Two of My Favorite Things–Girl Scouts and College Students

I found this draft from a year ago, and it’s still relevant–maybe more so.

A new book claims that today’s college freshman lack basic life skills. This is a gap that Girl Scouts should address.


In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshman at Stanford University, claims that incoming students had impressive resumes, but were increasingly incapable of taking care of themselves. To remedy this problem, she says that, especially with teenagers, we should “seek out opportunities to put independence in their way,” such as making them responsible for their own food or learning to take public transportation.

She’s not alone in this belief. Many colleges have “College 101” courses to teach some of the basics. US News & World Report suggests that college freshmen need Seven Essential Life Skills.

Source: Skills Needed: Girl Scout Badges Could Help | Girl Scout History Project

The author of the post listed those seven skills, together with a Girl Scout badge that will help a girl gain those skills. She then lists several other skills (like laundry and cooking) she thinks college students need.

When I look at the badges included in the first Girl Scout Handbooks (and all iterations of the Boy Scout Handbooks–the Girl Scout badge program has been severely gutted in the last 8 years, but that’s another story), I see that Scouting was strongly based in teaching hard skills to allow a young person to succeed in adulthood. Looking at the young people in my life who are not Scouts, they do not have opportunities to learn and practice money management, cooking, outdoor appreciation, or first aid unless their caregivers teach those skills in the home (granted, some organizations and schools provide some of these, but I don’t personally know a child who gets any of this outside of home of Scouting).

Schools already have residence hall programs which teach residents how to do laundry and basic cooking. Is there a point where higher ed professionals can’t or won’t step in anymore? Is it ever feasible for courses like Home Ec to be included in the middle/secondary ed curriculum again? Or am I just longing for a dream of yesterday?


[EP] Yahoo! Groups

Date Earned: April 9, 2013

Step(s) Completed (click badges to view pages):


Explore Yahoo! Groups: 40+ hours

CreateYahoo! Groups: 40+ hours

Create Yahoo! Groups: 40+ hours

  • Create an account (Yahoo! ID)
  • Browse
  • Search by keywords
  • Join a group . . . or three
  • Learn the group
  • Features
  • Your main screen
  • View groups
  • Controlling mail
  • More editing
  • Leaving a group
  • Group categories
  • Group settings
  • Security
  • Messages / mail
  • Files
  • Links
  • Database
  • Members
  • Calendar
  • Invite people

Before the days of Facebook and Google+, we had Yahoo! Groups to bring together large numbers of people with similar interests. The one aspect of my life I was (and still am) a heavy user of Y!Groups is my religious community. When you worship the gods of ancient Greece, it’s tough to find co-religionists at all, let alone near enough to commune with. Hence spending the last 10 years as a member of about 20 different groups as they rise and fall in popularity and the owners wax and wane with attentiveness.  I helped some friends create and run a group several years ago, and I’ve managed several larger groups that needed extra moderators. Girl Scouts have long been active with Y!Groups as well; volunteers share information and program ideas, provide virtual shoulders to cry on, and celebrate accomplishments for our girls and ourselves.

One of the most interesting things about Y!Groups that I don’t notice as much in Facebook Groups was the camaraderie and relationships developed. Maybe it’s because we weren’t keeping up with a dozen different social media sites, and had fewer ways communicate with each other (email lists and instant messenger, that was about it), we took more time to read and respond. Some of my Y!Groups have transitioned to Facebook, and it definitely has advantages (no need to trim posts of old content!, quicker response time), but I feel like, much of the time, there’s less depth to comments, and storing files/information is clunky (yup, that’s a technical term) at best.

One of the things my Y!Groups experience has given is an ability to focus on what is important to me. When I first started joining groups, I read everything, even the topics I wasn’t interested in just in case. I was afraid to miss out. Over time, the emails became too frequent and I skimmed titles/the first sentence or two to decide if it was pertinent. This greatly reduced my amount of stress about “keeping up” and allowed me to learn those things that mattered. This definitely laid a foundation for the increased use/frequency/overload of social media, and I am much more discerning about who/what I will follow, and HOW. Some things, like blogs, I won’t follow on Facebook/G+ because I’m not guaranteed to see those posts due to the algorithms or whatever–all blogs are in Feedly. Other people/products are well served through other platforms. Y!Groups was the only option for communicating with others on a larger scale for a long time, and it helped shaped how I consume the internet.

What I’ve Learned from Girl Scouts

Girl-Scouts Logo

Yesterday, I was asked how many years I have been a Girl Scout. This includes all types of involvement because one must always be a registered member whether as a Girl, Volunteer, or Staff. When I mentally tallied the 9 years as a girl, 2 as camp staff and 7 as a volunteer, I came up with 18.

That’s a long time for someone to dedicate to a single thing.

Yes, that is more than half my life, but I had several breaks in membership/activity because I didn’t think I was “old enough” or “experienced enough” or “had enough time” to be a Girl Scout volunteer. It took a while to realize one does not need a daughter or to run a troop to be  active with GS. As a Learning Facilitator, I have the “exciting” role of teaching new Volunteers about the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and helping them understand/use program materials effectively with the girls they are working with.

So many of these new volunteers are joining because they want their daughters to have the same experience they did. Girl Scouts has meant a lot to many women and we are inherently attracted to things that have a  positive effect on us.

Girl Scouts is different though, and it’s hard for volunteers to grasp. Heck, it’s taken me 3 years of facilitating sessions on the GSLE to “get” it, and I feel there’s still more to learn. I often hear in sessions, and read on the web, “If we have to do so much to make it work, why do we have this program?” I’ll be honest that I find some the new program materials leave something to be desired. But I will also say that I get the reasoning:

Girl Scouts is about the experience, not the badges.

This is an incredibly hard concept to make people understand. It’s absolutely a combination of the forest/trees scenario and the fact that change is difficult. It’s also affected by the need to give everyone a trophy, even if they didn’t show up but were on the team (that’s a rant for another day though). The way I understand it, the Journeys program was created to allow girls and their volunteers to have a cohesive, multi-layered experience over the course of many sessions/activities.  The founder, Juliette Low, said this about badges:

Every badge you earn is tied up to your motto. This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing…..but doing…..not just doing, but being.

As I have tried to understand and accept the current program so I can train others on it, I have come to realize that this is a bigger concept than Girl Scouts. Life is about the experience, the journey. The badges and awards (degree, house, marriage  etc) are what you show when you understand what you’ve done and where you’ve come from to arrive at that place.

But the journey doesn’t end (well, it does, but no one likes to think about that unless you believe in reincarnation). Once you have earned the degree or have been hired for the job, you still have to keep yourself knowledgeable about your field, do the work that is set before you, pay your mortgage. Those are all their own journeys within the JOURNEY that is life. Sometimes I think we’re too focused on the badges.


[EP] Girl Scout Traditions: Adult/Volunteer

Gold; 40+ hrs

Girl Scout Traditions: Volunteer/Adult

Date Earned: May 7, 2012

Step(s) Completed  (click badge to view page)

  • Captain, leader, facilitator
  • Looking to the past
  • Customizing your materials
  • Online resources
  • Other adult volunteer positions
  • Training for adults
  • Girl Scout adult insignia
  • GSUSA recognitions
  • Fun patches
  • Girl Scout Alumnae

As a Girl Scout Alumna (9 years as a Girl member), and current Volunteer (5 years as a Volunteer), I am not ashamed to admit that I know quite a bit about the history and traditions of Girl Scouting. Add to that the fact that I have a small but growing collection of Girl Scout Handbooks & Badge Books, including a re-print of the original How Girls Can Help Their Country, and you have a semi-history buff. I’m also an unashamed traditionalist , with not nearly enough room to explain how GS would run if I were Queen of Girl Scouts™ I’m familiar and comfortable with the history of the Girl Scout Volunteer.

Personal geekiness aside, I earned this badge mostly through my activities as a Learning Facilitator (the fancy new-ish title for Trainers) over the last 3 years. When I started this role, GSUSA was releasing brand new program materials, and I needed to learn these new materials and train both new and experienced volunteers on how to implement them with their troops. The Journeys, which are very different from the badges that we are all familiar with, were (and remain) difficult for volunteers to wrap their heads around because they are a lot less cut-and-dry than badges, being much more experiential. Old volunteers had difficulty because it’s so different from the materials of the last 100 years; new volunteers had difficulty because they saw the books as a curriculum rather than a guide. Helping them understand that the themes and learning outcomes (I am such a Student Affairs person; I can’t for the life of me remember what they are called in the Journeys) are the “meat and potatoes” of each Journey, and that they should work with the girls to customize it was a challenge to both myself and them. Through being active (in a lurking kind of way), on several Girl Scout mailing lists and webgroups, as well as participating in any training within my Council that might be helpful, I have learned tips and tricks for implementing Journeys and the other new materials, especially how to involve the girls in choosing what (and how) to work on.

In addition to a programming workshop, called Essentials within my council, and broken up by age level, I deliver the Council Orientation, which is an overview of the Troop Volunteer position. This covers everything from the Promise & Law to opening a bank account & earning money to girl and adult safety. It’s an intense training because it’s on the dry side, and the volunteers taking it are completely new to the program, often having never been Girl Scouts themselves. I try to add in a brief overview of my Girl Scout knowledge, letting them know there is a lot out there for them to become involved with once they are comfortable with their troop and if they want to expand into other types of involvement. I stress Service Unit participation as a next step, but describe my positions as Facilitator, Regional Delegate & Gold Award Committee member to show the diversity of options based on various interests–I’m not good with small children, so working with adults and older girls are my preferred roles. Without volunteers, Girl Scouts doesn’t exist; I try to instill that in my trainings.

Honestly, until I began volunteering in 2008, I really wasn’t aware of the options I had; I thought Troop leadership was the only way to participate as an adult because I wasn’t as aware of Council workings or needs. If I hadn’t found out about other pathways, I would not be a volunteer now because I know I would not have had time for a troop during grad school and this first year as a new professional–it’s why I left the troop I was with when I started school. I found my fit and am looking forward to many more years of evolving involvement.

[EP] Girl Scout 100th Anniversary

Gold; Council-wide event

Girl Scout 100th Anniversary–Gold; Council-wide event

Date Earned: May 7, 2012

Step(s) Completed  (click badge to view page)

  • Gold — Helping to plan/run a Girl Scout 100th Anniversary event at the Council level. 

To honor the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts, my council, GS of Eastern MA, hosted the All TogetHER Volunteer Celebration on April 28, 2012. This event combined our Annual Meeting, Adult Recognition Luncheon and a learning conference into a single day of recognition and thanks for our volunteers. I enjoy planning events (hence the Student Affairs career) and strongly feel that volunteers don’t always get the recognition/thanks they deserve, so was eager to join the planning committee.

With the planning committee, I participated in several live meetings and conference calls with other committee members, where we selected a Keynote speaker, planned service projects for attendees to participate in, brainstormed workshops that would be of interest including songs, history/traditions, etc and mapped out the logistics of the event space. I also served in the role of point-of-contact/escort for our Keynote Speaker, Mel Robbins.

Helping to plan this event was an incredibly rewarding experience; it was wonderful being able to give the volunteers a day to celebrate themselves and thank them for all their hard work.

[EP] Email Basics

Email Basics: 40+ hours

Date Earned: June 9, 2011

Step(s) Completed (click badge to view page):

  • Email accounts
  • Vocabulary
  • Learn your program basics
  • Address book / contact list
  • Preferences
  • Attachments
  • Saving your email
  • Links
  • Netiquette — general & professional
  • Security
  • Privacy
  • Spam
  • Email distributors
  • Add-ons

I have been using email since 1998, both personally and professionally, so have done all 17 steps, many of them repeatedly. Most of my knowledge and skills came from self-experimentation and reading the “Help” sections of the email client (Yahoo!, Gmail, Thunderbird, Outlook, etc) I was using. I also performed internet searches when I had questions that were not easily answered within the client itself.

I am confident in my abilities with email and have taught members of my family not only the extreme basics of email but also how to make the most of their accounts without overwhelming them.

Merit Badges for Everyone

Merit Badge for being busy as a bee

People love to be recognized for what they have done and learned–earning badges is one of the things people remember most about having been in Girl or Boy Scouts. A while back I read a short article about badges on Neatorama, and it wasn’t terribly long ago that Mozilla announced Open Badges, which prompted a slew of chatter until the project stopped moving forward and I think people have begun to forget about that.

Earning awards is one of the the things I miss about being an Adult Girl Scout. We have some awards, but you have to be part of a strong Service Unit or town that is dedicated to recognizing the service we give and the learning we do. Often, there’s not enough money, so you have to pay for it yourself after being given a voucher by the local Coordinator. There are a few Council awards, but those are VERY hard to come by and don’t actually recognize your learning, only your service (which is still incredibly important). Boy Scouts does a much better job of both giving and recognizing training, but alas, I cannot join because of my identity as a lesbian.

I think this is why I am such a big proponent of the Adult Enrichment Project (although it’s very much geared towards adults working with younger children). Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, once said,

“Every badge you earn is tied up to your motto. This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing…..but doing…..not just doing, but being.”

I have always tried to incorporate this into my professional life. I don’t believe in half-assing my work, and as I think of it, I don’t believe in half-assing my play either. I collect pins from places I visit–by doing something (like touring the Ben & Jerry’s factory), I allow myself to take home a souvenir that shows I know the topic at hand. When I went to the Trapp Family Lodge, my friends handed me a pin, knowing I collected them–I didn’t buy it because I didn’t stay there, and we hadn’t yet gone to the brewery, so I hadn’t felt like I deserved it.

I wonder about the possibilities of incorporating this into my work; Open Badges may not be active yet, and most people probably aren’t interested in the topics covered by AEP, but a quick internet search shows that badges are important to people and here to stay:

  • Etsy: the Neatorama article linked to Etsy where there are a myriad of made-up and vintage badges available
  • Mama Merit Badges: to recognize all that moms do, “Pregnancy,” “Diaper,” “Shopping”
  • Nerd Merit Badges: we’ve all earned one or two of these; “Family Tech Support” or “Homonyms.” this site even offers a laptop sash for displaying your badges!
  • Boy Scout Store (not affiliated with BSA): badges for grownups such as “Adult Beverage Drinking” or “Disorienteering”

Yes, I’ll be making posts about my AEP endeavors, but I think this might be something I explore more…