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Girl Scouts- the Bridging Experience

Girls in Troop 1227 at the Girl Scout headquarters in New York City
Girls in Troop 1227 at the Girl Scout headquarters in New York City
Sandra Kimmel

Girl Scouts come in all ages and sizes. When they first start out they are in kindergarten; our cute little Daisy Scouts. The next level is Brownie, then Junior, Cadette, Senior and finally Ambassador - our high school seniors. The journey from one level to the next is different for all girls but one thing is the same- moving up to the next stage in Girl Scouts it is called Bridging. Each troop is different only in the ceremonies they choose and how they decide to celebrate this particular rite of passing.

Cassandra Woods is welcomed by older girls while bridging from Brownie to Junior
Vicki Woods

In the dictionary, the term bridging is used in construction, electronics, computing, transport, medicine, education, animal training, sports and Girl Scouts. The definition that refers to Girl Scouts is; “the move from one age grouping to another and completion of specific requirements.” On the Girl Scout USA website they continue to explain it more fully. “As they move up, bridging awards and ceremonies are important transitions from one leadership stage to the next, as the girls are welcomed to the anticipated “next level.” It’s a defining moment when a girl becomes aware of her achievements and is ready for new adventures and responsibilities. Celebrating this change should be fun, personalized and memorable for everyone involved. And most of all, it should be designed by the girls in a true partnership with the adults. Whether the ceremony includes an actual bridge or a symbolic one, or if it includes props like candles, flowers or flags, it should always focus on paying tribute to the girls as they move forward and are honored for their progression and growth.” Sounds pretty cool!

In this article I just want to highlight a few bridging stories, some are a girl’s bridging journey, some the leader’s story and others are bridging adventures I found on the internet that sounded interesting. The point being, that I want to share what different troops have done, and hopefully inspire other Girl Scouts looking for ideas, to be creative in their bridging experiences.

One of the things I always had my troop do, before bridging was to meet with a younger troop and do something to inspire the younger girls, by sharing what it was like to be in the level they were transitioning from. The younger Girl Scouts are waiting to follow in the older girls’ footsteps- they look up to them so much. So the girls had to brainstorm; what were some of your favorite things you did in Girl Scouts in the last few years? What can you do to share what you liked the most; how excited you were, what you learned and some of the things you have done. We tried to have a full meeting with the younger troop to share and teach the girls. I also thought it was important for them to get that same information from an older troop. What are the most important reasons they should continue in Girl Scouts? What do they have to look forward to and what does Girl Scouts have waiting for them to make their future better? My troop was personally lucky to have Jenna and Debbie Wendler and the rest of Troop 567 to pump us up with their enthusiasm. We also are very lucky to have Jackie Miller (aka Daewen) as our older girl helper for many years, to share her experiences in Girl Scouts and to be a role model/mentor for our troop. I couldn’t have been a successful leader without reaching out to other Girl Scouts and leaders for their expertise and experience.

So, you have a troop bridging to the next level? Some troops plan huge elaborate trips to fun or exotic locations and other troops stay close to home. Any type of bridging you do is perfect, just let the girls decide. What are adventures that other troops have done? Let’s start with actual bridges. My troop went to San Francisco to bridge from Junior to Cadette and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. That was a great trip. We included the whole San Francisco experience from Pier 39 to Alcatraz and China Town. Other years we just bridged close to home with a local bridge or a ceremony in the back yard. Troop 1171 did their bridging this year in Cave Junction Oregon. They stayed in a tree house resort (yes, tree houses) and had a small candlelight bridging as they reflected on their past experiences, and promises to the future. They had a wonderful experience exploring the beauty of that area, hiking, zip lining and horseback riding. Troop 2088 bridged to Junior at the Newport Beach Back Bay after a fun day of kayaking. What a cute bridge they found there! Disney’s Epcot had an amazing bridging event last year for the 100th anniversary, where thousands of girls crossed the bridge and met with Disney Characters on the other side. I also have seen many troops at Disneyland going over the bridge from Main Street USA into Fantasyland. I read about a Girl Scout troop from the mid-west that went to London, stayed at the Pax Lodge and bridged over the London Bridge. How fun!

Troop 1227 had an exciting 8 day bridging experience as they headed off to New York City to become Seniors. The girls planned everything and, wow, did they see New York! Bridging over the Brooklyn Bridge was a thrill and they came back tired but happy! They are working on the next bridge to cross - who knows which one is next, but according to leader Sandra Kimmel “I know it will be fun!” I am sure any place in the world that has a bridge has at one time or another had Girl Scouts crossing it!

Last year was our Girl Scout 100 year anniversary. Many troops got the opportunity to bridge at the custom set-up at the Orange County Fairgrounds. I would like to thank the women who made this possible; Tracey Niizawa, Sarah Schmidt, Lorraine Grob, Adrienne Cronkrite and Alpha Doo. After countless hours of planning (with everyone involved probably over 3,000 hours!) GSOC was able to bridge 187 Troops and GSI- over 1,100 girls in one day! My troop was one of them. What a wonderful way to celebrate the Girl Scout Anniversary! The planning group got the Promise and Law award from GSOC for their efforts!! Yay to our creative and sleepless Girl Scout leaders!

Like I said earlier, some troops choose to stay close to home; usually the little girlies, not quite ready to travel. Two cute examples were Daisy troops 2463 and 2622 bridging at their leader’s house to become Brownie Girl Scouts! Troop 2622 had a real flower-covered mini-bridge in leader Sherri Gomez’s back yard. After a fun ceremony done all by the girls, new Brownie Rachel Gomez was asked about the bridging experience. She said “I am very excited to become a Brownie because we will get to do overnight trips and learn more things!” Troop 2463 created their own “bridge” in the back yard with decorated tissue boxes and balloons. Before the bridging they wrote letters to prospective Daisy’s at their school letting them know how much fun it is to be a Girl Scout. For their older girl experience they had an older bridging Girl Scout (Erin Reilly) show them how to make a candle holder keepsake and at the ceremony she passed the eternal flame to the younger girl scouts. For those that don’t know about the eternal flame- it means the candle used was lit by a series of candles going all the way back to Juliette Low’s first candle ceremony. When Juliette’s girls were moving on she lit a flame and passed it to them, reminding them to always “keep the spark” of Girl Scout alive. When my daughter and I went to Africa last summer to start a sister Girl Scout troop in a Mozambique orphanage, we took one of those candles and did a ceremony there- taking our “spark” all the way to Africa! I love the idea that from one candle we can keep the spirit of the past alive!

No matter what a troop decides to do to commemorate the move to the next level, be it song, ceremony or travel adventure- the most important thing is that a girl reflects on what Girl Scouts means to them, what they got from it and what they plan to do in the future. Girl Scouts can help empower girls to do great things and I see the potential in all of our girls. What is the next bridge in your Girl Scout future?

PS- Thanks to all the troops that responded to my email for photos- Troops 1171, 790, 1227, 2088, 2622 and 2643.


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