Image Credit: National Park Service [PDF]

The Girl Scouts of the USA aren’t just about selling cookies; they recently launched two new initiatives to expand their program into the great outdoors. The Girl Scout Ranger Program, developed in partnership with the National Park Service, promotes appreciation and understanding of national parks through activities like hiking, biking, wildlife observation, and guided tours. The Ranger program also allows girls to create their own unique “Take Action” program to earn badges and patches.

The second, created to honor the 103rd anniversary of the organization, is the new Girls’ Choice Outdoor Explorer badges.

Both badge-awarding programs seek to connect girls to nature and the environment, giving them greater opportunities to learn leadership and problem solving skills. And more so than sedentary activities like arts and crafts, nature-based activities provide girls with the opportunity to face their fears, boost their self esteem, and see what obstacles they can overcome.

According to Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girls Scouts of the USA, "The badge program has always been one of the cornerstones of Girl Scouts, and our research clearly shows that there is a connection between outdoor experiences and girls' understanding of their leadership potential—so Outdoor badges are a natural fit." According to the More than S’mores study [PDF] from the Girl Scout Research Institute, “Girl Scouts are twice as likely as non-Girl Scouts to say they take action to protect the environment (51 percent versus 23 percent), and have had a personal experience in nature that has made them appreciate it more (49 percent versus 29 percent).”