Thursday, December 7, 2017

Richard King Mellon Foundation and Girl Scout Interns Get Passionate About the Outdoors

With generous support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Student Conservation Association (SCA), and Girl Scouts of the USA piloted an internship program with five Girl Scout councils to elevate outdoor and environmental conservation activities, build the capacity of local councils to provide volunteer support and get more girls outdoors, and preserve natural resources.

College-age interns from the SCA have been bringing their energy, enthusiasm, and experience to select councils, and Girl Scouts is benefiting in big ways. From astronomy programming in Missouri to outdoor training in Pennsylvania, these interns are planning, taking action, and leading while protecting our nation’s natural and cultural resources.

To learn more about what it means to be an SCA intern, we talked with Lynda Jones, who worked with Girl Scouts of Alaska on its 2017 outdoor programs for girls and volunteers.

What is your background and expertise in outdoors?

I didn’t actually start going outdoors until I graduated from high school. When I was younger, I did a lot of fishing with my family and played sports that were usually outdoors, but I never really made a connection with nature until I started college in Juneau at University of Alaska Southeast. I met a lot of likeminded, outdoorsy-type friends who showed me where to hike and explore the outdoors. I began hiking more and eventually started camping in the backcountry, and that led to backpacking into the wilderness. This last summer, as a part of my internship, I portaged a canoe with a group of campers for the first time. I had lots of firsts in the outdoors during my internship learning alongside the girls!

What led you to love the outdoors and get involved in conservation?

Going to school in Juneau, I was working towards my biology degree, and a lot of the classes went on field trips or held class outdoors. I took a class about marine herpetology and ornithology, and we went on a field trip with Bob Armstrong (a celebrity naturalist in Southeast Alaska) to the Mendenhall Wetlands to look at birds and learn about the importance of the wetland areas. It was such an eye-opening experience to learn more about where I lived as well as the importance of conserving these areas for wildlife.

Why did you decide to become an SCA intern and work with Girl Scouts?

When I was younger, I was in a troop, and we didn’t do a whole lot of things outdoors. I wanted to go outside and go camping and hiking, but I never really had the opportunity to do those activities. So when I saw this position, I was excited to have the opportunity to work with other women who are not only encouraging, helpful, and caring but also able to get girls outdoors who may not have otherwise had the chance.

How did you create programs for the SCA/Girl Scouts internship program? Did you learn any new skills?

By collaborating with coworkers and experts in the field, I learned a lot of the programming I helped teach. For example, I didn’t really know how to use a map and compass, so I taught myself and showed others what I learned.

I learned an incredible amount of skills working as an intern with Girl Scouts. I was able to bring my biological conservation knowledge and passion to help Girl Scouts, and at the same time learn many new skills. I have worked in positions with children and youth for a few years before working here and never really received any specific training for serving youth. I learned how to talk to girls, how to manage behavior, meals to bring on trail, backpacking skills, water sport skills, navigation skills, how to read a map, how to mitigate risk, the list goes on. Working here for one year, I have probably learned more than I have at previous organizations.

What advice would you give a girl who is interested in the outdoors but doesn’t know how to follow that passion?

I would say to start out with something small. I started out with birding, which can be done by just looking out the window. A lot of times, I think people get overwhelmed with trying to become a master at backpacking or canoeing and wanting to go right onto the Pacific Crest Trail! I was intimidated by all the things I thought I should know in order to just go outside. I learned that by just starting out small, you can make exploring the outdoors whatever you want it to be for you.

What has been your greatest accomplishment working as an SCA intern at Girl Scouts of Alaska?

I'm proud to have been able to help create and facilitate so many learning and growing experiences in the outdoors for girls. Girl Scouts taught me how to be patient when working with youth and also showed me that even the small things a girl does can be a really big deal for her. From striking a match for a stove to climbing a rock wall to even noticing a cool-looking bug, girls can gain confidence, character, and courage no matter how big or small.

Why do you give back through conservation?

Really, conserving nature is just something that makes me happy. I enjoy being in the outdoors, and there are a lot of others who do too. I also think growing up in Alaska has given me a unique perspective of nature that a lot of people don’t understand when they grow up in urban areas.

Girls Scouts of the USA thanks the Richard King Mellon Foundation for its continued support and efforts to inspire girls to get outdoors and become lifelong stewards of the environment.

Read more about the program in in previous blog posts: Getting More Girls Outside More Often and Want More Girls Outdoors? Train the Adults!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Girl Scouts of the USA and Raytheon Team Up to Create Cyber Challenge and Programming for Middle and High School Girls.

Today, Girl Scouts of the USA and Raytheon are excited to announce they are launching GSUSA’s first national computer science program and Cyber Challenge for middle and high school girls. The program aims to prepare girls in grades 6-12 to pursue computer science careers in fields such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics, and data science.

“The progress to diversify the STEM workforce needs to be accelerated,” said Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Kennedy. “At a time when technology is transforming the way we live and work, we can - and should - show young women a clear path to taking an active role in this transformation. Working together, Raytheon and Girl Scouts will help girls build confidence to see themselves as the robotics engineers, data scientists and cybersecurity professionals who will create a better tomorrow.”

A long-time partner of many Girl Scout Councils, Raytheon is the inaugural sponsor of GSUSA’s computational thinking program that will create age-appropriate content and foundational science, technology, engineering and math experiences. This collaboration will specifically support the creation of new age-appropriate content and foundational STEM experiences for middle and high school girls through the “Think Like a Programmer” Journey, (currently only available to girls in grades K–5) and will be girl-led,– like all Girl Scout programming. Girls will learn key concepts of computer science and complete activities through which they problem solve with friends while building essential leadership skills. They will also have the opportunity to apply what they learn at Girl Scouts’ first-ever Cyber Challenge where girls will work collaboratively to apply their new coding skill

The Girl Scout Research Institute’s (GSRI’s) Generation STEM report found that 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM fields and subjects but their interest fades as they move through middle and high school. A large part of the decreased interest is because girls aren’t exposed to STEM in ways that speak to them and inspire their career ambition.

At a time when women account for half the college-educated workforce, but constitute only 29 percent of science and engineering occupations (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016), Raytheon and Girl Scouts are committed to filling the pipeline of female STEM leaders by introducing girls to related careers early on.  Providing girls with engaging STEM programming and events including hands-on learning in computer science and cybersecurity, helps maintain their interest in these subjects during critical developmental years and supplements what girls are already learning in school. In the 2017 National Cyber Security Alliance’s (NCSA) Millennial Cyber Security Survey, the majority of Millennial women, said that more STEM information, classes, and training during middle and high school would have increased their interest in a cybersecurity career.

“We are excited to be working with Raytheon and tapping into its expertise in computer science and cybersecurity to develop this important new content for our middle and high school–age girls,” said Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of GSUSA. “Girl Scouts is a network of more than 60 million girls and women, and we serve girls from every residential zip code. We are the girl experts, and have been for 105 years. With Raytheon’s support, we will inspire millions of girls to explore STEM careers and realize their full potential.”

Phase one of the new national computer science program for middle and high school girls will be run as a pilot in select geographies in early 2018, with full nationwide implementation planned to begin in fall 2018. Select Girl Scout councils will pilot the Cyber Challenge in 2019.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

This Giving Tuesday, Help Girl Scouts Affected by Natural Disasters

Today is Giving Tuesday, when many of us take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and pause to honor and support the organizations that work passionately all year round to make the world a better place—like Girl Scouts!

This year you have the opportunity to give directly to every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ who could most benefit from our program.

Many Girl Scout councils have been hit hard by natural disasters and are still recovering from the fires in Northern California or hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma:
  • Girl Scouts of Caribe
  • Girl Scouts of San Jacinto
  • Girl Scouts Heart of the South
  • Girl Scouts of Citrus
  • Girl Scouts of Gateway
  • Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida
  • Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia
  • Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida
  • Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida
  • USA Girl Scouts Overseas in the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Girl Scouts of Northern California 
Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has started a fund for these councils—but we still need your help. Your donation will go even farther to help the Girl Scouts who need it most—the G.I.R.L.s who have been impacted by these natural disasters.

It’s times like these that our Girl Scout family pulls together best: to serve our country, help others, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.


*GSUSA website.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Meet the Troops Taking Civic Action to Build a Better World

Happy Thanksgiving, Girl Scouts! Today, while you prepare for delicious food, loving company, and a weekend full of giving thanks, we also hope you and your fellow Girl Scout sisters enjoy watching the Girl Scout float make its way through the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®!

It’s no surprise that our float’s theme highlights all the ways Girl Scouts everywhere are building a better world—from earning badges to giving back to their communities to taking civic action! To celebrate, we’re honoring four incredible troops who are doing just that.

Earlier this month, we challenged troop leaders across the country to accept the G.I.R.L. Agenda Pledge, through which they agree to add a new member to their troop this year. They also share how they’re taking the lead to advance the G.I.R.L. Agenda—a nonpartisan initiative to inspire, prepare, and mobilize girls and those who care about them to lead positive change through civic action.

Four grand prize winners were randomly selected to have their story featured on Thanksgiving Day. Are you ready to meet these go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders?!

Troop 953

As part of its Agent of Change Journey, Junior Troop 953 from Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama is using every troop meeting as an opportunity to help the homeless by making bags full of everyday essentials. Way to go, Girl Scouts!

Troop 118

Daisy Troop 118 from Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast has a G.I.R.L. Agenda that’s all about inclusivity. Outside of working with their school to build a buddy bench to combat bullying and inspire classmates to make new friends, these leaders are spreading kindness and inclusivity within their own troop! When they discovered one of their troop members was deaf, they decided to learn American Sign Language together so their Girl Scout sister felt more included in troop activities. How amazing is that?

Troop 75269

How is Brownie Troop 75269 from Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan advancing the G.I.R.L. Agenda? They’re organizing a letter-writing campaign! Each girl will pick an issue important to them, come up with an innovative solution, and send the idea to their local elected officials.

Troop 2815

Troop 2815, a multilevel troop from Girl Scouts of Central California South is part of a Girl Scout robotics team and uses its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to advance the G.I.R.L. Agenda. How? These innovators are learning more about hydrodynamics so they can use their STEM knowledge to help communities in Africa get better access to clean water.

No matter how old they are, Girl Scouts are catalysts for change in their communities every day! So if you’re at home watching the parade today and want to be an agent of change too, visit and raise your voice in support of girls.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Girl Scouts’ Powerful Legacy of Civic Action in America

We are girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

And that “make the world a better place” part? That’s about civic involvement, and it gets at the very heart of what it means to be a Girl Scout.

Whether we’re being good neighbors, participating in school activities, addressing concerns in the community, or taking our quests for positive change to the state, national, or international level, we recognize how important it is that we serve as empathetic leaders who advocate for what’s important to us.

From the very beginning, Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low saw Girl Scouting as a movement that would inspire girls to make a difference in their world. A product of the Progressive Era (1890–1920), the Girl Scout movement has always promoted the values upon which our nation was founded. Call it patriotism. Call it advocacy. Call it being a good citizen. Call it being an American who simply wants to make a difference and help our communities shine.

We call it being a Girl Scout.

Fittingly, the very first Girl Scout Handbook was titled How Girls Can Help Their Country. Published in 1913, it was full of forward-thinking concepts; it even encouraged girls to learn a trade or two, so that they could be independent and prepared to serve their country. As early as 1918, Girl Scout activities encouraged exploration of civics and citizenship, an emphasis that has continued ever since.

As the Girl Scout organization grew through the years, so did opportunities to make a nationwide impact. The Girl Scout commitment to service and duty to country was visible in many ways during World War I, as girls across the country embraced the war effort—planting “war gardens” and selling war bonds.

As early as 1920, Girl Scouts were rallying in New York City’s Central Park, lifting their voices to introduce the organization to the nation and to advocate for what they believed in. And when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in August of that year, Girl Scouts sprang into action to support women’s suffrage. (Many troops offered to take care of women's babies while they cast ballots.) Also around this time, Girl Scouts were encouraged to learn about government, voting, and the election process on the way to earning their Civics and Citizen badges.

In 1931, First Lady of the United States and Honorary Girl Scout President Lou Henry Hoover publicly called on girls to help families dealing with unemployment. And Girl Scouts nationwide stepped up big time—raising money, holding food and clothing drives, and volunteering in schools and hospitals. Consequently, Girl Scouts earned a deserved reputation as a group that could be counted on to help those in need.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, in 1937 Girl Scouts participated in a series of community civic projects that included safety campaigns, health initiatives, and clean-up weeks. Also during the Great Depression, Girl Scouts led community relief efforts such as collecting clothing, making quilts, carving wood toys, gathering food for the poor, assisting in hospitals, and providing meals to underfed children.

Girl Scouts just kept going. During World War II, the organization demonstrated its recognized ability to mobilize around a cause, effecting change in a big way. Girl Scout leadership distributed materials with ideas for service projects. Girl Scouts took action by operating bicycle courier services, investing thousands of hours in Farm Aid projects and growing “victory gardens.” They collected rubber for tires, nylons and rags for parachutes, and scrap metal by the ton. They picked 7,930 pounds of milkweed pods to fill life jackets and aviator suits. And in 1944, Girl Scouts presented then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a “check” for 15,430,000 Girl Scout service hours invested in the war effort since 1941. Talk about leadership!

After the war Girl Scouts used funds from the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund to lend a helping hand to war-torn European countries. They reached out to children overseas with brightly colored Friendship Bags containing needle-and-thread sets, toothbrushes, hard candy, hair ribbons, crayons, and small toys. And Girl Scouts kept their eyes on their homeland, too, participating in important projects through a National Home Safety campaign.

In the 1950s, Girl Scouts emphasized its commitment to the environment by performing more than 35,000 Outdoor Good Turns, conservation projects to clean up and beautify neighborhoods—and in the 1960s, as the civil rights movement gained momentum, Girl Scouts launched several major initiatives supporting racial and ethnic diversity. In 1969, Girl Scouts launched Action 70, a nationwide Girl Scout effort to overcome prejudice and improve relations among people of all ages, religions, and races.

Of course, Girl Scouts participated in the very first Earth Day in April 1970, later that year launching Eco-Action, a nationwide program to bring attention to environmental issues. And pivoting back to civic involvement, Girl Scouts opened the 1980s with Leadership in Action, identifying eight crucial areas to focus on, including pluralism, community service, the environment, and taking the lead for a better world, as well as the international aspects of Girl Scouting and leadership.

Since then, as always, Girl Scouts have worked steadily on both a large and small scale to make the world a better place. Girl Scouts have led positive change by fighting to end child marriage in New Hampshire. Girl Scouts have stood up against everyday injustices by holding an annual Open Mosque Day to combat Islamophobia. One troop of Girl Scouts created a petition to help pass a law banning tobacco use in its town’s parks and on its playgrounds and athletic fields. And Girl Scouts placed flags at more than 5,000 grave sites at the East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery before marching in their local Memorial Day parade.

And that’s just a fraction of the amazing actions Girl Scouts everywhere have taken to improve their communities.

Now, to celebrate more than a century of Girl Scout civic engagement, we’re featuring the G.I.R.L. Agenda Powered by Girl Scouts, a nonpartisan initiative to inspire, prepare, and mobilize girls and those who care about them to lead positive change through civic action. Sign on to support the G.I.R.L. Agenda, and gain access to Girl Scout civic engagement resources for both girls and adults.

If it takes just one girl to change the world, imagine what all of us can do—together.

It’s our world. Let’s change it.
See Girl Scouts “Building a Better World” in the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, airing live on NBC November 23 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET, and replayed nationwide at 9:00 a.m. in all other time zones.