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Beyond cookies: Girl Scouts earning modern badges

Most people associate Girl Scouts with cookies rather than, say, digital photography. But though the cookie business continues to be a hallmark of what it means to be a scout, Girl Scouts of the USA has just released a series of newer, modern badges that show the century-old organization is hip with the times.Scouts can, of course, still earn badges for baking, first aid and outdoor skills, but th
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Most people associate Girl Scouts with cookies rather than, say, digital photography. But though the cookie business continues to be a hallmark of what it means to be a scout, Girl Scouts of the USA has just released a series of newer, modern badges that show the century-old organization is hip with the times.

Scouts can, of course, still earn badges for baking, first aid and outdoor skills, but these more traditional skills can be supplemented by pursuing badges in digital movie-making, website design and financial literacy.

“We want girls to become leaders in their own lives and in the world,” explained Alisha Niehaus, the executive editor in charge of program resources for Girl Scouts of the USA. “These badges focus on giving girls fun with purpose, so they can go ahead and be leaders in the next century.”

The new badges have been designed to reflect the growing technological savvy of young American girls. While fourth- and fifth-graders used to be able to earn a “Computer Fun” badge by learning about saving a file and running spell check, the same age group can now work toward more advanced digital arts badges, such as Digital Photography or Movie Making — perhaps an inevitable development for a generation that has grown up with YouTube.

In another modernizing move, Girl Scouts is introducing a “Science of Happiness” section in its handbook. Using psychology research skills and developed in conjunction with developmental psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, this badge teaches girls how to find happiness in their own lives. While a badge on happiness would have seemed odd when Girl Scouts was first conceived in 1912, today it’s viewed as necessary to prepare young women for the psychological stresses of grown-up modern life.

“My Promise, My Faith” is a new series of badges that shows girls how to correlate the religious teachings of their faith — whatever religion that might be — to the Girl Scout Law.

“In Girl Scouts’ near 100 year history, we’ve had a long-standing history with the faith-based community,” said Girl Scouts of the USA’s Michelle Tomkins. “This badge is our way of celebrating that relationship.”

Other new badges that reflect the changing times (and current economic climate) are the Financial Literacy badges, which cover skills such as earning money, managing money and philanthropy. Of course, in typical Girl Scout fashion, financial literacy incorporates Cookie Business badges.

“The cookie sale is a $700 million business run by girls, and those badges are a practical way of putting their financial literacy to action,” Niehaus explained.

If these girls are running a $700 million business in fourth and fifth grades, it’s exciting to imagine what they’ll achieve in adulthood. Girls Scout officials say they hope the skills they learn in Girl Scouts will go a long way in preparing them for an adulthood in the digital age — and an increasingly competitive job market. All that, and they’ll still know how to bake.