Girl Scouts: New Badges for New Times

By Nicole Edry October 17, 2011

With new high tech badges and workshops about boosting fundamental skills and self-confidence, the Girl Scouts are transitioning quite nicely into the modern era. While they still provide the delicious cookies we all know and love, they can now do so via Smartphone and credit card.

The Girl Scouts of the USA is adopting several new ideas/campaigns in an effort to tailor traditional procedures to a more modern and empowering set of ideals. They are successfully revamping their program without forgetting their roots.

Since 1987, badges have remained unchanged. In movies like “Troop 90210”, we see adorable little girls learning how to put on makeup, make s’mores, and learn how to navigate the outdoors without mussing their pigtails. While this is a far cry from the real Scouts, it is the image they are associated with. Unfortunately, the honest truth is not always as important as our collective perception, and so we have continued to downplay or misinterpret the reality of such a strong organization.

Today’s Scouts are digging a little deeper: instead of remembering to apply sunscreen, they’re learning its’ chemical composition. Instead of choosing the right outfits to wear, they’re learning the nanotechnology that goes into building fabrics. Spokeswoman Alisha Niehaus expanded on their new badges focusing on science, technology, and even mental and emotional health.

Some of the new badges include Computer Expert, Financial Literacy, Public Policy and Local Food Awareness. My personal favorite is the “Science of Happiness” badge, developed with UPenn researcher Martin Seligman with the goal of “teaching girls how to find happiness in their own lives.”

Very little is sure in today’s world, and one of those constants is that a person’s formative years help shape the rest of their lives. In today’s world, the gender differences in science and technology are starting to level out, but there are still many hurdles left to overcome. 

According to a 2008 study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, “52 percent of women in private-sector science and technology jobs drop out without returning, a vast majority between the ages of 35 to 44.” There are several reasons for this, but a main one is the supposed hostility of these male-dominated environments.

Maybe if science and technology were introduced equally to boys and girls at a younger age, this would be less of a problem. Obviously that’s just speculation, as the debate of Nature vs. Nurture is a never-ending battle that can be argued every which way. If an organization like the Girl Scouts is ready to address these inconsistencies and prepare their 3.2 million members for the challenges ahead, I say they deserve our full support.

It is important to note that the Girl Scouts have always heralded strong, empowering values but in the real world, internal perception is often eclipsed by external opinions. In the eyes of the general public, the Scouts are sugar and spice and everything nice. But let me ask you: should we be telling our young women that they need to learn how to sell Thin Mints and knit mittens? Or should we be telling them that if they love technology, they should get a strong knowledge base that helps them make informed future decision? This is not to say that the fun should be taken out of the equation…more that its time the equation itself is taken more seriously. Girl Scouts are no longer just cute faces and cookies. Instead, they’re now training grounds for future leaders.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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