Branch Out!® and the Girl Scouts of the USA

The mission of Cultivating Connections™ complements the mission of the Girl Scouts of the USA: to "help girls grow strong."


Branch Out!® Program Description

Branch Out!® is used to promote awareness and understanding of people of all ages and backgrounds, develop appreciation of self and others, and facilitate career development and realization of potential. It is an interactive, hands-on game played with 2-35 players, ages four to adult.

The Branch Out!® game and curriculum is designed to facilitate self-discovery, connection with others, appreciation of diversity, and recognition of the unique strengths and abilities of each player.

Girl Scouts playing Branch Out!® at the National Conference in the fall of 2002.

Through Branch Out!®, we hope to empower individuals to nurture their own growth and the growth of others. The symbol of a tree is used to help players visualize personal growth. Just as a tree has branches, we, too, have various facets of ourselves to discover and nurture. Players explore together their branches (facets of self), their roots (the aspects of our lives that provide nourishment and support), and the type of environment they want to create so that they and those around them can flourish.

Players sit in a circle surrounding the fabric game board which is an image of a leafless tree. As players answer questions about themselves, they place a cloth leaf on the tree to demonstrate their sharing and contribution to the group. Other players who would have answered similarly, place a leaf on as well, to symbolize the commonality that exists among them.

The Branch Out!® game and curriculum has five main areas of focus: empowerment, career development, pro-social skills, diversity appreciation, and community building. Through Branch Out!®, we hope to promote authenticity, self-awareness, appreciation of others, the power of community, and the value of pursuing one's passions.
The comfortable playing atmosphere
lends itself to sharing.

Game facilitators are given the opportunity to observe and assess players' social skills, self-awareness, and abilities to acknowledge personal strengths. In playing Branch Out!®, facilitators can observe players who may be struggling with self-esteem issues, who do not want to share, who are going out of their way to share, etc. In addition to this general assessment based on how players are interacting with one another, facilitators also gain information based on what players share when answering game questions, (e.g. who struggles while coming up with an answer, who has difficulty acknowledging strengths, etc.).

The best part: launching all the leaves into the air after the game is through.
Information is also gained from the content of what players share. For example, if while playing with a group of Cadets, some of whom are struggling with school issues and are at risk of dropping out, a player may get the question, "What are you most afraid of?" She may answer, "Bringing home bad grades," at which point three other players may say, "Me, too," and place a leaf on the tree. This shared experience allows the group to further explore their fears regarding bringing home bad grades. The girls may be able to establish further understanding of one another and support each other in their efforts to resolve their common situations. The example described above demonstrates how question content can provide an opportunity to explore personal issues/conflicts.

The game is a powerful, non-threatening tool used to promote personal growth, acceptance, team building, career development, and violence prevention. Together, players explore their personal strengths, skills, dreams, and the similarities and differences that exist among them.

"It was really fun. It was my favorite game! It was really fun to hear everyone's stories...that everybody's different, that you don't have to be all closed up and stuff, and it's ok just to be yourself." -Andrea, grade 8

Generally, through Branch Out!®, we hope to empower people of all ages and backgrounds to nurture their own growth and the growth of others, pursue their dreams, and realize their potential. Specifically, we know that the outcomes of utilizing the Branch Out!® game curriculum will complement your Council's goals of:

  1. Membership recruitment and retention
  2. Member, volunteer, and staff empowerment
  3. Self-discovery
  4. Career development
  5. Pro-social skill development
  6. Diversity and pluralism
  7. Community service

"That game has got to be in stores...that is the best game because it teaches you about your feelings and helps you figure out what you want to do with your life." - Apryl, grade 8

The following is a letter from a woman who works with teenage girl scouts who are in foster care:

This past week I had the opportunity to use Branch Out! with a group of nine teenage girls in foster care. Our group has been together for over a year now and very rarely have we had an activity in which all of the girls are thoroughly engaged and interested. Branch Out! was a wonderful way for the girls to get to know each other better, find common connections, and evaluate their own morals, values, and dreams. Girls who tend to be quiet in a larger group were able to share and talk while girls who tend to always be talking were able to listen. The flexibility of the tools Branch Out! brings was wonderful for this group because they were able to interpret if a question referred to their "real family" or "foster family."

All of the girls really enjoyed the debriefing activity of making a "hand tree." They were very quiet as they worked on their branches and were excited to share with the group when they were done. One particularly challenging girl in our group included "a good attitude" as one of her branches. In the trunk, the girls listed things they know they can always count on and one girl topped that list with Girl Scouts. The girls asked if I would hold onto their trees and play the game again in six months, at which time they want to make new trees and compare the two.

Overall, Branch Out! was a wonderful tool to use with our teen girls in foster care. It gave them a structured environment where they found the freedom to express themselves, build connections, and reflect on who they are and who they want to be. Thank you very much for sharing this tool with our troop.

Thank you,

Melisa Cull
Girl Scouts Totem Council
Program Specialist - Fostering a Future

If you would like to read more formal academic research about how Branch Out!® is used with youth, please refer to Academic Research with Branch Out!®.