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New Girl Scout Badges Offer Different Choices To Smart Cookies

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Today on All Things Considered, Alisha Niehaus of the Girl Scouts of The USA talks to host Guy Raz about a big update: for the first time in a quarter-century, they've completely overhauled the system of badges that Scouts can earn.

There are badges that haven't changed much — in a press release, the organization calls the Cook, Athlete and Naturalist badges "as relevant today as they were in 1912." But Digital Movie Maker? Website Designer? Geocacher? Locavore? Yes, the times they are a-changing. (Try not to panic at the thought that a Brownie — she'll be somewhere between 6 and 9 years old — can earn a badge called "Computer Expert.")

Some of the changes aren't entirely about changing the subject matter; they're about adjusting the approach. For example, what used to be a Fashion, Fitness and Makeup badge has been changed, because Niehaus says that while the girls in the program are still interested in makeup and fashion, that interest isn't limited to how things will look, but goes a little deeper. So there will be a badge in the Science & Technology category called The Science Of Style, which will focus on things like the chemistry of sunscreen or perhaps even making your own perfume.

There's also a badge within the Innovation series called Product Designer, which Niehaus calls "the intersection of design and business." Girls working on that badge might try to improve the functionality of backpack straps or improve the design of a cell-phone case.

Girl Scouts keeping track of the bottom line will also have the opportunity to earn Financial Literacy badges in which, as a girl works her way up from Daisy to Ambassador, she can earn badges like Money Manager, Budgeting, Financing My Future, and Good Credit. And yes, there are plenty of cookie-related badges: Meet My Customers, Business Plan, and Customer Loyalty, among others.

Perhaps the most intriguing-sounding new badge is one called The Science Of Happiness. Developed with help from a psychology researcher, it calls on girls to work for one month on a strategy generally believed to increase personal happiness — Niehaus suggests, for instance, being forgiving towards others — and then evaluating its effects on their psychological well-being.

Ultimately, Girl Scouts of the USA hopes the new badges, developed in consultation with girls in the program, continue to help girls customize their own projects. "You can make your Girl Scouting experience what you want it to be," she says.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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