Chapter 2.0: Girl Scouting as a National Experience
Now that you’re a Girl Scout volunteer, you belong to a network of more than 1 million adults who share an important commitment: preparing girls to lead successful lives. During your time as a volunteer, you’ll have fun, meet new people, and learn by doing alongside girls at every step.
The Girl Scout program—what girls do in Girl Scouting—is based on the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE), a national model that helps girls become leaders in their own lives and as they grow. No matter where girls live or what their age or background, as Girl Scouts they are part of a powerful, national experience. As they build leadership skills, they also develop lifelong friendships and earn meaningful awards, two of many treasured traditions in the sisterhood of Girl Scouting.
What Girl Scouting Does for Girls
Girl Scouting guides girls to become leaders in their daily lives, their communities, and the world—helping them become the kind of person exemplified by the Girl Scout Law. When girls—as the Girl Scout Law states—are “honest and fair,” when they “use resources wisely,” and know how to be “courageous and strong,” they can be more successful in everything they do. It may start in school and on sports teams, but research shows that the courage, confidence, and character they develop as Girl Scouts follows them throughout their lives. Girl Scouting has a practical approach to helping girls become leaders:
- When girls lead in their own lives, they Discover their values and the confidence to do what’s right. This helps girls act in ways that make us proud, no matter where they are.
- When girls lead in their communities, they Connect as they learn how to work with other people. This helps them get along better with others, resolve conflicts, and do better on group projects at school.
- When girls lead in the world, they Take Action to change the world for the better. Starting as young Girl Scouts, girls learn how to see problems—such as a food pantry in need of donations or an elderly neighbor who could use a hand—and come up with a solution.
In other words: Discover + Connect + Take Action = leadership. And everything you do with girls in Girl Scouting is aimed at giving them the benefits of these Three Keys to Leadership.
More details about the benefits (or outcomes) Girl Scouts offers girls can be found in Transforming Leadership Continued, available online at www.girlscouts.org/research/publications/gsoutcomes/transforming_leadership_continued.asp.
Research tells us that today’s girls are backing down from leadership opportunities and that many of those who do want to lead don’t believe they have what it takes. But as Girl Scouts, girls find themselves practicing leadership and working toward goals in a supportive environment surrounded by people who want to see them succeed: you, the volunteers!
In 2012, its centennial year, Girl Scouts launched ToGetHerThere, the boldest advocacy and fundraising cause campaign dedicated to girls’ leadership issues in the nation’s history. This multi-year effort is helping break down social barriers that hinder girls from leading and achieving success in everything from technology and science to business and industry.
ToGetHerThere’s goal is to create gender-balanced leadership in one generation. To do that, Girl Scouts is asking all adult members of society to help girls reach their leadership potential and place this urgent issue front and center on the national agenda. We all have a role to play in helping girls achieve their full leadership potential because when girls succeed, so does society. Together, we can get her there.
Fun with Purpose
Girl Scouting isn’t just about what we do; it’s also about how we do it. Over time, we’ve noticed that girls will give almost any activity a try, as long as the adults guiding them take the right approach. Girl Scout activities ask adult volunteers to engage girls in three ways that make Girl Scouting unique from school and other extracurricular activities:
- Girl-led: Girls of every grade level take an active role in determining what, where, when, why, and how they’ll structure activities. Of course, you’ll provide guidance appropriate to the age of the girls. Plus, you’ll encourage them to bring their ideas and imaginations into the experiences, make choices, and lead the way as much as they can.
- Learning by doing: This means that girls have active, hands-on experiences. It also means they have a chance to think and talk about what they are learning as a result of the activities. This kind of reflection is what helps girls gain self-awareness and confidence to dive into new challenges. So make sure girls always have a chance to talk with each other—and you—after an activity. It doesn’t have to be formal, just get them talking and see what happens.
- Cooperative learning: Girls learn so much about themselves and each other when they team up on common goals. Plus, great teamwork helps girls in school now and on the job later. Look for ways to help each girl contribute her unique talents and ideas to the team, help all girls see how their differences are valuable to the team, and coach girls to resolve their conflicts productively.
We call these three methods “processes.” You might be wondering how to put these processes into action with the girls in your group. These steps should help you get started:
- After you help girls choose a National Leadership Journey (there’s more information about those later in this chapter), make sure you get the adult guide that accompanies the Journey. As you read through that guide, look at how the activities, conversations, and choice-making options are set up using the three processes. Once you start practicing the processes, you’ll probably find that they become second nature when you’re with girls.
- If you haven’t already, watch Girl Scouting 101, our online introduction to volunteering with Girl Scouts. (Contact your council for the password.) If you’ve already watched Girl Scouting 101, you may want to review its “What Girl Scouts Do” section to brush up on the processes.
- Want more detail about the processes? Take a look at the examples in Transforming Leadership Continued, available online at www.girlscouts.org/research/publications/gsoutcomes/transforming_leadership_continued.asp.
One last tip about using the processes: The girls’ time in 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 and excites girls and sparks their imaginations. Projects don’t have to come out perfectly, and girls don’t have to fill their vests and sashes with badges: what matters most is the fun and learning that happens as girls make experiences their own.