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All About Girl Scouts

Since 1912, when we were founded by trailblazer Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scouts has given girls the tools to lead, break barriers, and create positive change. We are the largest girl-led leadership development organization for girls in the world and a member of the   World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts , a sisterhood of nearly 10 million girls and adults in 150 countries. With programs from coast to coast and across the globe, Girl Scouts offers every girl the chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure, and success.

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 anyone with a sense of curiosity and adventure who has passed the necessary screening process, your unique skills and experiences help make Girl Scouting a powerful leadership experience for girls. 

What all members share are the Girl Scout Promise and Law, as well as 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

At Girl Scouts, everything centers around the girl: 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.

What girls do in Girl Scouting all fits within three keys: discover, connect and take action. 

  • When girls do exciting badge activities, earn a Girl Scout Journey award, attend an amazing event, or go camping, you are helping them discover who they are, what they care about, and what their talents are. 

  • Girls connect when they collaborate with other people, learn from others, and expand their horizons. This helps them care about, inspire, and team with others locally and globally. 

  • With your guidance, these budding leaders will connect with and care about others, and they’ll be eager to take action to make the world a better place.  

As for how they do it? The GSLE draws on three unique processes that help girls unlock the leader within. 

  • Girl-led means girls of every age take an active and age-appropriate role in figuring out the what, where, when, why, and how of all the exciting troop activities they’ll do. The girl-led process is critically important to the GSLE—when girls know their voice matters, they feel empowered to make decisions and they stay engaged in their activities. 

  • Girls 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, girls learn to share knowledge and skills in an atmosphere of respect and cooperation 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 girls make decisions about the activities to 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 in the process—their girl-led process will give them the opportunity to lead within their peer group. By the time girls are Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors, they’ll be using the leadership skills they’ve developed in order to mentor younger girls. 

One last tip about using the processes: Girls’ time in Girl Scouting isn’t a to-do list, so please don’t 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 girls don’t have to fill their vests and sashes with badges. Because what matters most is the fun and learning that happens as girls make experiences their own, 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 the girls 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 they explore the “whats” and “whys,” girls 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 with girls 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 with the girls. 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 girls can test their skills and be unafraid to fail.   

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

Inclusion

Girl Scouts has a strong commitment to inclusion 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. Here’s how you can nurture an inclusive troop environment.

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

The National Program Pillars

At Girl Scouts, girls lead their own adventures and team up with their fellow troop members in an all-girl environment to choose the exciting, hands-on activities that interest them most. Girl Scouts focuses on four areas (pillars) that form the foundation of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience:

  • Outdoors: When girls 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, girls become better problem-solvers and critical thinkers through STEM activities and learn how they can use STEM to help others. 

  • Life skills: Girls 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 business and how to think like entrepreneurs. 

The Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) can provide inspiring ideas for engaging your troop in an exciting mix of activities all year long. For example, if you want to take your girls 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 for girls to explore topics such as bullying, media literacy, design thinking, or environmental stewardship. Girls 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 highly regarded 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 girls!

If they choose, girls 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 you’re willing to try something new, you’re 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 your having to be an expert in all the topics, including STEM.

The Difference Between Community Service and Take Action Projects

As your girls 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 important needs, but at different levels.

  • When a girl 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 Awards, 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 girls, give time for them to reflect on their projects. When girls 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 sisters 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: 

  • Juliette Gordon Low's birthday or Founder's Day, marks the birth in 1860 of Girl Scouts of the USA founder Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia

  • World Thinking Day, 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, 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; the prerequisite is one Junior Journey and its associated Take Action project. The Bronze Award is earned by the group.

  • The Girl Scout Silver Award can be earned by Cadettes; the prerequisite is one Cadette Journey and its associated Take Action project. The Silver Award can be earned by an individual girl or by a small group. 

  • The Girl Scout Gold Award is the standout achievement of girls who develop meaningful, sustainable solutions to challenges in their communities and the world. Seniors and Ambassadors who have completed either two Girl Scout Senior/Ambassador level Journeys or earned the Silver Award and completed one Senior/Ambassador level Journey 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.

Ask your council about the Gold Award Girl Scouts in your community and how they’re doing their part to make the world a better place. For some serious inspiration, consider inviting a local Gold Award Girl Scout to speak to your girls about how she took the lead and made a difference. You’ll be inspired when you see and hear what girls can accomplish as leaders—and by the confidence, values, and team-building expertise they gain while doing so!

Girl Scout Travel and Destinations

As COVID-19–related travel restrictions are lifted across the globe and you and your troop feel safe doing so, your girls will find that Girl Scouts is the best way to travel. They’ll challenge themselves in a safe environment that sparks their curiosity, and they’ll create lifelong memories with their Girl Scout sisters. And the Girl Scout Cookie Program can help to make travel dreams a reality as girls use their cookie earnings every year to power amazing adventures for themselves and their troop.

Traveling with Girl Scouts is very different from traveling with family, school, or other groups because girls take the lead. As they make the decisions about where to go and what to do and take increasing responsibility for the planning and management of their trips, girls build important organizational and management skills that will benefit them in college and beyond. 

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 Destinations.

Planning Ahead for Adventure

The Girl Scouts of Colorado Travel Peak online learning pathway is designed to prepare you for your troop’s biggest adventure yet! Girl Scouts is a great place to learn how to plan and take trips. Traveling is built upon a progression of activities and girl-led processes. Troop are strongly encouraged to go through the progression process together. Reference this flyer to learn more about out learning progression training, then hop onto gsLearn to complete your required training.

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, including the Girl Scout Guide to Global Travel guidebook. For more resources on Global Girl Scouting, planning travel with your troop and to see upcoming volunteer led trips that you can join, visit our Travel Pathways page.

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. Girl Scouts of Colorado requires groups to submit a Activity and Event Approval form at least 30 days prior to Girl Scout travel. Your council may have additional resources and approval process 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. 

Note that extended travel (more than two nights) is not covered under the basic Girl Scout insurance plan and will require additional coverage. (*On Federal holiday weekends only (e.g. Labor, Memorial Day) basic insurance is extended to three nights. All other trips three nights or more require additional coverage).

To purchase additional insurance for an extended trip, email insurance@gscolorado.org.

Girl Scout Connections 
It’s easy to tie eye-opening travel opportunities into the leadership training and skill building your girls are doing in Girl Scouts! Your girls can use their creativity to connect any leadership Journey theme to 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, Photography, and, of course, all the financial badges that help girls budget and earn money for their trips. 

Looking to incorporate 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 girls are looking to stay closer to home this year? Plan a trip to a GSCO property! Learn how to reserve one of our properties for your troop!

As your girls excitedly plan their next trip, remember 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! 

Trip Notification
Approved volunteers who have taken the appropriate travel training are approved to help girls plan trips of any length. While written approval is not required for all trips, please be sure to tell us about your trip. For trips of one or more overnights, please submit a Activity and Event Approval form online. We just need the basics in case of an emergency.

Outdoor Experience

Outdoor Programs are part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience! Outdoor Programming follows an Outdoor Progression, and supports the Girl Scout Leadership Experience: Sense of Self, Positive Values, Challenge Seeking, Healthy Relationships and Community Problem Solving. In the Outdoors, girls learn to take healthy risks and challenge themselves to try new things building their confidence and sense of self. We believe that Girl Scout outdoor experiences are unmatched because they: 

  • Are progressive, building ability, confidence and passion over time
  • Reinforce the formation of positive girl friendships 
  • Develop leadership and outdoor skills and support their environmental action
  • Girls who engage in Girl Scout outdoor programming exhibit four outdoor outcomes:
  • Outdoor Competence: Girls learn to engage safely and responsibly in a range of outdoor activities.
  • Outdoor Interest: Girls develop a love of nature and an interest in the natural world.
  • Outdoor Confidence: Girls gain confidence in their ability to take on new challenges and learn from and succeed in them. 
  • Environmental Stewardship: Girls come to understand how their behaviors impact the environment and what they can do to protect the natural world.

Outdoor Badges 

There are many Outdoor Badges that can help Girl Scouts connect with the outdoors in fun and age-appropriate ways. Visit the Volunteer Toolkit to see a list of all the outdoor badges available.

Planning your own Outdoor Activities

Prior to planning any of your own outdoor activities be sure to check out the following resources:

Managing Risk in Outdoor Activities 

Safety is always our top priority during girl programming. Follow these guidelines to ensure your outdoor program is in-line with GSUSA and GSCO safety standards.

  • Consult Safety Activity Checkpoints prior to any activity for guidelines around program level participation limits, required equipment, instructor certifications/ training, emergency plan considerations and other safety guidelines. 
  • If your activity is considered “high-risk” or requires council approval complete the Activity and Event Approval Form at least 30 days prior to your activity.
  • Many outdoor activities may require a specialized vendor, such as horseback riding or rock climbing. Consider the following in working with a vendor for outdoor activities: 
    • Collect a Certificate of Insurance from the vendor and send it to insurance@gscolorado.org
    • If the vendor requires a waiver, ensure that the waiver is filled out exclusively by the girl scout parent/ guardian and retain a copy of the waiver with your troop files. 
    • Ensure vendor is following Safety Activity Checkpoints, especially in relation to instructor certification/ experience requirements, required equipment, program design and risk management plans.
    • Communicate with the program vendor to ensure they have the knowledge and experience to make appropriate judgments concerning participants, equipment, facilities, safety considerations, supervision and procedures for the activity. They should be able to give clear instructions to girls and adults, troubleshoot unexpected scenarios and respond appropriately in an emergency.
  • Develop an emergency plan customized to that outdoor activity, emergency plans may very but should include:
    • local emergency contact information
    • plan for an emergency evacuation
    • plan for sheltering in place during inclement weather 
    • plan for transport to the closest medical center. 

Outdoor Programs at GSCO

Summer Camps: Girl Scout Camp is a place for every girl to try new things, push herself, perhaps even fall down, and get back up. It’s a place where your girl is surrounded and supported by girls, where she can go beyond dreaming to actual doing! Whether she’s hiking to the top of a mountain for the first time, starring in an all-camp skit, or steering a canoe on Upper Pond, she’s answering the call to adventure, growing in confidence, and discovering the power she has to change the world! Camp is an important part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, according to the GSUSA Mores Than S’mores Report repeat camp attendance is a key driver of girls’ leadership development and satisfaction with Girl Scouts. 

  • GSCO has two summer overnight camps, Tomahawk Ranch and Sky High Ranch, offering a variety of summer camp programs to individual girls. Session highlights include: horseback riding, outdoor skills, homesteading, trip camps, water camps and time together with Girl Scout friends new and old around the campfire. 
  • GSCO also offers Troop Camps for troops to attend together at a variety of locations around the state.
  • Family Camps are offered at both Sky High and Tomahawk each summer and given families the opportunity to connect with each other in a beautiful outdoor setting. 
  • GSCO supports volunteer run Day Camps  usually lasting one week in length and manages by a team of adult volunteers, with leadership support from Program Aides. 

Visit the GSCO Camp website to learn more about camp sessions, registration information and our summer camp experience.

Outdoor Adventure Club:The Outdoor Adventure Club is a GSCO staff-led program offering adventures around the state that provide older Girl Scouts with exciting activities and outdoor skills beyond what they might do with their troop while making friends from around the state. Past activities have included rock climbing, camping, horseback riding, boating, hiking, and more.

Activity and Event Approval Form link