19 confining me to my apartment for the foreseeable future I wanted to find a way to translate my helplessness and frustrations into something helpful and productive. While I may not yet have the patience to develop an entire open source platform at night after work, I do have the energy and knowledge to help teach others about security. I suppose it’s all about knowing your strengths!

That night, I reached out to my local Girl Scouts Chapter, Girl Scouts of Citrus, who administer membership for all of Central Florida. From there I pitched a Cybersecurity Badge session to their STEM program manager who was thrilled! Seriously, educational organizations around the country need our help to make these programs a reality. I highly recommend volunteering with your local Girl Scouts Chapter or other organizations that hold STEM workshops for children.

Palo Alto Networks has partnered with the Girl Scouts of America to create requirements for Cybersecurity Badges at all levels. From these guidelines, I aimed to develop a course for middle school girls to obtain their first cybersecurity badge!

Cybersecurity Badge Requirements

The guidelines provided by the Cybersecurity Badge outline are broad topics without specific ways to teach the concepts. Due to the constraints of COVID-19, I planned for a virtual two hour session that would go through five broad topics and be available to any Girl Scout in the United States.

  1. Crack a Code
  2. Hack a Password
  3. Explore Two-Factor Authentication
  4. Launch a Man-in-the-Middle Attack
  5. Explore Social Engineering

Learning Outcome: For Cadettes to know how and why it’s important to protect yourself with strong passwords, secure encryption and exercise caution when clicking on links.

I built the session around engaging activities that minimize the feeling of a boring lecture. I want the girls to become just as excited and enthralled with the possibilities of cybersecurity as I am! I’m lucky enough to have two coworkers volunteer to teach some of the sections for me and give the girls new people to learn from. Everyone gets engaged and learns differently.

What did I learn?

I learned that teaching young adults is incredibly different than teaching adults. Also virtual sessions come with their own set of challenges! The activities and quizzes were a big hit and allowed the girls to stay engaged despite it being virtual. My teammates actively engaged with the girls by calling on them and allowing them to contribute to the conversation which helped me better understand what the girls responded to. Often we utilized the Zoom Chat function so they could answer simple questions throughout the slides. I believe some of our success can be attributed to the short and easy nature of the activities and quizzes. While they encouraged the girls to participate, they were short enough to maintain interest, simple enough to avoid technical issues, and focused on an interesting portion of the section. All the activities and quizzes further reinforced ways they could maintain their security and privacy online with (hopefully) particularly relevant examples. We also encouraged girls to share this information with their friends and family!

Teaching Content

I spent many hours developing the content that made the Cybersecurity Badge session possible. In order to help others hold their own session, I’ve made the resources I developed public via my Github. The slides are broken up into content information, demos or activities, interactive Kahoot! quizzes, and then time for questions. After the virtual session, I created a PDF of resources for girls who wanted to continue to learn about security. The document features a mixture of labs, articles, classes, and competitions. Neither my slides or resource guide are comprehensive! If you are considering teaching a session, please feel free to use my materials and propose improvements!