Oh yes, we do love Girl Scout cookies ... and their annual cookie sale fundraising event is happening right now! But the Girl Scouts are about so much more than cookies. I recently rediscovered Scouting for Girls, published by The Girl Scouts, Inc. in 1926, and my interest was piqued to take a look at how girl scouting has evolved and adapted to getting young girls outside in our world today.

Girl Scouts were originally started in England as the Girl Guides. Juliette Low brought the idea to the U.S. and founded Girl Guides in America, with the first troop in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912. The name change to Girl Scouts was made in 1915, at the same time as the establishment of the national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The first national convention was held in 1915 as well, and Juliette Low’s Girl Scouts program was introduced and embraced by the public for a “growing army of girls and young women who are learning in the happiest way how to combine patriotism, outdoor activities of every kind, skill in every branch of domestic science, and high standards of community service.”

The motto — “be prepared”; the slogan — “do a good turn daily.”

Today’s Girl Scouts are very active on Colorado’s Western Slope with 30 troops in Mesa County, four in Delta County and three in Montrose County. While the initial motto and slogan is still important to daily life, they have since updated to the more comprehensive mission of “building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”

I spoke with Ashley Douglas, regional volunteer support specialist, to get some insight into girl scouting in our current times. Girls are still organized into troops with an adult troop leader, and they work together and individually towards earning skill-building badges in many areas of interest including one close to Friends of Youth and Nature’s hearts with outdoor learning experiences. The badges are organized by type of activity and by age group.

The age groups range from kindergarteners named the Daisies, through to grade 12, aptly named the Ambassadors. All the activities are age-appropriate so I took a look at the junior group, consisting of fourth- and fifth-graders. Within the Outdoor Badge section, the activities are very broad such as animal habitats, gardener, outdoor art explorer, eco-camper, geocacher, and so on. You can dig deeper to learn all about the badges and the requirements at www.girlscouts.org.

There are requirements for each badge, and troop leaders provide support to learn and experience each requirement. For example, the Junior Eco-Camper badge requires a scout to learn how to protect the environment when going on a camping trip, learn the seven principles of leave no trace, plan meals with the environment in mind, build a minimal impact campsite, and learn how to take a hike with a focus on conservation.

Once the badge is earned the Girl Scout will have gained skills that can be applied during their entire life and be passed onto future generation — all while having a wonderful time and sharing in the experience of the great outdoors.

Many Girl Scout troops engage in activities that bring out the whole family, such as a recent outing on skis and snowshoes on the Grand Mesa. Sixty families signed up! Because of concerns due to COVID-19, the Girl Scouts worked with the health department to make certain their activities were safe by taking various precautions such as forming small groups, wearing masks and being outdoors at safe distances. The coordination for this type of activity falls to a volunteer group, the Western Slope Outdoors Committee, made up of troop leaders and parents. The snowshoe/ski day was a big success for girls and their families due largely to the efforts of these volunteers.

In the foreword of Scouting for Girls 1926 edition, Robert Baden Powell (the founder of Boy Scouts Association in Britain circa 1908) states that he “used Scouting — that is, wood craft, handiness, and cherry helpfulness — as a means for training young soldiers when they first joined the army.” He would continue to use these training methods as a boon to boys and society in peacetime as well. Soon the girls wanted their own organization, and the Girl Guides were born.

Today, as well as in the early days of Girl Scouts, being helpful to others is very much a core belief and behavior. Douglas, the local regional volunteer support specialist, said the girls and young women take the idea of community service to the next level with action.

The Take-Action community service can best be explained with this example: A troop might decide a problem in its community is the proliferation of trash scattered around a favorite park. Community service could be to spend a Saturday afternoon picking up the trash. Take-Action is to first identify the root cause of that problem; for instance, it might be that there are not enough trash cans in the park. The girls could then develop a sustainable solution to the root cause of that problem by going to city council and asking how they can help get more trash cans in the park.

Twenty years ago the Take-Action approach to community service was introduced as part of the silver and gold awards. Now, Girl Scouts of all ages are creating Take-Action projects, and it becomes second nature to them as they grow up — creating wonderful adult public service thinkers and doers.

If you are looking for ways to inspire a young girl to get outdoors, explore Mother Nature, learn and have fun, the Girl Scouts may be a perfect fit. Scouting creates a family that lasts a lifetime and provides experiences to build on for that lifetime as well! If you are interested in learning more, finding a troop, or volunteering, go to the Colorado website for Girl Scouts, www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org, or reach out directly to Douglas at 970-628-8009. And meanwhile, support your local troop by enjoying those cookies — it is cookie season!

Friends of Youth and Nature is a nonprofit that promotes opportunities for youth and families to get outside, experience outdoor activities, and explore nature. Follow our outdoor news blog and receive monthly tips on connecting your children to nature. Learn more, visit: www.friendsofyouthandnature.org.

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