Journeys. The elephant in the living room. For a long time I felt like I was being needlessly cynically and put-upon, that it was just my fear of change. Then this summer, knowing I was going to have to bite the bullet and ntroduce them anyway, I decided to take a look at a daisy journey, since my younger daughter would be starting daisies in the fall.
I had looked at brownie and junior journeys, but knowing I had time and liking the way things were going, I ignored them. But I picked up the daisy leader guide and started flipping through. It seemed ok. Really. Too scripted for my taste, but I could see how I could use it. I could envision a set of 6 meetings or so, centered around a common theme. I liked the "daisy garden" idea and I thought to myself, "what was I so afraid of?"
Two of the things I'd read about how the journeys came about involved increasing membership, especially in urban areas, and having a more consistent girl experience. I knew the second was completely valid--so much depends on your leader and her enthusiasm, tolerance for paperwork, interests, and goals. It would be a hard one to change, though, because training can only do so much. You would need to move to an almost scripted program: in kindergarten you cover these things, in 4th grade you do this and that, and so forth. I have heard from friends who are boy scout volunteers that this is more like the boy scout program, that it is pretty consistent in comparison to girl scouts. But I liked the freedom--a close friend was a leader for a few years until her daughter joined my troop, and she focused on careers and safety; I was always more interested in the outdoors and crafts. But as my girls got older, I let them make the decisions and guide the planning (which means a yearly trip to the City Museum, a place that makes me break out in hives but they love it). But you do have to have some sense about you to be a leader who can guide girls until they can guide themselves. You have to know how to use GS resources and classes and training in order to do the things they want to do. And often you have to do things you might not have wanted.
From what I saw of the journeys, even standing there in the shop glancing over the daisy leader's guide, I could see the consistency of outcomes. I could see what they were going for.
So I stood there and browsed and then saw references to work girls should be doing in their journey books. I looked back at the shelf and found them, slim workbooks designed to be one-per-girl consumables. And I have to admit I kind of flipped out. So much for trying to entice urban girls, many of whom can't afford the $12 membership fee to even join girl scouts. I thought about all the other things we could do with the money we'd need to buy 12 of these workbooks for my daisy troop (a daisy troop based in a montessori school with no workbooks present).
That's when I decided I needed to find another way. I know, there are work-arounds. I know, there is scholarship money. I could probably make a bunch of copies or be creative in other ways. I know all these things. I know there are creative people who do wonderful things with journeys and I applaud them. And I'm not leaving--I'm not throwing my hands up and walking away from girl scouting. I also know that many, many people who volunteer for girl scouts are upset with these journeys, for so many reasons, and I won't spend the time to sit and complain because it's easy to stand against something.
Instead, I've decided what I'm going to do. What I'm going to stand for and do and how I will draw my girls into a positive girl scouting experience.
1. I won't be tossing my books come next autumn when they're phased out. I have books dating back to the 1940s on my shelves and they are all good resources. My favorite is the 1953 Intermediate Girl Scout Handbook. When my juniors earned their wildlife badge, I wasn't impressed enough with the current guidelines, so we drew them from this book. And they learned something.
2. I won't be purchasing workbooks for my daisy troop. I'm going to take out my brownie leader's guide and draw on my experiences of being a first grade teacher (I am a once-and-future teacher). We will do a canned food drive and caroling in December. We will sell cookies in January. We will go on field trips and learn the girl scout law and sing songs and go on a day trip to the country.
3. I won't be purchasing workbooks for my junior troop. I won't hide the journeys from them, since they are juniors, and I'll borrow a guide from the resource center. If they want to give it a try, we'll give it a try (next year: this year is pretty much set due to our bronze award). Over half my girls come from a montessori school where child-led learning is the name of the game. They picked their bronze award project and have planned out the year. I can't see them going for a scripted workbook-based system, but if they do, we'll give it a try. But we won't buy workbooks because one of my girls pays for things from her allowance (in quarters); another's mom keeps her home when things cost money, even though I've talked to her time and again about not worrying about such things, please, that's what troop funds are for; and several other families (including my co-leader Clarity) are on tight budgets. I'd rather spend troop funds on experiences.
4. I will continue to work within the system as best I can to give my girls the kind of experience that matches my goals for girl scouting: experiences girls can't get in school, at home, or on the playground. I will take small watercraft training so we can canoe when we want and not just when there's another troop at camp with the adults we need. I will fill my little green card up with certifications, and use them. I will go to neighborhood meetings and help my other leaders at my school as TO. I will be a part of girl scouting and stay hopeful.
My junior troop has grown each year it's been in existence. It's an urban troop of girls who do not have access to camping and wilderness education via other outlets. Girl Scouting allows me to use their framework and bring these things, and so many others, to girls whose lives would be smaller without scouting. If GSUSA wants to know how to draw in urban girls, maybe they should come talk to me and Clarity. Something we're doing is catching on. And what we do, most of all, is go off-script. It may not provide a "consistent girl outcome" but why should we make ours worse to match everyone else's?