UNIVERSITY PARK – Girls using words and behaviors to hurt other girls is known as relational aggression (R.A.), a type of bullying that has historically been a fact of life — and caused a lot of pain emotionally. The Girls Scouts are no exception. Cheryl Dellasega, professor of humanities at the Penn State College of Medicine, recently worked with the Girl Scouts’ Mile Hi Council in Denver to create a new patch program focused on developing positive relationship skills.
The patch program — called “No Way R.A.” — is becoming so popular that the Denver council posted it on a Web site so Girl Scout troops and councils across the country can access it, at www.girlscoutsmilehi.org online.
“The girls bring their outside ‘queen bee’ roles into the Girl Scout organization just as they do in other settings, forming cliques and teasing or excluding other girls,” said Dellasega, the creator of Club and Camp Ophelia, programs that aim to reduce bullying among middle school girls using mentoring and an arts-based curriculum.
Denver Mile Hi Council Director Gretchen Vaughn added that girls in her group were having trouble resolving conflicts directly, and instead resorted to destructive behaviors such as exclusion and gossip. “Our staff and volunteers had been either accepting these behaviors as ‘girls will be girls’ or didn’t know how to intervene,” said Vaughn. “We wanted a way to educate both girls and adults about activities they could do that would facilitate positive relationships.”
Vaughn had heard about Dellasega’s work and contacted her for help. Dellasega created the patch program, which includes 10 activities, in addition to working with the chapter to develop a summer camp. Dellasega’s niece, an 11-year-old from Baltimore, designed the patch: two girls giving each other a high five over a heart with a bandage on it.
Vaughn reports that troop leaders are enthusiastic about the program, which was paid for with a Bullying Prevention Grant from The Colorado Trust. “They were happy to receive the materials and start implementing the program,” she said. While the first patches have yet to be awarded, Vaughn expects to see a “gradual but noticeable change in the climate of the troops that participate in the program, based on similar programs that have been implemented in summer camps.”