2012 is the year Girl Scouting turned 100 years old. As you may know, in 1912 Juliette Gordon Low founded the organization in Savannah, Georgia. She was inspired to do so by her friend Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts. Her goals included teaching girls and young women skills needed both at home and in the professional world, allowing them to connect to nature, and helping them to gain confidence and self-reliance. Juliette was very open-minded at the time not only for founding Girl Scouts, but also for not discriminating against girls with disabilities. According to the Girl Scouts of the USA, there are more than 3.2 million Girl Scouts and over 59 million former Scouts. For more history, here’s an interactive timeline the headquarters has complied to celebrate the anniversary.
Instead of focusing on Girls Scout history, I’m going to highlight what I’ve learned as a Girl Scout. Much of what I learned affects how I am and why I chose the career path I did. In fact, I am a Lifetime Girl Scout and a recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award (equivalent honor to the Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout). To guide this post, I’ve pulled key ideas from “The Girl Scout Law.”* Since I cannot reproduce the Law without violating copyright, you might want to click out and read it before moving onwards.
Honesty & Fairness
Girls Scouts are taught to never lie. We are also taught to not cast judgements without looking at the issue. Otherwise we might be unfair in our thoughts and words to a person or on an issue. I know this has helped me in ensuring balanced viewpoints in my historical writings, in addition to daily life.
Compassion is a skill all Girl Scouts learn early on. We learn to be friendly, helpful, considerate, and caring to everyone, not just those we have daily contact with. For example, during the yearly April Showers campaign, we collected personal care items to donate to food banks, thus helping people we never even meet. Likewise, in our district, we actually helped the Boy Scouts with their canned food drive. While they were out collecting the goods, we were sorting and shelving everything at the food pantry. In another example, every year before Christmas we held a Veteran’s Craft and Cookie Day. Initially, this was just an activity our troop did, but it grew to include more. We would spend a Saturday crafting items and baking and decorating cookies that would be taken to the local veteran’s hospital. Lastly, our major awards all focus on doing something that helps our community. For example, for my Gold Award, I created scrapbooking kits for children in hospice care. For our Silver Award, my troop collected books, then recorded books-on-tape for a local preschool. These qualities fit my future goals because I really love to help others; I would not be happy locked in an office.
Courage & Strength
Girls Scouts are taught to be courageous and strong, to overcome hurdles, and to solve difficult problems. This means we are challenged. I remember once when we took a hike at night with lanterns and a compass and we had to navigate our way back to our leader’s house. Granted she was with us, but we were expected to work together and find out way back. We overcame the challenge and solved our problems. Other times we might discuss an ethical situation and look was the many ways it could be solved. This helped us to learn to face the difficult challenges we could face in life, whether personal or professional.
As Girl Scouts, we had to take responsibility for our actions. To avoid a verbal reprimand, we learned to think first, then speak or act. We always strived to do our best not to hurt others with our actions. Essentially, this taught us to be diplomatic, a skill necessary for our future entry to the workforce.
Respect People & Resources
Girl Scouts are taught to be respectful to all people. As part of this, we had several regional activities to help us learn respect. Yearly, we had an International Tea where each troop represented a nation and we presented history and food from that nation to help us respect cultural differences. Once, we had a disability workshop and we role-played various scenarios in which one or more pretended to have a disability and we learned how to help that individual. This allowed us to better respect those with special needs. Lastly, we were always taught to be respectful to our peers, elders, and our nation.
We were also taught to respect and properly utilize resources. On one hand, this facet is our connection to nature. We learned to recycle and not waste nature’s resources. We learned to respect the nature around us while on hikes, fishing, or at day camps by not disturbing or destroying it. On the other, it also means to use non-nature resources wisely, such as sources in a paper. We pick the best resources for the needs and be sure to reference them. The latter is a critical skill necessary for my fields of study.
Create a Better World
Girl Scouts fulfill this facet through creativity, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
Creativity: In my troop, creativity flourished. Every meeting involved a crafting activity. Some related to our badges; others were for fun. While we were given basic guidelines to a project, we were encouraged to choose the colors and build upon the ideas. While there are too many to list, a sampling of activities would be plate decorating, painting, candle making, and jewelry making. Now I can take the creativity I learned in Girl Scouts and apply it to my scrapbooking and jewelry making hobbies and to creating exhibits. These activities not only require the knowledge of the process, but an eye for creating effective displays using placement and color. Lastly, creativity also is a skill that helps its holder to think outside of the box and come up with new and better ideas.
Leadership: In my troop, we were presented with leadership opportunities from a young age. Initially, it was by being that week’s craft leader; a role in which we picked and lead the project. As we aged, we were given the chance to set meeting agendas and select outings. While these activities might not seem like much, they were precursors to the leadership roles we held throughout high school and college. In those years, I held a dozen different leadership roles for student organization, some for multiple years. The early experience I gained help me to not be a dictator, but rather listen to my peers and lead by example.
Entrepreneurship: Girl Scouts are taught to be entrepreneurs. In fact, some think this is all Girl Scouting is, as they never see beyond the Cookie Sales. However, the Cookie and Fall Sales teach girls how to have the confidence to approach others and handle money, as we have to conduct the sales and keep track of the sales and money earned. Essentially, the sales are several weeks a year of completely running our own business. Later, if we wanted to start a business or enter a field where these skills were necessary, we have experience to help us succeed.
Lastly, the song “Make New Friends” which has entertained Girl Scouts for many generations is true. We always were friends (the “keep the old” in the song), but we also ventured out and met others. We learned people, not objects, hold value in the long run. To this day I keep in touch with my troop members, some more than others, via Facebook, phone, and visits. At a time when I was growing up with all boys for relatives, my fellow scouts were my sisters.
To the Girl Scouts of the USA, thank you! Here’s to hoping the next 100 are just as great!
As a past and current Girl Scout, I promised to live by “The Girl Scout Law.” Why should its coverage not extend to all aspects of life? Do you agree or disagree?
*While I summarized and rephrased the key ideas from “The Girl Scout Law,” I wish to reiterate that the ideas (aka. intellectual property) are still credited to Girl Scouts of the USA.