Get Ready to Travel in 2020!

The new year is quickly approaching, and it’s time to make the best of 2020. Get ready to get out there, because Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana has some exciting trips coming your way so you can start the new year with a bang!

Read on to take a look at where we’re headed–– and how you can come along with us.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Midwest!

Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL

A girl-led adventure awaits eight Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts this Jan. 17 through 20! Start out the new year with a chance to travel to either Milwaukee, WI; Louisville, KY; Cincinnati, OH; or Starved Rock, IL. Whatever your group chooses to do, this is your own girl-led adventure where you will practice budgeting, planning and personalizing your 3-day trip!

The group will meet at Camp Greene Wood Friday night. On Saturday morning, after planning the trip, you will hit the road for the adventure of the decade! This trip is girls only. There will be two Girl Scout chaperones attending.

Registration closes December 12, and there are only three more spots available, so register here as soon as possible!

Capital Tour: Nashville!

Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, TN

Get excited for this NEW PROGRAM: 50 state capitals, 50 new Girl Scout trips! Cadette, Senior, and Ambassador Girl Scouts are invited to travel to Nashville, Tennessee, for a cross-country adventure from Feb. 15 to 17! Once we get to Music City, we’ll tour the Capitol Building, take part in a service project, and visit the sites. You’ll practice your budgeting and trip-planning skills while we’re at it.

Group will leave from the Friendship Center in Country Club Hills, Illinois. Sorry, parents, this is a girls-only trip! There will be two Girl Scout chaperones heading the adventure.

Register here by December 12–– there are only four more spots available!

Junior Jetaway to Milwaukee

Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, WI

Junior Girl Scouts are invited to a brand-new girls-only getaway to Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Feb 16 to 17! Girls will depart from the Vernon Hills Gathering Place and head to the Dairy State. You will get a chance to check out a museum of your choice, eat cheese curds, walk through the historic Third Ward, and more.

Accommodation, sightseeing, and all meals included in the cost. There will be two Girl Scout chaperones attending.

Registration for this trip also closes on December 12! Register here to snag a spot.

Brownies Day Out in Chicago

Chicago River Walk in Chicago, IL

Meet Brownie Girl Scouts at Hostelling International-Chicago to participate in the Brownies Day Out in Chicago on May 16! With 77 distinct neighborhoods, Chicago is a giant city with so much to explore. Will you choose to visit the Bean, walk around the Art Institute, or take a city tour? Maybe you’ll visit cultural neighborhoods like Chinatown or Pilsen?

Whatever your group chooses to do, the girls will take off on their own girl-led Windy City adventure! Each troop must have at least one chaperone, or if girls are attending without their troop, each Girl Scout must attend with a parent or guardian. Fun patch and public transportation card included!

Register here by May 10 to secure your spot on this awesome exploration of the city!

You-And-Me on Mackinac Island!

Main Street in Mackinac Island, MI

Grab your mom, aunt, or grandma and board the GSGCNWI coach bus for a weekend getaway on Mackinac Island from Aug. 9-11. Girl Scouts from Brownies to Cadettes will have the chance to take horse-drawn carriage tours, photograph beautiful butterflies, and more!

This 3-day, 2-night trip includes multiple meals, hotel stay, various group activities, and coach bus ticket! Bus leaves from the Friendship Center in Country Club Hills, IL.

Right now, registration requires a $200 deposit. Registration closes Feb. 28, or until trip is sold out! Register here.

G.I.R.L. 2020

Prepare yourself for a mega-event full of fun, friendship, and amazing experiences! On behalf of Girl Scouts of the USA, we cordially invite you to G.I.R.L. 2020, from October 21-25, 2020, in Orlando Florida, for the largest girl-led event for girls and women in history.

This year’s GSUSA National Convention will provide attendees with unforgettable experiences as they gain inspiration, tools to empower themselves, and the know-how to lead change in their communities, connecting with some of the most influential women in the world along the way.

Registration to attend opens in January 2020. To learn more, visit GSUSA’s website, and check back often–– updates are on the way!

Which Way to Adventure?

Clearly, there’s a lot to be excited about for next year, and not just for our awesome travel opportunities! 2020 is a big year for Girl Scouts–– from brand-new programming and events, to GCNWI’s Green for Good Expo, to Journeys, Highest Awards, and so much more, GCNWI has got you covered.

Check out our program’s page to see all of the amazing things we have planned for Girl Scouts of all ages.


Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

This generation of girls is pretty extraordinary. They are passionate, hopeful, independent, and risk-taking. They envision a future where they are completely in control of their financial decision making. They desire to break down barriers to economic success. They are curious, confident, and innovative.

Now, imagine if all these girls had the same access to resources designed to strengthen their skills, and all the encouragement necessary to push them forward!

This year, the Girl Scout Research Institute conducted a national survey of over 1,000 girls to get a closer look at girls’ outlook on entrepreneurship and financial literacy, and the results are beyond exciting! Read on to learn how girls are ready to take over the world–– and how Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) provides the resources to help make that happen.

This is a Girl’s Generation

Great news: today’s girls are already thinking like entrepreneurs! According to the 2019 Report by the Girl Scout Research Institute, six in ten girls reported they are confident in their abilities, socially conscious problem-solvers, curious learners, innovative and flexible thinkers, challenge seekers and risk-takers, and collaborative team members.

Many of the girls had already engaged in entrepreneurship, whether by creating a new product or service, starting their own business, and organizing fundraisers for good causes!

Still, girls see barriers to success. Girls reported feeling they would have to work harder to succeed in entrepreneurial roles than men, and while they believe the genders are equally capable of success, many girls believe men are more likely to achieve in this career path.

We know this for sure: girls have what it takes to be the world’s next change-makers and money-makers. To help pave the way, Girl Scouts is dedicated to providing the experiences needed to sharpen their skills!

What is the Girl Scout Difference?

Supportive career guidance and mentorship. Access to community resources. Chances to earn the highest awards for passion projects. A wide range of financial and entrepreneurial programming. The Girl Scout Cookie program. These are just some of the ways just GCNWI provides girls the opportunities to succeed in the workplace!

The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world, one that prioritizes five essential skills for developing financial literacy: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.

The difference is clear! Research shows Girl Scouts are more likely than other girls to have an entrepreneurial mindset and to be interested in becoming an entrepreneur. Girl Scouts particularly shine when it comes to community problem solving, innovation, and the use of social capital!

CEO Spotlight: Carolyn Leonard

Carolyn Leonard, CEO and co-founder of DyMynd (Dynamic Minds in Action), is one of Chicago’s leading voices in the movement for women’s financial empowerment. She has long been a pioneer in her field, famously the first woman to trade her own money in the pits of the Chicago Board of Options Exchange in 1976!

Along with being a Camp CEO 2019 Mentor, she is at the forefront of a financial innovation firm focused on uplifting women. As Carolyn says, “Financial literacy skills and an entrepreneurial mindset are exceedingly important for young women throughout their lives.” The more information a woman has, the more comfortable she will be taking charge, and “her community and her family will thrive” as a result.

The most important thing a young woman can do to jump-start financial success? Start making small investments, because “the younger you start, the more your adult self will gain.” Carolyn advises that an investment in a college education is especially important because “this is an investment in the self.”

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds!

Carolyn Leonard is just one of the many inspirational high-level professionals who joined GCNWI Girl Scouts to provide valuable mentorship and leadership experiences that last a lifetime at Camp CEO 2019. Thanks to these mentors, 40 teens from across the council dug deep into their own girl power and potential for success!

Just a glance at these girl’s responses to what their favorite leadership qualities they possess reveals an incredible amount of possibility for the new decade. These girls see themselves as good listeners, problem-solvers, communicators. They are loyal, empathetic, and deeply caring. They are confident, focused, patient, and determined. They “keep it real.”

One girl responded, “I have the commitment and compassion for what I’m doing, and the ambition and creativity to get it done.”

These are just some of our community’s and our country’s future teachers, writers, animators, chefs, business owners, computer programmers, marketing executives, artists, world travelers, and entrepreneurs. Pretty impressive, right?

Time to blaze some trails!

Girls can have it all–– and we are committed to helping make that happen.

Girl Scouts is the premier non-profit organization committed to the empowerment of girls. With the Girl Scouts, girls develop the attitudes, skills, and behaviors they need to succeed, giving them the courage to fail, the tools to create an independent future, and the power to do good in the world.

Thank you to Carolyn Leonard for her inspiring advice, and to the Girl Scout Research Institute for their hard work!

Read the full report by the Girl Scout Research Institute here.

Check out GCNWI’s financial literacy and entrepreneurship programming on our website!

How to Pack for a Big Trip

Do you love planning exciting trips, but dread the process of packing your bags? One of our awesome Global Action Volunteer Team members, Karen Zeller, has graciously shared with us her tips and tricks to help you through it! With her years of experience, you are sure to learn some useful information to make that process not-so frustrating.

Packin’ On Up

Written by Troop 50368 and Karen Zeller, Global Action Volunteer Team member and Troop Leader

A trip to Our Chalet (the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts world center in Switzerland): the experience of a lifetime. Add to that a few extra days, and our troop had a true European adventure. The girls couldn’t wait. They had been preparing for this for years. The fundraising was done, the arrangements booked, the forms filled out, the money exchanged. All we had left to do? Pack.

Packing, depending on who you’re talking to, can be the least favorite part of any trip. But somehow, over the years, our girls had come to take pride in their packing. They know what was needed to succeed, and how to make that success happen.

Here are some of our troop’s tried and true tips for making packing as pleasant as possible!

Getting Started

It all starts with putting together the perfect list to match what you need with what you’re allowed to carry. To fly internationally, we were allowed a bag that totaled no more than 62 inches in total dimensions and weighed no more than 50 pounds. We were also allowed one carry-on, plus one personal item.

To make sure you bring the essentials and make the most of your space at the same time, it helps to:

  • Make a packing list together as a troop to have everyone on board from the start.
  • Discuss basic clothing needs, appropriate dress for the location and activities planned, and a maximum amount of each item needed.
  • Figure out how to get access to a washer and dryer–– you don’t want to spend all your time washing clothes, but for long trips this is a must.
  • Remember you can comfortably re-wear and layer clothes throughout the trips!
  • Keep in mind the kinds of activities planned and how this will affect your packing list. For example, we were doing everything on this trip from hiking in the alps to visiting sacred sites in Rome, so girls had to decide between weighing their bags down with boots or wearing them while traveling.

Toiletries: To Share or not to Share?

This is obviously important to discuss! In previous trips, we had opted to buy toiletries when we got to where we were going and share as a group. We didn’t think this would work as well in Europe, so if you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what we did:

  • Each girl either brought their own toiletries or worked in a group to share.
  • We brought a couple of hairdryers to share between us.
  • We tried our best to limit extras, like makeup, etc.
  • The leaders carried first aid kits and any extras the girls might need (lots of Band-Aids).
  • Make sure to clear out any hotel rooms of their soap before you leave–– you might as well!

Compressing and Compacting

Once our list was made, it was up to the girls to make the magic happen. They used several great techniques for consolidating suitcase space:

  • A favorite for several of the girls was packing cubes, which flatten out clothes for extra room.
  • We taught the girls how to roll clothes instead of folding them, another great tip for saving space.
  • We also talked about bringing extra Ziploc® bags for dirty and wet clothes, so they don’t get mixed in with the clean ones!
  • The girls bought expandable suitcases so if they left them un-expanded on the way over, they would have room for souvenirs on the way home.

Carryons and Cautionary Tales

For the long plane ride there and back, the girls made sure they had everything they needed in as little a bag as possible. In their carry-ons, they had:

  • An extra set of clothes
  • Any needed meds and small travel size toiletries
  • Compression socks or fuzzy socks for comfort
  • eBooks and downloaded movies on their devices

The girls also made a playlist for the trip, and all brought some sort of headphones and a small speaker for their hotel rooms!

Of course, you always have to leave room for souvenirs. Like I mentioned above, expandable suitcases made it possible for the girls to pick up some awesome items from our travels. This worked like a charm for everyone–– except for me. After leaving behind a couple things I didn’t need to bring back home and buying an extra-large “personal item” for the way home, I was still worried my suitcase was too full. Turns out: it was exactly 50 pounds! The girls, of course, were all well under the required maximum.

We may have done a good job teaching our girls how to pack over the years, but somehow, I am still learning.

What are you waiting for?

We would like to thank Karen so much for her contribution and wonderful advice (which we’ll all keep in mind next time we get ready for a trip)!

Now you have all these tips–– what are you gonna do with them? There are so many opportunities for traveling around the United States and abroad with the Girl Scouts, and it’s up to you to decide where you’re headed. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you are sure to embark on an unforgettable journey.

Are you interested in helping provide incredible travel experiences to Girl Scouts? Find out what it takes to join the Global Action Volunteer Team and what their mission is all about!

For more inspiring travel advice, check out our other guest blog posts by Global Action Volunteer Members:
Who We Are Part 1 | Who We Are Part 2 | Why You Should Try Backpacking | Daydreaming About Travel | A WAGGGS Adventure in Mexico | Guide to Safety While Traveling | Research travel as a Gen Z | Girl Scouts Will Travel

Visit our travel page for more information on where we’re headed this year and the next.

Want to take YOUR OWN ADVENTURE? Check out Girl Scouts Destinations!!!

Honoring Our Veterans

Girl Scouts have always shown their appreciation to our military and veterans who serve to protect our freedom.

In observance of Veterans Day, we are proud to debut our newest patch program, Honoring Our Veterans.

Working together with U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth—a Girl Scout alum and army veteran—we have developed the Honoring Our Veterans patch program for girls to connect with and honor our veterans.

How to earn the patch

  1. Complete at least two criteria from the list below.
  2. Share a story with us about your experience! This could be a photo, video, or a written account. Stories should be shared on our website.
  3. Bring your story submission confirmation email to one of our six shop locations to pick up your free patch! Find a shop location near you.

Complete a Service Project Benefiting Veterans

Below are some service project ideas. You may complete two service projects to earn the patch. 

  • Send cards of appreciation
  • Volunteer at a Veteran Home or program
  • Coordinate and lead an activity with a veterans
  • Work with a local Veteran Home or senior center to coordinate a monthly visit to bring hygiene supplies, clothes and other needed items. 
  • Participate in an Honor Flight (Learn more
  • Volunteer with a therapy dog organization that provides therapy dogs for Veterans (such as Hero Dogs, Dog T.A.G.S.)

Visit with a Veteran: This could be someone you know, or by visiting a Veteran Home.

Tell a Veteran’s Story: Interview a veteran and tell their story through writing, video, or another way.

All of the stories submitted through the story submission form will be collected and shared with Senator Duckworth.

Download the Patch Program guidelines [PDF] »

Share your story to earn the free patch »

Get excited for Holiday Activities!

Brace yourselves! The holidays are coming, and what better way to celebrate than with the Girl Scouts sisterhood? This holiday season, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) has some dazzling activities lined up for everyone to enjoy!

Whether you’ve been longing to see a production of a well-loved story like The Nutcracker, or itching to construct some gingerbread architecture, GCNWI has got you covered. Read on to learn about the festivities!

A Girl Scouts Christmas Carol!

Girl Scouts of all ages are invited to this year’s Drury Lane Theatre production of A Christmas Carol on December 7! The heartwarming story, based on the novel by Charles Dickens, shares the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter old man who is offered one last chance on Christmas Eve to discover the true meaning of Christmas.

There’s a chance to grab tickets to the show, and an extra-special opportunity to join us for a delicious breakfast buffet after the show! Register here for the show and here for the buffet by November 14th to snag a spot!

Ballet Bonanza

This year, there are three super exciting opportunities for Girl Scouts of all ages and their families to see one of the most beloved dance productions of all time: Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet!

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker

Join us at the Rosemont Theatre on Sunday, December 8 for an afternoon of Holiday magic with the Moscow Ballet’s production of the Great Russian Nutcracker! This world-renowned Russian tour group includes over 40 classically trained dancers and the show features over 200 dazzling costumes, stunning sets, towering puppets, and soaring birds!

All Girl Scouts will receive a Moscow Ballet patch for their attendance. And, as a bonus, if more than 25 people from the council attend the performance, there will be an extra-special Meet and Greet with a ballerina from the show!

Register here by November 21 to get your tickets!

Chicago Ballet’s Nutcracker

On December 13, Girl Scouts of all ages are invited to the historic Athenaeum Theatre in Lakeview for a special performance of the Nutcracker! This gorgeous adaptation of the season’s classic takes the audience on an unforgettable journey to the Kingdom of Snow and the Land of the Sweets. Ring in the season with beautiful music, choreography, and your Girl Scout sisters!

Tickets will be at will call on the day of the performance. Register by November 21st!

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker

The Joffrey Ballet is Chicago’s premiere, world-class ballet and dance organization–– and Girl Scouts of all ages are invited on December 14 to see why. Watch as the magic of the holiday season takes hold when the Great Impresario sets off a whirlwind journey of romance and adventure in the Joffrey Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker at Auditorium Theatre!

Ticket purchase includes a fun patch for each Girl Scout! Registration closes on November 14, so get your tickets early!

Gingerbread Architecture

Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors are invited to the Joliet Gathering Place on December 15 and the Vernon Hills Gathering Place on December 20 to enjoy some holiday STEM fun! Get together and learn about scale, proportion, area, and perimeter, all while building a delicious celebratory gingerbread house!

Fun patch will be earned for participating! Register by December 7 for the Joliet event, and December 13 for Vernon Hills!

Jingle All The Way!

The end of the year is approaching fast–– so spend the rest of this year with your loved ones and Girl Scout family! From all of us here at GCNWI, we hope your holiday season is filled with celebration and excitement for the next decade. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Curious about any other events going on this year and the next? Check out our programs website to get the full scoop.

GirlSpace Girl Scout Days!

While the Chicago Teacher’s Strike was underway, our GirlSpace program made sure that more than 70 girls from Chicago’s West and South neighborhoods still had a safe, structured and supportive learning environment during the school closures. For the 11 day duration of the strike, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) staff members provided these girls a host of informative workshops, fun activities, and much more!

With financial literacy and STEAM activities, healthy living lessons, movie-days, and field trips, the girls dove all into the fun and educational programs Girl Scouts GCNWI had to offer. Thanks to the dedicated GCNWI staff, the girls left every day with several fun patches and smiles on their faces!

Chillin’ Out In Chicago

Kicking off the first two days, the girls had the very special opportunity to participate in the Toyota Financial Services Badge Workshop, a financial literacy crash course where girls are given the chance to be product designers, pitch their products, and learned about the needs and wants of consumers. They finished their day off with delicious smores over a campfire!

The girls continued their fun with an Artbots and Coding workshop, and engaged in robotic fun, building “artbots” and learning some coding basics by building their own online game!

The next day was all about STEM–– and roller-skating. The girls visited the Martin Luther King Roller Skating Rink and built paper cars out of scrap paper and roller skate wheels, and then tested the velocity of their paper cars! The rest of the afternoon was spent putting their roller skating skills to the test on the rink.

On Oct. 23, the girls relaxed and watched the Lion King and played games. The next day, the girls got moving with some yoga and meditation, dancing, and karaoke. The “Healthy Living” afternoon was spent celebrating Juliette Gordon Low (J-Lo), making J-Lo pumpkins, fruit parfaits, and “All About Me” books.

Pumpkins and Pajamas

Halloween was approaching fast–– so what better way to celebrate than by visiting a pumpkin patch? The girls spent a beautiful fall day together at Johansen’s Farm petting animals, riding the hayride, playing mini-golf, jumping on bouncy houses, and of course, leaving with their very own pumpkin!

The girls continued their outdoor-focused activities the next day when WTTW 11’s Nature Cat came to visit! They spent the entire day concentrating on nature-themed activities and hanging out with Nature Cat’s bunny friend, Daisy.

The last two Girl Scout days were all about expressing creativity–– through art or silly pajamas! The girls participated in the Art of Animation workshop, where they learned all about what animators do and some tricks of the trade. They worked on a paper flipbook and then took their art to the iPad to bring their creations to life!

For Halloween and the last day of the program, Girl Scouts GCNWI threw a Pajama Party for the staff and girls! Everyone dressed up in their best PJ’s and started the day watching movies and playing musical chairs. In the afternoon, the girl’s talents were celebrated with a talent show! Before the girls left, they decorated cookies and dunked them in some delicious hot chocolate.

GirlSpace is the Place!

Education doesn’t only happen in the classroom–– Girl Scouts know this for sure. Thanks to our dedicated GCNWI staff, these girls were able to learn, grow, enjoy and explore all sorts of subjects while the strike carried on.

GirlSpace is a year-round school integrated and staff facilitated Girl Scout program that provides girls from varied communities with a safe, structured and supportive learning environment that empowers them with skills that are essential for success in school and in life, such as critical thinking, problem-solving and leadership skills. The program serves nearly 3000 girls from the South and West sides of Chicago, Proviso Township, Joliet and northwest Indiana.

Learn more and support our GirlSpace program today!

Day of the Dead: Altars and Celebration at Vernon Hills!

Written by Susana Cardenas-Soto, with Marketing at GCNWI

On Saturday, November 2, Girl Scouts of all ages joined together at the Vernon Hills Gathering Place to celebrate an age-old tradition dating back to the reign of the Aztecs: Día de Los Muertos, or, in English, the Day of the Dead.

The Day of the Dead certainly sounds grim, but in reality, this multi-day Mexican holiday is meant to be a joyous remembrance of our lost loved ones. It is believed that during these first days of November, their spirits return to the world of the living for a visit. The holiday, then, is much like a “welcome home” party for our ancestors. It is a colorful and spirited celebration of life, not the mourning of loss.

Día de Los Muertos is a holiday near and dear to my own heart, especially as a first-generation Mexican-American. I have always felt that The Day of the Dead is an alternative to grief, a hopeful method of remembrance, a time to meant celebrate the lives of people who have passed on, whether they were a dear family member or a beloved celebrity. It was a very special experience to see so many local Girl Scouts take part in a cultural celebration dedicated to honoring their ancestors.

¡Bienvenidos a la Fiesta!


Girls gathered up early in the afternoon at the Vernon Hills Gathering Place to start building their shoebox ofrendas, or altars, to honor the memory of someone who passed away. These altars are traditionally laden with marigold flowers, religious candles, incense, photos of the person, favorite foods and books, and other special objects, all meant to comfort the soul and help them on their spiritual journey.

These girls came prepared with a lot to display: large boxes to build multi-level altars, colorful streamers, old family photos, candles, delicious snacks, and other bright decorations. All of these items were lovingly collected to honor the people of their choice, whether they were a favorite author or a great-great-grandpa. Together with friends, family, and troop leaders, these girls built their ofrendas with care.

Renata and her troop’s ofrenda. 

I talked to some Girl Scouts around the room and found they had quite a large knowledge of the significance of the holiday. Renata, a Junior Girl Scout who self-identified as Azteca, told me about the indigenous Aztec roots of the holiday and the long history of honoring the dead. Her troop built a particularly impressive and brightly colored multi-level ofrenda honoring their great-grandparents and several inventors they admire (like the inventor of the brownie, Fannie Farmer). Their altar was not just built to celebrate the tradition of Día de Los Muertos, but the traditions within each of their individual families and as a Girl Scout troop.

This troop’s altar (image above) was a very classic interpretation of an ofrenda and featured papel picado (intricately cut colored tissue paper) meant to attract the spirits, statues of skeletons and La Catrina to provide familiarity, and candles to light the path from the underworld for the departed to return for the get-together. They also featured a statue of La Virgen Guadalupe, signifying the Catholic aspects of the holiday.


Other Junior Girl Scouts Cassandra and Tanner told me about the meaning behind some of the objects they brought for their altar, dedicated to their great-grandparents. Surrounding the pictures of their family members were some of their grandpa’s and GiGi’s favorite treats: Andes mints, Krispy Kreme Pecan pies, chocolate orange slices, and frosted cookies. Each item had an emotional significance to the girls and their mothers and connected to a special family memory, whether it was eating delicious Sunday breakfasts or fresh-baked Thanksgiving cookies.

Food is a particularly important part of an ofrenda, but not for eating. No family get-together is good without everyone’s favorite foods––by placing these objects at the altar, it signifies a welcoming feeling for the departed spirits. It is a gift from the living, a slice of home.

Charlottes British orfenda.

One particularly intricate altar was dedicated to the memory of British children’s book author Enid Blyton, built by Girl Scout Junior Charlotte. The altar was a different cultural interpretation of the ofrenda and held classically British items: the Union Jack, tea, and what appears to be a plate of crumpets, as well as copies of Charlotte’s favorite Blyton books. Charlotte told me she chose Blyton because she felt connected to her, not just because she is her favorite author but because they are from the same country.

What united each altar, whether they were dedicated to family or strangers, was that they were built in order to honor and comfort the one who had passed. It was very touching to see girls building altars for grandparents and great-grandparents they had never met, solely because they knew how much their parents loved them and wanted to preserve those memories. Indeed, the building of an ofrenda is a decidedly intergenerational project, one that requires of its builders to acknowledge and honor those who came before.


Calaveras y Cempasuchiles


The girls also participated in some traditional Day of the Dead activities: decorating sugar skull (calaveras) cookies, fashioning paper Marigolds (Cempasuchil), and more! The room was filled with Girl Scouts and covered in papel picado, skull decorations, paper Cempasuchiles, and traditional Mexican music played from a speaker. It was exactly how a Day of The Dead party should be!

Together with their families, friends, and leaders, Girl Scouts made all sorts of crafts: paper flower headbands, homemade windsocks, and straw panflutes, to name a few. Older Girl Scouts met with an artist and were walked through the process of painting La Catrina, the skeleton of a beautiful woman and a very famous symbol for the holiday and of the Mexican Revolution.


All of these fun activities have real significance in the centuries-old tradition of Día de Los Muertos. Skulls were once keepsakes for Aztec warriors to remember the dead–– now, sweet sugar skulls are decorated with tons of edible glitter, paint, and beads, and sport big smiles. Marigolds were once thought to guide the spirits back to their homes with their intense colors and pungent smells, so these flowers became integral parts of the ofrendas.

The atmosphere in the Vernon Hils Gathering Place that afternoon was exactly what you should expect for a celebration of the Day of The Dead: full of smiles, laughter, bright colors, delicious treats. Awesome memories were made, memories that are sure to live on through this generation of Girl Scouts and the next.

¡Girl Scout yo soy!


This event was very special, not only because it was a bunch of fun for everyone involved, but because it was a celebration of the immense diversity of our Girl Scouts. Cultural events like these are essential for girls of all backgrounds to respect and honor diverse world traditions, learn and understand various perspectives, connect with our global community, and promote solidarity between nations.

We are so grateful to everyone who helped put on both this and the event at Joliet!

Interested in our other awesome cultural events and programs? Our programs page is a great place to start!

The Definition (or Meaning) of Girl Led

Every year, both new and experienced troop leaders ask, “What does girl-led actually mean?”

Simply put, “girl-led” describes a way girls of every age can take active roles in figuring out the “what”, “where”, “when”, “why”, and “how” of what they do as Girl Scouts. It is the basic yet complex concept that girls should be encouraged to create their own unique Girl Scout experience while developing other leadership skills.

Taking part in the leadership of the troop gives girls the opportunity to feel a sense of self-worth and pride in seeing their own skills and ideas come to life. Girl-led experiences provide girls the independence to make mistakes, and the chances to try again.

Where to Begin?

If you’re a troop leader, you may be thinking this is easy… or maybe you’re questioning how to do this without losing your mind! Stepping out of your comfort zone as a leader can be intimidating but also incredibly rewarding because of all the new opportunities you will experience as a collaborative troop.

There is no one way to implement girl-led practices, just like there is no one way to be a Girl Scout! How you facilitate these experiences will change over time as the girls grow and develop leadership skills and curate their experiences.

It is important to remember the age-level of your girls and their abilities to plan and execute a meeting. You wouldn’t ask a kindergartner what they want to do–– you would give her choices and ask leading questions.
If you need some inspiration, here are some examples of questions for Daisy Girl Scouts:

  • “Do you want to sing songs or play games?”
  • “Would it be better to play this game indoors or outdoors?”
  • “Do you want to do this activity during a regular meeting or at a different time?”

This way, girls can vote on activities and make decisions to the best of their ability, giving them more to control a meeting. As they get older, their skills (and their confidence) will grow, and they will start to take on more responsibility!

Making it Happen, Step-By-Step

How do the girls come up with ideas and form a plan?

Traditionally, in the beginning of the new troop year, leaders assume for responsibility for planning troop activities. Girls choose from 2 to 3 activities suggested by their leaders.

While some ideas come from listening to the girls, this is a good time to introduce them to the concept of budgeting. For example, make it clear that the troop can afford to do “A” and “B” or just “C” but not all three, and let the girls decide the solution.

Facilitating Idea-Sharing

The next step is to start getting ideas from the girls. Girls look to their leaders for suggestions, but the girls should offer ideas for troop activities. This way, girls will begin to plan and carry out short term projects.
This is a good time to introduce girls to safety guidelines and Safety Activity Checkpoints.

For brainstorming, it helps to organize the activities into categories, like local trips, overnight trips, service projects, Take Action projects, international trips, and council programs. It helps if you set a time limit for 10 or 20 minutes. Here are some example rules for a brainstorming session:

  • Everyone has to participate!
  • Write every idea down.
  • Do not discuss the merits of ideas–– this will take place later.
  • Do not judge–– no groaning, laughing, cheering, or put downs.
  • Repetition is okay.
  • Spelling does not matter.
  • Read aloud the completed list when finished!

Making Decisions

Once you have finished brainstorming, it is time to start making decisions. Group decisions can be made by following these steps:

  • Look over ideas and edit the list down. Have each girl mark which activities she is most interested in doing. Combine similar activities, and eliminate activities that don’t seem likely to work for the group.
  • Collect information about any activities that the group doesn’t know much about.
  • Discuss the negatives and positives of each activity. Consider cost, safety, requirements, seasonal restraints, time commitments, age appropriateness, needs and interests of the group, and whether the activity reflects the purpose of Girl Scouts.

Taking Action

  • Figure out the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of the activities.
  • Plan your calendar accordingly!

Don’t forget to take time to evaluate the events. How did things turn out? What would we do differently next time? Reflect and learn from what went wrong and right with the plan.

What is a Leader’s Role?

  • Be a good listener and ask leading questions.
  • Assess the troop’s readiness and then guide the girls to assume responsibility.
  • Guide planning in small enough steps so girls can see parts of the plan working individually.
  • Guide the girls in making appropriate choices.
  • Make sure the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of the project are included.
  • Discuss the details of how each phase will be accomplished.
  • Allow each girl to learn from experience. Vary the amount of given help according to each girl’s needs, but offer to help to avoid discouragement.
  • Offer practical advice about time and money involved, resources people who might help, transportation, or needed equipment.
  • Build in an evaluation so girls can use this information for their next experience.
  • Acknolwedge achievement, no matter how small.
  • Make girl-led planning an ongoing part of your program.

Leading the Way

Now that you know more about how to help girls, give them a chance to help you!

When girls lead the way, they become empowered to curate their own experiences. This is how girls become independent women: by having the power to choose.

Check out our programming for girls, from travel opportunities, camping trips, custom programs, and more!

Read up on some of our new Fall and Winter 2019/2020 programs!

Adventure Awaits on these Council Sponsored Trips!

Get ready to get out there: all of our Girl Scout programs are live for this Girl Scout year, including all of our new travel opportunities! Below is a short and sweet description of each, along with the registration link. If you have any questions on these trips, contact Ashley Christensen at

Download this flyer to share with your friends!

Choose Your Own Adventure: Chicago Style!

A new twist on an old GCNWI classic! This time we’re taking it to the Windy City. We’ll stay the night at the hostel downtown, and girls will plan the whole weekend!
November 09-10, 2019 (SIGN UP SOON! Registration closes Oct. 27!)

Choose Your Own Adventure: Midwest!

It’s baaaacckkk! A favorite of many GCNWI travel groupies, this trip is a 4-day adventure to somewhere in the Midwest. Where you ask? That’s for the girls to decide. Hurry! Only 3 spots left (told ya it was a favorite!)
January 17-20, 2020

Capital Tour: Nashville!

This is a brand-new type of trip we’re particularly excited about. In its inaugural year, GCNWI is planning a trip to Nashville, the capital of Tennessee. Each year following, we’ll pick a new state capital for a new exciting adventure!
February 15-17, 2020

Junior Jetaway: Milwaukee

Another BRAND-NEW trip–– this time for Juniors! We’ll head to Milwaukee for a 2-day journey. Did someone say cheese curds?!
February 16-17, 2020

Brownies Day out in Chicago

Yup, you guessed it… another new program idea! As we work our way down the travel progression to younger Girl Scouts, we’ll give Brownies the day to plan a trip to the Windy City. What shall we see and do? That’s for the Brownies to figure out!
May 16, 2020

You-and-Me on Mackinac Island

One of the all-time favorites of hundreds of Girl Scouts! We’re headed on a coach bus with our moms, grandmas, and aunts to the island of no cars, lots of bicycles, and lots of fudge. If you haven’t been on this trip before (or even if you have), it’s time to join us!
August 9-11, 2020

Are We There Yet?

Traveling is more than just a fun adventure–– it’s a learning experience. Join us and explore what the Midwest (and beyond) has to offer!

Financial assistance is available for most council-sponsored trips. Applications will be sent to travelers who register for a trip.

Visit our travel page for more information!

Go-Getters Got After it at the 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

If running a marathon was easy, everyone would do it. On Sunday, Oct. 13, 15 Girl Scout Go-Getters took on the challenge and finished the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. 

The team was full of runners from diverse backgrounds and levels of association with Girl Scouts. We even had a family member of an Associate Board member travel all the way from Los Angeles to compete in his fourth marathon. We had a Girl Scout parent from the Phoenix, Arizona council travel in to fight through her third marathon. Two GCNWI staff members and our Associate Board President were completing their first ever marathon! 

Racing for Change 

While running 26.2 miles is a huge accomplishment, it’s what the team accomplishes in raising funds for our council that makes the biggest impact. Together, our team of 23 runners raised more than $35,000 and counting. 

Together we empower each G.I.R.L. to change the world. What is it that makes a G.I.R.L. so incredible? Well, she’s a Go-getter who races to the finish. She is an Innovator who builds robots and competes around the world. She is a Risk-taker who explores new adventures through travel. She is a Leader who speaks at a United Nations event. 

If you want to be a part of this growing community of runners and change-makers, apply for the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon! 

Take the leap and apply to run your first marathon as a Girl Scout Go-Getter! 

  • Apply by Dec. 1 – Fundraising Minimum is $1,250 
  • Apply after Dec. 1 – Fundraising Minimum is $1,750 

Applications will close on Jan, 30, 2020 or when our team is filled. 

Go Get It! 

When you run with the Girl Scout Go-Getters, you will receive: 

  • Guaranteed entry into the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon  
  • Free virtual and in-person training options with Chicago Endurance Sports 
  • Official Girl Scout Go-Getters team running shirt and running belt 
  • Customizable fundraising page to help reach your goal 
  • Access to all team events (kick-off meeting, pasta party, and other events decided by team) 
  • Free access to Race Day Resort on race day (located next to start line with food, drinks, indoor restrooms) 
  • You will be invited to attend our “Thanks to You” reception in Fall 2020 (usually at the Union League Club, downtown) 

If you have any questions, please contact Holly Johnson at