Is There a Point to the Girl Scout Journeys Program?

My blog is over five years old, and to date, the post that has received the most comments, is the one about Girl Scout Journeys (You can read about it here).

In the four years since that post came out, the opinion of the Journeys program still has not changed among leaders. When you think about it, many of the leaders who first complained about the program are, more than likely, not leading anymore. As the collective memory of what the old Girl Scout program used to be like starts to fade as new leaders join, it is interesting to note that the sentiment over the Journeys program still consistent.

Both leaders and the girls are not huge fans.

Is there a point to doing a Girl Scout Journey in a day?

What continues to be my issue with the Girl Scout Journeys program all these years?

It stems from my days as an elementary school teacher. Back in 1994, my school district piloted a new math program. Over the summer, my colleagues and I met to discuss it and make plans, and even with decades of collective teaching experience, we could not make sense of what we had to do.

When the school year started. others felt the same way, both in our school and across the district. My school was most vocal about the quality of the program and we were made the bad guys by doing so.

After the first year, test scores for math plummeted. We were told to “make the program work” and had to secretly weave the old program with the new, but not let anyone else in the district know. My colleagues and I spent hours and hours trying to fix something we knew was not right for our students.

Five years later, the district hired a consultant at a very significant cost, and the bottom line was that he determined that the program did not work (something we teachers had been saying from the beginning).

That is how I have felt with the Journeys program all these years.

When I first encountered it, I could not believe that this was for five and six year olds. It was so developmentally inappropriate!

Over the years, leaders have had to “fix” the program and reinvent each Journey to make it work for their troops (much like I had to do with my math program two decades ago). Bless the leaders in Girl Scout Facebook groups and in forums who have shared what they have done to help others. But why should unpaid volunteers need to fix a program?

I was, at least, a salaried employee who spent time making a program work, not an unpaid volunteer. If this program is so wonderful, why has it not been embraced enthusiastically since it was introduced in 2008? Why doesn’t Girl Scout leadership hear us?

Which leads me to my next point. 

The Journeys program is touted as one that builds leadership skills. It is supposed to be in depth so the girls can get something out of it. However, there are many  Councils that offer “Journey in a Day” programs.

If you can do a Journey in a day, why would you need to buy the books and spend months of meeting time doing one? 

After all these years, no matter what forum I read or Facebook group I venture into, no one has ever said, “Boy, I love the Journeys program!” Yes, there are some who feel it is not too bad if you tweak it a bit and there are some leaders who have done a phenomenal job making it work so their girls could love it.

But shouldn’t that have been the job of the Girl Scout organization that created the program?

How is it that a program that girls must done in order to achieve the Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards be done in a single day? The old badge program was shoved aside in order for this one to take it’s place. If it is so significant, how is it that all you need is one day and you are good to go?

I am curious if any of you have done a Journey in a Day and if what you did “stuck” to your girls.

4 thoughts on “Is There a Point to the Girl Scout Journeys Program?”

  1. This year I have a split troop of Brownies and Juniors. We all did a Brownie Journey together last year, so we aren’t doing a Brownie journey this year. But the Juniors are doing Amuse and I assign it by chapter for them to do on their own at home. Most of the activities are designed to make them think about themselves and their potential. I think it’s a good little workbook, not too dense, and right up the alley of my girls who may need a reminder that it’s great to be yourself. I love that it highlights so many different female role models. So, used as an at home activity – I’m not too strict about due dates – it’s lovely. We have used some of the activities and crafts in the meeting with all the girls and it has been a hit.

    Last year, the Brownie Journey was done during the meeting in between badges. We had just finished it at the end of the year. I would read it aloud during snack time – usually when I do any talking I need to do – and they enjoyed the storyline of the garden and the elves, etc. We really got into the ever-widening circles of people we take care of. Self, family, community, etc. Our take action project was a hit, as well. so, I think the journey gave our year some structure. Working on skill badges is fun, but doesn’t have a big picture goal. Completing the Journey, if you really dig in and do it to the fullest, it’s more meaningful than if you rush through it like it’s a chore or a bore.

    The Daisy journey was delightful as I remember. We planted each kind of flower in our school flower garden which we maintained as a service project. We still do, and it’s a huge source of pride for the girls to have the responsibility of watering and weeding it on their own during recess. At the Daisy age, they liked the stories and coming up with skits to act out the law, especially what not to do. We actually took a year and a half to earn all the petals, but there was never any shortage of related fun activities.

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think the Journeys create a framework for the year, and give us a meaningful long-term goal.

    1. Katie, thank you for your thoughtful reply. You are in the minority from all that I have read and heard. The old program focused on a lot of what Juliette wanted the girls to learn-outdoor and indoor life skills. There was a range of activities that kept them interested if a leader put in the time and effort. Today’s badge program is a shadow of what it used to be, and that is a shame. Where are the water skills badges, camping badges and outdoor badges of yesterday? They are gone. That is how scouting started…why is it gone?

      And if Journeys is supposed to replace this, how is it accomplished, especially if it can be done in a day? That is my point. If the Journeys program is so integral, is should not be able to be accomplished in a few hours and then the girls can move on. It just won’t stick, IMO.

      Thank you again for reading and commenting!

  2. i have girls who want to work on their bronze award, and who love volunteering/ community service, but the journeys just make no sense to me and i cannot figure out how to use them.

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