Girl Scout Cookie Program: The sweet spot of project-based learning
By Michelle Higgins
There are many conversations happening around project-based learning (PBL) and many teachers and educators are looking to their informal STEM partners for best practices. PBL is a student-driven pedagogy where students learn a particular subject through real-world problems. Indeed, many national organizations have much to offer in this area. Girls Scouts, Champions for Change, SciGirls, Design Squad, and Techbridge are just a few that offer curriculum and research-based engagement strategies. This winter, why not take a closer look at what Girl Scouts in Arizona are doing? Girls across the state are gearing up to participate in the largest financial literacy project in the country: the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Girls choose a project that will help their community and decide how they are going to make it happen. Through this girl-led program, girls develop keen financial literacy skills: setting attainable goals, making group decisions, managing their group’s money, developing people skills, and learning practical business ethics. Starting from elementary grades, these girls are getting real-world experiences as they work within their troop learning how to actively listen to each member of their group, give each person an equal voice, decide on a goal that everyone agrees on, and develop action steps to meet their goal. They challenge themselves to do this because they believe that every box of cookies they sell allows them to make their world a better place.
PBL pedagogy motivates students to pose and answer the questions What? and So What? What is it they will need to learn in order to accomplish their project goal, and what purpose will it serve. Girls who participate in the Cookie Program go further to answer the question Now What? Now that they have developed financial and leadership skills, what positive impact can they make in their community? Many girls continue their leadership experience and organize community gardens or work days, others choose to educate their families and peers about recycling, upcycling, air quality, and the preservation of our natural resources; the possibilities are endless. The Girl Scout Cookie Program is an exciting way for girls to take responsibility for their own learning and take action in their community.
So, every time a girl asks you to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies, or two or three, consider the work she has already accomplished with her group even before she stepped out of the door that morning. For every box of cookies you buy, you are supporting her efforts in developing essential leadership skills. If you are an educator, I challenge you to buy at least several boxes. These young girls may one day be in your class, ready to listen with respect, engage with her fellow students, seek creative solutions, move her group to meet the goals of the project, and encourage them to take their new-found skills to make the world a better place.
Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona send cookie to soldiers abroad, police officers and fire fighters.