Laguna Blanca Girl Scout Wins Award

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   April 11, 2019
Laguna Blanca student Natalie McCaffery has won top Girl Scout honors for her extensive Smart Farm project at the school

Local Girl Scout and Laguna Blanca High School student Natalie McCaffery has received the highest Girl Scout honors, winning a Gold Award for her extensive Smart Farm program that she implemented at Laguna Blanca. 

Naturally drawn to the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Music), Natalie recognized the lack of healthy food choices among young students and their unawareness of where the food that they put in their bodies comes from. Seeking to combine her interests in both computer science and sustainable agriculture, she set out to begin her project, Smart Farm, which teaches sustainable agriculture and provides an emphasis on how our agricultural world is changing with breakthroughs in technology.

Collaborating with leadership at Laguna Blanca, Natalie created and taught her own curriculum with measurable outcomes for the success of the program. At the middle school, she led ten quarter-long terms (2.5 school years) of activity groups with eight to nine students in each session, teaching them farming methods and encouraging students to consider the influence of technology on what we eat. Beginning her freshman year, she started a Farm Club at the upper school that manages three raised gardening beds, builds compost piles, and sustains the project. 

In the next phase of her project, Natalie will be building smart farm weather stations powered by Arduino boards to give students experience with components of computer science integrated into agriculture. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software, and the boards are able to read inputs (sensors, buttons, etc.) and turn it into an output using computer programming. Natalie worked with the Internet of Things club at her high school to develop a weather station that uses an array of sensors and circuitry on the Arduino board to evaluate a given land plot and its weather patterns to support agriculture. She plans to later implement the stations into her middle school curriculum, which has already directly educated and impacted 80 middle school students through the swoop group program. “A lot of students from my swoop groups have started their own gardens at home and are always eager to bring me food they’ve grown,” she says. “Seeing students interested in eating the produce and vegetables from our school garden is a step towards a healthier campus.” 

Not only did her project address the lack of an agriculture program at her school, but is also defied the stereotype that computer science can only take place in a lab. “I believe, especially for girls, that computer science is stereotyped as a field that requires sitting in front of a screen all day coding, and I wanted to prove this assumption wrong by teaching students the importance of computer science in the everyday, natural world around them,” Natalie says. “By teaching kids about agriculture and then challenging them with the task to integrate certain technologies into basic farming methods, students were able to discover – on their own – the miracles of interdisciplinary work and brainstorm ways that technology can better our world.”

Natalie’s program will be sustained after her high school graduation in 2020 by the Farm Club at her school and the middle school science teacher that will integrate the curriculum into his classes. Her ultimate goal is to modify the curriculum so that it becomes versatile enough for other environments and demographics of society, so that it can be applied on a large scale.

Her Girl Scout troop will also be learning how to teach the curriculum, and they will be implementing it into a local community in dire need of nutritional support on an upcoming Belize trip they’ve been planning for the last two years. “Teaching the next generation how to use modern technology to execute fulfilling tasks is a step in the direction of aiding our world’s problems, which in this case is hunger,” she says. 

To learn more about the program, visit She has also organized an Ag-Tech STEM event at MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation in Santa Barbara on May 19, where attendees will experience an abridged version of the curriculum and learn how agriculture and technology combine in a day of innovative learning. 


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