By Catherine Amoriello
It may only be February, but spring has arrived early with the bloom of Girl Scout in the Heart of Pennsylvania’s (GSHPA) Daisy recruitment and kindergarten preparation programming initiative Kindergarten Readiness.
The Kindergarten Readiness program provides girls the skills they need to succeed in kindergarten, as well as provides parents/caregivers the tools they need to help support their girls. With focuses on socialization, learning and building relationships both within Girl Scouts and with the broader community, Kindergarten Readiness lays the foundation girls need to find success in their first year of school.
“Starting school in general is tough for parents of kindergarten kids. It’s a whole new world,” said Claire Gilbert, GSHPA’s Membership Coordinator. “Girl Scouts are in a prime position to swoop in and help out with that.”
But the program is more than just kindergarten prep; it’s an easy way for girls to get involved with Girl Scouts as Daisies.
“Girls that enter at the Daisy level stay longer and they have better experiences,” Gilbert said. “This is a great time to start having those one-on-one experiences with your daughter. It’s something we want to get people involved in.”
Although Gilbert has been involved with GSHPA’s kindergarten programming in the past, this will be her first year coordinating the readiness campaign. Gilbert knows first-hand the advantages of getting involved in Girl Scouts at a young age, as she began her own Girl Scout journey as a Daisy.
“I just had such a formative experience. My troop members are still my best friends,” Gilbert said. “I love the cooperation aspect of it. You don’t have to be good at Girl Scouts–you can just do the activities and immerse yourself.”
From participating as a Daisy to working as a summer camp staff member to joining GSHPA’s ranks officially as a Volunteer Support Coordinator (VSC) in 2013, Gilbert’s Girl Scout resume speaks for itself. And although her history and experience are qualification enough to take on Kindergarten Readiness, she has one other trick up her sleeve–she is a mother to her own kindergartener and Daisy, Thora.
“Having my daughter in the program has been great. It was an easy process for me,” Gilbert said. “She’s coming home telling me things about her experience and learning about the Girl Scout Law. Listening to this narrative come out of her is the cutest thing. It’s an extenuation of my own time with the Girl Scouts.”
Learning the beginning elements of Girl Scouting is just one aspect of the Kindergarten Readiness experience. Girls will also learn about life skills, making new friends and socialization. These fundamental basics will be especially important for girls to be exposed to after having spent their developmental years in a COVID-lockdown environment.
Gilbert said her own daughter felt the impacts of COVID-related isolation, and through Girl Scouts she has been able to establish a sense of community with other little girls participating in the program.
“I’ve really liked Girl Scouts because it gives her that socialization outside of school where she’s having fun but learning those key morals,” Gilbert said. “It’s going to give her those strong building blocks. Helping your community, taking pride in your community, learning how to talk to people in your community–that’s important.”
While Kindergarten Readiness serves Daisy-level girls, the program’s impact reaches future Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors. Today’s Daisies are tomorrow’s Gold Award earners. The long-term success of girls depends on Daisy involvement and retention.
“We want them to start growing a strong sense of self, start making new friends [and] having new experiences. That’s why it’s called Daisy Launch, because they’re starting their Girl Scout adventure,” Gilbert said.
As for Gilbert, she’s excited to pass the Girl Scout torch and watch her own Daisy sprout from the ground and reach for the sky.
“[Girl Scouts] opened doors for me,” Gilbert said. “[I hope] it can have even a smidgen of effect on my daughter in the same way.”