By Hannah Werthan
October 21, 2014

The New York Times recently ran an article about the decline of Girl Scouts and what some advocates are proposing to do in order to raise those numbers. The sad truth is that the number of Girl Scouts has fallen from more than 4 million in 2003 to 3 million. That is obviously a huge drop, and, as a former Girl Scout, I believe something should be done. Advocates are calling for the Girl Scouts to return back to its roots of camping and the great outdoors. They believe that the 2011 swaps in badges to make room for a more STEM-focused curriculum has hurt membership. Girl Scouts should be focused on outdoor activities and skills. I'm not so sure I feel the same way.

I loved being a Girl Scout, but it was definitely not because I enjoyed camping. In fact, I think we went camping one time and I begged to go home roughly one hour after we set up the tent. But we did plenty of other things that helped us grow and develop as young women. What made Girl Scouts so special? It allowed us to learn things and have amazing experiences that we would have never gotten in the classroom. My troop earned our badges spending the night on the U.S.S. Hornet, writing our pen pals across the globe, and learning proper etiquette by having a tea party. The possibilities for earning a badge seemed endless, and we tried to do almost every type of activity. And this was all well before 2011. I can't even imagine how much girls are able to accomplish today through the program.

If some troops are interested in spending more time in the wilderness, I wouldn't want to stop them. In a recent survey of 2,000 scouts in grades four through eight, nearly half wanted more outdoor badges. As an urban girl with no outdoor skills, this is somewhat baffling to me, but I think it's a great idea to give that opportunity to girls who want it. However, I also think the development of new badges in STEM areas has been very helpful and useful, and my hope is that they stick around, even with the proposed addition of more outdoor badges. In my opinion, the message should be that there are lots of outdoor badge opportunities for Girl Scouts, but the program also has badges that are beneficial in helping your daughter succeed in the twenty-first century. It's a great hybrid of honoring tradition and being progressive. To me, that sounds like a win-win situation, and it sounds like a program that I want my future daughters to join.

Are your daughters part of a troop? Make these apple pops for the next meeting:

Image via Shutterstock


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