Senior Interests, Then and Now

With the re-launch of Girl Scout Mariner and Trailblazer troops planned for 2020, it is a good time to revisit the original programs.

Senior Girl Scouts did not have their own proficiency badges until Interest Projects were introduced in 1980.

Instead, Senior troops concentrated on specific topics, with a particular emphasis on practical training for service roles. Girls earned small service bar pins, with the color indicating the focus.

Starting in 1955, troops and patrols could choose from five concentrations: Trailblazer, Mountaineer, Explorer, Wing, and Mounted. A “General Interest” path was added in 1958. Seniors wore a 3″ green bordered patch to indicate their focus.

The Mariner program, which launched in 1934, remained separate. The Wing program, dating to 1942, was not as popular as the Mariners and flew into the new framework as one of the five.

Personally, I think if the Wing groups had distinct, spiffy uniforms like the Mariners, they would have been more visible and likely more popular.

Based on girl feedback, the Senior program was tweaked in 1960. New interests were added, unpopular ones dropped, and patches slimmed down to 2.25″. Now Mariners were grouped with everyone else although their patch remained blue.

Senior Explorer patches, 1958 (left) and 1960 (right).

The biggest change came in 1963, when more paths were introduced, such as Community Action, Homemaker, and Arts.

Each focus now had a specific color that was used on the border of the emblem, but also on the tie and hat cord of the uniform.

The 1963 Senior Handbook shows girls with many interests.

But unlike the badges earned at younger levels, there was no earned insignia specific to this program. Instead, the large patches were simply an oversized troop crest.

A new set of four interest patches was introduced in 1974 along with a new Senior Handbook, Options.

The book marked the peak of Girl Scout efforts to be mod, hip, and crunchy granola. It practically came with a choker made of love beads and puka shells. Girls regarded the suggested activities, such as “Mysterious Musical Mood” and “Reading for Pleasure and Profit” as childish and condescending.

Finally, take a close look at the design of these patches. See the gold starburst design in the background? That was taken from the earlier special Senior membership pin.

Many troops simply kept using their trusty 1963 handbook and related interest patches.

In 1980, Options was officially declared dead. Few noticed.

An entirely new set of earned recognitions for Cadettes and Seniors (Ambassadors date only to 2008) came with the Worlds to Explore program. The program retained the “interest project” name, although the name changed several times: Interest Project Award, Interest Project Patch, and Interest Project.

The new program also launched a new highest award for Girl Scouts, the Gold Award.

Now, dear readers, take a good look at the images above. Did you ever notice the sunburst design carried through to the current Gold Award design?

Thank you to members of the Facebook Girl Scout historian community for sharing their experiences with these programs.

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

5 thoughts on “Senior Interests, Then and Now

  1. In the early to mid 1960’s the ”8 Indispendsibles“
    Were an earned patch was to replace/ substitute for the 1st Class/Curved bar. move was not at all popular. As I recall there was a deadline to earn the Ist Class Curved bar before it was “retired”.

  2. I’m thrilled to hear that Mariners are making a comeback! I LOVED being in (& then leading) a super active Mariner troop (1967-1981) in So. CA. We did a lot of boating, especially canoeing, in preparation for trips down the Colorado River, plus lots of work to get ready for Gam, an annual regional competition in all things Mariner (boating, swimming, charting, knot tying, semaphore, etc., etc.). Fun and exciting times, plus lots of opportunities for leadership among the members. I can honestly say it changed my life for the better!

  3. Pingback: Ten Years Gone – Girl Scout with a Cause

  4. Where can I get an “Options” Senior Girl Scout Handbook? I want to see the requirements for the Multi-cultural World and World the Arts interest patches. Even a photocopy of these sections in the book would do.
    Would like to purchase the 1974 patches on eBay, but they are so expensive.
    –Candy Parker, Life Member, Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    • Sometimes you can find GS books on eBay, but also look at Amazon as see if “other sellers” appears as an option. (No pun intended!) That will take you to used book stores, which can be very helpful.

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