Girl Scouts’ ‘Science of Happiness’ badge promotes positive psychology
The Girl Scouts of the USA teamed with Martin E.P. Seligman,
PhD, to develop a “Science of Happiness” Badge. To earn
the badge, “cadettes” — Girl Scouts in sixth, seventh
and eighth grades — must create and implement
a monthlong strategy for increasing their own
happiness, says Alisha Niehaus, executive editor of
Girl Scouts program resources.
Seligman, who directs the Positive
Psychology Center at the University
of Pennsylvania, helped develop the
requirements for the badge, based on
his research on reducing depression
and anxiety among adolescents.
The badge gives pre-adolescents
strategies for increasing well-being before they become
teenagers, he says.
“After puberty there is a very large
rise in depression, but if you can work
with children right before puberty, you can
help reduce it,” says Seligman. “There are 21
replications around the world for teaching these
skills to children aged 10 to 12, and the meta-
analysis shows significant reductions in depression
and anxiety as they get older.”
The Science of Happiness badge takes cadettes
through five steps, including “Make yourself happier” and
“Get happy through others,” each with its own recommended
activities. Girl Scouts can make a collage about someone
meaningful to them, write a list of things that make them
feel good, or create a family “bliss box” of memories and
souvenirs. Girls also keep a journal about the activities
and their plans for future projects.
The badge is intended to boost the girls’ awareness
of the science behind happiness and psychology,
Niehaus says. “We’re always looking for high-
interest science activities, and this gives
budding psychologists a chance to work in a
research-oriented way,” she says.
It also helps prepare them for the
future. “Adolescence is such a hard
time,” says Niehaus. By showing
girls that there are strategies for
developing happiness, the Girl Scouts
hopes to teach them that they have a
measure of control over their feelings and
actions. “It can be really helpful just figuring
what makes you happy and trying it out to see
what works for you,” Niehaus says.
The new badge is part of a program-wide
merit badge revamp — the
first comprehensive revision
to the program in nearly 25
years — to mark the Girl
Scout’s 100th anniversary.
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