As we build girls of courage, confidence, and character, one of the most important responsibilities we also have as troop leaders and volunteers is ensuring our girls are safe. That doesn’t mean being risk-averse! There’s a big difference between taking calculated risks and outright danger. Here at Girl Scouts River Valleys, the emotional and physical safety of our girls is a number one priority, whether they’re spelunking, hatchet throwing, or ice climbing. How can we make sure girls are prepared for whatever adventure they choose? Enter Safety Activity Checkpoints.
Safety Activity Checkpoints 101
If you’re a seasoned volunteer, you’ll most likely have been acquainted Safety Activity Checkpoints, in some iteration. If you’re new to Girl Scouting, you might be wondering, “Safety Activity Checkpoints? What are those?”
Girl Scouts of the USA partnered with Girl Scout councils to develop Safety Activity Checkpoints (SAC). Using data, historical experience, American Camp Association recommendations, and industry trends and standards, they developed guidelines on how to safely prepare, lead, and participate in a variety of activities. In each checkpoint, you’ll find information on how to include girls with disabilities, what type of supervision or expertise is required, where to find basic and specialized gear (if it’s needed for that activity), what steps to take prior to the activity, and what steps to follow the day-of.
New and Improved
The current Safety Activity Checkpoints has been extensively revamped to make it a better, easier-to-use reference guide for volunteers and troops. Some important changes to the 2018 version include:
- Activities at a Glance: This handy chart lists all the activities that Girl Scouts may participate in. You’ll also be able to quickly see which program grade level(s) can participate in that activity, and what type of council approval and/or qualified instructor is required.
- Grade Level Participation and Council Approval Requirements: The beginning of each checkpoint now clearly lists which program grade level(s) the activity is permitted for and whether or not council approval is required.
- Safety Standards & Activity Guidelines: The introduction to Safety Activity Checkpoints now includes this general set of safety guidelines which should be used for all activities. These important tips (like communicating with adults and families, the buddy system, collecting health history and permission slip forms, etc.) used to be listed and repeated under each activity, but they’re now condensed into the first part of SAC.
- Understanding Which Activities Are Not Permitted: Though some activities have been revised and added to the SAC (E.g. tethered hot air ballooning), certain activities (Like flying in a blimp—sorry, blimp enthusiasts!) are still not permitted nor approved by GSUSA. This section lists and explains why specific activities are off-limits to Girl Scouts.
How to use Safety Activity Checkpoints
As you prepare for an activity, review the checkpoint for that particular activity. Use the checkpoints as a checklist for what preparations you need to make. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time before the activity to obtain proper guardian permission, gear, and/or experts. Though it may seem redundant, we recommend you review the checkpoints even if you and your girls are old hats at skiing, camping, etc. Even experts slip up sometimes and forget best practices, so it’s good to have a refresher before embarking on your adventure!
Certain higher-risk activities require extra input; these are marked “Council Approval: Required” at the beginning of the checkpoint. For these activities, you’ll need to fill out the High-Risk Activity Council Approval form at least two weeks before your activity and/or event.
If your troop is excited to earn their Adventure Club patch, but aren’t sure what kind of challenges they’d like to tackle, use Safety Activity Checkpoints to generate some ideas. At 161 pages (!), there’s sure to be something for every girl to push her personal limits.
Lily Yu – Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time by leading her daughter’s Daisy troop (who’s more excited to work on petals and Journeys—it could go either way!). In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family.