Today’s effective leaders stress collaboration, inclusion, and a commitment to improving the world around them. Girls themselves tell us that a leader is defined not only by the qualities and skills she hones but also by how she uses those skills and qualities to make a difference in the world—to achieve transformational change! For this reason, the Girl Scout Leadership Experience—the framework for defining what girls do in Girl Scouting, how they do it, and who will benefit, which was born out of years of research and development—engages girls in three key activities: discovering who they are and what they value; connecting with others; and taking action to make the world a better place.
Three Keys to Leadership: The Activities Girls Do
In Girl Scouting, girls discover, connect, and take action as they become leaders. The entire Girl Scout program, regardless of the exact topic, is designed to lead to the 15 leadership outcomes (or benefits) that stem from these three keys.
Girls understand themselves and their values* and use their knowledge and skills to explore the world*. The benefits (outcomes) for girls from the discover key include:
• Developing a strong sense of self
• Developing positive values
• Gaining practical life skills and practicing healthy living
• Seeking challenges in the world
• Developing critical thinking skills
Girls care about, inspire, and team with others locally and globally*. Benefits (outcomes) for girls include:
• Developing healthy relationships
• Promoting cooperation and team-building
• Resolving conflicts
• Advancing diversity in a multicultural world
• Feeling connected to their local and global communities
Take Action Key
Girls act to make the world a better place*. Benefits (outcomes) intended for girls include:
• Identifying community needs
• Working as resourceful problem-solvers
• Educating and inspiring others to act
• Advocating for themselves and others, at home and around the world
• Feeling empowered to make a difference
The most powerful component of the take action key is, not only do Girl Scouts themselves benefit as they grow in their leadership skills, but communities, the nation, and the world benefit as well. Taking action translates to making the world a better place.
Success in Girl Scouting is based on the achievement of the Council Goals. The greatest measure of success in Girl Scouting is the degree to which individual members benefit or demonstrate personal and social development toward the four Council Goals. The * above note the four Council Goals.
Girl Scout Processes: How Girls Go About Doing Those Activities
It’s not just what girls do, but how they are engaged that creates a high-quality experience. All Girl Scout activities are designed to use three processes that make Girl Scouting unique from school and other extracurricular activities. When used together, these processes (girl-led, learning-by-doing, and cooperative-learning) ensure the quality and promote the fun and friendship that’s so integral to Girl Scouting. Below you’ll find brief descriptions of each process.
Activities Are Girl-Led
Girls of every grade level take an active role in determining what, where, when, why, and how they’ll structure activities. As part of the adult-girl partnership fostered by Girl Scouts, you use this process to strengthen and support girls’ empowerment and decision-making roles in activities. This non-formal education technique enables the learner to actively participate in directing her own learning. Your role is to provide grade-level-appropriate guidance while ensuring that girls lead as much as possible in the planning, organization, set-up, and evaluation of their activities. The older the girl, the more you step back and serve as a resource and support.
Girls Learn by Doing
Girls use hands-on learning to engage in an ongoing cycle of action and reflection, deepening their understanding of concepts and mastering practical skills. As girls take part in meaningful activities—instead of simply watching them—and then later evaluate what they have learned, learning is far more meaningful, memorable, and long-lasting. You assist girls in this process by facilitating grade-level-appropriate experiences through which girls can learn, and also by leading discussions that reflect on those experiences. When girls learn by doing, they can better connect their experiences to their own lives, both in and out of Girl Scouting.
Girls Engage in Cooperative Learning
Girls share knowledge, skills, and experiences in an atmosphere of respect and cooperation, working together on a common goal that engages each individual girl’s diverse talents. In cooperative learning environments, people learn faster, process information more efficiently, and are better able to retain the information learned. This idea, also known as “positive interdependence,” engages girls in meaningful ways, encourages and appreciates differences in outlook and skills, and creates a sense of belonging. In your role as a volunteer, you want to structure cooperative-learning activities that will nurture healthy, diverse relationships, and also give continuous feedback to girls on those learning experiences.
These three processes promote the fun and friendship that, for nearly 100 years, have been integral to Girl Scouting. But they do even more: When girls lead, when they learn by doing, and when they engage in cooperative learning, the 15 leadership outcomes (or benefits) discussed in the preceding section are far more likely to be understood and achieved. The key to achieving these results using the program processes is to ensure progression takes place as girls transition from one Girl Scout Grade Level to another. For example, Girl Scout Daisies will be guided by the adult leadership through the Learning by Doing process but when they become Girl Scout Seniors, they may be guiding themselves through that process or asking much deeper questions.
Research tells us that today’s girls are backing down from leadership opportunities and that many of those who do want to lead don’t believe they have what it takes. But as Girl Scouts, girls find themselves practicing leadership and working toward goals in a supportive environment surrounded by people who want to see them succeed: you, the volunteers!
In 2012, its centennial year, Girl Scouts launched ToGetHerThere, the boldest advocacy and fundraising cause campaign dedicated to girls’ leadership issues in the nation’s history. This multi-year effort is helping break down social barriers that hinder girls from leading and achieving success in everything from technology and science to business and industry.
ToGetHerThere’s goal is to create gender-balanced leadership in one generation. To do that, Girl Scouts is asking all adult members of society to help girls reach their leadership potential and place this urgent issue front and center on the national agenda. We all have a role to play in helping girls achieve their full leadership potential because when girls succeed, so does society. Together, we can get her there.
Linking Girl Scouting to Academic Success
An exciting new study shows that Girl Scouting also contributes to academic success in addition to achieving the mission. The national study by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) found that the leadership skills and experiences girls gain through Girl Scouting also help them succeed in school.
The study of nearly 3,000 geographically-diverse fourth through eighth grade Girls Scouts found that:
- Girl Scout participation has a positive impact on girls’ leadership. On a 1-10 scale, one-third of girls rated the impact of Girl Scouting on their leadership a 10 (highest score possible). Eighty percent rated it a 7 or higher.
- Girl Scouting influences academic success as much as or more than positive relationships with teachers and weekly participation in out-of-school-time (OST) activities-non-Girl Scout factors that are known to boost success in school.
- Lower socioeconomic status (SES) girls, those whose moms have less than a college education, report greater benefits from Girl Scouting. They report greater leadership impact from the program. Those who have gained problem solving skills indicate much higher scholastic competence.
What Makes Girl Scouting Different
Girl Scout experiences are characterized by three processes: Cooperative Learning, Learning by Doing, and Girl-Led activities. The Cooperative Learning aspect of Girl Scouting) in which girls work with, learn from and teach each other) is particularly important in supporting girls to take on challenges and solve personal, interpersonal and community problems. When girls learn to seek challenges and solve problems in Girl Scouting it helps them do the same in school, thereby supporting their academic growth.
Additionally, Girl Scouting offers a variety of different experiences, in which girls get to try new things, develop their skills, and take on leadership roles. When girls plan and lead projects, whether related to community service, outdoor expeditions, cookie sales, robotics or any number of other Girl Scout themes, they gain skills and confidence that also helps them do well in school.
How Girls Define Leadership
Research conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute tells us that to be relevant and successful to girls, a leadership program must address girls’ aspirational or preferred definition of leadership, need for emotional safety, and their desire for social and personal development, which:
- Expands girls’ social circles.
- Creates supportive relationships (peer-to-adult and peer-to-peer).
- Provides safe and supportive environments for free expression.
- Creates opportunities for girls to experience a range of leadership activities, from social change and political activism to more traditional positions of leadership.
* Girl Scout Research Institute, Change It Up! What Girls Say about Redefining Leadership, 2008
More specifically, communications with girls about a leadership program must:
- Frame communications in a language that makes the program relevant and appealing.
- Help girls understand, identify, and verbalized different forms of leadership.
- Make clear which aspects of leadership are at the core of the program.
- Set expectations and leadership skill development goals at a reasonable and attainable level.
* Girl Scout Research Institute, Change It Up! What Girls Say about Redefining Leadership, 2008