Badges, Activities, & Beyond

Tips for Pursuing Your Girl Scout Highest Award During a Global Pandemic

You had big plans for 2020.

THIS was going to be the year where you took action to better your community, and to complete your Bronze, Silver, or even your Gold Award. Maybe you had spent countless hours brainstorming ideas, researching, community networking, and planning out your project. Maybe you were hoping to start brainstorming project ideas with your troop this spring.

And then, in March, a global pandemic hit and you put your plans on hold for what you hoped would just be a few weeks.

Now a few weeks has turned into a few months, and possibly even longer. Right now, you may be thinking “Will I ever finish, or even be able to start my Highest Awards project?” Rest assured, you are not the only Girl Scout wondering this.

Ever since the first Girl Scout earned her Golden Eagle of Merit (former name of the Girl Scout Gold Award), face-to-face communication and events have been at the center of Girl Scout Highest Awards projects. But just because in-person events might be out of the question for a little while does not mean that your Highest Awards project cannot continue to make an impact on your community.

We are Girl Scouts. We have a long legacy of learning, adapting, and overcoming the obstacles in our way. We find ways to keep moving forward! Here a few tips to help you move forward with your Highest Awards project.

Step 1: What are the obstacles?

Problem solving obstacles is a critical part of the Highest Awards process. However, there’s a difference between an obstacle and a barrier. Obstacles can be overcome by brainstorming solutions; if you can’t meet in person with your project advisor, can you try different ways of connecting such as phone calls or video chats? If you can’t train your volunteers the way you had planned, can you schedule online training sessions (like train a trainer) with key volunteers to equip them to host sessions with small groups instead of hosting one large event? With some planning, there are opportunities out there to overcome these obstacles. 

Make a list of obstacles and write out all the possibilities for how you can overcome them. There may be a few that you feel like you can’t overcome right now. Those are called barriers.

So what do you do when you hit a barrier? Barriers are the show-stoppers. If you or others don’t have internet access—or if your community partners are now closed or have lost interest—you may not be able to brainstorm a simple solution. It’s time now to adapt (and likely change) your project. If you’ve hit a barrier, reach out to helpful adults for advice on ways you can adapt your project. Two or three heads are better than one!

Helpful Adults:

  • Your Girl Scout Leader
  • Gold Award Committee Mentor (for advice and approval on adapting your project)
  • Project Adviser
  • Your Parents

Now that you’ve identified your obstacles (and your barriers), here are some tools to help you adapt a Highest Awards project to life in the age of social distancing.

Step 2: Brainstorm Digital Solutions

The digital world can be a great asset for connecting with others to make sustainable change. So consider the options available and map out how your project needs could be adapted to be met through alternative means like the ones mentioned below.

Can’t hold an in-person event or training? Go virtual!

There are many platforms that you could use to host an event or training for your project. Girl Scouts at Home has a list of free and low-cost tools troops and service units across the country are using for virtual meetings. While we cannot endorse or support specific online meeting tools, we encourage you to consider these or alternative options and discuss the best solution for your project needs.

Since Girl Scouts are considered minors, be sure to reference the Safety Activity Checkpoints for Virtual Meetings and loop in your parents for permission and support before setting up a virtual meeting or event.

Trying to raise awareness on your issue (and your solution)? Social media advocacy time!

Many organizations and movements use social media as a platform to raise community awareness about an issue and galvanize support for their proposed solution. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are just a few of the tools you can use to share your message with a wide audience, recruit and mobilize supporters, and advance your cause. But you cannot simply upload a video to your personal social media of choice and call that a Highest Awards project. You need to show a measurable impact on the issue you identified!

How do you do that? Partner with another organization to help build awareness of the issue and include a “call to action” with measurable results. What does that look like? Here’s a good example:

You are highly concerned about invasive species crowding out native plants that are important contributors to the local ecosystem. Your in-person workshops with the parks department to educate the community on the issue of invasive species and remove honeysuckle from the parks have been canceled. You connect with the parks department for permission to create a PSA (public service announcement) about “Space Invaders: Bush Honeysuckle” that the parks department will share on their social media platforms. The PSA describes the negative impacts of invasive species on local ecosystems, how to identify bush honeysuckle, and shows how to remove it. You end the PSA with a “challenge” (your call to action) to the community to post photos of them removing honeysuckle on a social media page you created called “Space Invaders Removal Party.”

Now you can track the community impact of your project through views of the PSA AND the posted actions of the community on the social media page. To broaden your project’s impact beyond the parks department social media followers, you also contact several other community groups (like your school, your faith community, and other environmental advocacy groups in the area) via email and ask them to share your PSA with their social media followers. Voila! This project is now addressing the issue in a measurable way. Good job problem solving through your obstacles!

Step 3: Make Sure Your Solution Meets the Highest Awards Standards

As you adapt your project plan, remember that just like in pre-pandemic times, virtual solutions must include the essential components of a Highest Awards project. Girls should be able to say “here’s the change I wanted to make, and here’s how I know I made it”—and they should be able to provide proof that their solution made that meaningful change.

What are the Highest Awards essentials? Here’s a great video from GSUSA about the essential components of a Gold Award project from Gold Award Girl Scouts that will help you identify them: The Five Elements of a Successful Girl Scout Gold Award.

Basically, you should ask yourself, does your virtual solution:

  • Address the root cause of a community issue?
  • Develop a solution with a sustainable and measurable impact?
  • Demonstrate leadership?

If you can answer yes to the questions above then you’ve successfully brainstormed your way through adapting your Highest Awards project to social distancing guidelines. Great job, Girl Scout! Time to implement your plan and move forward on your quest to earning your Girl Scout Highest Award.

Need more time on your project?

Remember that Girl Scouts of the USA has extended the deadline for bridging Girl Scouts to earn their Highest Awards from September 30, 2020 to December 31, 2020. If there are pieces of your project that cannot go digital, use this extra time to push off the parts of your project that need to be done in-person.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that because we are living in uncertain times, things may change, so you’ll want to go back to Step 1, and brainstorm a backup plan to have in place in case you need it.

Need additional support for your Highest Awards project?

Contact your regional Highest Awards support staff member if you need additional support on your Highest Awards project.

1 Comment

  1. Katie Casey-Anderson

    September 15, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Love this article! We recently presented a couple of workshops called Taking Action During Covid and on this topic, you have some great specific advice here. My favorite part is obstacles vs barriers. Well put!

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