Badges, Activities, & Beyond, Parents, Volunteers

Badges, patches, and patch programs, oh my!

A sash filled with colorful badges and patches is a great visual reminder for your Girl Scout of all the wonderful experiences she’s had and the skills she’s honed. What an amazing way to show the world all she’s accomplished!

While badges and patches are both part of the legacy of Girl Scouts, many people use the words badge and patch interchangeably without realizing there is an important difference between the two.

What’s the difference, you ask?


The founder of Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, defined the purpose of badges pretty well:

Every badge you earn is tied up to your motto. This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to be prepared to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing, but doing. Not just doing, but being. – Juliette Gordon Low

Badges are designed to help girls explore their interests and learn new skills. They require girls to fulfill specific steps and are meant to be proudly displayed on the front of their uniform.

The steps to earn each badge are outlined in the badge descriptions, which are published in the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting. Girls must complete each step before they have earned the badge.

Need a complete listing of badges for every age level? Find it here!


Badges are awesome, but sometimes girls want to attend a fun activity or try something new that isn’t badge related. This is where patches come in handy!

Sometimes referred to as “fun patches,” these are embroidered symbols similar to badges, but they are considered “unofficial” and are commonly worn on the back of the vest or sash.

Girls can get a fun patch for any activity they participate in with Girl Scouts. From night hikes to corn mazes to museum visits, there’s no limit to the number of fun patches she can proudly display!

Troops can buy them from the Girl Scout shop or another patch vendor to remember a fun day or a special event they took part in. Some events or community partners even offer commemorative fun patches to Girl Scouts that are customized to their event, like the Juliette Gordon Low Trail patch that girls can wear after hiking the trail. Pretty cool, right?


Patch Programs

But wait, beyond badges and fun patches, girls can also earn patches by completing programs unique to individual councils or organizations! These are called patch programs, or council’s own, and the required activities to complete the patch program are generally found on the council or organization’s website.

For example, in Western Ohio girls can complete several patch programs offered by us and some awesome community partners like:

  • Get Outdoors! Patch Program (replacing Got Camp?; requirements coming in 2017)
  • GSWO Marathon Patch (track your miles from Jan- May, 2017)
  • Buckeye Trails Service Patch Program
  • Pantene Beautiful Lengths Patch Program
  • Ohio State Fair Earned Patch Program (updated requirements coming for 2017)
  • GRILL Patch Program (coding)

Contact a member of the program department for requirements of Western Ohio’s patch programs!

And remember, you don’t have to be content with Ohio’s patch programs! Girls are welcome to complete a patch program from any council or organization across the US and purchase their patches from that individual council’s shop or the organization sponsoring the patch program.

Here’s a few fun ones to check out with your troop!

So now that you know the difference between a badge, a patch, and a patch program, get out there and start exploring and making memories with your girls! They’ll love learning new skills, trying new activities, and adding some colorful patches and badges to their sash!

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