The best online program for girls emerged from Girl Scouts, ASU Digital Prep this summer

By Amanda Fessler, Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Grants Coordinator

On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, all students – those who didn’t finish the recent school year in-class to those who will start school for the first time – face a very different set of circumstances than previous years. School administrators express that more than ever, mental, emotional, and social preparedness is paramount.

To address the pandemic’s impact on education in Arizona and replace in-person programs canceled due to social distancing guidelines, Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-pine Council (GSACPC) partnered with ASU Prep Digital to create a unique, online program for K-12 girls this July.

The new program, “Girl Scout Summer Adventures,” is structured so girls can connect socially and emotionally during this time of isolation and support their formal education at the same time. It’s all about setting girls up for success by enriching their socially-distanced summers at home and helping them prepare for the coming school year. Through the program, which is tailored to each grade level, girls are working with new friends, having fun, and tackling new skills through age-appropriate activities and experiences.

The four-week pilot leads girls through a choose-your-own-adventure journey exploring life skills, STEM, entrepreneurship, and outdoors. With a mix of live and recorded sessions and downloadable content, girls have been able to go at their own pace and on their schedules. The program is guided by GSACPC program staff and licensed educators. And since Girl Scout programming complements academic curriculum, participants in grades 7-12 have had the opportunity to earn free summer school credit.

“As an organization that positively impacts academic achievement for girls, we feel an obligation to innovate our program model so we can continue to support girls during this monumental time when their education is in upheaval,” said Christina Spicer, GSACPC Deputy Director.

Thanks to a long-standing history with ASU Prep Digital– the local accredited online high school affiliated with Arizona State University– once the pandemic began impacting schools, GSACPC rapidly went to work to develop the Summer Adventures program in partnership with the school.

GSACPC was also able to coordinate special, behind-the-scenes live visits for girls by tapping into some of their other dedicated partners. From business owners, arts and culture organizations, to VIP visitors, session experiences have included Q&As with female role models like Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a cooking class with a pro chef, and a virtual tour of an observatory.

Parents and guardians are praising the quality of the program:

A parent who is also a teacher noted, “It is an impressive amount of planning, organizing, and implementing! Both my daughters are excited about the line-up for their [grade] levels, and I hope to sit to the side for a lot of it, too! One of their material boxes arrived in the mail today, and I’m in awe of the badges and journeys incorporated and provided. You should all be commended for creating such a professional, age-appropriate, packed-with-fun program.”

A longtime Troop Leader shared that she has never seen such excitement from girls in her troop, “Six of my [Troop’s] Girl Scouts registered for the Summer Adventures program, and they are having so much fun! They send me pictures and talk to me about all the exciting projects they’re doing.”

To make the program accessible to all girls, a fee was not required to participate. A donation of $100 for the full 4-weeks was suggested, but families were able to determine how they could support the program. GSACPC hoped to serve 250 girls through the July pilot session, and 416 girls are currently registered.

“ASU Prep Digital helped us learn how to offer Girl Scout programming within a Learning Management System. We look forward to using this knowledge as we continue to adjust our program delivery model to meet the needs of girls,” said Spicer.

With this success underway, GSACPC plans to continue assessing how programs like this might catalyze deeper partnerships with all local schools to support formal education outcomes for girls, especially as school districts are looking at their plans for returning safely to the classroom.