Improv for Life

Improv Helps Girl Scouts Grow

In May of 2023, I and other Girl Scout leaders gathered to brainstorm answers to a very important question. Half our organization is made up of middle school-age girls, which is a pivotal and sensitive age. How could we develop engaging activities that would not only keep them involved in Girl Scouts, but help them grow as well?

With teen anxiety seemingly on the rise, we thought particularly hard about the latter consideration. How can we create leaders if their self-worth is wobbly? How do we help inoculate our best and brightest against low self-esteem and instill values of courage, confidence, and character? 

One way we do this is by putting strong female role models at the center of our activities, like when we hosted the Taylor Swift-themed fundraiser. We also push the girls to shape and lead troop activities within their small groups, empowering them through ownership and autonomy. And we connect them with experts to curate ongoing discussions about sticky issues and help them grow their leadership skills.  

This is where improv comes in. Stomping Ground Comedy Theater was founded to use the balm of comedy to build community and encourage, the same courage and confidence Girl Scouts is always trying to build in our troop members. Last month, our service unit’s middle schoolers were invited to a day-long leadership workshop on improv curated just for us by Stomping Ground’s co-founders, Andrea Baum, M.Ed, LPC, and Lindsay Goldapp.

The aim of the workshop?  To learn that life is improv, and the girls can navigate it courageously with, “Yes, and…”

The workshop helped the Girl Scouts address some big questions. How can we respond positively for ourselves and others? What power does that allow us to wield? How can we harness it for the greater good? The girls got vulnerable with themselves and one another through games, role play, and mini sketches. 

After our workshop, the service unit treated the group to a shared meal. In the evening, the girls got to watch performers from Stomping Ground’s Spaghetti Confetti troupe create an improvised comedic musical from scratch; and the girls even participated in it, much to our amazement. The title (developed spontaneously by the crowd) was “The Sad, Hairy Viking.” The show featured stunning musical numbers like “To Grow a Beard” and “I Must Paddle.”

Themes of fear, anxiety, compromise, adjustment, and redemption all came together and—VOILA!— an entire story unspooled before our very eyes… 

The beautiful part? It all felt like play to the girls, which made us as leaders feel like masterminds, twirling our own Viking beards as we sat in the audience in the darkened theater. 

I want to say a big thank you to the families who sent their Girl Scouts and to the Girl Scout leaders who shared in the experience. We learned that a little laughter goes a long way! 

Julie Riekse

Girl Scout Mom

Girl Scout Service Unit 408-Flower Mound