Girl-Power Toy Brand GoldieBlox Has Created a Virtual Summer Camp for Science and Art

Brand leaders say the demand for educational content has grown rapidly amid quarantine

Paleontologist Myria Perez leads one of GoldieBlox's STEM-themed "campisodes." GoldieBlox
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GoldieBlox, the toy company known for empowering young girls and battling the Beastie Boys, is launching a virtual summer camp that will introduce kids to the female tech elite and give them space to experiment.

There will be paper mâché, star gazing and camp fires (s’mores not included).

“Curiosity Camp” will take the place of scuttled sleep-away trips and other in-person activities that won’t be happening for many of the country’s youngsters due to pandemic-related closures this year.

The company, whose earlier ads have tackled the princess paradigm head-on with pint-sized facsimiles of Serena Williams, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hillary Clinton, wanted to reach girls “in the places they love,” says CMO Ferrell McDonald. “Right now, that obviously doesn’t mean a physical location.”

Instead, it means YouTube (and the GoldieBlox website).

The free online event, a collaboration with Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ IF/THEN initiative, will focus on science, tech, engineering, arts and math programming, allowing participants to “hike” around the camp and collect badges. Some of its highlights include:

• A video series with deep dives into successful women’s lives and careers.
• Projects, including puzzles and crochet sessions, with video game makers, structural design and biomedical engineers.
• Crafts with a twist, such as making your own composite reflector out of paper mâché.
• “Easter eggs” like geode huts full of rock structures, a treehouse as a platform to study phases of the moon and a cafeteria to learn about food groups and balanced meals.
• Participants, dubbed “ambassadors,” like paleontologist Myria Perez, BrainCraft founder-host Vanessa Hill and Fortnite developer Heather Chandler.

“Curiosity Camp” came together quickly, McDonald said, spurred by a series of emails GoldieBlox started sending out shortly after lockdown began in March.

The brand wanted to give quarantined kids something constructive to occupy their time, so it decided to dispatch daily at-home STEAM activities. The distribution list grew, McDonald said—“Who doesn’t want to make watermelon soap?”—with consumers asking for more content.

“Curiosity Camp” will become “more robust as the weeks progress,” McDonald said, with organizers planning to add new videos and activities and build on what the audience responds to for future edutainment. 

It’s aimed primarily at girls between 6 and 12 years old, though the brand’s mission “is to give all kids access to fun STEAM resources and diverse role models that help them discover new passions,” said founder and CEO Debbie Sterling.

The concept could live beyond the summer months, say execs, who see it as “a great value add” to their engineering-themed products for girls.

A thumbnail history: GoldieBlox, a startup in 2012, made its public debut the following year with a long-form ad dubbed “Princess Machine.” The spot featured three girls who turn away from a stereotypical TV show and instead build a giant Rube Goldberg contraption.

Set to a remake of the Beastie Boys classic “Girls,” the commercial became a viral hit but drew the company into a contentious legal dispute with the artists. The brand preemptively sued, citing “fair use,” and the band countersued. The Beastie Boys eventually dropped their lawsuit in exchange for an apology and a charitable donation, and GoldieBlox took out “Girls” and subbed in different music.

Shortly after that flap, GoldieBlox advertised during the Super Bowl, via an Intuit-sponsored contest that gave the brand free media time, and created campaigns that celebrated accomplished women, tackled Hollywood sexism and parodied famous public-service announcements (“This is your brain on engineering”).

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.