Traditions give Girl Scouts a sense of history—and inspire them to be the best they can be.
Sharing traditions with millions of Girl Scouts—and the huge network of Girl Scout alumnae who came before them—helps remind girls they belong to a big, powerful, and inclusive sisterhood.
A cornerstone of Girl Scouting, the seven legacy badges build on over 100 years of Girl Scout history. Each of these badges (Artist, Athlete, Citizen, Cook, First Aid, Girl Scout Way, and Naturalist) is available at five levels of Girl Scouting, from Brownie to Ambassador.
Here are a few other popular traditions for Girl Scouts to enjoy.
- Girl Scout Sign: Girl Scouts make the Girl Scout sign—raising three fingers of the right hand with the thumb holding down the pinky—when they say the Girl Scout Promise. The three fingers represent the three parts of the Promise.
- Motto: The Girl Scout motto is "Be prepared." In the 1947 Girl Scout Handbook, the motto was explained this way: "A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency." The same holds true today.
- Slogan: The Girl Scout slogan, which has been used since 1912, is "Do a good turn daily." The slogan is a reminder of the many ways girls can contribute positively to the lives of others.
- Greeting: Girl Scouts can greet one another with the Girl Scout handshake, used by Girl Scouts and Girl Guides all over the world. The handshake is made by shaking hands with the left hand and making the Girl Scout sign with the right. The left hand is nearest to the heart and signifies friendship.
- Friendship Circle: Representing the unbroken chain of friendship among Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world, the Friendship Circle involves Girl Scouts standing in a circle, crossing their right arms over their left, and clasping hands with their friends on both sides. Everyone then makes a silent wish as a friendship squeeze is passed from hand to hand around the circle.
- SWAPS: Girl Scouts often make small tokens of friendship to exchange with the Girl Scouts they meet while traveling. These little gifts are called ”SWAPS,” which stands for “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere.”
Girl Scout Days
Special Days in Girl Scouting—All Year Long!
Throughout the year, girls and adults celebrate some very special days in Girl Scouting.
- Juliette Gordon Low's birthday or Founder's Day, October 31, marks the birth in 1860 of Girl Scouts of the USA founder Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia.
- World Thinking Day, February 22, celebrates the birthdays of Girl Guide/Girl Scout founder Robert, Lord Baden-Powell (1857–1941) and World Chief Guide Olave, Lady Baden-Powell (1889–1977). The day is also a time to donate funds to the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund.
- Girl Scouts’ birthday, March 12, commemorates the day in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low officially registered the organization's first 18 girl members in Savannah, Georgia.
- Girl Scout Week is celebrated each March, starting with Girl Scout Sunday and ending with Girl Scout Sabbath on a Saturday, and it always includes Girl Scouts’ birthday, March 12.
- Girl Scout Sunday and Girl Scout Sabbath give girls an opportunity to attend their place of worship and be recognized as a Girl Scout.
- Girl Scout Leader's Day, April 22, honors all the volunteers who work as leaders and mentors in partnership with girls. On this day, girls, their families, and communities find special ways to thank their adult Girl Scout volunteers.
- Girl Scouts’ national convention is celebrated every three years, and G.I.R.L. 2017 was held in Columbus, Ohio. We'll convene again in 2020 in Orlando, Florida. Stay tuned for details!
Girl Scout SWAPS
Building Friendships One Gift at a Time
SWAPS, the tradition of Girl Scouts exchanging keepsakes, started long ago when Girl Scouts and Girl Guides first gathered for fun, song, and making new friends.
SWAPS were first widely exchanged at national Girl Scout Senior Roundups in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, SWAPS are still the perfect way for Girl Scouts to meet one another and promote friendship. Each one reflects a memory of a special event or Girl Scout sister.
- Tell something about the givers or their group. (Girls may include their address or email information so others can write to them.)
- Represent the givers' country, community, or local Girl Scout council.
Tips for SWAPS Givers
- Think about the kind of SWAPS they would like to receive from someone else.
- Try not to spend a lot of money. Consider making something from donated or recycled material.
- Be creative, and take time to make hand-crafted SWAPS. (Include directions for making them if it is a craft project that can be replicated.)
- Try to have one for each event participant and staff member.
- Plan ahead so there's time to make them.
- Make SWAPS that can be worn, used, or displayed.
- Ask their group or service unit for help, if needed, in putting SWAPS together.
- Make them portable. Remember, they must be carried or shipped ahead to the event, where other girls will be carrying them away.
What to Do with SWAPS
- Include them with thank-you letters to sponsors and those who helped with a travel event.
- Keep them in a scrapbook, memory box, or shadow box.
- Use them to make a quilt or other textile project.
- Put pins and patches on a hat or jacket.
- Start a council best-of-SWAPS collection.
SWAPS Safety and Etiquette
- Never refuse to swap with another person.
- Swap face-to-face, especially if exchanging addresses or email information.
- Avoid using glass or sharp objects in SWAPS.
- Follow all Safety Activity Checkpoints guidelines.
- Avoid using food products, unless
they are individually wrapped.
A Note About Inclusivity
At Girl Scouts of the USA, a commitment to inclusivity is part of our DNA. A girl who meets or can meet membership requirements shall not be denied admission or access to Girl Scout program because of race, color, ethnicity, creed, national origin, socioeconomic status, or disability. Reasonable accommodations shall be made for girls with disabilities to ensure that girls have access to activities. For more, see the Blue Book of Basic Documents (PDF).