Space exploration. Mechanical engineering. Robotics.
Cutting-edge fields — for cutting-edge young women.
Girl Scouts of the USA is launching 30 new badges that emphasize skills in innovative areas to propel members to new heights, programs best nurtured in a single-gender environment, agency officials say.
The badge rollout announced Tuesday comes at a tense time for Girl Scouts: Boy Scouts of America said last year it would start accepting girls into its programs in a shift toward inclusivity; as of March, more than 3,000 girls had been enrolled in early adopter programs.
Girl Scouts opposed the change, which was first announced last October. Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the organization’s president, asked the board of Boy Scouts in a letter last August to refrain from recruiting girls.
The badge program was already in development when the Boy Scouts announced it would start accepting girls, Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo told USA TODAY, and was not a direct response to the decision.
But the rollout of the new programs, designed to address a growing science and technology workforce, makes the case to keep the “girl” in Girl Scouts, Acevedo believes.
“This is the only place that you can get these kinds of skills, in this safe, all-girls environment,” she said.
The 30 new badges include programs for multiple age groups in environmental stewardship, robotics, mechanical engineering and space exploration. There’s also a new College Knowledge badge, which prepares girls in 11th and 12th grades to tackle the college admissions and financial aid application process.
The new badges are supposed to help girls fill a leadership gap, especially in STEM fields.
“We really know how they learn and how they lead, and so they have the opportunity to try, fail, try again, try another way of looking at it,” Acevedo said. “So, they get the confidence and know-how that they can do it.”
The program rollout also includes two new Leadership Journeys – programs that allow girls to pursue their own projects in their communities based on skills they’ve learned. The Journeys, titled “Think Like a Programmer” and “Think Like an Engineer,” fit in with the new attention Girl Scouts is placing on STEM skills.
One troop in Colorado, which piloted the “Think Like a Programmer” Journey, developed an app, Daily Daisies, that sends positive messages to high school students’ phones each morning to keep up their spirits during what can be a stressful time of life.
“We decided to make a Daily Daisies reminder that gives high schoolers hope that there is good in the world and it’s not as bad as it seems at the moment,” said Brianna Fuentes, a 16-year-old Girl Scout and a member of the Colorado troop. “Our texts each morning before school encourage positive self-esteem.”
Teaching girls the skills they need to take specific action in their own communities, Acevedo says, is a key part of Girl Scouts and one that makes it unique from other leadership opportunities.
“We really have created that leadership pipeline,” Acevedo said, noting that around half of American female elected officials are former Girl Scouts. “These things you can only get through Girl Scouts.”
Fuentes, who has been a Girl Scout for 12 years, echoes the sentiment.
“It (Girl Scouts) teaches me that we should all be thinking about our future, no matter how young we are,” she said.