“Girl Scout Sash with Badges,” Steve Snodgrass

August 3, 2019; Kingsport Times-News (Kingsport, TN)

It seems that Girl Scouts have always been ahead of the curve. With the introduction of 42 new badges, Girl Scouts of America are demonstrating this again. All these new badges fit into the Girl Scouts girl-led programming that relies on the girls themselves for direction and problem-solving. In addition, many have two different activity options that allow the girls to choose just how they want to earn the badge. They own it, right from the beginning.

This is not new. Leadership and decision-making skills have long been part of the Girl Scout model. But in today’s world, starting early and building confidence in young girls and young women seems more important than ever.

Girl Scout programming has long promoted independent decision-making, which helps girls develop agency and challenge themselves to move beyond their comfort zones and build confidence in their leadership abilities. Giving girls choices is important for developing their sense of self, their own voice, and gender equality. Research from the World Bank Group shows that increasing women’s agency and decision-making abilities is key to improving their lives, communities and the world. And research shows that Girl Scouts are more likely than other girls to take an active role in decision making (80 percent to 51 percent).

Within these 42 new badges are some most interesting choices in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The Girls Scouts talked to their membership, and these are the results:

  • 9 “Cybersecurity” badges: Girls learn decrypting and encrypting as well as how to protect devices and dip their toes into real hacking experiences.
  • 3 “Space Science” badges: These are designed to encourage careers in space sciences and exploration.
  • 12 “Outdoor High Adventure” badges: These badges offer girls two choices to take in choosing an outdoor adventure and exploring nature.
  • 18 “Coding for Good” Badges: With these badges, girls learn coding and ways to use these skills to make the world a better place.

Plus, there’s the “Think Like a Citizen Scientist” leadership journey, which connects girls to real scientists (in person and online) as they build a project and watch it develop. A troop of Colorado Girl Scouts, working on this badge, built a “bee hotel” so endangered bees could safely lay their eggs. With this success, they are now talking about taking on robotics.

Girl Scouts focus on building leadership, life skills, STEM, outdoors skills, and entrepreneurship (let’s not forget the cookies!) in girls. The results are girls and women who will approach the world with self-confidence and, if these new badges do what they are designed for, a lot of skills that will put them ahead of the curve…as intended.—Carole Levine