Taking Healthy Risks and Experiencing Failure Give Girl Scouts an Advantage

Research shows embracing failure as a positive learning experience improves all aspects of girls’ lives



Girl Scouts of the USA Press Room

NEW YORK, NY—Girl Scouts gives girls an encouraging space to take healthy risks, try new things, and learn to succeed through failure—characteristics that are verified to improve all aspects of their lives. So as summer draws to a close and parents and caregivers start considering extracurricular activities for the coming school year, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) encourages parents and girls to explore activities that are fun and impactful and that help girls lead better lives by joining Girl Scouts.

When girls are given a protected and supportive setting to take healthy risks, despite the potential for failure, they’re able to experience the emotional impact of risk without experiencing damaging consequences. Girl Scouts is the leading organization that provides girls with a fun and safe environment to try new things and overcome fears, making them greater challenge-seekers, more academically proficient students, and, eventually, more successful adults.

“Our society tells boys to try new things without hesitation, but when it comes to girls, there is fear of the potential emotional damage that can accompany failure,” said Sylvia Acevedo, interim CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. “Healthy risk taking does not mean recklessness—it means allowing girls to learn from mistakes as a necessary part of leading a successful life. Oftentimes, parents and caregivers treat failure as a negative occurrence rather than an opportunity for personal growth. Girl Scouts gives girls the confidence and support to take controlled risks and the opportunity to learn that if you don’t give up, anything is possible. Not only are these the types of skills employers seek, but they also define the grit and determination characteristic of great leaders.”

Girl Scouts take the lead and take healthy risks by trying new things every day—no matter their age or ability. Through the program’s wide range of activities, a second-grader might try Girl Scout camp for the first time, whereas a ninth-grader might explore college financial-aid options, learn how to surf, spend her summer abroad volunteering, or explore her inner scientist at robotics camp. According to the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI), 84 percent of girls say they learned or did new things in Girl Scouts, and 80 percent reported that in Girl Scouts they were able to do things that they could not have done in other places. Through experiences like these, girls become more active and engaged learners, develop a positive sense of self, and learn resourceful problem solving.

“It’s not just a girl’s confidence and attitude that improves through Girl Scouts—they also become better students,” said Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, GSUSA’s chief girl and parent expert. “Through Girl Scouts, girls learn not to avoid difficult tasks and they become stronger challenge-seekers (PDF) who are more likely to feel academically engaged and competent as a result. Embracing failure as a natural part of life is necessary to ensure our girls develop the tenacity to overcome obstacles later in life. A girl who can take challenges head-on will grow into a woman who is more successful in all endeavors.”

Research shows that by embracing failure as a learning opportunity, rather than as a detractor from success, improves all aspects of a child’s life, particularly academics. The Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) (PDF) found the variety of activities offered through Girl Scouts—from planning and leading projects to participating in community service and outdoor expeditions—allows girls to gain skills and confidence that also help them do well in school.

Children are resilient and will problem solve until they master a challenging situation, bouncing back if success isn’t immediate. According to a new study published by the American Psychological Association, kids perform better if they know failure, and that trying again when things don’t go as planned the first time is part of the learning process. Research shows “helping children to interpret difficulty, not as a sign of intellectual limitation but as the normal learning outcome,” enhanced how they tackled tough tasks and lowered their negative emotional response to these activities.

”We need to raise children who don’t fear the unknown, but rather assess the situation and make an educated and healthy decision to take a risk,” said Acevedo. “Our Girl Scouts cannot do that alone. Our dedicated volunteers make these life-changing experiences come to life, but we still have 30,000 girls on waitlists nationwide. Whether they are men, women, young professionals, retirees, or college students, each volunteer has the opportunity to make a real difference in girls’ lives.”

To volunteer for Girl Scouts, please visit www.girlscouts.org/volunteer. To join Girl Scouts, please visit www.girlscouts.org/join.

We're Girl Scouts of the USA
We’re 2.7 million strong—1.9 million girls and 800,000 adults who believe girls can change the world. It began over 100 years ago with one woman, Girl Scouts’ founder Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low, who believed in the power of every girl. She organized the first Girl Scout troop on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia, and every year since, we've made her vision a reality, helping girls discover their strengths, passions, and talents. Today we continue the Girl Scout mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. We’re the preeminent leadership development organization for girls. And with programs for girls from coast to coast and across the globe, Girl Scouts offers every girl a chance to do something amazing. To volunteer, reconnect, donate, or join, visit www.girlscouts.org.