What Girl Scouts do

By Maureen A. O’Toole

A recent article in the Idaho State Journal has left people wondering what it is that today’s Girl Scouts do. I love this question, because I love the answer. Girl Scouts is fun with a purpose. Girl Scouts is based on a proven K-12 curriculum but the learning environment created by Girl Scout programming is adventurous, inclusive, non-competitive and girls and their Troop Leaders select the activities they do, making this a cooperative experience. Here is a glimpse of some of what Girl Scouts do: national and international travel, experience nature, build financial literacy, make positive friends, participate in community service projects, cook, learn about healthy relationships, ride horses, donate money to local nonprofits, plant gardens, practice kindness, take interest in local and state government, develop creativity through crafts, and become good stewards of the land.

Girl Scouts of Silver Sage serves nearly 300 girls in the Pocatello area. These girls are guided by volunteers who serve as leaders, co-leaders, program and activity coordinators, and cookie managers. Girl Scouts and their leaders are active in the community and helping to make it stronger. Last year girls in the Silver Sage Council performed 269,000 hours of community service. These were hours spent actively helping others, rather than sitting at a computer or in front of a TV. Six girls and three volunteers from Pocatello/Idaho Falls were honored with Girl Scouts of Silver Sage Scouting Stars awards ceremony in Idaho Falls this fall for their incredible efforts and positive impact on their communities.

Girl Scout programs and activities help build strong, confident girls who make healthy choices for themselves, their families, and their communities.  Girl Scouts are encouraged to earn badges for work achieved toward certain goals, all of which help girls reach their full potential in school, in careers and in their personal lives. Badges cover the spectrum of girl interest. In 2009, Girl Scouts USA created an additional program called Journeys. Journeys are longer term activities than traditional badges, giving girls an intellectual framework for understanding issues girls encounter: the environment and how they impact it, building healthy relationships, social justice and equitable treatment of girls, exercise and nutrition, and more. Girls and Troop Leaders decide if they are going to do badges, Journeys or both. To earn the highest award in Girl Scouts, the Gold Award, a girl must complete at least one Journey. Completing a Journey introduces the Girl Scout to the format and intellectual rigor required by the Gold Award process. The Gold Award requires a minimum of 80 hours of a community service project in which a girl identifies a need in the community, finds community partners to help solve the problem, discovers the root cause of the problem, develops and implements a sustainable solution and then reports on her efforts. Four out of the eight girls who received the Gold Award last year were from Pocatello/Idaho Falls area.

What about outdoor adventures? 238 girls and their families from Eastern Idaho camped a Ta-Man-a-Wis this year. This camp is at the top of a mountain in Swan Valley with access to star gazing, hiking, horseback riding, crafts and more. About 800 girls camped in Camp Alice Pittenger in McCall which has access to horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming, and geocaching. Troops also select their own camp sites and plan adventures inside and outside the state. Girls 14 and older can participate in the national and international Girl Scout travel program. Our of our girls spent 3 weeks backpacking in central America. One girl attended Space Camp. Another girl traveled Europe with Girl Scouts from across the United States. Girls are limited only by their imaginations.

Something else we do is addressing the needs of girls who struggle with serious life issues and lack of access to positive programs. In conjunction with the Bonneville County Department of Juvenile Corrections, the council developed a program for girls on probation called Girls Looking Forward. Participants meet every other week for six months to explore anger issues, decision making, and restorative justice. The curriculum includes sharing educational videos, personal stories, and is guided by the national K-12 Girl Scout curriculum.  For four years, Girls Scouts of Silver Sage partnered with the prison system in Pocatello to provide Girl Scout experiences for girls and their incarcerated mothers. We have Girl Scout troops Duck Valley Indian Reservation and Fort Hall Indian Reservation. We have a Girl Scout Troop in a migrant worker community. And we have an in-school program for grade school girls who are at high risk of dropping out of school.

Do you want to be a part of this amazing Girl Scout experience? Without adult volunteers, we can’t provide these opportunities. Girl Scout programs and activities are led by girls and driven by volunteers. We need more volunteers in your area. Girls are on waiting lists because we don’t have volunteers to start a new troop or help grow existing troops. We maintain a low adult to girl ratio and cannot start a troop unless we have 2 people volunteer as co-leaders. Young girls benefit from mentorship and positive guidance. You can be that mentor for them and you can tailor your volunteerism to fit your schedule. The girls need your help to become girls of “courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.” Interested? We hope so. The girls need you.

Maureen A. O’Toole is the chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of Silver Sage Council.