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."
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.
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 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:
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.
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!®.