Girl Scout Journeys are a great way to help Girl Scouts build leadership skills, learn problem solving techniques, and understand how to work together. Starting with activities and research, and culminating in a Take Action project, Journeys take more time and work than badges, but they’re well worth the effort! Completion of a Journey is a requirement for girls who apply for their Bronze, Silver, and/or Gold Award. The Journeys provide great tools to help the girls outline a take action project so they are ready to tackle a larger project as an older Girl Scout.
As a troop leader, I found the best way to tackle these Journeys was through a Journey weekend, where the girls would get to spend time together, but also earn a Journey. They loved the idea of a two-night sleepover, getting to hang out with their Girl Scout sisters for a weekend, and I loved the idea of helping them complete a Journey. I worked alongside the girls in my troop to develop a plan that made everyone happy, focusing on the fun they can have while completing their work. While the girls were Cadettes they completed two Journeys—we would’ve completed the last one to get the Summit Award, but they were working on their Silver Project, and we just ran out of time! Here are some ideas to consider when planning your Journey in a weekend:
1. Let the girls lead the way
To make sure your girls are engaged with the material, let them choose the topic! They can discuss what they are most interested in, and plan most of the Journey work without too much input from you. Remember, to give your girls some space for discussion—your girls may be more open and comfortable covering certain topics without an adult/parent listening in. As they discuss their interests and plans among themselves, you’ll be there to steer them back on topic and provide suggestions when they need a boost.
Journey weekends are also a great time for the girls to knock out badges—and it’s a great break from the Journey work as well. Help your girls find the overlap between what they are doing for their Journey, and existing badge work they have yet to do. Let the girls decide which badges they want to work on and build that into your weekend’s itinerary.
2. Make sure you have plenty of brain food
Let the girls plan all the meals they will need for the weekend, empowering them to do all of the cooking. My girls actually loved this part of the weekend, as it gave them a sense of independence and team spirit. Make sure to have plenty of snacks as well—a hungry girl is not a happy girl. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy (and maybe some unhealthy) snacks for the weekend. Plan to have one meal out as a reward for the girls’ hard work. I usually add in a special treat Saturday evening in the form of a late night milkshake and fries run at a local diner!
3. Customize your Journey to your girl’s interests
The Journeys have lots of ideas and steps involved, but remember that these are only templates that you can elaborate on! Once my girls had completed a couple Journeys about stereotypes, I knew they understood the concept, and we could move ahead. Being able to skip those parts made our weekend much more fun because we had more time to build in badge work and spend more time planning our Take Action project.
4. Make the weekend worthwhile
When the girls are working really hard, engaged in the Journey and contributing, I like to reward them—whether it’s getting a movie On Demand, going to the park to get some fresh air, or going out for that late night meal or snack. Older girls have so much on their plate during the week that it’s important that they get some downtime for them to chill with their girl squad. It’s those moments that they will remember and keep them involved with Girl Scouts for years to come, so make sure you carve out time in the weekend for fun!
5. Create a safe space for sharing
As the girls get older, the Journeys deal with sensitive and sometimes heavy topics which ask the girls to share experiences and opinions that may take them out of their comfort zone. Make sure your Journey weekend is a safe space for all girls. This goes beyond staying off their cellphones. The Journeys work best when you help create a trusting place where there is no judgement, no teasing, and where girls can share their opinions openly. When you succeed, a beautiful bond will develop among the entire group.
Completing a Journey usually takes 5 or 6 meetings, but if you decide to give the Journey-in-a-weekend format a shot with your older Girl Scouts, these 5 tips will ensure the experience is a positive one for the whole troop.
What to do next:
- Whether your girls are interested in the Outdoors or STEM, find a Journey that fits their interests!
- The new STEM Journeys are an amazing way to help your girls explore the fields of engineering, computer science/programming, and observational science!
- Are you a service unit volunteer looking to host a Journey Weekend for your local Girl Scout troops? Read this related blog post: How to Plan a Journey Weekend for Your Service Unit.
- What’s your best tip to earning a Journey? Let us know in the comments section!
Angela Borchert—Angela just completed her seventh year as a Girl Scout leader in Vacaville/Travis Air Force Base service unit. She leads Juniors and Cadettes and loves the wide range of activities and interests that both groups have and the challenges they provide her along the way. Girl Scouts have helped her embrace glue guns and dirt while taking her on her first kayaking adventure. She’s been camping more times in the past five years than she has in her entire life thanks to Girl Scouts!