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What does a Girl Scout do?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

The Girl Scouts of the USA is a youth organization for American girls living at home and abroad. It was founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low as a female counterpart to the Boy Scouts of America, and similar organizations exist worldwide. A Girl Scout has the opportunity to participate in many activities that allow her to build personal skills, values, and self-esteem. Some common activities for girl scouts include camping and other outdoor activities, earning badges and awards for completing tasks, and community service.

There are currently six levels of Girl Scout membership, according to age. Daisies are in kindergarten or first grade, Brownies in second or third grade, and Juniors in fourth or fifth grade. Older members include Cadettes in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade, Seniors in ninth or tenth grade, and Ambassadors in 11th or 12th grade. Girl Scouts of different levels have different activities open to them.

Daisy Girl Scouts are in kindergarten or first grade.
Daisy Girl Scouts are in kindergarten or first grade.

Girls scouts of all levels may sell Girl Scout cookies, and participate in outdoor troop activities, though Daisies may only camp with a parent present. As girl scouts progress through different levels, earning badges and awards becomes more challenging. Daisies and Brownies, for example, earn Petals and Try-Its respectively, which do not require them to show proficiency in an activity, but simply to learn about or try something new. Older girl scouts are allowed to earn higher awards, including the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, the three highest awards in Girl Scouts.

Some children build life-long friendships in Girl Scouts.
Some children build life-long friendships in Girl Scouts.

Girl scouts of all ages attend troop meetings and participate in outdoor, community service, and cultural activities with other Girl Scout members. Girl Scouts share a number of traditions, one of the most well known of which is selling Girl Scout cookies. Girl Scouts also share the Girl Scout Handshake and the Girl Scout signal for silence. They participate in ceremonies called bridging when progressing to a higher level in Girl Scouts. Another Girl Scouts activity is the brief Scouts' Own service, which includes prayers, readings, and music and is often centered on a theme such as fairness or friendship.

Girl Scouts also celebrate special holidays. Thinking Day, on February 22, is a day for Girl Scouts to think about girls of other cultures and countries, and sometimes to collect donations for international projects. Halloween is also Juliette Gordon Low's birthday, and Girl Scouts celebrate by dressing in costume and having birthday cake.

Cadettes and Seniors can participate in Destinations, travel programs in which Girl Scouts from all over the country take a trip together. Destinations are usually within the United States, but sometimes take place in other countries. In order to participate in a Destination, a Girl Scout must turn in an application with references and have an interview. The selection process for Destinations can be very competitive.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a PublicPeople editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a PublicPeople editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Learn more...

Discussion Comments


@anon282330: You'd be surprised how much the internet makes a 16 year old blogger. Your ignorance is obvious. While scout programs are extremely effective in teaching basic life skills, the internet is not only Facebook.


I understand that selling cookies to people can be annoying, but it teaches girls how to become a salesperson and gain social skills by interacting with other people.

Kids today are into Facebook way too much, and cannot interact with the real world. Their developing brains cannot handle the technology and they end up not being able to do a simple transaction like make change at the store. Wake up people, and limit your children's interaction with computers -- especially teenagers.


In my Council, after merging with other Councils, they are selling our camps. We are trying to stop them because camping is a big part of the GS experience.


I have been a Girl Scout for 20 years, since I was five. I went through all the levels, was a cookie mom, an adult assistant, and am in my fourth year as a leader.

First off, why is everyone exaggerating cookies? 70 percent of the money stays local, and only 30 percent goes to the makers. So each troop gets 60-80 cents, but $2 goes to local council programs.

Second, Girl Scouts are not allowed to sell anything that endorses a brand name. No magazines, no nuts, no nothing. They are also not allowed to use any games of chance. No bingo. No quarter auctions. If you see girls doing this it, isn't allowed (parents can run fundraisers and donate the money). Also, selling cookies as a fundraiser has been around before we were an overweight nation.

Third, if a troop is doing nothing but fundraising, they aren't a good troop. My girls sell cookies in the fall. Maybe we'll do a bake sale or something, but I do my best to have a variety of activities to teach my girls new things. Art, history, math, science, camping, as well as leadership, compassion, and friendship.


As a Girl Scout leader, I have come to realize the value that different troops have. Yes, the cookies are overpriced and the individual troop only receives sixty cents per a box of cookies. Unfortunately, the cookie sales are a requirement in order to do any other fund raising activities.

The activities that the troop chooses to participate in are what makes the troop. Video games and books do not meet the standards of what some troops offer. Last year, the girls in our troop wanted to learn science so we made rockets from ordinary materials found at home and shot them off in a park, blew up balloons using a simple science experiment involving vinegar and baking soda, recycled old scraps of school paper and made greeting cards, and at the end of the year the girls had enough money to go to Funway for the day- an activity that the some of the parents could not afford otherwise.

This is only a brief list of the activities the girls were able to do. They all chose the activities they wanted to do, designed them, taught other girls about them, and some of them still do them at home.

The best part is the socialization that the troop offers the girls, as well as the knowledge of the things they are capable of doing.

Being able to accomplish something that others believe the girls are too young to do brings such a smile to their faces, like rock wall climbing, sewing buttons and creating a quilt, etc. Girl Scouting is only worth it if the leaders excel at making the troop worth it.


People see cookies because that is when the girls are in the public eye and now a days on the news. But I've seen girls in assisted living visiting residents, planting trees for a city to help with it's "Clean Up" projects. I've seen them making blankets to help children with health issues or even handing out flags at the Veteran's day parade.

Selling cookies allows the girls to go on trips, camping, and other troop activities that families probably couldn't afford to support. The girls learn what they can do for their community and asking for the support back in the purchase of a box of cookies is really not too much to ask. And if you don't want to eat those cookies, donate them to the local food bank.


Girl scout cookies are such a joke. So unhealthy, so over hyped (they aren't even that tasty), and so over priced. As one of the fattest nations in the world, how do we find it okay to encourage cute girls to sell what are pretty much boxes of heart attacks to people in the name of "charity"? I may be dramatizing a little here, I just wonder when it stopped be about learning to survive on your own and started being about moving merchandise.


@hyrax53, I agree with you. When my mother was a girl scout, they went on nature hikes and camping trips, built fires and had what seemed to me as a kid like great adventures. When I joined girl scouts, we did crafts with felt animals and talked about how many dues we needed to pay and how many cookies we needed to sell. I quit within a few months, because even at 6 years old I knew there were better things I could do with my free time, like reading and playing video games, that would teach me just as much about leadership. But then, I think I mainly joined because I wanted the uniform.


I like the idea of girl scouts. At the same time, I hate that they seem to spend more time earning money for various things than anything else. I speak in particular about the infamous selling of girl scout cookies, but even other than that- magazines, candy, popcorn... I can't think of what I haven't seen or heard of girl scouts trying to sell. Yes, donations and fundraisers are good things, but is an organization seemingly devoted to it the best way to encourage girls to take on new and challenging roles in society?

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    • Daisy Girl Scouts are in kindergarten or first grade.
      By: micromonkey
      Daisy Girl Scouts are in kindergarten or first grade.
    • Some children build life-long friendships in Girl Scouts.
      By: william87
      Some children build life-long friendships in Girl Scouts.