In celebration of the organization's 103rd birthday Thursday, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America announced a new set of nature-themed badges chosen by its members. The Girls' Choice Outdoor Explorer badges are age-specific and include those for horseback riding, archery and paddle sports, according to a news release.
"Outdoor experiences transform a girl's understanding of and appreciation for nature while allowing her to build a unique set of skills and boost her confidence in ways few experiences can match," CEO Anna Maria Chavez said in the release.
The announcement comes months after a push by Girl Scout leaders nationwide to expand the environment-related badge options for members. Girls earn badges by completing certain sets of requirements. They wear patches on their uniforms to signify their achievements in areas ranging from hiking to website design.
Last year, some adults became concerned the Girl Scouts were becoming known more for cookies than camping, the New York Times reported. They thought outdoor leadership skills were falling by the wayside, and they fought back. The organizers created a Facebook page named "GSUSA, Are You Listening?", which has about 2,000 likes. They target the Journeys program, which was instituted in 2011 in part to encourage girls to purse careers in science, technology, engineering and math -- also called STEM. Those skills are important, they argue, but so is learning about nature.
"It’s about making a balanced person -- a balanced world citizen, really -- who can take her place in any field she wants to achieve things," volunteer Gill Clay told the Times. "And to make a real balanced individual, you have to include the outdoors."
The Girl Scouts headquarters' announcement Thursday seemed to respond to that view. The news release included stats about girls and the outdoors -- for example, that Girl Scouts are twice as likely as nonmembers to protect the environment. "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," Chavez said.