Planning Your First Girl Scout Bridging Ceremony
Your girls have worked hard—and had tons of fun—all year; they’ve earned a celebration! Girl Scouts love a good ceremony, so get your troop excited for what lies ahead with a bridging ceremony. Bridging is a beloved Girl Scout tradition that honors girls’ achievements throughout the year and celebrates their “crossing the bridge” to the next Girl Scout level.
Many troops hold their bridging ceremony in May or June, and some tie it to the end of the girls’ current school year. You may also choose to deepen your girls’ connection with their Girl Scout sisters by holding your ceremony during National Bridging Week, which will be celebrated August 1—8, 2020. Be sure to check your local council's website for any special bridging events they might be holding, and if your troop can’t safely hold an in-person bridging event this summer, you can also take part in one of GSUSA’s virtual National Bridging Ceremonies!
Like investiture and rededication ceremonies, Girl Scout bridging ceremonies have a few basic elements:
- Opening: Welcome your guests and share the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
- Main section: Girls, whether physically or symbolically, cross a bridge and are welcomed to the next Girl Scout level.
- Closing: Girls participate in a friendship circle and thank their guests.
And the rest is up to the girls! The ceremony should always focus on paying tribute to Girl Scouts as they move forward, but let your girls get creative with how they’d like to celebrate—this is the fun part!
Keeping the ceremony girl-led
Depending on your girls’ ages, you might find yourself doing a good chunk of the planning, as troop leader Lara Cordeiro of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio did when her girls were young. Still, says Lara, “As with everything, progression is key! The girls plan the ceremony—they pick any readings, poems, or songs that they want to say or sing. The girls cross the bridge and if they are [bridging to the next level], they get their new uniform right there. The girls also tell everyone their favorite Girl Scout memory from that level. It’s great to hear what they really enjoyed and recap those few years at that age level!”
As with other Girl Scout activities, a bridging ceremony doesn’t need to be perfect. “Weather is the only thing that's gotten in our way, because we bridge outdoors,” says Lindsay Hayden, who leads a Senior and Ambassador troop at Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. “We've learned to always book a picnic shelter and forgo the actual bridge if necessary. As long as girls move from one area to the other to get the Girl Scout handshake, we feel they get the effect.”
Get families and your community involved
Share this important moment with your girls’ caregivers and other family members, and anyone else the girls wish to invite! Could be a favorite teacher, coach, or someone they volunteered with this year—and be sure to recognize these individuals at the ceremony! Even a simple thank-you from you or your troop committee and the girls goes a long way in showing troop families how much their girls appreciate their involvement and how important they are to the troop.
And don’t forget to ask for help when you need it! “In order to minimize costs and free up some of our time as troop leaders, we asked parents to sign up to bring certain food items and decorations," says Denise Montgomery, a Junior troop leader at Girl Scouts of San Diego. “Our troop purchased two things for bridging—a cake and pizzas—and we asked for parent volunteers to pick up those items while we were rehearsing the bridging ceremony with the troop.”
Our Volunteer Experts’ Top Girl Scout Bridging Ceremony Tips:
Set your girls up for success. “When our troop bridged from Brownies to Juniors we invited the families to come a half hour after we gathered as a troop, so that we had a chance to rehearse our ceremony,” says Denise. “We try to set the girls up for success and help them feel comfortable by knowing what to expect.”
Amplify your girls’ voices...literally. “We borrowed a mobile amplifier system and microphone from a troop family to ensure that the girls would be heard by everyone when they spoke,” shares Denise. “Because we hold our bridging in the courtyard at our school there can be ambient noise in the background, and we want the families in our audience and the girls to be able to hear the ceremony. The microphone seemed to be a draw for the girls, and passing it made it clear whose turn it was to speak, so it helped us to have a smoother ceremony.”
Know who’s covering what. “We did a couple of our bridging ceremonies with another troop that's the same grade as ours,” says Lara. “It was wonderful getting a large group together, but since [members] didn't know one another really well, it was difficult to do the planning—no one wanted to make any decisions! In hindsight, it might have been better to split the jobs between the troops/groups and let them each run with their part.”
Outline exactly what you need from ceremony volunteers. “One thing that didn’t quite go [the best] was that we wrote a volunteer description for a Bridging Coordinator position, and we think it might have sounded like too much responsibility for one person to take on—no one stepped up to take on the role,” says Denise. “So now we have spread the responsibilities among more volunteers and have renamed the role Bridging Designer to make it sound more appealing—and there’s a creative component—while remaining clear that the person will be working with our troop members to determine theme and come up with ideas for decorations and food and to set [that part] up.”
Consider some surprises. “Each year we ask the girls who are bridging to plan a special surprise for the girls who are staying and vice versa,” says Lindsay. “Last year, our younger girls made personalized bulletin boards for our bridging girls to take to their college dorm rooms. They included personalized notes and a photograph of the troop on each.”
Check in with your council or service unit. Lara discovered that her council had a printable resource to help her girls plan their ceremony. You might also ask your service unit if it hosts a unit-wide bridging ceremony or if there are other opportunities for your girls to connect with their Girl Scout sisters at this time of year.
Need more support? Check out the Volunteer Toolkit, where you’ll find a bridging guide for Daisy, Brownie, and Junior troops in the Closing Celebrations section; for older girl and multi-level troops, you’ll find it in the Resources tab under Girl Scout Traditions and Awards. You might also encourage your girls to earn their grade level's bridging award in the process!