Follow the Badge Lady
Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.


Trooper: The Adventures of a Grown-Up Girl Scout is a chronicle of the year I spend earning badges from my old Girl Scout handbook.

The idea for this project first took form a few years ago when, on a visit to my family home, I came across my old Girl Scout Handbook in the back of a shelf with a few of my other childhood things.

I loved the way the well-worn cover looked, all these years later, faded and decorated with a ten-year-old’s graffiti. As I browsed its contents I realized it’s packed with much more information than I remembered it having when it served as my reference book in troop 1917. There are facts about the uniform, practical information on tying knots, camping, first aid. Helpful tips cover table manners, how to plan a trip, and dressing for the outdoors.

But by far, my favorite part of the book was the section devoted to the badges. There are 47 of them grouped in the back of the book. Each page is illustrated with a replica of the small embroidered badge in an appealing vintage design followed by the list of requirements that must be achieved to earn it.

I joined Girl Scouts, or, rather, “flew up” from Brownies, at age 9 in 1975 and spent the next three years meeting with troop 1917 once a week in suburban Los Angeles, where I grew up.

Many of our weekly after-school meetings were spent earning badges. We sewed dunk bags for our mess kits, created personal stationery, made bowls out of clay. We also participated in community service. I remember spending one afternoon picking up trash and dog doo from around the perimeter of our school. We learned about health and safety. We explored the outdoors and observed nature.

Back then I would have said I enjoyed being a Girl Scout because it was “fun.” Now I can see there was more to it than a good time. We were learning to be self-sufficient, to think about others, to explore our interests and talents so we could find a place for ourselves in the world, and become contributing members of society.

As I looked at the current state of my life, I began to think I could use a Girl Scout refresher course. Although I’ve been lucky enough that my work has sometimes put me in interesting places and situations, I’ve also spent long stretches of time on less exciting tasks, toiling away by myself, isolated in my home office.

During these solitary times my motivation flags. When I need to get out in the world and make contact the most is when it’s hardest to muster the drive. My own will power is too weak an agent; I need an outside force.

As I leafed through my old handbook, I began to think it might help. Here, in the badges, were ready-made assignments; instructions on how to participate in the world, where to go, what to do.

So I set in motion a plan: I would “earn” Girl Scout badges and write about the process as a way to reinvigorate my life.

My old Girl Scout Handbook advises a Scout who’s interested in earning badges to “pick a subject that interests you—one that is new to you or one that you would like to learn more about.” As I made my selections, I looked for badges that sounded interesting, but also for opportunities to expand my horizons.

The badges offered to young girls in the 1970s roughly fall into the categories of arts and crafts, civic awareness, health and safety, the domestic arts, the performing arts, literature, sports, and nature. I chose a dozen badges spread across the categories for the most well-rounded experience.

The project begins May 2013 with the Cyclist badge, which coincides with National Bike Month. During a trial run with my Girl Scout project the previous year, I started work on my Collector and Art in the Round badges. I’ll revisit these two badges during my year as a grown-up Girl Scout.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me. Can I really move forward in my life by returning to the past? I don’t know the answer, but a true Girl Scout would not be daunted by the unknown. She would meet the challenge with enthusiasm and cheer. And so, I set forth on this path with the sense of adventure embodied by any good Scout.