We all know Girl Scouts are leaders who display an admirable amount of courage, confidence, and character! For over 100 years, since the beginning of our organization’s formation, our goal has been to help girls feel empowered as they raise their voices, take the lead, and create change. Whether they’re volunteering their time or coordinating their own service project, our girls are known for working hard to make the world a better place.
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Girl Scouts encourages girls to accept the challenge to uncover the root of a problem, stand up, and make a difference as they become empowered go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders. With resources like the G.I.R.L. Agenda as well as Citizen badges for girls at every level, girls have countless opportunities to take the lead and build a better future.
We all want our girls to grow up to do great things, so to help get your girls started and set them up for success, here are 7 badges that’ll teach them critical civic engagement skills and get them more involved in their communities:
The Good Neighbor badge is one of GSUSA’s recently released Daisy badges to help younger girls learn about their local communities – their hometown, their school, their class, their afterschool groups, and even their Girl Scout troop. Work with them to identify and get to know their different communities. And after they develop a sense of understanding and belonging, have them brainstorm ways they can lend a helping hand and be a good neighbor to their communities.
Pro Tip: Your neighborhood food banks, senior homes, animal shelters, and National Parks are all great places for your girls to start exploring. By staying close to home, your girls will see how her close-knit her communities are, and that everyone – local residents, animals, and habitats – can always use some extra love.
Each and every community is special in their own way (and celebrates in their own way too). From parades and block parties to statues and historic landmarks, there are countless ways girls can join in on the fun and get involved. Help your girls explore their communities’ unique, distinct features, and when you can, encourage them to participate in celebrations hosted by communities they’re unfamiliar with.
San Francisco is the perfect example! Our diverse melting pot of people and cultures means the city is always popping with celebrations. From annual Fillmore Street Jazz Festival and Chinese New Year Parade to recurring Sunday Street events and longstanding landmarks, like the Castro District’s rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza, San Francisco shows their appreciation for their different communities in many forms!
Our government officials do a lot of work behind the scenes to help our communities run smoothly, and as an active member of society, it’s important to know the basics of government rules, laws, and regulations. Organize a field trip to your local city hall and try to meet the people who work in government roles. At the Junior level, girls are already big thinkers, so have them research a couple of their local laws and brainstorm possible improvements.
Pro Tip: When your girls are thinking about what it means to them to be an active citizen, have them think about our Girl Scout Law. From being “honest and fair” to “courageous and strong”, I’m sure your girls will see the overlapping ideas in a snap!
One of the hardest parts of sharing your ideas (but also the most critical) is finding your voice. Speaking in front of a crowd with confidence and personality takes practice. From writing a clear, conveying speech to standing up straight and projecting their voice, make sure your girls know all the essentials to speaking in public, so they can successfully connect with their listeners.
Have your troop host an event for their friends and families where each girl has to speak in front of the crowd. Whether it’s their next investiture ceremony, Court of Awards, or something else of your own choosing, practicing in front of people they’re already comfortable with is a great way to help them develop their public speaking skills (even if they’re just reciting Girl Scout history or sharing a recent camp adventure).
Another excellent badge for Cadette Girl Scouts is Finding Common Ground. Wherever they go, in school or in the workplace, your girls will likely encounter people whose opinions differ from their own. Make sure your girls know when to give in a little, when to compromise, and when to stand up for what they believe in. Set them up for a friendly debate – present them with engaging yet relatable questions, like “Should smartphones be banned in school?”, “Should every home have a robot?”, or even “Macs vs. PCs”, and have to defend their opinions in a civil matter.
Pro Tip: Even in a troop setting, finding common ground can be a little tough. Check out our Trailhead post on How to Make Decisions as a Group for some helpful troop management discussion tips.
Voting is one of the main ways we make our voices heard in our democratic government – it’s both a right and a responsibility for citizens over the age of 18. Make sure your girls understand the history as well as the importance of voting in elections (and how the process differs from country to country).
Having trouble getting your girls interested in politics? Give them a little history lesson to emphasize the importance of voting. Before 1920, women weren’t even allowed to vote, but now, women hold positions in government. And being the largest leadership organization for girls in the world, it’s no surprise that so many female political leaders were Girl Scouts themselves. In addition to iconic women like Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice, 53% of female House of Representatives, 58% of women in Congress, 75% of female U.S. senators, and 100% of female U.S. Secretaries of State were Girl Scouts!
To have your voice heard by the government, you have to understand public policy (aka the laws and government actions surrounding particular issues) as well as the associated steps that need to happen in order to advocate for change. It might take a little effort, but once your girls realize their voice can make a difference in her community, her country, and even the world, there’s nothing that can stop her from taking the lead like a Girl Scout.
In addition, public policies come in all shapes and sizes, and can affect either small local areas or larger national levels. Encourage your girls to research existing policy issues, talk to activists, and get involved. If you’re not sure where to start, have your girls take a peek at the Badge Explorer for topic ideas – you never know what monumental change a good old badge or service project might spark!
Whatever level your girl is in, it’s never too early to start standing up for what you believe in and taking the lead like a Girl Scout to make the world a better place. With these 7 badges, your girls will learn essential civic engagement skills that they’ll be able to use throughout their adult lives. There’s no better time than the present to start teaching your girls how to get involved and empowering them to spark change in their communities!
What to do next:
- Read more about getting your children civically engaged with this related post: Youth Civic Engagement Activities are Critical for Empowering Young People and Bettering Society.
- Check out GSUSA’s new G.I.R.L. Agenda for more civic action resources.
- Ready to get involved? Help your girls make a difference in the world and get started on a Journey or Higher Award Project today!
Leah Takahashi—Leah is the Digital Marketing Specialist for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she creates content, plans blog posts, and promotes all things Girl Scouts in all formats digital. Leah joined Girl Scouts at the age of 5 and has been a part of the organization ever since (shout out to Troop 31213 – woot woot). During her younger Girl Scout days, Leah did everything from selling thousands of Girl Scout Cookies to serving as a National Delegate at the 2011 Convention and even earning her Gold Award in 2012. She may be young, but she’s got plenty of Girl Scout experience under her belt and is excited to share it with you!