Senior Interests, Then and Now

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

What Were the Most Popular Girl Scout Badges?

GSUSA recently announced the new Girls’ Choice outdoor-themed badges that will be available this fall. They are: Outdoor Adventure (Brownie), Horseback Riding (Junior), Archery (Cadette), Paddling (Senior), and Ultimate Recreation Challenge (Ambassador).

The results made me wonder what were the most popular badges of the past?

I used the sales figures reported in the 2005 edition of the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide by Mary Degenhardt and Judith Kirsch to find out. (I assume those numbers only go to 2004, and the book has not been updated.)  The results are grouped into the Worlds to Explore Era (1980-1999) and post-Worlds to Explore, when the border colors changed but most of the designs did not.

As I’ve previously written, for Cadettes between 1963 and 1980, the clear winner was Social Dancer.  Juniors in the same period, went for Troop Camper followed closely by Cook.

Brownies: 1986-1998

Brownie Try-Its were introduced in 1986 with 15 awards. They program was a huge hit, so additional Try-Its were added in 1989, 1993, and 1997. That makes it hard to compare overall totals, since some were available for more years than others. (Some names changed along the way, too.)

The top five Try-Its of the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five Try-Its of the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five were Girl Scout Ways (5.8 million), Playing Around the World (4.2 million), Food Fun/Make It, Eat It (3.8 million), Making Music (3.6 million), and Dance/Dancercize (3.6 million).  The top outdoor-themed Try-It ranked seventh: Outdoor Fun/Eco-Explorer, with 3.2 million.

Juniors: 1980-2001

The Worlds to Explore program, introduced in 1980, divided badges into five categories. Badges for each category had a specific border color: Arts (purple), Out-of-Doors (yellow), People (blue), Today and Tomorrow (orange), and Well-Being (red). Four of the top five Junior badges were from the World of the Out-of-Doors:

The all-time favorite of Juniors in the 1980s and 1990s was First Aid, with nearly 3 million sold. Followed close behind were Troop Camper (2.9 million; the design changed in 1990); Horse Lover (1.8 million), Swimming (1.4 million), and Wildlife (1.4 million).

The top five Junior badges from the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five Junior badges from the Worlds to Explore era.

Cadettes & Seniors: 1980-2004

Cadettes and Seniors were a remarkably consistent group, with nearly identical results in both time periods.

The most popular Interest Projects from 1980-1996 (top) and 1997-2005 (bottom).

The most popular Interest Projects from 1980-1996 (top) and 1997-2005 (bottom).

Under Worlds to Explore (1980-1996), teens chose Fashion, Fitness, and Makeup (301,391; it had a purple border its first year), Creative Cooking (262,163), Camping (204,851), Games (167,056), and Child Care (160,052).

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the favorites were Cookies and Dough (153,989), Creative Cooking (111,638), From Fitness to Fashion (97,469), Camping (93,923), and Child Care (86,509).

Juniors: 2001-2004

Juniors of the early twenty-first century were evidently a patriotic group, interested in good grooming, and still happy to go camping.

Popular Junior badges, 2001-2004.

Popular Junior badges, 2001-2004.

Top selling Junior badges were Cookie Connection (290,165), Looking Your Best (198,647), Girl Scouting in the USA (197,634), United We Stand (186,761), and Camp Together (171,069). Past favorites remained popular, including First Aid (6th), Horse Fan (11th), Outdoor Fun (12th), and Outdoor Cook (13th).

I was surprised at how popular United We Stand was. It was part of the trio of badges, including Wave the Flag for Brownies and American Patriotism for Cadettes and Seniors, issued following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These three were not included in the handbooks; leaders had to download the requirements themselves.

Brownies: 1999-2004

Brownies at the turn of the century also stuck with some favorite topics, including Cookies Count (1.6 million), Girl Scout Ways (1.55 million), Manners (1.2 million), Art to Wear (1.17 million), and Caring and Sharing (1.08 million)..

Top Brownie Try-Its, 1999-2004.

Top Brownie Try-Its, 1999-2004.

Cookie-themed awarded topped all three post-Worlds to Explore badge categories.

Top of the Charts

Drumroll, please, the most popular Girl Scout badges between 1963 and 2004 were:

The most popular badges between 1963 and 2004.

The most popular badges between 1963 and 2004.

 

Four Reasons I Love the Council’s Own

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I love Girl Scout Council’s Own badges. I love council Try-Its and Interest Projects, too.

Why do I love them? Let me count the ways.

1. The Designs

Maybe it’s the smaller production runs, but Council’s Owns seem to be more brightly colored than ordinary GSUSA-issued badges. They’re just pretty, OK?

2. The Local Flavor

Council’s Owns celebrate local communities, highlighting regional attractions and resources. They feature local histories and traditions.

3. The Quirkiness

Council’s Owns also fill in gaps in traditional badge offerings. I am dying to locate at least a picture of the Taxidermy badge from New Jersey.

No GSUSA archery badge? Troop leaders could satisfy their own budding Katniss Everdeens with programs developed by councils across the country.

I’m sad that GSUSA has narrowed the opportunities for councils to create badges in favor of back-of-the-sash patch programs.  There are so many patch programs and participation patches these days, especially compared with the limited number of badges introduced in 2011, that we may soon have girls with layers of patches on the back and empty real estate on the front of their vests.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to patch programs at all.  In fact, I’ve created five patch programs myself.

And the final reason I love the Council’s Own…

4. I Made a Website!

I’ve created an entire website to share my Council’s Own collection. Go to gscobadge.info for images and requirements arranged by age level. There are also pages for special badge programs and mystery badges. Let me know if you can identify any or help fill in a blank spot.

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I’m always looking for vintage Council’s Own badges. Please contact me if you find any.

Enjoy!

©2014, 2020 Ann Robertson