Saturday, February 7, 2009


GSUSA publication Contemporary Issues Series, Earth Matters: A Challenge for Environmental Action (1990)

Moral Dilemmas provide girls with an opportunity to experience and practice making moral choices – some of the most difficult choices girls will ever have to make. Moral dilemmas are situations that can involve a choice between two or more alternatives.

The following are some sample moral dilemmas. After each dilemma is presented, the girls are asked to answer the discussion questions and share their reasoning. Girls can grow through the use of moral dilemmas as they discover strengths and flaws in their reasoning.

  1. A troop is planning to conduct a large event at Camp Wannago. They are discussing how to serve lunch to 150 people. A local store has offered to donate disposable plastic plates and cups along with plastic forks. One of the girls offers to recruit dishwashers so they can use the camp’s plates and glassware, while another feels they should purchase paper cups and plates and only serve finger foods. What would you do and why? What impact will each choice have on the environment?
  2. A troop of 10 girls and two leaders is planning a field trip from its meeting place to downtown. It is a five-minute trip by automobile or a five-minute walk to the bus stop and a ten-minute bus trip. What would you do? What impact will each choice have on the environment?
  3. Brenda is doing the family shopping while her mother is home with the baby. Her mom said that she could keep any change from the money she was given but that she must come home with everything on the list. She has the following choices:
  • Toothpaste in a pump or in a tube. The tube is cheaper, but the pump is really neat.
  • An energy efficient light bulb that costs more or a standard light bulb.
  • A detergent that contains phosphates and claims super cleaning power or a phosphate-free detergent that costs slightly more.
  • Disposable diapers or reusable cloth diapers.
  • Cola in plastic bottles or a more expensive cola in aluminum cans that can be recycled and includes a refund of the deposit.

Which choices will have a positive impact on the environment? What would you do?

  1. Jenny’s family is moving. They cannot take their female cat with them. Jenny’s dad wants to let the cat loose in the country. Her mother wants to take it to an animal shelter. Jenny is undecided. She knows that animals are put to sleep after a two-week stay in the shelter if no one adopts them. But she has also seen mangy-looking cats in the county park. What would you do? What impact will each choice have on the environment?
  2. Talena has the opportunity to spend four hours planting trees in the neighborhood park or four hours selling baked goods to earn money to send to the Children’s rainforest, a movement that buys and preserves tropical rainforest in Costa Rica. What should she do? Why?

Girl Scout leaders may develop their own dilemmas for use with Girl Scouts. These tips will help them develop moral dilemmas:

  1. Build a dilemma so it contains realistic choices.
  2. Use real life problems whenever possible. Make the dilemma relevant to the girls by using Girl Scout situations when possible.
  3. Focus on the choice to be made and not the detailed evidence of the case. The dilemma should be written so that it is simple, interesting and short. Extra details should be left out.
  4. Construct a focus question that poses the choice to be made.
  5. Provide a situation that presents a genuine conflict and choice of action. If the right answer or the answer that is accepted by the Girl scout leader is obvious, then it is not a dilemma.
  6. Ask questions about the choice, the reasons for the choice and the alternatives to the choice.

Moral dilemmas can stimulate girls to view complex environmental issues in more general and flexible ways. The ability to view issues from all perspectives is critically important in preparing girls to make the difficult decisions that accompany adulthood.

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