From an Eight-Pointed Star to the G.I.R.L. Agenda: Citizenship in Girl Scouting

Meridith Orr, Program Executive

“Name five things on which the comfort and welfare of your family depend, which are controlled by your Government.” – Scouting for Girls Proficiency test question for Citizen Merit Badge, 1927

“Girl Scouts is not an organization.  Girl Scouts is a Movement,” I was reminded by a volunteer who had been a Girl Scout for more than eighty years. I considered this important distinction and its role in shaping girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. Looking back on the earliest days of Girl Scouting, we are reminded how our Founder encouraged girls to do everything they could to make a difference wherever they lived.

A thorough understanding of the workings of government was encouraged by earning the Citizen Merit Badge. Symbolized by an eight-pointed star, the proficiency test consisted of 13 topical questions including “Who is responsible for the government of your country?” and “How can you help make your Government better?” The references for studying this badge included “The Women Voter’s Manual,” published in 1918, as well as several citizenship texts. However, the Citizen badge could only be earned by Girl Scouts who were First Class Scouts or girls at least sixteen years old.

A century later, the Movement has different ideas about how girls can lead and how early they can Take Action to be thoughtfully engaged citizens. Just this summer, the Daisy “Good Neighbor” badge was introduced to help our youngest members understand the idea of community, explore their local communities, and learn how to improve their communities by being a good neighbor.

Through the Citizen legacy badges in the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting, Girl Scout Brownies learn how communities celebrate their citizens in “Celebrating Community,” while Juniors begin to learn the inner workings of legislatures to earn “Inside Government.”

Our older Girl Scouts follow a progressive education in civic action, too! Girl Scout Cadettes explore strategies for bringing people together in “Finding Common Ground,” studying differing opinions, learning about civil debate, the art of compromise and mediation. Seniors go “Behind the Ballot” to learn the ins and outs of electing people to office as well as the importance of voting. The “Public Policy” badge encourages a Girl Scout Ambassador to engage as a citizen for positive change by working to influence legislation important to her.

Now we have even more resources to help Girl Scouts of all ages as well as adult members advocate for issues important to them! The G.I.R.L. Agenda site provides age-specific handouts to make it easy for co-leaders to encourage girls to identify issues and join their voices with others in civil, creative ways to make a real impact. Girls can change the world and they will – with YOUR help and guidance!

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