Emma Fukunaga was awarded the Girl Scouts of America’s Gold Award for her work creating “Full STEAM Ahead,” a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) program for first- and second-graders at the Richstone Family Center in Hawthorne.

Fukunaga, a member of Troop 8475 in Manhattan Beach, has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and is the daughter of Cheryl Shojinaga and John Fukunaga.

Emma Fukunaga

The Girl Scouts of America describes recipients of the Gold Award, the highest award bestowed by the organization, as “the dreamers and the doers who take ‘make the world a better place’ to the next level.” To earn a Gold Award, candidates are required to plan and implement a challenging, large-scale project that is innovative, engages others and has a lasting impact on its target community with an emphasis on sustainability.

Richstone is a child abuse and domestic violence treatment and prevention center whose mission is dedicated to preventing and treating child abuse and trauma, strengthening families and preventing violence in families, schools and communities. It also operates the Kids Club, an afterschool program that provides a safe, nurturing learning environment for children in the community.

Fukunaga had been volunteering at Richstone for over eight years when she approached Kids Club Coordinator Ariana Nunez about developing a program to encourage and instill a love of science in students from an early age.

In collaboration with science teacher Ann Biedenweg of Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, she created hands-on experiences to teach varied topics such as density and insects with the goal of increasing curiosity and encouraging critical and creative thinking. By using arts and crafts as its foundation, Full STEAM Ahead created an engaging environment for students to learn how science works in the world around them.

Fukunaga also created a handbook, together with lesson plans and a supply cart, for use by future volunteers who will help continue the program in the future. She hopes that by participating in the program, students will not only learn to love science from an early age but will also develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills important for success in any subject.

Fukunaga is a member of the 2020 graduating class of Chadwick School and is now a first year at Scripps College in Claremont.

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