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All About Girl Scouts

Girls’ dreams are our dreams, and Girl Scouts is where they’ll see the limitless possibilities ahead of them and aim for the stars—and reach them. Whether she’s making a new friend on the playground, raising her hand in class, starting her own nonprofit, or advocating for climate justice, a Girl Scout builds a better world—just as Girl Scouts have been doing for over a century. And with programs in every zip code from coast to coast and across the globe, every girl can find her place in Girl Scouts and start creating the world she wants to see.

Who Can Join Girl Scouts—and How?

Girl Scouts is about sharing the fun, friendship, and the inherent power of girls and women in an inclusive, supportive, girl-led environment!

Girl Scout volunteers are a dynamic and diverse group, and there’s no one “type” of volunteer. Whether you’re a recent college grad, a parent, a retiree, or really, anyone with a sense of curiosity and adventure (of any gender, who is 18 years or older and has passed their council’s screening process), your unique skills and experiences and your mentorship can open your Girl Scouts’ eyes to all the possibilities ahead of them.

All members are united by the values in the Girl Scout Promise and Law, as well as by our extraordinary strengths as go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders. Each member also agrees to follow safety guidelines and pay the annual membership dues of $25. Adults have the option to purchase a lifetime membership for $400.

Girls at Every Grade Level
Girl Scout Daisy (grades K–1)    Girl Scout Cadette (grades 6–8)
Girl Scout Brownie (grades 2–3)   Girl Scout Senior (grades 9–10)
Girl Scout Junior (grades 4–5)          Girl Scout Ambassador (grades 11–12)
The Girl Scout Leadership Experience

Everything centers around the girl in Girl Scouts: Activities are girl-led, which gives girls the opportunity to take on leadership roles and learn by doing in a cooperative learning environment. It’s what makes Girl Scouts truly unique—our program is designed by, with, and for girls.

Although girls may start building their leadership skills in school and on sports teams, research shows that the courage, confidence, and character they develop as Girl Scouts stay with them throughout their lives. Our program and outcomes are based in research, and our studies show that Girl Scouting has a measurable impact on girls. Check out our studies and in-depth research.  

What girls do in Girl Scouting all fits within three keys: Discover, Connect, and Take Action.

  • When Girl Scouts do exciting badge activities, earn a Girl Scout Journey award, attend an amazing program or event, or go camping, you are helping them discover who they are, what excites them, and what their talents are.
  • Girl Scouts connect when they collaborate with others—their troop, leaders, or community experts—and expand their horizons. This helps them care about, support, inspire, and team with others locally and globally.
  • With your guidance, your Girl Scouts will deepen their relationship with the world around them, and they’ll be eager to take action to make the world a better place. 

As for how they do it? The Girl Scout Leadership Experience draws on three unique processes that help girls unlock their inner leader.

  • Girl-led means Girl Scouts of every age take an active and age-appropriate role in figuring out the what, where, when, why, and how of all the exciting activities they’ll do. The girl-led process is critically important to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience—when girls actively lead and shape their experiences, they know their voices matters, they feel empowered to make decisions, and they stay engaged in their activities.
  • Girl Scouts enjoy hands-on activities and learn by doing. Then, after reflecting on their activities, girls gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and skills the activities require.
  • Through cooperative learning, Girl Scouts share knowledge and skills in an atmosphere of respect, teamwork, and collaboration as they work toward a common goal.

As a volunteer, you’ll draw on these Girl Scout processes as you lead girls of any age. Girl-led at the Daisy level will look very different from the Ambassador level, of course. What’s most important is that your Girl Scouts make decisions about the activities they do together and that they also make choices within that activity. As they learn from their successes and failures and gain a major confidence boost,  all girls have the opportunity to lead within their peer groups. By the time girls are Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors, they’ll be using the leadership skills they’ve developed to take more ownership of their activities, mentor younger Girl Scouts, and take action to make the world a better place.

One last tip about following these processes: Girl Scouting isn’t a to-do list, so please don’t ever feel that checking activities off a list is more important than tuning in to what interests girls and sparks their imaginations. Projects don’t have to come out perfectly—in fact, it’s a valuable learning experience when they don’t—and Girl Scouts don’t have to fill their vests and sashes with badges. What matters most is the fun and learning that happens as they make experiences their own, so don’t be afraid to step back and let your girls take the lead.

Reflection

Was a badge-earning activity a resounding success? Or was it derailed by something your troop hadn’t factored in? No matter an activity’s outcome, you can amplify its impact by encouraging your girls to reflect on their latest endeavor.

Reflection is the necessary debrief that reinforces what the girls learned. As your Girl Scouts explore the “whats” and “whys,” they’ll make meaningful connections between the activity at hand and future challenges that come their way. In other words, reflection gives girls the confidence boost they need to pick themselves up, try again, and succeed.

Reflection doesn’t need to be a formal process, but you can kick-start the conversation with three simple questions: What?, So what?, and Now what?

  • Go over the what of the activity. For example, ask, “What did we do today? What part was your favorite? If we did it again, what would you want to do differently and what would you repeat?”

  • Then move to the so what elements. You might ask, “So what did you learn by doing this activity? So what did you learn about yourself? So what did you learn about your community (or environment, school, or others) that you didn’t know before?”

  • Lastly, review the now what. Say something like, “Now that we’ve done this, what would you like to do next? Now that you know this about yourselves, what would you like to try next? Now that we did this Take Action™ project, what do you think we should do next to make sure it continues on?”

What?, So what?, and Now what?—or whatever style of reflection you choose to use with your girls—are powerful elements of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, and they’ll carry these lessons with them for the rest of their lives.

Progression

Although program elements—like outdoor expeditions or entrepreneurial ventures—align across all grade levels, Girl Scout Brownies and Juniors won’t be doing the same activities as seasoned Seniors and Ambassadors. But with your support, they will get there!

Girl Scout programming is designed to be progressive, and it’s what makes Girl Scouting fun and effective! By building on the knowledge and skills they gain year after year, your girls’ confidence will grow exponentially, and they’ll be eager to take the next steps. As a volunteer, you will cultivate a supportive, nonjudgmental space where your Girl Scouts can test their skills and be unafraid to fail.

Keep in mind that good progression drives success for your troop. We’ve outlined some suggestions that will help you determine when your girls are ready for their next outdoor challenge, their next troop trip, or their next cookie-selling challenge.

Inclusion

Girl Scouts has a strong commitment to inclusion, equity, and diversity, and we embrace girls of all abilities and backgrounds into our wonderful sisterhood.

Inclusion is at the core of who we are; it’s about being a sister to every Girl Scout and celebrating our unique strengths. Part of the important work you do includes modeling friendship and kindness for your girls and showing them what it means to practice empathy. 

Equal Treatment: Girl Scouts welcomes all members, regardless of race, ethnicity, background, cognitive or physical abilities, family structure, religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status. When scheduling, planning, and carrying out activities, carefully consider the needs of all Girl Scouts involved, including school schedules, family needs, financial constraints, religious holidays, and the accessibility of appropriate transportation and meeting places.

The National Program Pillars

Girl Scouts lead their own adventures and team up with their fellow troop members to choose the hands-on activities that excite them most. Our program focuses on four areas (pillars) that form the foundation of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience:

  • Outdoors: When Girl Scouts embark on outdoor adventures, they learn to confidently meet challenges while developing a lifelong appreciation of nature.

  • Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM): Whether they’re building a robot, developing a video game, or studying the stars, Girl Scouts become better problem-solvers and critical thinkers through STEM activities and learn how they can use STEM to help others. and learn how they can use STEM to help others.

  • Civic engagement/life skills: Girl Scouts discover they have what it takes to become outspoken community advocates, make smart decisions about their finances, and form strong, healthy relationships—skills that inspire them to accept challenges and overcome obstacles, now and always.

  • Entrepreneurship: By participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program or fall product program or by earning one of the new entrepreneurship badges, girls spark their curiosity, confidence, and innovation as they learn the essentials of running their own businesses and how to think like entrepreneurs.

The Volunteer Toolkit provides inspiring ideas so you can engage your troop in a mix of activities all year long. For example, if you want to take your troop outside when doing a badge activity, look for the evergreen icon, which tells you that activity can be taken outdoors, or the globe icon, which lets you know you can bring a global perspective to the activity.

 



The Important Difference Between Badges and Journeys

Journeys and badges are designed to give girls different leadership-building experiences, all while having fun!

  • Journeys are multi-session leadership experiences through which girls explore topics such as bullying, media literacy, design thinking, or environmental stewardship. They’ll do hands-on activities, connect with experts, and take the reins on age-appropriate Take Action projects. Because of their leadership focus, Journeys are also a prerequisite for the highest awards in Girl Scouting: the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards.

  • Badges are all about skill building. When a Girl Scout earns a badge, it shows that she’s learned a new skill, such as how to make a healthy snack, build and test a toy race car, or take great digital photos. It may even spark an interest at school or plant the seed for a future career. And remember: you’ll have fun and learn by doing right alongside your troop!

If they choose, your Girl Scouts can pursue badges and Journey awards in the same year; encourage them to find the connections between the two to magnify their Girl Scout experience! While you’re having fun, keep in mind that the quality of a girl’s experience and the skills and pride she gains from earning Journey awards and skill-building badges far outweigh the quantity of badges she earns.

As a volunteer, you don’t have to be the expert in any badge or Journey work. In fact, when you show that you’re not afraid to fail and willing to try something new, you are modeling what is it is to be a Girl Scout. Our badge and Journey requirements are structured so your girls can learn new skills without you having to be an expert in all the topics, including STEM.

The Difference Between Community Service and Take Action Projects

As your Girl Scouts look for meaningful ways to give back to their community, you can help sharpen their problem-solving skills and expand their definition of doing good by discussing community service and Take Action projects. Both projects serve essential needs, but at different levels.

  • When a Girl Scout performs community service, she’s responding to an immediate need in a one-off, “doing for” capacity. In other words? She’s making an impact right now!

  • Through Take Action/service learning, girls explore the root causes of a community need and address it in a lasting way; they truly make the world—or their part of it—a better place.

If your troop members want to pursue their Bronze, Silver, or Gold Award, they’ll develop a Take Action project on an issue that’s close to their hearts. To make Take Action projects even more impactful for your Girl Scouts set time for them to reflect on their projects. When they make time to internalize the lessons they’ve learned, they’re more likely to find success in their future projects—or anything else they put their minds to.

Traditions, Ceremonies and Special Girl Scout Days

Time-honored traditions and ceremonies unite Girl Scout sisters—and the millions of Girl Scout alums who came before them—around the country and around the globe and remind girls how far their fellow trailblazers have come and just how far they’ll go.

A few of those extra special days, when you’ll want to crank up the celebrations, include:

  • World Thinking Day, February 22, celebrates international friendship. It’s an opportunity for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides to connect with each other and explore a common theme around the world.

  • Girl Scouts’ birthday, March 12, commemorates the day in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low officially registered the organization's first 18 girl members in Savannah, Georgia.

Whether they’re making cool SWAPS to share with new friends or closing meetings with a friendship circle, your troop won’t want to miss out on these traditions, ceremonies, and special Girl Scout days.

Highest Awards

As your girls discover their passions and the power of their voices, they’ll want to take on an issue that’s captured their interest and is meaningful to them. Encourage them to turn their vision into reality by taking on the ultimate Take Action projects in order to earn Girl Scouts’ highest awards.  

The Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards honor girls who become forces for good and create a lasting impact on their communities, nationally and around the world. 

  • The Girl Scout Bronze Award can be earned by Juniors who have completed one Junior Journey.

  • The Girl Scout Silver Award can be earned by Cadettes who have completed one Cadette Journey.

  • The Girl Scout Gold Award takes making the world a better place to a new level by solving society’s grand challenges. Seniors and Ambassadors who have completed either two Girl Scout Senior-level Journeys, two Ambassador-level Journeys, or one of each can pursue their Gold Award. 

Did you know that a Girl Scout who has earned her Gold Award immediately advances one rank in all four branches of the U.S. military? A number of college scholarship opportunities also await Gold Award Girl Scouts. A girl does not, however, have to earn a Bronze or Silver Award before earning the Girl Scout Gold Award. She is eligible to earn any recognition at the grade level in which she is registered.

We encourage you to get to know our council’s Gold Award Girl Scouts by reading about their awesome projects at and make plans to join us and be inspired at our annual Inspire a Girl event

Girl Scout Travel and Destinations

Girl Scouts try new things and see the world with new eyes, both inside and outside of their usual troop meetings. As COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted across the globe and you and your troop feel safe doing so, you may be excited to explore the world again as a troop.

Traveling as a Girl Scout is a more engaging experience than traveling with family, school, or other groups because girls take the lead. They’ll make important decisions about where to go and what to do and take increasing responsibility for the planning of their trips, all while growing their organizational and management skills—skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Girl Scout travel is built on a progression of activities, so girls are set up for success. Daisies and Brownies start with field trips and progress to day trips, overnights, and weekend trips. Juniors can take adventures farther with a longer regional trip. And Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors can travel the United States and then the world. There are even opportunities for older girls to travel independently by joining trips their councils organize or participating in our travel program, Destinations, which resumes in 2022.

Planning Ahead for Adventure
Get in touch with your council as you start thinking about planning a trip to find out more about their approval process for overnight and extended travel. They will also likely have training programs that will raise your confidence as a chaperone.

> GSKSMO Travel web page

Not sure where to begin? Check out the Girl Scout Guide to U.S. Travel. This resource is designed for Juniors and older Girl Scouts who want to take extended trips—that is, longer than a weekend—but also features tips and tools for budding explorers who are just getting started with field trips and overnights.

Once girls have mastered planning trips in the United States, they might be ready for a global travel adventure! Global trips usually take a few years to plan, and the Girl Scout Global Travel Toolkit can walk you through the entire process.

Safety First
If you’re planning any kind of trip—from a short field trip to an overseas expedition—the “Trips and Travel” section of Safety Activity Checkpoints is your go-to resource for safety. Your council may have additional resources and approval processes. Be sure to follow all the basic safety guidelines, like the buddy system and first-aid requirements, in addition to the specific guidelines for travel. You’ll also want to refer to the COVID-19 guidelines in Safety Activity Checkpoints as well as any COVID-19 guidelines for your destination.

Note that extended travel (more than three nights) is not covered under the basic Girl Scout insurance plan and will require additional coverage.

Girl Scout Program Connections
It’s easy to tie eye-opening travel opportunities into the leadership training and skill building your girls are doing in Girl Scouts! When it’s safe to travel together, girls can use their creativity to connect any leadership Journey theme into an idea for travel. For example, girls learn where their food comes from in the Sow What? Journey. That would connect well with a trip focusing on sustainable agriculture and, naturally, sampling tasty food!

There are abundant opportunities to build real skills through earning badges too. The most obvious example is the Senior Traveler badge, but there are plenty more, such as Eco Camper, New Cuisines, Coding for Good, and, of course, all the financial badges that help girls budget and earn money for their trips.

Want to include Girl Scout traditions into your trip? Look no farther than the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah, Georgia! Your girls also have the chance to deepen their connections to Girl Scouts around the world by visiting one of the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) World Centers, which offer low-cost accommodations and special programs in five locations around the world.

And if your troop is looking to stay closer to home this year? Ask your council about council-owned camps and other facilities that can be rented out.

As your Girl Scouts excitedly plan their next trip, remember to limit your role to facilitating the girls’ brainstorming and planning, never doing the work for them. Share your ideas and insight, ask tough questions when you have to, and support all their decisions with enthusiasm and encouragement!


 

 

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