Skills Needed: Girl Scout Badges Could Help

A new book claims that today’s college freshman lack basic life skills. This is a gap that Girl Scouts should address.

New book by former Stanford Dean of Freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims

New book by former Stanford Dean of Freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshman at Stanford University, claims that incoming students had impressive resumes, but were increasingly incapable of taking care of themselves. To remedy this problem, she says that, especially with teenagers, we should “seek out opportunities to put independence in their way,” such as making them responsible for their own food or learning to take public transportation.

She’s not alone in this belief. Many colleges have “College 101” courses to teach some of the basics. US News & World Report suggests that college freshmen need Seven Essential Life Skills.

With college looming, my troop of Seniors and Ambassadors has been focusing on basic life skills. We haven’t found much help from the current badge offerings, especially given the slim pickings for Ambassadors. Let’s see how well current badges satisfy the US News Seven Skills:

Dinner Party

Dinner Party

(1) Cooking:  While learning to host a Dinner Party is a great idea, we’ve taken a more basic approach to cooking. We did one meeting on things you can microwave in a mug, like scrambled eggs (and a Nutella cake that will get you through almost any crisis). Another session is how to boost a packet of ramen noodles into actual food.

On My Own

On My Own

(2) Managing money and (3) Apartment hunting: We did On My Own, which was pretty good, although I wish the actual badge wasn’t screen printed. To teach budgeting and how to manage a checkbook, I turned to Teachers Pay Teachers. This is a great website where teachers upload materials they have developed for various age levels. For about $5 I downloaded a PDF packet with blank checks to cut out, registers to fill out, and more.

(4) Getting around town: This includes both auto care (which the Senior Car Care badge somewhat covers), but also public transportation, especially since many colleges do not allow freshmen to bring cars. Perhaps we should bring back the old Transportation badge from the 1940s?

Take Charge (photo by Annelies Squieri)

Take Charge (photo by Annelies Squieri)

(5) Staying safe and healthy: We did the old Studio 2B Take Charge badge, since there is no self-defense badge today. That was a controversial badge in its day, but girls need some blunt talk about domestic violence and rape with a trusted adult. It was surprising how many knew girls who had already been victims.

(6) Studying: I miss the old Reading badges that encouraged girls to read for fun and create troop book clubs.  To fill that gap, I’ve created my own patch programs based on the Hunger Games series and the Princess Diaries. They are fun ways to make stories come alive, learn related skills, and explore unexpected career paths.

(7) Planning: Any girl who has completed a Silver or Gold Award knows the importance of planning, but the current program is not adequately preparing them. I’ve been on my council’s Gold Award Panel for some eight years and have seen hundreds of girls who think adequate planning is a four-slide PowerPoint. With rare exception, project management is a skill that we have to teach girls as we mentor them, not one they’ve acquired in their troop.

I’ll add a few other skills:

Laundry Symbols Explained (http://visual.ly/laundry-symbols-explained)

Laundry Symbols Explained (http://visual.ly/laundry-symbols-explained)

  • Laundry: We don’t need to resurrect the old Laundress badge, but how about teaching girls (and their leaders) what all those mystery symbols on care tags mean?
  • Sewing: Perhaps GSUSA thinks we don’t need to know how to sew any more, since insignia are now all iron-in, but every now and then you have to sew on a button or fix a hem.
  • Swimming: Yes, swimming. There’s no Girl Scout badge for swimming any more.  But to graduate, every Columbia University student has to be able to swim the length of the pool.

So there are my suggestions. Some of these skills are covered at earlier Girl Scout levels, but Ambassadors at least need a good review.

But of course, that would mean revamping the flimsy Ambassador program.

©2015 Ann Robertson

9 thoughts on “Skills Needed: Girl Scout Badges Could Help

  1. I highly agree with you. As a Girl Scout historian who constantly looks at the old badges and interest patches I think it is a sad commentary that some of these basic skills have been dropped as if they were no longer needed to survive in our world. Your ideas are wonderful and practical. Bravo!

  2. Love, Love, Love this article!!!! This is exactly why I loved scouting as a girl and stress life skills in my Frontier Girls troop. I just had a member email me (she is a freshman in college this year) and told me that life skill #10 that she had to learn from me in high school, how to jump start a car, just saved her day yesterday. We did a junior high life skills day at my mothers house and they did her laundry, her ironing, cleaned her toilets, unclogged drains, and made her lunch using 5 different cooking methods, among other things. I love your ideas and can’t wait to look up your Hunger Games patch program, it sounds wonderful.

  3. I think you are right on the money – – we need MANY more badges for the Girl Scout girls. My favorite one you suggested is swimming. It is SO necessary! We need many more Outdoor Skills badges, STEAM (including Art) badges, science badges, and SO many more. Girls are multi-dimensional with many, varied interests and needs. We need to offer them MANY choices!! It is SO important. Thanks for the neat posting, I have shared it at the Outdoor Girl Scout Project group. We are working for many more badges, plus a new, Outdoor Path to Girl Scouting’s highest awards of bronze, silver, and gold. Later!

  4. Lack of basic life skills is my number one fear for young people today. Girl Scouts used to serve as an incubator for those skills and I bellieve that is part of how we earned the societal “good housekeeping seal of approval.” People expect a Girl Scout to be prepared. They rely on that legacy within the community. I remember when (eye roll) you had to go do something with the Girl Scouts before you could go do it alone. Now, there’s probably an app for whatever it is instead of someone who will guide, correct and encourage you through practice and proficiency.

  5. Thanks for hitting the nail on the head… we have all this leadership emphasis, but no focus on basic living skills – which are often regarded as “home-making” domestic skills, which of course, are seen as gender entrapment. Learning how to reattach a button to a shirt, hem an item of clothing or repair a seam, make a healthy meal, iron, and launder so that your clothes don’t become the color of the one item that faded (!), are hardly gender specific skills and could save young adults a ton of money when they go to college or start on their own. And THANK YOU for calling the Ambassador program what it is – flimsy. I’m seriously thinking of working on more Senior badges with my troop.

  6. For those that are interested, you are more than welcome to integrate the requirements of the Frontier Girls Life Skills Achievement Award into your Girl Scout program. We have a lot of dual membership troops that participate in both Frontier Girls and Girl Scouts, but you don’t even need to join Frontier Girls as the requirements for this award are in the public area of the website. Just go to: http://frontiergirlsclubs.com/awards/life-skills-achievement-award/ The Life Skills Achievement Award was written to make sure that girls can perform skills that they will need later in life. These skills include household chores, personal grooming, physical skills, safety skills, financial skills, navigational skills, and basic living skills. To earn this award, girls must be able to complete each skill at their current level as well as all skills of any lower level.

  7. Pingback: If I Were CEO of GSUSA – Girl Scout History Project

  8. Pingback: Two of My Favorite Things–Girl Scouts and College Students | Finding Center

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