GSNorCal Volunteer Essentials
|Book:||GSNorCal Volunteer Essentials|
|Printed by:||Guest user|
|Date:||Saturday, March 28, 2020, 8:22 PM|
Table of contents
QUICK LINKS TO CHAPTERS: TABLE OF CONTENTS | NAVIGATION | QUICK START GUIDE| ABOUT GSNorCal | VOLUNTEERING | GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM | GIRLS & ADULTS | SAFETY-WISE | MONEY | BIENVENIDO (en Español) | GLOSSARY |
Thank you for making a difference in the lives of girls! Use this e-book in combination with our online resources and training links to help you in your volunteer role throughout the year.
For your convenience, this guide is searchable and printable. You are able to print a single section, an entire chapter, or the entire guide. However, keep in mind that the Volunteer Essentials is updated throughout the year, so you will want to access the guide electronically to get the most up-to-date information. The most recent changes will be displayed in the Navigation section at the beginning of the Volunteer Essentials.
Questions? Can't find what you need? No need to know which staff member to ask! For any questions, phone: 800-447-4475 Ext 0 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I use Volunteer Essentials?
There are quite a few ways to find what you need:
Table of Contents
You can use the Table of Contents to quickly find topics in this guide, including information on Girl Scout traditions, responsibilities, leadership, awards, badges and so much more. All of the chapters and topics are clickable, and will take you right to that spot within the guide. Get to the Table of Contents by clicking "home" or use the quick links at the top of each page.
You can use the clickable quick links at the top of each page to jump to any of the other chapters or to the Table of Contents or Glossary. You can also use quick links on each page to get to the topics within that chapter more quickly (these are the same topics listed on the Table of Contents). The chapter name where you currently are will be slightly larger and bold. The chapters are color-coded to assist you in navigating.
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Search the entire Volunteer Essentials by entering key words or phrases on the search bar at the top of the page.
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Links to specific areas of the Volunteer Essentials are hyperlinked. For people using Volunteer Essentials as a printed document, the chapter and section name are included. To assist you, those references are color coded with the chapter color, and listed like this: [CHAPTER: Section]. Links to a section of Volunteer Essentials will open in the same window. Where a specific form or document is listed, the name of the form is hyperlinked to the specific form, along with the place to get forms on the council website where you can type in the name of the form: www.gsnorcal.org/forms. Links to external links (outside Volunteer Essentials) will open in a new window.
Quick Links to QUICK START GUIDE Topics: Welcome! | Girl Scout Leadership Experience | Promise & Law | A Worldwide Movement | Organizational Structure | Troop Size | Joining Girl Scouts | Flexible Ways to Belong | Safety Basics | Get Started |
Welcome to the great adventure of Girl Scouting! Thanks to volunteers like you, generations of girls have learned to be leaders in their own lives and in the world. We know you’re busy and need to be efficient with your time. For that reason, this Quick-Start Guide to our Volunteer Essentials gives you the answers to the basic questions you might have right now about the Girl Scout organization. The rest of Volunteer Essentials is a reference for you to use as needed, and supports our online training modules. Think of it is as your encyclopedia to Girl Scout volunteering! For tips on navigating Volunteer Essentials [NAVIGATION]
Girl Scouts was founded in 1912 by trailblazer Juliette Gordon Low. We are the largest girl-serving organization in the United States and a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, a sisterhood of close to 10 million girls and adults in 145 countries.
Girl Scout Leadership Experience
There's no question that girls get a lot out of Girl Scouting! You'll want to make sure that your girls get to have a wide variety of experiences so that they will get the most out of being a Girl Scout.
It's clear that girls like variety, and a troop/group program should include opportunities for lots of different activities. The basic parts of a robust Girl Scout experience include these aspects. You'll learn much more about all of them in other sections of Volunteer Essentials.
As a volunteer, you are in charge of keeping Girl Scouts both safe and fun! You and your troop will share adventures through something called the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. It’s simple:
- The girls discover what they care about
- They connect with and collaborate with people in the community
- Then they take action to do something that makes the world a better place
And there’s a whole galaxy of activities to choose from and badges to earn along the way. Share these possibilities with the girls. They will discuss, decide, and plan the year’s adventures – everything from troop meetings to camping trips!
A great place to start out is with a Leadership Journey, which has sample meetings along with lists of needed materials, and tips and pointers on how to weave in fun ways of teaching the girls to plan their activities and make decisions. [PROGRAM: National Leadership Journeys]
For Daisy, Brownie, and Junior troops, you'll also have access to the digital Volunteer Toolkit, which gives you detailed meeting plans with tons of downloadable resources. All troops have access to the Volunteer Toolkit for managing their troops and communicating with families. [VOLUNTEERING: Volunteer Toolkit]
|Girl Scout Mission||Girl Scout Vision|
|Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.||
We strive to be the premier leadership organization for girls, and experts on their growth and development.
The Girl Scout Promise and LawThe Girl Scout Promise and Law are shared by every member of Girl Scouting. The Girl Scout Promise is the way Girl Scouts agree to act every day toward one another and other people, and the Girl Scout Law outlines a way to act
towards one another and the world. Everything we do in Girl Scouting is rooted in the Girl Scout Promise and Law, which speak to the vision we all share for girls and inspire each of us to work on behalf of tomorrow’s leaders. The Promise is often recited at Girl Scout troop meetings while holding up the three middle fingers of the right hand, which forms the Girl Scout sign. Girl Scout policy states that the organization does not endorse or promote any particular philosophy or religious belief.
*Girl Scouts of the USA makes no attempt to define or interpret the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise. It looks to individual members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs. When making the Girl Scout Promise, individuals may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word “God.” Note: This disclaimer appears in the National Leadership Journey adult guides, but not in the girls’ books. It is included here as a reminder to you, as a volunteer, that it’s your responsibility to be sensitive to the spiritual beliefs of the girls in your group and to make sure that everyone in the group feels comfortable and included in Girl Scouting. Please feel free to share this information with girls’ families.
We are urban, rural, and suburban. We are in schools, churches, temples, mosques, public housing, foster homes, and detention centers. There are 1.8 million girls five to eighteen years of age and 800,000 adults in 92 countries and more than fifty-nine million alums, united across distance and decades by lifelong friendships, shared adventures, and the desire to do big things to make the world a better place. At any given time, approximately ten percent of girls are Girl Scouts in our 112 councils throughout the United States.
|More than 2.6 Girl Scouts live in every US zip code and in ninety-two countries around the world|
|Fifty percent of women business owners were Girl Scouts|
Seventy-three percent of female U.S. Senators were Girl Scouts, and fifty-one percent of female members of the House of Representatives were Girl Scouts.
One hundred percent of female U.S. Secretaries of State were Girl Scouts
Four or the six current female governors were Girl Scouts
|Virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout|
Girl Scouts are more likely to succeed academically and pursue higher education
Girl Scouts is the world’s largest organization of and for girls, currently encompassing 1.8 million girl members and nearly one million volunteers! Three core structures support all these members: the national headquarters, your council, and your support team.
World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)
WAGGGS ensures that girls have increased awareness about the world, cross-cultural learning opportunities, and education on relevant global issues that may inspire them to take action to make the world a better place. Visit Global Girl Scouting online for additional information. Since 1925, USA Girl Scouts Overseas (USAGSO), a division of Global Girl Scouting, has helped ease the transition for American families relocating overseas by offering the familiar traditions and exciting opportunities of Girl Scouting to girls abroad. USAGSO now serves thousands of American girls living overseas, as well as girls attending American or international schools. Through Global Girl Scouting, members participate in World Thinking Day on February 22, visit the four WAGGGS world centers (www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/global/world-centers.html), participate in international travel, promote global friendship and understanding by supporting the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund donate.girlscouts.org/worldfriendshipfund, and take action on global issues.
Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA)
The national office of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), located in New York City, employs roughly 300 employees. GSUSA is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Visit GSUSA online, where you’ll find a wealth of resources for both girls and volunteers.
Girl Scouts of Northern California (GSNorCal)
Girl Scout councils are chartered by the national office to attract and retain members in a geographic area, provide ways for girls to participate in Girl Scouting, create an environment that reflects Girl Scout values and ideals, manage volunteers’ experience with Girl Scouting, and keep girls and volunteers as safe as possible. The national office provides support materials to all councils to ensure that the Girl Scout experience is nationally consistent.
A team of volunteers and staff provides you with local support, learning opportunities, and advice. As a volunteer, you will have the most contact with your Girl Scout support team, which is called a service unit. Never hesitate to contact them, because your support team will guide and assist you in all things Girl Scouting. If you have questions about the Girl Scout program, working with girls, resources in the National Program Portfolio (National Leadership Journeys and The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting), or selling Girl Scout cookies and other products, go to your team for answers and ongoing support.
Girl Scout troops need to be large enough to provide a cooperative learning environment and small enough to allow development of individual girls. The following group sizes are recommended:
- Girl Scout Daisies: 5–12 girls
- Girl Scout Brownies: 10–20 girls
- Girl Scout Juniors: 10–25 girls
- Girl Scout Cadettes: 5–25 girls
- Girl Scout Seniors: 5–30 girls
- Girl Scout Ambassadors: 5–30 girls
A Girl Scout troop must have at minimum, five girls and two unrelated, registered and background-checked adult volunteers, one of whom is female. Although troop size may vary greatly, all troops stay open to a minimum of 12 girls. If the troop is listed in the Troop Opportunity Catalog, it will automatically stay open until 12 girls are registered with the troop. Troops that have fewer girls may meet and carry out their activities, but should always be open to taking more girls. Larger groups should not see the minimums as a limit. Large troops can be super fun and offer lots of opportunities for different groups of girls to interact with each other.
Girl Scouts is about sharing the fun, friendship, and power of girls and women together. Any girl—from kindergarten through 12th grade—can join Girl Scouts.
Girl Scout Daisy (grades K–1)
Girl Scout Brownie
Girl Scout Junior (grades 4–5)
Girl Scout Cadette (grades 6–8)
Girl Scout Senior (grades 9–10)
Girl Scout Ambassador (grades 11–12)
Girl Scout volunteers are also a diverse group—you may be a college volunteer working on a community-action project, a parent volunteer ready for an outdoor adventure with your daughter’s troop, or any responsible adult (female or male, who have passed the necessary background-checked process) looking to help prepare girls for the day when they’ll lead—however and wherever they choose.
How to Join
What all members share, both girls and adults, are the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Each member also agrees to follow safety guidelines and pay the annual membership dues of $25, paid to the national organization, GSUSA. Adults have the option to purchase a lifetime membership (see fee options below). Additionally, girl members pay a $15 annual Council Service Fee (this portion directly supports GSNorCal).
Adults - $25
Girls - $40
$25* annual membership fee
Adults have the option to purchase a one-time lifetime membership:
$25* annual membership fee
$15 annual Council Service Fee which directly supports GSNorCal
GSNorCal is one of 112 Girl Scout Councils that operates under the “umbrella” of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). The national dues that you pay to GSUSA support Girl Scout activity insurance and development of national programs (like badges and Journeys). Increasingly, dues also pay for technology investments, including the troop catalog, new registration system, Volunteer Toolkit and Digital Cookie.
Across the country, the Girl Scout community is hard at work on a whole new approach to make sure that everyone can participate in Girl Scouting in the ways they want to. As a volunteer, you can choose from flexible ways to participate that can be tailored to fit your schedule and lifestyle. You can also volunteer behind the scenes, in a GSNorCal office, instead of volunteering directly with girls.
Girls can choose any one, all, or some of the options—camp, events, series, troop, travel— within a single membership year.
As a volunteer, you, too, have the option of partnering with girls throughout a membership year or committing to an opportunity for only a few weeks or months. Based on independent research and extensive surveys with thousands of council staff members from around the country, we have a good sense of which options will interest girls, based on their grade levels. These are reflected in this chart:
Girls of all levels can explore their skills and interests while helping to shape a variety of fun and enriching leadership experiences that inspire them to reach their personal best. No matter where and how girls participate, they get the necessary guidance from adult volunteers and council staff to develop leadership skills and understand how those skills can be used to make a difference in the world.
Girls participate in a series of programs with the same group of girls over the course of an academic year. Girls of all levels can explore their skills and interests while helping to shape a variety of fun and enriching leadership experiences that inspire them to reach their personal best. No matter where and how girls participate, they get the necessary guidance from adult volunteers and council staff to develop leadership skills and understand how those skills can be used to make a difference in the world. Troops provide a flexible way for girls to meet. Some ideas include:
- Fourteen Girl Scout Brownies who meet twice a month from November through March at a local community center
- Seven girls who are homeschooled and meet weekly as a Girl Scout Cadette troop
- Girls who meet together once a week at their juvenile detention center to participate in Girl Scout activities
and adults participating in troops can meet once a week, once a month,
or twice a month for several months—how often is up to you and the
girls. Troops can meet just about anywhere, as long as the location is
safe, easily accessible to girls and adults, and within a reasonable
commute (“reasonable” has different definitions in different areas: In
rural areas, a two-hour drive may be acceptable; in an urban area, a
30-minute subway ride may be too long). In each meeting, girls
participate in fun activities that engage them in the Girl Scout
Leadership Experience (GSLE).
Contact the GSNorCal Member Services Team for more info: Info@gsnorcal.org
Girls participate in day or resident camp with a focus on the out-of-doors and/or environmental education. www.CampRocks.org
Girls participate in a series of programs with the same group of girls relating to a specific theme or purpose (e.g., high-adventure and travel troops, robotics teams, or after school programs where girls complete a Leadership Journey over a six-week period). Contact email@example.com
Girls plan, earn money, prepare, and participate in regional, national, and international trips! GSNorCal believes that every girl deserves a chance to see the world! Therefore, we host two annual travel adventures each summer (Cadette’s and a separate trip for Senior & Ambassadors). www.gsnorcal.org/en/about-girl-scouts/travel.html
GSUSA coordinates a national GSUSA Destinations program that provides unique experiences for girls in grades 6-12. Through this program girls can apply for and attend events sponsored by councils throughout the United States that take place all over the country and also internationally. forgirls.girlscouts.org/travel/
Pathways for Adults
Adult volunteers in GSNorCal can serve:
At the troop level
- Troop Leader
- Troop Treasurer
- Troop Cookie Manager
- Troop Fall Product Manager
- Troop Helpers
- Troop Driver
- Troop First Aider
- Troop Trip Advisor
- Event Manager
- Troop Camp Advisor
- Troop Background Advisor
Or beyond the troop (service unit or council level opportunities)
- Support troops traveling the world by sharing your love of travel!
- Work with a group to plan and carry out events for girls in your area
- Join the Girl Scout Alum (former girl or adult members who serve
the council in a variety of ways)
- Be a Campaign For Girls Champion in a local service unit (raise awareness about the benefits of financially supporting our Girl Scout council)
- Work to coordinate cookie or fall sales in your service unit
- Manage a Fall Sales or Cookie Cupboard in your service unit
- maintain an inventory of products for local volunteers to check out or return products during the sales
- Work on property improvement or maintenance for our camps
- Work with our Fund Development Department to explore funding opportunities with your employer, or foundations or other organizations you are affiliated with
- Volunteer at camp (Day and/or Resident)
- Provide Girl Scouting for girls in hard-to-serve areas including migrant camps, detention centers, homeless shelters or other areas.
- Talk to potential new volunteers at a Parent Information Night or
- Training/development of adults, help coordinate volunteer learning courses or mentor new volunteers in your service unit.
Contact Member Services 800-447-4475 Ext 0 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Girl Scouts is fun, exciting and full of adventure, but it’s difficult to have a good time when you're experiencing bumps and bruises! It's important to keep safety a top priority!
- Use the Safety Activity Checkpoints for all of your Girl Scout activities. Safety guidelines in the Safety Activity Checkpoints are designed to keep girls safe and protect adults’ legal interests. You’ll be provided with resources that make it easy to comply with local, state, and federal laws and insurance requirements, and spend more time having fun with your girls! [SAFETY-WISE: Girl Scout Safety Guidelines]
- Make sure your girls have proper supervision - always two unrelated adults (sometimes more). Girl Scouts’ adult-to-girl ratios show the minimum number of adults needed to supervise a specific number of girls. (Councils may also establish maximums due to size or cost restrictions.) These supervision ratios were devised to ensure the safety and health of girls—for example, if one adult has to respond to an emergency, a second adult is always on hand for the rest of the girls. It may take you a minute to get used to the layout of the chart, but once you start to use it, you’ll find the chart extremely helpful. [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
- Feelings get hurt, too, so one of your most important roles is to ensure that your girls feel emotionally safe. This is the place where girls try new things, and they have to do it without fear of how they look while they try, fail, practice, and succeed. Always include everyone – never ever allow cliques, bullying, or discrimination in your troop. Be the role model that encourages openness and acceptance. [GIRLS & ADULTS: Creating A Safe Space for Girls]
Online & In Person Learning
Ready to learn more? GSNorCal provides learning modules to help you every step of the way, and you’ll earn virtual badges when you complete them! Go to: training.gsnorcal.org and select your role. All the learning modules, forms, and resources you need are there just for you!
You probably have more questions – that’s a good thing! The volunteers and staff at GSNorCal will be answering them, and supporting you, throughout all your Girl Scout adventures. Don’t shy away from asking parents for a little time every now and then – making adventure happen is a collaborative effort.
Finally, use the resources your council will provide for you – you’ll find all the answers you’ll need in there, from how to transport girls to events to contact information. And if you can’t track down what you need, contact us! There’s always someone to help you out! email@example.com or 800-447-4475 Ext. 0
Connect with Girl Scouts of the USA:
Connect with Girl Scouts of Northern California:
Resources in Volunteer Essentials
Adult-to-Girl supervision ratios [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
What to do with girls [PROGRAM]
Finding a place to meet [SAFETY-WISE: Meeting Place Considerations]
Girl characteristics [GIRLS & ADULTS: Understanding Healthy Development in Girls]
Communicating with girls [GIRLS & ADULTS: Creating A Safe Space for Girls]
What to do when sensitive topics come up [GIRLS & ADULTS: When Sensitive Topics Come Up]
How to plan with girls [GIRLS & ADULTS: Letting Girls Lead]
Preventing behavior problems (and what to do if they occur) [GIRLS & ADULTS: Preventing & Managing Conflict]
How to form a network of adults to help [GIRLS & ADULTS: Friends & Family Network]
Agenda for first parent/guardian/caregiver meeting [GIRLS & ADULTS: First Parent/Guardian/Caregiver Meeting]
QUICK LINKS TO CHAPTERS: TABLE OF CONTENTS | NAVIGATION | QUICK START GUIDE| ABOUT GSNorCal | VOLUNTEERING | GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM | GIRLS & ADULTS | SAFETY-WISE | MONEY | BIENVENIDO (en Español) | GLOSSARY |
Girl Scouts of Northern California council serves approximately 41,060 girls and 29,000 adult members in 19 counties in Northern California which include: Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Shasta, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, and Trinity Counties. Each county is further divided into service units, smaller geographic regions in which our communities participate in Girl Scouting together. GSNorCal is the fourth largest council in the country, and we are viewed as leaders by other councils.
Volunteers are welcome to visit whichever office, service center, or retail store is most convenient to them. Staff are assigned to work in offices according to the regional area they serve, but staff members in any office are eager to assist you.
All offices, service centers, and shops are closed on Thursdays. If you need to meet with a staff person on a Thursday, please make an appointment with them.
Please visit the GSNorCal website for hours for all offices, service centers, and stores: www.gsnorcal.org
We have 83 local service units to serve our 19 counties. Service units are led by local volunteers who will be able to assist and support you. Contact Member Services to find out which service unit you belong to. 1-800-447-4475 ext. 0 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit: www.gsnorcal.org for office and service center hours.
Field based staff are located throughout Northern California.
Contact Member Services to find out which Volunteer Development Manager serves your area.
800-447-4475 Ext 0, or email@example.com
Retail Store Locations www.girlscoutshop.com/NORTHERN-CALIFORNIA-COUNCIL
(Scroll to the right if entire table doesn't display on your screen)
Greater Bay Area
North Central Area
North Coast Area
Alameda Office &
Chico Office &
Eureka Office & Store
San Jose Office &
Redding Office & Store
Girl Scout stores offer more than just Girl Scout handbooks and clothing; they offer the latest information about what’s going on in Girl Scouting, from resource materials to membership and council news. With stores in San Jose, Alameda, Santa Rosa, Chico, Eureka, and Redding, it’s easy to get what you need at your local Girl Scout shop! You can also order uniforms, supplies, GSNorCal T-shirts, sweatshirts, patches, pins and more by mail or through our online store.
Order by Mail, Email, Fax or Phone:
Girl Scouts of Northern California Council Shop
1650 Harbor Bay Pkwy Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94502-3013
Phone: (800) 447-4475 ext. 7090
FAX: (510) 633-7925
Discover the fun of camping, overnights, or other group activities with your friends! Girl Scout groups can enjoy special and affordable getaways at one of the nineteen council camps and program centers located throughout northern California. At our program centers, spread out to do troop activities, try your hand at preparing a meal for a group or have a fun sleepover. At our camps, experience the adventure of outdoor cooking, sleeping in a cabin or tent, gazing at the stars or learning about nature. Each council site offers something unique, from charming houses and play areas to old growth redwoods and the Pacific coast; from urban walking paths to trails that have sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay!
Visit camp.gsnorcal.org/rentals for a rental directory, more information on rental sites and a link to online reservations.
Each rental property has a webpage with a summary of facilities, pricing, camp map, links to local attractions and a slide show featuring facilities, trails and landscape.
Reservations can be made online, by fax or by mail. Reservations cannot be taken over the phone. Mailed and faxed reservations may take two to three weeks to process.
Fees are based on a tiered system:
- GSNorCal groups
- Other non-profit groups (including out-of-council Girl Scouts)
Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 447-4475 ext. 2091
GSNorCal Property Overview
A Girl's Place- Fairfield
Benicia Scout House*
Carlton Corners GS House- San Bruno
Lou Henry Hoover Program Center- Palo Alto
Rainbow's End Program Center- San Jose
Red Bluff Program Center*
Rohnert Park Scout Hut*
St. Helena Scout House*
* Program Centers reserved through local Service Unit or Office
Hidden Falls- Soquel
Ida Smith- San Francisco
Skylark Ranch- Davenport
Sugar Pine- Dorrington
Twin Canyon- Lafayette
Two Sentinels- Kirkwood (not reservable - summer camp use only)
Please visit camp.gsnorcal.org/rentals for detailed information and to reserve a property today!
Henry Hoover Scout House
Reservation Opening Dates/Process
|Reservation Date||Opening Date||User Group||Process|
|Now - Dec 31, 2019||Open||All||Online and Offline|
Jan 1, 2020 - Dec 31, 2020
|Aug 1, 2019||Service Unit and Volunteer-Run Camps renting entire site||Service Unit Property Reservation Request Online Form|
Jan 1, 2020 - Dec 31, 2020
|Sept 1, 2019||All||Online and Offline|
Archery Course Rentals
Girls will develop a stronger sense of self by participating in archery of any level, 2nd grade and up. We offer two options for groups to choose from when renting the archery course at Camp Bothin, Skylark Ranch, or Twin Canyon. For both types of archery rentals, participating should be 2nd grade and up. For more information, including fee schedule: Visit camps.gsnorcal.org/rentals or contact email@example.com
Archery Range Rental Only
Reservations of the archery range and equipment only. Groups renting "range only" must provide their own certified archery instructor(s). Certification reviewed on site and during reservation process.
Trained facilitator introduction to safety and basic archery skills. Participates will learn about the parts of the bow and arrow, proper mechanics, and have opportunity to shoot.
- Minimum age: 2nd grade
- Maximum number of partipants: 16 (1 group), 1 group per time slot
- Cost: $150 per group
Ropes Course Rentals
We offer different options for groups to choose from when renting the ropes course at either Camp Bothin or Skylark Ranch. Unique opportunities are available to build teamwork with your group, develop climbing skills, participate in an individual challenge, and more through this ultimate high adventure activity!
Dynamic Course: High Elements Participant is attached to a dynamic rope that passes through a pulley or karabiner above them and is kept tensioned by a belayer or belay team. Participants must be in 4th grade or higher.
Challenge Course: Low Elements An element for which safety is achieved through safe and effective spotting. Participants must be in 2nd grade or higher.
Static Course: Participant attaches themselves to various anchor points. This involves the use of a pair of karabiners, attached to the climbers harness with loops of webbing. Participants must be in 4th grade or higher.
Zip Line: Girls will develop courage and confidence in participants as they climb through the cargo nets and descend the zip line through the trees. Participants must be in 4th grade or higher.
Property Reservation FAQs
Q. Must I rent an entire site?
A. Smaller groups can plan their own special trips by renting unit areas within the larger site, and service units and large groups may rent entire campsites for their events.
Q. May we exceed the stated capacities for sites?
A. No. Day use and overnight capacities at each site are based on several factors, including American Camping Association safety standards and may not be exceeded.
Q. How will I know if my reservation has been accepted?
A. Online reservations are confirmed at the time of reservation. Paper reservations are sent a confirmation within 5 business days if the site is available, or you will be informed that the site is not available for the dates requested.
Q. How do I reserve an archery course?
Girl Scouts of Northern California offers a variety of publications to inform girls, adults, volunteers, donors, funders, staff, and community partners of our program events, membership plans, and council business. The following is a listing of council publications:
- Camp Brochure (camps.gsnorcal.org): This brochure houses all available programs for our resident summer camps - Bothin, Skylark Ranch, and Sugar Pine. The brochure is available online in October and is mailed to returning campers, troop leaders and Girl Scout families.
- The Guide (gsnorcal.org/theguide): The Programs & Events Guide is GSNorCal's annual one-stop-shop for the year's council-run programs. The Guide is published every year in mid-to-late August and is mailed to every Girl Scout family and troop leader.
- The Trailhead (trailhead.gsnorcal.org): GSNorCal's troop leader and volunteer support blog. From quick and easy tips to fun and creative activity ideas, the Trailhead will provide you with exciting new content every Tuesday and Thursday that will help you on your leadership journey.
- CEO Update: The electronic message from our council CEO, Marina Park, is sent to all registered adults. We publish all previous emails on our website at gsnorcal.org/publications.
- Volunteer Essentials (ve.gsnorcal.org): This online guide is a great resource for all questions related to Girl Scouting. We call it the encyclopedia to Girl Scout volunteering. The guide is fully digital, searchable and printable.
- GSNorCal Annual Report (gsnorcal.org/annualreport): Mailed and/or emailed to all donors and available on our council website
*To subscribe or unsubscribe from GSNorCal electronic mailings www.gsnorcal.org/subscribe
Volunteers and employees are expected to report serious concerns. Concerns may include:
- Suspected fraud or questionable or improper accounting
- Abuse or misuse of the GSNorCal’s resources or assets
- Dishonest actions or deeds, including theft
- Suspected conflict of interest
- Experienced or awareness of harassment or discrimination of any kind
- Safety concerns, including child endangerment
- Violations or suspected violations of the Council’s policies
- Illegal activity
If you become aware of any of the above types of serious concerns, please report them to our Member Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will direct them to the correct person for handling.
If you want to report anonymously, call our confidential third-party automated telephone service, available 24/7 at TellGirlScoutsNorCal@getintouch.com or 877-767-7781.
Handling of Concerns
All reports received will be treated seriously and investigated to the extent possible to determine the facts and circumstances. GSNorCal will contact the individual within five business days, if possible. It will not be possible to acknowledge receipt of anonymously submitted concerns. Actions taken by the Council will include follow-up with the complainant for complete closure.
Our GSNorCal staff are extremely dedicated and committed to making Girl Scouting available to all girls in our nineteen counties. Staff provide services to members and perform council support roles.
For questions and assistance, please contact our Member Services Department. All calls and emails are tracked to ensure a world class level of customer service.
1 (800) 447-4475 ext. 0
Much of our staff spends a great deal of time “in the field” away from their email or phones. Each Member Services Specialist has information at their fingertips via an extensive solutions database. In the unlikely event they are not able to answer your question, they will forward your inquiry to a staff person who can. Help is also available in Spanish.
Our friendly Member Services staff can help you with your needs and questions including:
- Any questions about Girl Scout Programming
- Adult background check process or status
- Online membership registration and renewal
- Troop Banking
- The Guide (formerly Program and Event Guide): program event information and registration
- Camp information and registration
- Property information and reservations
- Online and In-person adult learning course information and registration
Here is an alphabetical listing of other departments within GSNorCal:
Camp and Adventure: Responsible for the summer council-run and volunteer-run Day and Resident Camps. If your service unit or region is interested in or is running a camp, Camps and Adventures can assist and support you. They are also responsible for the operation of our ropes courses and school-year outdoor experience programming. Visit camp.gsnorcal.org for more information.
eLearning: Responsible for creating and maintaining e-learning modules for volunteers, including fall and cookie product training.
Finance: Responsible for paying the bills and keeping track of our income, as well as managing the reporting process for grant projects.
Fund Development: Responsible for soliciting grants and individual gifts to support our girl program. If you plan to solicit donations of goods, services, or funds, you should check with our Fund Development Department before doing so. They can assist you with solicitation and/or acknowledgement letters and ensure that donations are tax deductible for your donors. (email@example.com)
Human Resources: Responsible for administering employment processes, including job posting, recruiting, and performance evaluation systems, as well as managing employee on-boarding and benefits. They are also responsible for employee relations programs such as diversity, health and safety and employee policies and procedures.
Marketing/Communications (MarComm): Responsible for recruitment of new members, as well as all interaction with print, radio, or television media. They also produce The Trailhead, Volunteer View and other communication pieces. If you’ve been approached by the media, or would like to place articles in your local media, MarComm can help.
Product Program: Responsible for our two largest girl programs, focused on financial literacy and entrepreneurship. The Product Program Department supports volunteers and girls in achieving their goals through the Fall Product and Cookie programs, both providing exceptional opportunities for girls to develop life skills, such as leadership, teamwork and commitment, along with business skills in marketing, project management and budgeting.
Program: Responsible for ensuring that all girls in GSNorCal have the benefit of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE). Program staff partner with service units to deliver program opportunities for girls, manage council-run events offered in the Guide, (formerly The Program and Event Guide), oversee girl awards, run girl training courses and in-person adult learning courses, and supply Green by Nature (environmental) and Girls Go Tech (science, technology, engineering, & math) program boxes. Staff also serve girls directly through Discover Together (a program for girls in low-income communities), Got Choices (a program for girls involved with the juvenile justice system), and Daughters of Farm Workers (a program for girls and their families in migrant communities).
Property: Responsible for maintaining GSNorCal’s nineteen properties (council camps and program centers). If you rent any of our camp properties, you will meet our friendly site managers.
Retail Stores: Responsible for running our retail stores in the Alameda, Chico, Eureka, Redding, San Jose, and Santa Rosa office locations. They also bring mini-stores to major events in the council. Shop online anytime: www.girlscoutshop.com/NORTHERN-CALIFORNIA-COUNCIL
Risk Management: Responsible for trip and high adventure approval process, management of the Volunteer Essentials, purchase of additional insurance for members/non-members, management of the high-adventure approved vendor list, signing agreements and contracts, fulfillment of Certificate of Insurance (COI) request, forms creation and editing, and management of the Safety Activity Checkpoints. Contact Insurance@gsnorcal.org for any
insurance or policy questions.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for trip or adventure planning questions.
Volunteer Experience: Responsible for supporting members and volunteer recognition. Your local Volunteer Development Manager (VDM) or Membership Manager (MM) can assist with many basic questions or can help you find who can. They support the volunteer teams that provide services to leaders and girls in local areas and attend Service Unit Team and Leader meetings.
How are decisions made?
Two categories of decisions are made in the Girl Scout organization - governance decisions and operational decisions. Both types of decisions are based on the belief that members should have a voice in major decisions that will have an effect on all or a large part of the membership.
Big picture decisions and direction
Carrying it out:
implementing decisions and direction
People in governance:
· Board of Directors
· National Delegates
· Service Unit Delegates
· Members of the Board Development Committee
· Members of board committees and task groups
People in operations:
· Leaders and other volunteers working directly with girls
· Service Unit team members and others working with operational adults
· Council staff
People in governance are concerned with:
· Setting policy and long-term direction (strategic goals)
· Establishing priorities
· Ensuring financial and organizational stability
People in operations are responsible for:
· Day to day management
· Implementation of policy
· Carrying out strategic goals
· Providing feedback to the governance arm on progress and future needs
Governance decisions are broad policy decisions made by the Board of Directors to provide stability within the council and to give direction for the way Girl Scouting is implemented in the council jurisdiction. Governance decisions relate to strategic planning, fund development, fiduciary oversight, selection and evaluation of the Chief Executive Officer, and organizational performance appraisal.
- Service Unit Delegates
Service Unit Delegates give input to the Board of strategic priorities, attend our council's annual meeting, vote on amendments to our Council Bylaws and elect the Board of Directors, Board Development Committee and National Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the National Council of GSUSA. Service Unit Delegates are elected by members 14 years or older in the Service Unit they are representing. Both adults and girls, 14 or older, may serve as Service Unit Delegates. Nominations are open each year in October. Visit our Volunteer Learning Portal for information about the Service Unit Delegate position. www.training.gsnorcal.org
Delegates-at-Large have the same responsibilities as Service Unit Delegates, but they represent constituent groups established by the council that are not Service Units. The Board appoints Delegates-at-Large, who can be adult or girl members. Visit our Volunteer Learning Portal for information about the Delegate-at-Large position.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors are volunteers who are nominated by the Board Development Committee, a group of volunteers who take great care to make sure that the Board of Directors represent the council geographically and demographically. The Board sets the strategic direction and goals for the council. They are responsible for setting policies, fiduciary oversight, ensuring compliance with GSUSA charter requirements, oversight of the management of the organization and review of the CEO. The Board also supports fund raising efforts and opens doors to resources in the community.
- National Delegates
National Delegates represent the council at the National Council Session and convention held every three years. They gather input and vote on proposals that impact Girl Scouting across the country. They also elect the National Board of Directors and Board Development Committee.
- Visit the council website for more information about our Board of Directors, National Delegates, Service Unit Delegates and Delegates-at-Large www.GSNorCal.org/en/our-council/leadership/board-ceo.html
Operational decisions relate to annual planning, budgeting, the selection, placement, and supervision of operational volunteers and staff, the development of systems to ensure the effective delivery of Girl Scout program to all girls within
the jurisdiction, oversight of fiscal and physical resources, and the implementation of policies and standards established by the Board of Directors.
Operational decisions are made by the Chief Executive Officer and are concerned with the organization and management of all operational work within the framework of the council’s goals. They are based on governance decisions made by the Board of Directors, as well as reflecting input from volunteers and staff who bring ideas from their experience.
QUICK LINKS TO CHAPTERS: TABLE OF CONTENTS | NAVIGATION | QUICK START GUIDE| ABOUT GSNorCal | VOLUNTEERING | GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM | GIRLS & ADULTS | SAFETY-WISE | MONEY | BIENVENIDO (en Español) | GLOSSARY |
Quick Links to VOLUNTEERING Chapter Topics: Volunteering With Girl Scouts | Becoming A Volunteer | Adult Background Check | Volunteer Management Policies | Learning Opportunities | Support | New Troop Checklist | Volunteer Toolkit | Appreciation |
No matter how you volunteer with Girl Scouts, your investment of time and energy will pay back tenfold! With your help, girls will be able to identify issues they care about and work with one another to resolve them. Your interests and life experiences make you the perfect person to be a new kind of partner for girls, someone who creates a safe environment where they can work together and each girl feels free to work toward her highest aspirations. Have no doubt: You, and nearly one million other volunteers like you, are helping girls make a lasting impact on the world!
Your Role as a Girl Scout Volunteer
Your most important role as a Girl Scout volunteer is to be excited about everything this opportunity affords you: a chance to help girls succeed, play a critical role in their lives, and watch them blossom! You also want to be someone who enjoys the activities you’ll be embarking on with the girls—whether you’re leading a troop, volunteering at a camp, working with girls who are traveling, or partnering with girls on a short-term series on a topic that interests you.
You'll introduce girls to experiences that will change their lives and form life-long memories that will be treasured. In More than S'mores: Success and Surprises in Girl Scouts Outdoor Experiences, the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) has described the role of Adult Volunteers:
“Because everything girls do outdoors in Girl Scouts must be supported by an adult, these results speak indirectly to adult volunteers and their preparation. To get girls outdoors more regularly, Girl Scouts need adult volunteers who encourage and promote outdoor experiences. Communicating to volunteers and parents that casual outdoor experiences are effective ways of giving girls opportunities to build competencies and try new things may be the key to opening the gateway for all Girl Scouts to participate in the outdoors on a more regular basis.”
As a Girl Scout volunteer, you’ll serve as a partner and role model to girls. You’ll also work closely with a co-volunteer, because two adults must be present at all times when working with girls, and at least one of those volunteers must be female and not related to the other adult. This is an important distinction that bears repeating: Men can serve as troop volunteers, but an adult female who is not related to the other volunteer must be present at all times, and only in cases of emergency is a girl to be alone with only one volunteer. Remember to also check the adult-to-girl ratios in the “Safety-Wise” section of this guide.
Your other responsibilities as a Girl Scout volunteer include:
- Accepting the Girl Scout Promise and Law
- Completing the appropriate learning modules for your role on the Volunteer Learning Portal.
- Be a currently registered Girl Scout member and ensure the girls you're working with are registered Girl Scout members.
- Process and complete registration forms and other paperwork, such as permission forms.
- Complete background checks regularly (every three years, annually if volunteering at a resident camp), and be currently cleared as a volunteer.
- Understanding the Three Keys to Leadership that are the basis of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience: Discover, Connect, and Take Action
- Sharing your knowledge, experience, and skills with a positive and flexible approach
- Working in a partnership with girls so that their activities are girl-led, allow them to learn by doing, and allow for cooperative (group) learning; you’ll also partner with other volunteers and council staff for support and guidance
- Organizing fun, interactive, girl-led activities that address relevant issues and match girls’ interests and needs
- Providing guidance and information regarding Girl Scout group meetings with girls’ parents or guardians on a regular and ongoing basis through a variety of tools, including email, phone calls, newsletters, blogs, other forms of social media, and any other method you choose
- Ensure health and safety of the girls
- Communicating effectively and delivering clear, organized, and vibrant presentations or information to an individual or the group
- Overseeing careful record-keeping the funds that girls raise with honesty and integrity
- Maintaining a close connection to your service unit volunteer support team as well as your council
- Facilitating a safe experience for every girl
Above all, though, don't ever try to go it alone! Remember to call on your volunteer support team. This team can help you observe a meeting, assign you a buddy, help with registration forms, assist you with opening a bank account, plan your first meeting, and so on. Also plan to attend service unit leader meetings—usually held several times throughout the year—that provide excellent opportunities to learn from other volunteers. [GIRLS & ADULTS: Friends & Family Network (Adults)]
Volunteering for Girl Scouts will be one of the most satisfying and gratifying things you will ever do. No matter what your role, the place to start is with the five steps below:
Volunteer Interest Form
Select Your Role and Register as a Member
Search the Opportunity Catalog and select the opportunity that is right for you. Either enter a specific troop number you’ve been given, or enter your zip code and choose from the offerings near you. Select unsure if you don’t find what you’re looking for or would like additional assistance.
If you’d like to learn more about different roles, login to our Volunteer Learning Portal at training.gsnorcal.org
Once you’ve chosen your role, you’ll pay your membership fee, and agree to the Volunteer Management Policies.
Enter your required information into the secure system. All information you provide will be treated confidentially. Note that you won't receive information to complete your background screening until you select a volunteer role above.
Watch the 4 minute welcome video for an introduction and overview about Girl Scouting.
Adult Learning Courses
Click on your role in the Volunteer Learning Portal to take the modules designed just for you. training.gsnorcal.org
Volunteer Interest Form
When you complete the Volunteer Interest Form, you will provide your basic contact information.
Select Your Role
You will either:
- Provide the troop number of the troop you wish to join. Once you enter the troop number you've been given, you will choose the role you'd like. The choices you'll have are:
- Troop Leader
- Troop Cookie Manager
- Troop Fall Product Manager
- Troop Treasurer
- Troop Helper - choose this one if you will be driving or helping out occasionally by supervising girls, preparing a meeting or two, or chaperoning outings or camping trips, or are unsure exactly what you'll be doing, but know you'll help out with the troop
- Search the Opportunity Catalog for the right role for you. You'll be able to specify your zip code and opportunities within certain mileage from you. After completing registration, watch for an email with a link to complete your background check.
After you specify your role, you'll pay your membership dues to GSUSA and become an adult member.
Terms & Conditions
GSNorCal’s terms and conditions inform parent/caregivers and prospective volunteers of GSNorCal’s Volunteer Management Policies and the volunteer’s obligation to self-disclose any fact or circumstance that would call into question being entrusted with the supervision, guidance, and care of young people, as well as inform them that their membership registration is non-refundable and does not guarantee placement.
Who must register?
All adults who are doing anything with a troop need to register as volunteer members and complete a background check. In Girl Scouts, it’s safety first. Volunteer roles include the following:
- Troop Leader
- Troop Cookie Manager
- Troop Fall Product Sale Manager
- Troop Treasurer
- Troop Helpers, Some roles you select can include:
- Troop Driver
- Troop Camp Advisor
- Troop Backpacking Advisor
- Event Manager
- Troop first aider
- Troop Trip Advisor
Registered adult members are automatically covered with the Girl Scout Activity Accident Insurance for the entire membership year (Plan 1). It is recommended that all adults who will participate in any meeting or activities be registered. If an adult is not a registered member and going to attend an outing then the troop/group must purchase additional insurance for each event where unregistered adults or children (including siblings) are present. Adults not registered or background checked cannot be used in the adult-to-girl ratios for supervision of girls at meetings, events, trips or activities.
Can unregistered adults or children (tagalongs) attend meetings or events?
Yes. If an adult attends a meeting or activity as a visitor (e.g. guest speaker or audience member) and is not providing supervision in the adult-to-girl ratios, they need not be registered. This person would not be covered under Girl Scout insurance, and this should be made clear to them. The same is also true of children (siblings or friends) attending an activity as a non-participating visitor (such as an audience member at a ceremony.) If the child will be included in any activities, additional insurance must be purchased.
It is the responsibility of the adult volunteer team of any troop/group to ensure that all adults or children who participate in Girl Scout activities (including siblings) are:
Registered members so that they will automatically be covered under the Girl Scout Activity Accident Insurance (Plan 1)
- If a girl's family does not have their own personal insurance, then the troop should purchase (Plan 3P)
- Or, any unregistered children or adults participating in the meeting or activity are covered by purchasing additional activity insurance (Plan 2).
Additional insurance is very reasonably priced and can be arranged by sending an online request to the council's Risk Management team: Plan 2 Event and Trip Insurance Enrollment Plan
Questions regarding additional insurance can be directed to Insurance@gsnorcal.org [Safety-Wise:Girl Scout Activity Insurance]
Can an unregistered adult attend an overnight event or activity?
No. All adults attending any overnight event or activity must be registered and complete background check. This includes family camp.
How often do I need to register?
Adult volunteers must register each year, or can become a lifetime member. Girl members must also register each year. Registered members are covered by Girl Scout insurance and can serve as Girl Scout volunteers. The membership year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.
What if I change my name or contact information?
Should you begin using a hyphenated last name, change your last name, or change your contact information, it is necessary to notify the council. For name changes, please email email@example.com To change your contact information, please log in to your membership community account at www.gsnorcal.org and click on My GS or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What if I don’t have a computer (or smart phone or tablet) and cannot register online?
If you will need to complete your registration using paper forms, the girl and adult membership forms are found here www.gsnorcal.org/forms (search using ‘membership’) along with the additional form needed for the paper registration process (Troop Registration Summary).
Adult Background Check
Before any adult (regardless of citizenship status) will volunteer with GSNorCal she or he must complete their adult background check. All adults who are doing anything with a troop need to register as volunteer members and complete a background check. In Girl Scouts, it’s safety first. Volunteer roles include the following:
· Troop Leader
· Troop Cookie Manager
· Troop Fall Product Sale Manager
· Troop Treasurer
· Troop Helpers, Some roles you select can include:
- Troop Driver
- Troop Camp Advisor
- Troop Backpacking Advisor
- Event Manager
- Troop first aider
- Troop Trip Advisor
Possible Outcomes of Adult Background Check Process
At the time of the adult background check, volunteers will be either:
- eligible to serve as Girl Scout volunteers,
- or disqualified from serving in any volunteer position.
If GSNorCal becomes aware of omissions or inaccurate information on documents or a previous or subsequent arrest or conviction of a crime, depending on the severity of the crime and at the discretion of GSNorCal, clearance will be revoked and a volunteer will be removed from duties until the situation is resolved to the satisfaction of the council.
Any Girl Scout volunteer who is formally accused of, charged with, or under investigation by authorities for any automatically disqualifying offense (or offenses which might result in disqualification at the discretion of GSNorCal), will not be allowed to volunteer until disposition of the charge. The following procedures will be followed. A volunteer so accused is required to:
- Suspend all Girl Scout activities and duties until the matter has been resolved.
- Turn over all monies, materials, and records to a designated representative of the council until the matter is resolved.
The accused is considered innocent until proven guilty.
GSNorCal has taken great care to ensure that the background screening process is completely secure. Our vendor uses state-of-the-art technology and adheres to the highest standards to ensure that all information is secure.
Your sensitive personal information is never transmitted to GSNorCal. All information that is received in the volunteer screening process will be treated confidentially. Your clearance status (whether eligible or disqualified) will be shared only with staff or volunteers working directly with the person, only as needed. The reasons for a disqualification will always remain confidential.
The reports only come to GSNorCal and not to any other agencies or organizations. The information is confidential and cannot be used against you, other than to deny your application to work as a volunteer. Girl Scouts of Northern California will not report any information, including citizenship status, to any government agencies.
People who are undocumented may be concerned about the screening process. It is not required that our volunteers be citizens, and citizenship/documentation status is not considered in screening our volunteers. We do require all volunteers to complete an adult screening. We believe that all of our girl members deserve the same protection, and an adult screening is required of all of our volunteers.
How do I complete the background check?
To generate an email to complete their background check, a member logs in to their own My GS Community (click on the My GS link at the top of the page www.gsnorcal.org) and selects a volunteer role (if unsure, select Troop Helper). Once a member has selected a volunteer role, they will then receive an email from our trusted vendor, Verified Volunteers, with a personal link to submit the electronic background check for Girl Scouts of Northern California. (If you had used the link in your email and too much time had passed, or you navigated away from the Verified Volunteers page, simply click on the link in the email again to ensure that the background check is connected with Girl Scouts of Northern California.) Verified Volunteers will send an email confirming that you have submitted your information when you complete that step (this email is not the same as confirmation of your approval to volunteer). NOTE: If you haven't selected a volunteer role, you won't receive the email from Verified Volunteers. Any adult who completes registration as a "volunteer" will automatically receive an email with screening instructions.
How much does the adult background check cost?
The price can vary if your driver's license is out of the state of California, or if you live in certain counties, but starts at $11.50. If the background check fees will cause financial hardship for your family, you can request financial aid. When submitting your background check through our vendor, Verified Volunteers, you may elect to pay some or zero dollars, opting for the council to cover the fees and can process your background check at little or no cost to you.
Who must complete the adult background check this year?
All new volunteers and renewing volunteers who completed the electronic background check in 2015-2016 or before are required to complete adult screening this year.
How often do I need to complete the adult background check?
Adult background checks must be repeated every three years during renewal (background check for resident camp volunteers must be repeated annually, consistent with American Camp Association requirements).
What if I completed my background check by fingerprinting?
There is no fingerprinting option for background check however, volunteers who previously completed their background check by fingerprinting with GSNorCal do not have to complete their background check again if there has been no lapse in membership.
I’d like to complete my adult background check using fingerprinting.
The council no longer offers a fingerprinting option for their adult background check, but those who previously completed fingerprinting will not have their background check expire as long as there has been no lapse in membership.
Who ensures that the background check is completed?
The troop or group’s adult volunteer team makes sure that adults are properly registered and background checked. You can check the troop tab in your member profile (click on MyGS on www.gsnorcal.org). Many groups ask the adults to register and complete their background check when the girls are registered as members to avoid disappointment (if they try to complete their adult background check just prior to certain activity or trips and cannot complete the process quickly enough).
The adult volunteer team must also ensure that girls are always supervised by an adequate number of registered and background checked adults (minimum numbers per Adult-to-Girl ratios). [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Ratios]
Those adults providing supervision should be aware of which other adults are also registered and background checked and providing supervision (and which aren’t). Unscreened adult visitors may never be counted in the minimum adult-to-girl ratios for supervision, nor should they be present without sufficient numbers of registered and background checked adults who are supervising the girls. Adults who are not registered or background checked may not attend overnight activities.
I’ve had an adult background check done for another organization. Can I ask that organization to share my results with Girl Scouts of Northern California?
No. State law prohibits organizations from sharing information with other agencies. However, there are some screening vendors (including our vendor, Verified Volunteers) who can share your screening results with multiple organizations with your authorization. If you believe that your background check might be shared, contact email@example.com for further assistance.
Must all drivers complete adult checks?
Yes. Drivers are the only adults who are ever alone with girls. Driving records are part of the background check process, and it is important to take steps to ensure the safety of girls.
We will have an astronomer come to a meeting to talk about constellations. Must that person be registered and background checked?
No. The minimum number of registered and background checked adults must be present at all times and will provide supervision for the girls while the astronomer is visiting.
May parents who have not been background checked visit during meetings or attend outings with the troop/group?
Adults who have not been background checked may not attend overnight activities, however, but as long as the minimum number of background checked adults will provide supervision for the girls at all times (and are aware of who the other background checked adults providing supervision are), it is acceptable for meetings or day trips to have adults who have not been background checked present as visitors.
Are there people who cannot attend Girl Scout activities?
Yes. Anyone who has been convicted of a violent crime or crimes against persons, including registered sex offenders, may not attend Girl Scout activities where girls are present.
When your registration and adult screening is complete, you will receive a link to the four minute video. Or watch it now:
Adult Learning Courses
There are required and/or optional learning courses available for nearly every role you might take in Girl Scouting, many online. Be sure to take the courses that are required for your role. If you want to learn more, there are many optional courses with all the information you need or want.
Learn more about the available adult learning and support at GSNorCal. [VOLUNTEERING WITH GIRL SCOUTS: Adult Learning and Support]
Take adult learning courses: training.gsnorcal.org
Girl Scouts of Northern California is governed by the policies of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) as stated in the Blue Book of Basic Documents 2018 edition and the Volunteer Management Policies stated below. The goal of the Girl Scouts of Northern California is to provide beneficial and safe program for girls. The Girl Scouts of Northern California Board of Directors has adopted the following as policy:
Volunteers and participants in the Girl Scout program should familiarize themselves with Volunteer Essentials and the Safety Activity Checkpoints, which outline the guidelines and checkpoints for maintaining a safe environment in which to conduct Girl Scout activities. All activities should be conducted following the Safety Activity Checkpoints and the guidelines listed in the Girl Scouts of Northern California Volunteer Essentials, or following state or federal laws, whichever is most stringent. Where no specific activity checkpoints or laws are stated, the guidelines of Girl Scouts of the USA and the policies and procedures of Girl Scouts of Northern California are recognized as the authority on the specific activity as an acceptable practice.
Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action
Girl Scouts of Northern California seeks to offer volunteer opportunities to all adults, age 18 and up, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, veteran status, citizenship, pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical condition, marital status or any other classification protected by federal, state or local laws or ordinances. Adult volunteers are selected on the basis of ability to perform the volunteer tasks, willingness and availability to participate in training for the position and acceptance of the principles and beliefs of Girl Scouting. All girls and adults who meet the membership requirements will not be denied access to the program. Annually we review our Affirmative Action Program to monitor progress toward our council goal. Girl Scouts of Northern California is committed to the Affirmative Action policies of GSUSA and our local Affirmative Action Policy as set forth in this paragraph. The council will endeavor, through targeted recruitment efforts, to enroll and train adult volunteers of culturally, racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. The council is committed to assuring equal opportunity and equal consideration to all applicants. In most cases, a written agreement will be completed at the time of appointment, which will include a term of appointment, specific expectations for tasks, and signatures of the volunteer and her/his supervisor.
Girl Scout volunteers who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are treated no differently than those with any other catastrophic illness. They are subject to Girl Scout volunteer policies and practices in the same manner as other volunteers.
For purposes of transgender volunteers, the Volunteer Essentials and the Safety Activity Checkpoints apply based on the volunteer’s most consistent gender expression. If an adult does not identify as female, the same rules will apply to that volunteer as apply to male volunteers.
Male volunteers are welcomed to the organization to serve in accordance with standards established in the Volunteer Essentials and the Safety Activity Checkpoints. Girl Scouts of Northern California believes that female role models are especially important to girls as they develop the decision making and planning abilities they will need as women. Therefore, when men serve in troop/group leadership roles, they do so as assistant leaders or co-leaders with female leaders.
Girl Scouts values diversity and inclusiveness, and our staff and volunteers are representative of our diverse communities. Girl Scout membership does not discriminate on any basis; including sexual orientation and gender identity. There are established standards that do not permit adults to advocate or promote a personal lifestyle or sexual orientation, nor do we recruit accordingly. Adults working with girls must adhere to our firm standards relating to appropriate conduct, and we comply with all federal and state human resource regulations.
With guidance from volunteers and their parents, girls themselves are expected to respect the values and beliefs of other girls and refrain from advocating or promoting a personal lifestyle or sexual orientation. We believe that sexual orientation is a private matter for girls and their families to address together. In relation to gender identity, if a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Northern California welcomes her as a Girl Scout. GSNorCal will work with the family to get the child involved in Girl Scouts and will provide training and support, as necessary, to our staff and volunteers to ensure the child’s Girl Scout experience is a positive one.
Inclusion and Accommodation
Girl Scouts is inclusive. We support troop leaders to accommodate girls of all abilities and support each girl to make the most of her Girl Scout experience. We work with troop leaders to identify reasonable accommodations that can be made to meet the needs of each girl. We also understand that each troop leader’s ability to provide such reasonable accommodations may vary given all of the circumstances of their troop.
It is always our preference to find ways to support the troop leader, while accommodating the girl. Occasionally, a troop leader determines that they are not able to meet the needs of one or more girls in their troop. A troop leader in this situation should contact their service unit Leader Support Manager, or other designated service unit volunteer, for guidance and support.
If the troop leader and LSM are not able to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all parties involved, then the troop leader and/or LSM should involve GSNorCal staff to resolve the matter in accordance with the GSNorCal Grievance Process included below.
A member of the GSNorCal staff will evaluate the circumstances and provide resources and support to help resolve the issues. If GSNorCal staff determines that the troop leader’s concerns are reasonable given all of the circumstances of the troop, then GSNorCal staff will support removal of the girl from the troop and will work with the girl and her family to locate an alternate troop and/or other reasonable accommodations. If an alternate troop placement or other reasonable accommodations are not possible, then GSNorCal will issue a refund of membership dues and council service fee paid for that membership year unless the girl chooses to continue to participate as an individual member.
All girl members, volunteers and employees in Girl Scouts of Northern California are entitled to work in an environment free of harassment in all forms including sexual, verbal, and physical harassment. Girl Scouts of Northern California maintains a strict policy prohibiting harassment of all forms. Council policy and equal opportunity law prohibit harassment on the basis of race, color, creed, gender, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, veteran status, citizenship, pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical condition, marital status or any other classification protected by federal, state or local laws or ordinances.
Adult Background Checks
A background check process for volunteers has been established for the safety of our girl members and the protection of our adult members. All volunteers must complete the background check process as established by the council for the specific role they will assume or have assumed.
Before any adult will work directly with/supervise girls (or drive them), work with money or be responsible for products, work with girls’ or other adults’ personal information, or attend an overnight activity (including family camp or a parent/daughter event), she or he must complete the volunteer background check process as outlined by GSNorCal, including completion of a background check. The adult’s clearance status will be shared with staff or volunteers only as needed. The reasons for a disqualification will always remain confidential.
Any Girl Scout volunteer who is formally accused of, charged with, or under investigation by authorities for any automatically disqualifying offense (or offenses which might result in disqualification at the discretion of GSNorCal), will not be allowed to volunteer until disposition of the charge. The following procedures will be followed. A volunteer so accused is required to:
- Suspend all Girl Scout activities and duties until the matter has been resolved.
- Turn over all monies, materials, and records to a designated representative of the council until the matter is resolved.
The accused is considered innocent until proven guilty.
Standards outlining acceptable conduct of volunteers are important for the orderly operation of any organization and for the benefit and protection of the rights and safety of all the members. Volunteers are expected to abide by the Girl Scout Promise and Law and all policies, standards and practices established by Girl Scouts of Northern California and GSUSA. Inappropriate conduct may result in revoking volunteer status. Some examples of unacceptable conduct are identified below:
- Possession of alcohol or any controlled substance at a Girl Scout event where girls are present, or while on Girl Scouts of Northern California premises (unless at an adult event) or participation in Girl Scout activities under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance, unless as prescribed by a personal physician. Alcohol must not be consumed by adults for the entirety of the event or activity when they are responsible for the supervision of girls as part of the adult-to-girl ratio.
- Smoking in areas designated as non-smoking areas or any place girl members are present.
- Bringing dangerous or unauthorized materials such as explosives, firearms and other similar items onto council properties or to Girl Scout activities unless such items are part of the program and are under strict supervision and control.
- Failure to comply with California State Law requiring the driver and each passenger to be restrained by a separate safety belt when a passenger car, truck or van is being used.
- Failure to comply with California State Law regarding the use of car seats for children, and the use of cell phones or other electronic devices without a hands-free device while driving. Children must be in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall.
- Failure to comply with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines which prohibit children under 12 years of age from riding in the front seat of a car equipped with air bags.
- Falsifying or making material omissions in Council records.
- Misappropriation of any Girl Scout funds.
- Theft or inappropriate removal of property that belongs to or is in the possession of Girl Scouts of Northern California, council employees, girl members or visitors, and/or malicious or willful destruction or damage to such.
- Soliciting or accepting gratuities for personal gain or benefit.
- Violation of federal, state, or local laws.
- Girl Scouts of Northern California reserves the right to release any volunteer from service if, in the sole discretion of the Girl Scouts of Northern California, the volunteer’s actions are inconsistent with Girl Scout policies, principles, or procedures.
- Adult volunteers are responsible for informing parents and others participating in Girl Scout activities of the standards of acceptable conduct.
A grievance is a complaint regarding the application of policies and procedures. The grievance process is set up for handling these complaints in an orderly and fair manner. All council adults should seek resolution to problems through open communications and informal discussions.
If a volunteer has a concern or conflict, they should take it to the person involved first and negotiate for a mutually beneficial resolution.
If informal communications fail, the people involved should meet with their volunteer supervisor. The parties should try to resolve the conflict and specify the specific steps necessary.
If this does not solve the problem, the appropriate staff member should be contacted to provide assistance. (If the staff member is involved in the problem, that person’s supervisor should be contacted.)
If the volunteer still feels that the situation is not adequately resolved, the issue may be taken to the Chief Officer for the department involved who will make a final decision on the conflict and see that the decision is implemented. All decisions should be documented, and each party should sign the agreement and keep a copy.
Child Abuse Reporting
Girl Scout volunteers have a moral responsibility to report known or suspected cases of child abuse to Child Protective Services. If a volunteer is told or suspects that a child has been abused, she/he may report this information to the council staff member assigned to her/his area for assistance with the report to Child Protective Services. Staff are mandated reporters and must ensure that a report is filed.
California law defines an abused child as one who is any one or more of the following:
- Physically abused
- Sexually molested
- Emotionally neglected or abused
- Under constant verbal attack or torment
- Without proper food, clothing, or shelter
- Left alone for long periods of time
- Volunteer suspected accused of abusing children
In the event that a Girl Scout volunteer is formally accused of, charged with, or under investigation by authorities for the crime of child abuse, the following procedures will be followed.
A volunteer so accused is required to:
- Suspend all Girl Scout activities and duties until the matter has been resolved.
- Turn over all monies, materials, and records to a designated representative of the council until the matter is resolved.
The accused is considered innocent until proven guilty.
Registered Sex Offenders,
Those Living in Households with Registered Sex Offenders
Registered sex offenders are expressly prohibited from serving as Girl Scout volunteers in any capacity. Those living in households with registered sex offenders are expressly prohibited from serving as Girl Scout volunteers in any capacity where they work directly with, drive, or supervise girls.
All volunteers with primary responsibility for working with girls must be adequately prepared for the position they will assume or have assumed in accordance with guidelines established by the council. Basic courses that are designated as mandatory for the position must be completed within a specified time frame. Adult courses will ensure that each volunteer has the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in her or his work.
Drivers for Girl Scout activities where the transportation is arranged by Girl Scout volunteers or staff, must be at least 21 years of age, have a valid driver’s license, carry the minimum insurance required by law and have completed background check procedures for drivers established by the council.
Girl Scouts strives to provide you with the necessary information to successfully manage your group of girls, and to let you know how and where you can get additional information on certain topics when you want to learn more. Volunteer learning is offered in a variety of ways, to best meet your unique learning styles: written resources, face-to-face learning, interactive online learning—and additional methods are being developed and tested all the time!
There is a specific learning path for each volunteer role, which may consist of a combination of online and/or in-person courses designed to acquaint you with Girl Scouting basics, provide resources for you to be more effective in your role, and help you feel prepared.
GSNorCal’s Volunteer Learning Portal is designed to give you the information you need just when you need it! Many of the online courses are fewer than 10 minutes long. You can learn at a time and pace that is convenient for you, resume where you left off, and your progress and completions will be tracked for your records. Our in-person courses vary from 2 hours or can be a whole weekend.
Find the course for your volunteer role
There is a course for most volunteer roles here: training.gsnorcal.org Your course page will take the guesswork out of which courses/modules are required or recommended for you, along with links for needed forms and helpful publications and resources. Most of the modules are very short and specifically address particular topics, such as "Opening Your Bank Account," which will answer all of your questions about how to open a bank account for your troop/group, or "Getting Adults to Help," which will help you understand what kind of help you need and some tried and true techniques on how to get it. As you complete each course/module, you’ll receive a virtual badge as proof of completion. If you have already completed a step and received a badge (for example, you are a Brownie leader and you already took Welcome to GSNorCal as a Daisy Leader) you don’t need to re-take the course.
Badges Aren't Just for Girls Anymore!
When you’ve completed all of the required modules in a course, you’ll receive a virtual course badge. If you need to show someone which modules and courses you’ve completed as well as the badges you’ve earned, click on your name in the top right hand corner, then select "View profile," and then you can take a screenshot and print it out or email it.
If you have more than one role, that’s terrific! There will be a course page for each of your roles. For example, you may be a troop leader and also have a position on your Service Unit Team as a Service Unit Treasurer. You might also be a Regional Delegate. If that’s the case, you’ll follow the steps on each course page for each of your roles. You don’t have to do the steps twice, though—once is enough! If you’ve already taken Troop Treasurer in your capacity as a leader, you don’t need to take it again because you are a Service Unit Treasurer.
Your Course Completions
If you want to see your course completions, you can view all your virtual badges you’ve earned. Click on your name in the top right hand corner, then select "View profile." You will then be able to see the courses you are enrolled in, and all the badges you have earned. If you click on each badge, you will also see your completion date.
Get Help More Easily!
One of the things that some leaders struggle with is getting help from the parents in the troop/group. One of the best ways to get people to help is to be very specific about exactly what is expected, and give people the tools and resources they need to do what you’ve asked.
Once you’ve recruited someone for a certain role, you can simply give the volunteer the link to the Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org) and have them select their role. They will have all the tools they need, and will be able to take modules or courses to support them, rather than you having to take all the courses yourself and then to have to train another volunteer about what they need to know.
There are specific courses for most of the roles you’ll need, and more are coming soon! If you’d rather take the time to train your volunteers yourself, you can still do that. For example, you might feel it would be easier to let the drivers for a field trip know what their responsibilities are, but you don’t have to—you can simply refer them to the Troop Driver course page in the Volunteer Learning Portal, where they will take a couple of short modules and will learn all they need to know.
Registration for In-Person Volunteer Learning Courses
You must register at least one week in advance for in-person training courses. All course registrations close one week before the course. Our volunteer facilitator/trainers plan and bring materials based on the number of registered participants. Also, only registered participants are notified of occasional cancellations or last minute changes in location.
Use one of the three methods below to register for your in-person classes. Note that first aid and camping courses have fees required. Volunteers may consider using troop/group funds to take needed courses if the girls and families agree.
Please note that we do not accept registrations for classes over the phone.
(preferred method—fastest and most secure)
Or, search available in-person course offerings in our Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org). When you find the date and time that works best for you, just click on the link to register.
Mail registration form and any payments to:
Member Services —Adult Learning Registration
Girl Scouts of Northern California
1310 S. Bascom Ave.
San Jose, CA 95128-4502
To fax registration form: (408) 287-8025
Do not fax your credit card number—please call (800) 447-4475 ext. 2091 to give it verbally after you fax your form).
You will receive a course confirmation email about one week before your course. If you do not receive confirmation (check your junk or spam email folder!), please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to Bring
- Check the course description or your course confirmation
- Water or other beverage (optional).
- Feel free to bring a snack or light meal if the course occurs at your meal time.
When you attend an in-person course, completion is given by the instructor. The instructor will let us know who has completed the course. We will then import the course completion to our Volunteer Learning Portal so you can receive course completion credit and your virtual badge. Sometimes this process may take up to 3 weeks.
Register for Fall Festival or Discoveree, our enhancement learning opportunities where numerous workshops are offered!
GSNorCal provides hundreds of events throughout Northern California each year, many of which contain an Adult Training Component. Take a look through GSNorCal's Program and Events Guide to discover endless opportunities for fun, learning, and adventure. We have something for everyone; troops, individual girls, and yes, adults too! www.gsnorcal.org/forms
Participate in a series, a one-time event, or explore our travel opportunities. For info visit the Activity Finder on our website: www.gsnorcal.org/events
All you need to do is share the guide with your girls and find something that fits your calendar and your budget. Simply register online, and show up for an excellent program opportunity! So easy!
Go to www.gsnorcal.org/en/about-girl-scouts/stem/tech-and-eco-questions.html for a list of Green By Nature and Girls Go Tech boxes and to reserve boxes for your troop and pick them up at your local Girl Scout office. Inside you’ll find everything you need--instructions and supplies--for some unique and fun program experiences for girls. For more information, contact email@example.com
The Volunteer Toolkit has some great tools to manage your troop and communicate with the families. Also, for grades K-5, there are detailed meeting plans and materials available. [VOLUNTEERING: Volunteer Toolkit]
In addition to the online and in-person courses and learning events, GSNorCal also offers the following support for volunteers:
- Service Unit Team: Experienced volunteers in your local service unit who provide coaching, support and ideas.
- GSNorCal Staff: Member Services and Volunteer Development Managers (VDMs) are available to help you. 800-447-4475 Ext 0 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Social Media & Weekly News: The Weekly News electronic newsletter contains many reminders and ongoing clarification on procedures as well as program ideas. www.gsnorcal.org/subscribe
- Electronic Resources: The GSNorCal website has specific publications, tools, templates, ideas, and other resources designed specifically for each volunteer role. www.gsnorcal.org/forms
- Local Service Unit Meetings: Taking part in ongoing training and attending service unit meetings are basic responsibilities of a Girl Scout Leader or Advisor. Service unit meetings throughout the council offer ongoing mini-courses, and are considered an important part of a volunteers’ development. You’ll also have networking opportunities which will put you in touch with many experienced volunteers who are eager to give you ideas, advice, help and support, and a chance to discuss timely topics that will help you become more effective in the way you work with your girls. Contact 800-447-4475 Ext. 0 email@example.com to connect with your service unit.
1. Grab your calendar and talk to your interested parents
You'll need to decide on:
2. Set up your new troop
A troop is ready to meet with girls when it has one or more troop leaders and the correct member-volunteer/girl ratio for its program level. [SAFETY WISE: Adult-to-Girl-Ratios]
GSUSA and GSNorCal have launched The Girl Scout Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) which is a comprehensive digital tool accessible on your computer, smartphone and/or tablet that is the primary support resource for troop leaders. This means that we have a new resource with a transformative purpose: to save our volunteers precious time and frustration so you can spend less time navigating our many available resources as you plan, organize, and manage your troop year with the girls and more time doing the things that you imagined when you volunteered: changing girls’ lives through amazing experiences!
My Troop—Troop Information
Manage roster and contact information for girls and parents/caregivers
Renew now button will not show if member is registered
Year Plan Library
Different year plans are given. All year plans start with the same first two meetings. The first introduces girls to Girl Scouting, and the second helps them to choose their year plan.
Year Plan—Troop Year Overview and Plans
Full year view for meetings and activities
Add/update activities and events
Move/Add Meetings during the year
Specify meeting dates, times and locations
|Meeting Plan—Detailed Plans for Meetings
Review Activity Details—activities with steps, materials, time required
Meeting Aids—Downloads and videos
Manage Agenda—change duration,
Download or print materials list, meeting overview, activity plans
Lots of resources to download and print
For Parents: My Troop
Parent can renew self and/or daughter, change contact info
For Parents: Year Plan
Parent can see dates, times and locations for meetings
Parent can see planned activities (and can know what to sign up for)
Special reminders for parents, such as renewal information
For Parents: Meeting Plans
Parent can see agenda of activities
Parent can download meeting aids (helpful to make up meeting if girl is absent)
Parent can be prepared to help at the meeting
For Parents: Resources
Parents can see and download all resources available to the troop leaders
How do I access the Volunteer Toolkit? Click on the My GS tab on the GSNorCal website GSNorCal.org and enter your member login credentials.
Will there be training on how to use the Volunteer Toolkit? The toolkit is designed to be intuitive and require no formal training, however, video tutorials are available in the Volunteer Learning Portal for Daisy, Brownie and Junior troop leaders.
Will all troop leadership have access to the toolkit? All leaders have access to the fantastic administrative tools. K-5 leaders have prepopulated meetings plans, with more added all the time.
Why aren’t there meeting plans for older girl troops? In order to use our resources wisely, we had to narrow our focus to a starting point. Stay tuned!
What if I don’t have internet access at my meeting place? You can easily download the materials to a laptop or print them to take to your meeting. Also, the VTK can be accessed on a tablet or smart phone, which may expand where it can be used.
What about volunteers who don’t have internet access at home? The toolkit can be accessed from any computer or device. Libraries or other public computers are a great resource. Meeting plans can be printed or downloaded.
Why has Girl Scouting decided to go digital? VTK is designed to help cut down the amount of time it takes for a volunteer to manage their troop including planning meetings (in partnership with the girls), communicating with parents, and finding support resources. Now volunteers can easily find resources, access the website, and communicate with parents all in one spot.
Just as you’ll receive support throughout your volunteering experience, when you reach the end of the term you signed up for, you’ll talk with your support team about the positive parts of your experience, as well as the challenges you faced, and discuss whether you want to return to this position or try something new. The end of your troop year, camp season, overseas trip, or series/event session is just the beginning of your next adventure with Girl Scouting!
If you’re ready for more opportunities to work with girls, be sure to let the GSNorCal support team know how you’d like to be a part of girls’ lives in the future—whether in the same position or in other, flexible ways. Are you ready to organize a series or event? take a trip? work with girls at camp? work with a troop of girls as a year-long volunteer? share your skills at a council office, working behind the scenes? The possibilities are endless, and can be tailored to fit your skills and interests.
Adult Recognition in GSNorCal
Visit the council website at www.gsnorcal.org/en/for-volunteers/recognition-and-awards.html or visit the GSNorCal Recognition Pinterest Board for ideas on how to recognize your volunteers, find the nomination forms for national, council, or service unit awards for adults, and more info. Do you have a special volunteer who deserves recognition? Download the National and Council Adult Recognitions Packet or the Service Unit Adult Recognitions Packet from the council website: www.gsnorcal.org/forms
Volunteer Appreciation Month
Volunteer Appreciation Month - The month of April is set aside especially for you. Girl Scouts pay tribute to the volunteers who help girls make the world a better place.
The month centers on the long-standing National Girl Scout Leaders' Day (April 22). In addition, Girl Scouts also celebrates Volunteers Make a Difference Week, in conjunction with Make a Difference Day, which takes place during the weekend in autumn that we set our clocks back.
Recognizing the Volunteers Who Help You
See [GIRLS & ADULTS: Friends & Family Network (Adults): Asking for Help - Best Practices] and our website www.gsnorcal.org/en/for-volunteers/recognition-and-awards.html for some ideas to recognize the people who help you.TOP ↑
Quick Links to GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM Chapter Topics: The Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) |
Five Benefits for Girls |
Take Action Projects |
Advocacy Projects |
Program Content Areas |
National Program Resources |
National Leadership Journeys |
Girl's Guide to Badges and Skill Building |
Girl Scout Bronze, Silver & Gold Awards |
Other National Awards |
Emblems, Insignia, & Patches |
Other Program Resources |
What Girls Do in Girl Scouting |
Outdoor Experiences |
Camps: Day & Resident |
Product Program |
Trips & Travel |
Girl Scout Traditions, Celebrations & Ceremonies |
Girl Scout Heritage |
Now that you’re a Girl Scout volunteer, you belong to a network of more than 1 million adults who share an important commitment: preparing girls to lead successful lives. During your time as a volunteer, you’ll have fun, meet new people, and learn by doing alongside girls at every step.
What Girl Scouting Does for Girls
At Girl Scouts, guided by supportive adults and peers, girls develop their leadership potential through age-appropriate activities that enable them to discover their values, skills, and the world around them; connect with others in a multicultural environment; and take action to make a difference in their world. These activities are designed to be girl led, cooperative, and hands-on—processes that create high-quality experiences conducive to learning.
Girl Scouts’ mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Since 1912, girls have explored new fields of knowledge, learned valuable skills, and developed strong core values through Girl Scouts. Today Girl Scouts is, as it always has been, the organization best positioned to help girls develop important leadership skills they need to become successful adults.
Girl Scouting guides girls to become leaders in their daily lives, their communities, and the world—helping them become the kind of person exemplified by the Girl Scout Law. When girls—as the Girl Scout Law states—are “honest and fair,” when they “use resources wisely,” and know how to be “courageous and strong,” they can be more successful in everything they do. It may start in school and on sports teams, but research shows that the courage, confidence, and character they develop as Girl Scouts follows them throughout their lives.
Girl Scouting has a practical approach to helping girls become leaders:
- When girls lead in their own lives, they Discover their values and the confidence to do what’s right. This helps girls act in ways that make us proud, no matter where they are.
- When girls lead in their communities, they Connect as they learn how to work with other people. This helps them get along better with others, resolve conflicts, and do better on group projects at school.
- When girls lead in the world, they Take Action to change the world for the better. Starting as young Girl Scouts, girls learn how to see problems—such as a food pantry in need of donations or an elderly neighbor who could use a hand—and come up with a solution.
In other words: Discover + Connect + Take Action = Leadership. And everything you do with girls in Girl Scouting is aimed at giving them the benefits of these Three Keys to Leadership.
The Girl Scout program—what girls do in Girl Scouting and how they do it—is based on the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE), a national model that helps girls become leaders in their own lives and as they grow. No matter where girls live or what their age or background, as Girl Scouts they are part of a powerful, national experience. As they build leadership skills, they also develop lifelong friendships and earn meaningful awards, two of many treasured traditions in the sisterhood of Girl Scouting.
Girl Scouting isn’t just about what the girls do; it’s also about how they do it. Over time, we’ve noticed that girls will give almost any activity a try, as long as the adults guiding them take the right approach. Girl Scout activities ask adult volunteers to engage girls in three ways that make Girl Scouting unique from school and other extracurricular activities.
The three leadership keys describe What Girls Do
The Girl Scout Processes describe How They Do It
Girls explore many different topics but don’t just learn about them, they also discover their own value towards complex challenges in the world as they discover many different points of view around a topic. They then begin to wonder how they can make a difference.
Girls of every grade level take an active role in determining what, where, when, why, and how they’ll structure activities. Of course, you’ll provide guidance appropriate to the age of the girls. Plus, you’ll encourage them to bring their ideas and imaginations into the experiences, make choices, and lead the way as much as they can.
These activities are based on two things. First, the process of cooperative learning in which girls can understand other’s point of view and how that affects the community they live in as well as solutions to complex challenges. They also learn about different solutions by working with a team of girls to explore how to best use their individual interest and talents to work together.
Girls learn so much about themselves and each other when they team up on common goals. Plus, great teamwork helps girls in school now and on the job later. Look for ways to help each girl contribute her unique talents and ideas to the team, help all girls see how their differences are valuable to the team, and coach girls to resolve their conflicts productively.
These activities help girls to make meaningful change in their community—the best possible way to build their sense of empowerment and independence. Take Action activities are not just actively doing something like going to a children’s museum, but give them the opportunity to create lasting impact together and individually.
|Learning by doing
This means that girls have active, hands-on experiences. It also means they have a chance to think and talk about what they are learning as a result of the activities. This kind of reflection is what helps girls gain self-awareness and confidence to dive into new challenges. So make sure girls always have a chance to talk with each other—and you—after an activity. It doesn’t have to be formal, just get them talking and see what happens.
The Girl Scout program is designed to help girls build the skills they need to lead and thrive today and be ready for tomorrow. They do so through engaging, hands on activities that foster an environment for girls to build lasting friendships and have fun. Guided by supportive adults and peers, girls develop their leadership potential through activities that enable them to
- Discover their values, skills, and the world around them;
- Connect with others in a multicultural environment; and
- Take Action to make a difference in their world.
Girls will thrive in this exploration when it is girl led, allowing them a place to try on their own leadership, take risks safely as they learn by doing independently and as a team. Through cooperative learning girls will learn
how to work together, learn differently from each other and help each other through the stages of project planning and execution.
You might be wondering how to put these processes into action with the girls in your group. These steps should help you get started:
- After you help girls choose a National Leadership Journey [PROGRAM: National Leadership Journeys], make sure you get the adult guide that accompanies the Journey. As you read through that guide, look at how the activities, conversations, and choice-making options are set up using the three processes. Once you start practicing the processes, you’ll probably find that they become second nature when you’re with girls.
- If you haven’t already, watch the Welcome Video. (You should receive a link to the video by email when you register).
- Want more detail about the processes? Watch Having Fun with Purpose to see the processes in action.
One last tip about using the processes: The girls’ time in Girl Scouting isn’t a to-do list, so please don’t ever feel that checking activities off a list or completing badge requirements is more important than tuning in to what interests and excites girls and sparks their imaginations. Projects don’t have to come out perfectly, and girls don’t have to fill their vests and sashes with badges: what matters most is the fun and learning that happens as girls make experiences their own.
When girls participate in Girl Scouts, they develop five important outcomes:
When girls participate in Girl Scouts, they benefit in 5 important ways:
1. Strong Sense of Self|
Girls have confidence in themselves and their abilities, and form positive identities.
2. Positive Values
Girls act ethically, honestly, and responsibly, and show concern for others.
3. Challenge Seeking
Girls learn to take appropriate risks, try things even if they might fail, and learn from mistakes.
4. Healthy Relationships
Girls develop and maintain healthy relationships by communicating their feelings directly and resolving conflicts constructively.
5. Community Problem Solving
Girls desire to contribute to the world in purposeful and meaningful ways, learn how to identify problems in the community, and create “action plans” to solve them.
Girls experience these benefits through participating in age-appropriate activities that are girl-led, cooperative and hands-on. This means girls and adults:
- make decisions together about what to do and how to do it
- work collaboratively as a team, and
- learn by actively reflecting on experiences that are relevant to them.
There are many tools available to support girls and adults in Girl Scouts including Badges, Activities and Experiences, Fall and Cookie sales, Journeys and leadership opportunities, outdoor experiences and adventures, and trips and travel.
When a girl develops these 5 outcomes, she’ll become…
- A girl who stands up for herself and believes she can do anything
- A girl who is honest, reliable and caring
- A girl who isn’t afraid to go outside of her comfort zone
- A girl who gets along with and works well with others
- A girl who is an active and engaged citizen
Girl Scouts Participating in Activities with Other Scouting Organizations
The decision by Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to open the Boy Scout program to girls has fundamentally altered the nature of the relationship between BSA and Girl Scouts nationally and locally. Local relationships between BSA and Girl Scout councils that have led to partnerships and joint activities in the past will now expose our membership enrollment and brand to risks. This may mean that the relationship between a council and its BSA counterpart should fundamentally change.
Marketplace Confusion. To protect the integrity of the Girl Scout brand and reinforce our programming as unique, girl-only, and best in class, we must ensure that we take care that the activities in which girls participate are exclusive to the Girl Scout program, are safe and girl led, and are conducted under the appropriate supervision of Girl Scouts. Participation of Girl Scouts in activities with other scouting organizations creates risks to Girl Scouts. Confusion is in the marketplace regarding the relationship between Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts by the expansion of Boy Scouts to include girls in their programs. Girl Scout participation in Boy Scout activities will increase that confusion and will contribute to the misperception that Girl Scouts has merged, or is somehow interchangeable, with Boy Scouts.
Brand. Associating with organizations who do not have similar brand history, program portfolio, and track record for safety dilutes and tarnishes our brand, and allows Boy Scouts to leverage the reputation of Girl Scouts for their own purposes.
Guidelines. Girl Scouts may participate in community activities (including, but not limited to; street fairs, town fairs and carnivals, church fairs, community college nights, back to school nights, after school carnivals, and the like) as Girl Scouts, wearing Girl Scout uniform elements and as individuals. Attendance by Boy Scouts and/or Scouting BSA side by side at community events is expected. Girl Scout troops who wish to participate in NON-recruitment events sponsored by Boy Scouts and/or Scouting BSA may do so at their discretion, but must identify as Girl Scouts, wearing sashes and/or vests, and/or clothing identifying them as Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts of Northern California will not insure any shared activities sponsored by Boy Scouts and/or Scouting BSA, as these are forbidden. This includes Pinewood Derby, Camporees, and the like. (If a girl has a brother or other family member, or friend participating in these activities, she may attend to support them, but not in an official Girl Scout capacity.) Additionally, Girl Scouts of Northern California will not provide additional medical insurance (Plan 2) to cover Boy Scout who are also participating.
Brand Guidelines. In cases where signage is being created representing multiple groups participating in a community activity, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts/Scouts BSA are to be represented by two different logos, side by side. Girl Scouts is NOT to be represented under Scouts BSA.
Take Action Projects
Take Action is one of the three leadership keys in Girl Scouting, and each Journey culminates in a Take Action Project. While community service projects will always have a place in Girl Scouting, girls deserve the benefits of the full Girl Scout Leadership Experience by having the opportunity to do Take Action projects. Through participating in Take Action projects, girls really do have the opportunity to change the world!
|Community Service Projects||Take Action Projects|
Addresses a one-time need
Addresses the root cause of a problem
|Example: A one time food drive. (People will be hungry again when the food is gone). Nearly 4 million Californians are food insecure, which means that they have limited access or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate food.||Example: One of the root causes of hunger is that not enough stores accept food stamps (EBT from the CalFresh program). Girls might identify a store in an impacted area and work with them to adopt the food stamps to make nutritious food available.|
|Example: Beach cleanup (litter will accumulate again)||Example: Beach cleanup with a publicity campaign of the quantity and types of litter picked up to educate the public|
We have a proud tradition in Girl Scouting of being a service organization—one that has provided countless hours of valuable service to local and broader communities. However, when questioned about the “Take Action outcomes” girls are consistently reporting that, while they believe that girls can make a difference in the world, they don’t see themselves personally in this way.
We are faced with the challenge of finding ways to help girls raise the bar from simply performing community service to truly taking action and making a difference in the world.
A Take Action Project has three qualities:
- It is a sustainable solution—it addresses the root cause of the issue in some way so as to make a lasting impact When girls create a change that directly addresses the root cause of the problem, the project could almost always be considered sustainable. Sustainable means that there is lasting effect, it does not necessarily mean that somebody has to continue the project yearly. As an example; a beach clean up is a community service project, because the beach is just going to get dirty again. But a beach cleanup could be a Take Action Project if other people were educated and inspired to act. For example, you could place informational signs to educate people about why they should throw out trash and provide trash cans for them to use. This creates lasting change.
- It makes a measurable impact—girls identify their project goals for their community, target audience, and themselves by developing success indicators so that they can see the impact they’ve had.
- It is girl-led. The girls (even the youngest girls) need to be involved in the planning and carrying out of the project—not just showing up and participating.
These aspects of a Take Action project may seem like lofty ideals that are not possible for girls to achieve. However, like almost anything else in Girl Scouting, the idea is to start small and think about providing stepping stones for our youngest girls so that they are ready for ever larger steps as they get older. And, it’s always easier to ensure that you arrive at your destination if you know ahead of time where you are planning to go! Journeys for all grade levels walk girls through the process of doing Take Action projects in age-appropriate ways.
Community Service Projects
Does all this mean that there is no place for community service projects in Girl Scouting? Absolutely not! These projects can provide girls with experience so that they can later take action themselves. Service Projects are a great first step toward helping girls to do their Take Action projects. “To do a good turn daily” is an important part of the Girl Scout philosophy, and all troops and groups are encouraged to seek out opportunities for service. Service projects may involve helping other people, animals or our environment. Girls should be encouraged to plan, promote and participate in service projects for the joy and satisfaction of helping others rather than to earn something for themselves. GSNorCal offers a variety of patch programs. It is important to be mindful that receiving these patches should be a welcome surprise for girls, not
a motivating force.
Council-Wide Service Projects
Each year, GSNorCal coordinates a variety of council-wide service projects open to troops and groups throughout the council. Information on council sponsored service projects will be available at your service unit leader meetings and in the GSNorCal Program and Events Guide or on our website: www.GSNorCal.org.
Planning Your Own Service Project? Girls and adults should feel free to use their local community contacts to design community service projects (or Take Action projects) that are of interest to them.
Choose A Take Action Project
- Identify an issue or problem you want to take action on. Always start here, rather than thinking of a project and then trying to find someone who needs it.
- Investigate thoroughly to ensure it is a problem/issue.
- Identify root causes of the issue or problem.
- Brainstorm possible solutions that address a root cause.
- Assess your resources.
- Create a realistic plan, including a timeline.
- Spread the word— and solicit help from the people you need.
Feeling stuck and just can't some up with a project? Reach out to others! Ask students and teachers at your school what problems they have seen in the community. What would they like to change? What are some of the hot issues that you have read about in your local papers or seen on local news programs? You may want to invite guest speakers from community organizations, or take a trip to visit their facilities.
For inspiration, check out the Map It! Interactive map that shows how Girl Scouts all over are changing the world at www.girlscouts.org/en/for-girls/girls-changing-the-world.html Whether it’s Gold Awards, Silver Awards, Bronze Awards, Forever Green, or Journey Take Action projects, browse what girls are doing around the country! It’s a great way to get inspiration for your Girl Scout year or just see what other girls are doing to change the world! Map It! features Take Action projects, not service projects.
One of the hardest things is to avoid giving the girls a list of projects to choose from. But they will really miss out if they don’t get to go through the process themselves. If you find yourself wanting to rush the process or solve the problems or do the planning, resolve to only ask questions. Instead of “That won’t work—we’ll have to do it this way” ask “How do you think we should find out if it’s OK if we do this project?” or “Do we have all the important information on the flyer?” These leading questions will help the girls think through the process. Finally, trust the process— even the youngest girls can come up with some ideas of issues and solutions.
Sustainable Take Action Projects
Pass It On: Choose a Journey activity that you participated in. Think about who else could benefit from doing the same activity. For example, get permission to lead a special lunchtime (or early morning or after-school) session for kids who are interested in learning how to create a personal budget. Adjust the activity for your audience. Enhance your project’s sustainability by leaving behind a tip sheet or activity kit for teachers or other employees.
Pass It Down: Assist younger girls by educating them about your issue and solution. Organize a mini-workshop by adapting the Journey activities or games for younger girls. Organize a “get ready for middle school” session for girls in elementary school.
Increase Adult Awareness: Do you think adults could be savvier about global warming issues? Organize a workshop for adults on ways to reduce the causes of climate change, including changes they can make in their homes and daily lives. Encourage them to think about how they can pass their ideas on!
Spread the Word: On a website or the radio or in print, develop a “miniseries” or awareness campaign of an issue you explored.
Girls may decide to engage in advocacy activities as part of their Take Action Projects. The laws governing nonprofit organizations draw a distinction between lobbying activities and electioneering activities. While GSUSA encourages members to actively work with and lobby their public officials on policy issues, it is important to remember that any type of electioneering in your official Girl Scout capacity is prohibited. Electioneering is defined as participating in the electoral process by promoting particular candidates for office. Such activity is a direct violation of the tax law that governs non-profit organizations. You may, however, campaign on behalf of a political candidate as an individual without reference to your role as a Girl Scout leader.
Nonprofit organizations are allowed to educate elected officials or other government officials about issues that are important to them. In your capacity as a Girl Scout representative, you may communicate with elected officials and their staff members in order to influence action on specific legislation, encouraging them either to enact it or defeat it. As a Girl Scout representative, you can write letters to members of congress and/or their staff, visit them, send e-mails, or make phone calls about their legislative interests or pending legislation. However, if you are in communication with an elected official during his or her re-election campaign, you must be very careful that your actions aren’t misconstrued as an endorsement.
The official GSUSA policy on electioneering is as follows:
Political and Legislative Activity: Girl Scouts of the United States of America and any Girl Scout council or other organization holding a Girl Scouts of the United States of America credential may not, nor may they authorize anyone on their behalf to, participate or intervene directly or indirectly in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office; or participates in any legislative activity or function which contravenes the laws governing tax-exempt organizations. (Blue Book of Basic Documents 2015).
The Girl Scouts Advocacy Network provides a tool for you to become the voice for girls and to make a difference in your community and across the nation.
n. Public support for or recommendation
of a particular cause or policy
n. To work for the success of a particular candidate, party, ticket, etc. in an election
Advocacy/Lobbying Activities (Allowed)
It IS acceptable for Girl Scout staff and volunteers to engage in the following activities:
It IS acceptable for Girl Scout staff and volunteers to teach girls about the election process by encouraging them to participate in the following activities:
GSUSA respects that Girl Scout staff and volunteers may hold strong political convictions concerning upcoming elections; however, it is crucial that you adhere to the GSUSA policy. Participation in electioneering as Girl Scouts could result in the loss of our 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, please contact the GSUSA Public Policy and Advocacy Office at (212) 659-3780 or Advocacy@GirlScouts.org
Below is a list of electioneering examples. This list is not exhaustive and if at any point you are uncertain as to what constitutes electioneering, contact your local Girl Scout
NOTE: It is acceptable for individuals to participate in the above activities as long as they do not do so in their capacity as a Girl Scout.
Girl Scouts focuses on the following content areas to enrich the Girl Scout experience for girls that follow the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. A few examples are listed here, and you can find out how to engage your group in opportunities like these by visiting www.gsnorcal.org/program/basics
Life Skills: Providing girls skill building in communications, relationship building, citizenship and healthy living.
Providing girls skill building in communications, relationship building, citizenship and healthy living.
Travel and Adventure
GSNorCal's Program Department delivers program to girls through either of these ways:
- The Program Guide offers events to all girls throughout the council designed to enrich their Girl Scout experience and retain their membership in Girl Scouting.
Increasing access to Girl Scouting by offering staff-led programs. Current service includes girls in K-12 in:
- Detention centers or alternative high schools.
- Title 1 Elementary and Middle schools
- Migrant family communities
- Local service units also offer numerous events, weekend Camporees or Emcampments, and even day or resident camps over spring break and in the summer.
Online Event Manager Training
Events provide the opportunities for girls and adults to rekindle friendships with "old" friends, to learn life skills, and provide leadership opportunities for girls. If you’ve ever planned a child’s birthday party, a wedding, or any other large celebration, you’re familiar with some of the logistics involved with planning an event.
Online Event Manager training is required for at least one adult who will be working with girls or other volunteers running events where they are responsible for the planning and implementation of the event and for the well-being of the participants. Older girls/troops who are planning and/or hosting a money-earning event to support troop activities such as travel/trip or Silver/Gold Award are encouraged to complete the Event Manager course as well. They do so with the understanding that the adult advisor to their project will be present at the event and also complete the necessary training on the Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org).
Is your activity an “event”? If your occasion meets one or more of the following criteria, it should be considered an event. If your activity meets one or more of these criteria and you feel that the Event Manager course should not be required, please contact GSNorCal at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss it.
•Any activity other than just a regularly scheduled troop/group meeting may be an event if it includes other people outside the troop/group
•Girls attending individually – any time you have girls attending as individuals rather than with their troop the activity qualifies as an event
•Promotion – when other troops, groups, or people are invited outside those planning the activity, it is an event
•Size – if more than two large or three small troops are involved, it would be considered an event
•Logistics – a complicated activity where there are many logistics to consider such as site, safety, transportation, etc. would be considered an “event”.
You’ll use several books, awards, and online resources to bring the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to life with girls. We strongly recommend that each girl has her own books from the National Program Portfolio. These books—the Journeys and The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting—and national program awards—like badges and pins—are an important part of how Girl Scouting helps girls experience the power of millions of girls changing the world together.
National Leadership Journeys
Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting
As you use the National Program Portfolio with girls, keep in mind that Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) creates materials to serve our vast and diverse community of girls. To help bring topics off the page and into life, we sometimes provide girls and volunteers with suggestions about what people across the country and around the world are doing. We also sometimes make suggestions about movies, books, music, websites, and more that might spark girls’ interests.
GSUSA and GSNorCal knows that not every example or suggestion provided will work for every girl, family, volunteer, or community. In partnership with those who assist you with your Girl Scout group—including parents, faith groups, schools, and community organizations—choose real-life topic experts from your community as well as movies, books, music, websites, and other opportunities that are most appropriate for the girls in your area to enrich their Girl Scout activities.
We are proud to be the premier leadership organization for girls. While girls and their families may have questions or interest in programming relevant to other aspects of girls’ lives, we are not always the organization best suited to offer such information. Your council can recommend local organizations or resources that are best suited to do so.
Also note that GSUSA continuously reviews national program content to guarantee that all our resources are relevant and age appropriate, and that their content doesn’t include violence, sex, inappropriate language, or risky behavior. We value your input and hope that you will bring to your council’s attention any content that concerns you.
Volunteer Toolkit is a troop administration tool designed to help facilitate running your troop. It is accessible from your home computer, tablet, or mobile device.
Troop leaders can:
- Access the girl and family roster
- Communicate with families and let them see the calendar of activities
- Track girls' achievements and attendance
- Plan a year's worth of meetings with customized agendas
Learn more about the Volunteer Toolkit
To access the Volunteer Toolkit, simply sign in where it says “MyGS” at www.gsnorcal.org
The Girl Scout program is based on the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE), in which girls discover themselves, connect with others, and take action to make the world a better place - all within the safety of an all-girl environment where girls take the lead, learn by doing, and learn cooperatively. At the core of the GSLE are National Leadership Journeys, which are fun and challenging experiences grouped around a theme and spread over a series of sessions. Each Journey has all the important components of the GSLE sewn right in.
National Leadership Journeys help Girl Scouts learn and practice the Three Keys, aid their communities, and earn leadership awards, progressing up Girl Scouting’s Ladder of Leadership as they do so. There are three series of Leadership Journeys, each about a different theme; the girls in your group can choose the theme that interests them most.
The Ladder of Leadership below shows the awards girls will earn on each Journey.
Journeys help girls develop 21st Century skills that allow them to come up with creative solutions to challenges in their lives and their community. Journeys offer girls a path to understand how to best dive into a topic. Armed with research, critical thinking skills, and brainstorming sessions, girls come up with creative solutions to problems in their community. Each time a girl completes a Journey, she has learned skills which will help her accomplish future goals, including working towards the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards.
Girls who use Journeys have learned to be curious and know how to accomplish their goals. This will help them throughout college and later in their careers in a fast-paced, technologically driven global economy.
In a national survey, when girls were asked whether they believed that a girl could make a difference in the world, about 90% answered yes. But, when the same Girl Scouts were asked whether they believed they personally could make a difference in the world, most did not believe they could. Community service has long been a fundamental part of the Girl Scout program. However, it’s clear that girls want to be able to make a lasting change in the world. Journeys provide step-by-step instructions for helping girls to create and carry out a Take Action project in the sample sessions in the Adult Guides. They also incorporate Discover and Connect activities, and the three Girl Scout processes (Girl-led, Learning by Doing, and Cooperative Learning). The sample sessions in the Adult Guides have it all mapped out!
To guide girls on a great Journey, all you need is enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. Before you dive in, try these four simple tips:
- Get to know the Journey. Pick up a girls’ book and an adult guide. Read the girls’ book for the pleasure of it, just to get an overview of the Journey’s theme and content.
- Invite the girls (and their parents/guardians) to use their imaginations to make the Journeys come to life in ways that excite them. Remember that you and the girls don’t have to do everything exactly as laid out in the sample sessions.
- Step back and watch how the girls, with your knowledge, support, and guidance, have enormous fun and a rewarding experience. Celebrate with them as they earn their national leadership Journey awards, and perhaps some Girl Scout badges too!
Girl Scouts of the USA provides digital troop tools just for you! Be sure to check out the Volunteer Toolkit (often called the "VTK"), available for troop leaders and parents of all troop levels with resources and activity plans for badges and journeys, as well as troop management tools. Get more information about how to use the Volunteer Toolkit here: https://www.gsnorcal.org/en/for-volunteers/troops/volunteers-toolkit.html. To access it directly, simply click on "My GS" in the upper bar of our website, www.gsnorcal.org, login and then click on Volunteer Toolkit.
Although each Journey is unique, the following elements are present in every Journey (although the order may be slightly different):
|Teambuilding||Girls get to know each other and learn each other's strengths and weaknesses|
|Be Inspired||Girls learn about women role models, and think about who inspires them|
|Learn & Discover||Girls have the opportunity to learn about an issue they care about|
|Create A Vision||Girls create a vision - if they had no boundaries or limitations, what would they want to accomplish to make the world a better place?|
|Choose A Take Action Project||Girls focus on a doable part of their vision and choose a Take Action Project|
|Plan the Project||Girls make plans, and realize that together they can do greater things than they can accomplish alone|
|Do the Project||Girls carry out their plans and get a chance to make mistakes and adjust, in a safe environment|
|Reflect||Girls think about what went well, what didn't and what they learned|
|Celebrate||Girls plan a celebration of what they've accomplished|
Downloads to send home to parents, Journey Assets (lists that provide a fast, easy way to find the relevant pages for each topic area), songs, ties to state curriculum, and other resources for the journeys are included in the Volunteer Toolkit to download and use. [VOLUNTEERING: Volunteer Toolkit]
How do the Leadership Journeys fit in with the other things girls do in Girl Scouting? Check out the Journey maps at www.girlscouts.org/en/our-program/journeys.html. These maps show you how all the fun and meaningful traditions of Girl Scouting fit right into any National Leadership Journey. There, you can also find information about the topics that each Journey covers, which you can share with girls. And you’ll find even more fun traditions to complement your Journey in The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting, a resource for each grade level of Girl Scouting.
The following Journeys are available for volunteers to choose from. They are:
- It’s Your Planet—Love It!
- It’s Your Story—Tell It!
- It’s Your World—Change It! (Daisies ONLY)
- Think Like an Engineer
- Think Like a Programmer
- Think Like a Citizen Scientist
It’s Your World—Change It!:
- Available for purchase in council stores (adult guide and girl book) for Daisies–Ambassadors
- On the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for Daisies ONLY as part of a 15 meeting Year Plan
It’s Your Planet—Love It:
- Available for purchase in council stores (adult guide and girl book) for Daisies–Ambassador
- On the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for Daisy, Brownie, and Junior as part of a 15 meeting Year Plan
It’s Your Story—Tell It!:
- Available for purchase in council stores (adult guide and girl book) for Daisies–Ambassadors
- On the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for Daisy, Brownie, and Junior as part of a 15 meeting Year Plan
- Available on the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for Brownie and Junior as nine sessions in total, which includes three outdoor badges plus three Take Action meetings and is part of a 15 meeting Year Plan
- Available on Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for Daisies as seven sessions in total, which includes two outdoor badges plus three Take Action meetings and is part of a 15 meeting Year Plan.
- Available for Multi-level for Daisies-Juniors on the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK).
- Cadette, Senior, Ambassador, and Multi-level will be available for Back to Troop as PDFs on the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK).
Think Like an Engineer:
- Available on the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for Daisy, Brownie, Junior, and Multi-level. The Journey is six sessions in
total, including three Take Action meetings, and is part of a 15 meeting Year
Think Like a Programmer:
- Available on the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for Daisy, Brownie, Junior, and Multi-level. The Journey is six sessions in
total, including three Take Action meetings, and is part of a 15 meeting Year
Think Like a Citizen Scientist:
- Available on the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for Daisy, Brownie, Junior, and Multi-level. The Journey is six sessions in
total, including three Take Action meetings, and is part of a 15 meeting Year
In addition to the Leadership Journeys, girls at each Girl Scout grade level have their own edition of The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting—a binder full of information about being a Girl Scout and how to earn certain badges, including ones about financial literacy and the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Girls who want to earn more badges can add a Skill Building Badge Set tied to the theme of the Journey they’ve chosen.
When a Girl Scout earns a badge, it shows that she’s learned a new skill, such as how to make a healthy snack or take great digital photos. It may even spark an interest at school or plant the seed for a future career. Please remember that we don’t expect you to be an expert in the badge topics; just have fun learning by doing with the girls!
While you’re having fun, keep in mind: Badges are for educating girls, not for decorating their sashes and vests. The quality of a girl’s experience—and the skills and pride she gains from earning leadership awards and skill-building badges—far outweigh the quantity of badges she earns.
If you are working with Girl Scout Daisies, please note that they earn Petals and Leaves (which form a flower) along with some skill building badges.
Use Badge Explorer to discover the wide variety of topics you can pursue with your troop. Badge information is available in the following ways:
- Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting
- Skill Building Sets
- Individual Badge Pamphlets (also digitally downloaded)
- Volunteer Toolkit
Girl's Guides to Girl Scouting
The Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting for Brownies through Ambassadors is the handbook that includes legacy badges.
Skill building badge sets for Brownie-Senior levels are available to purchase from the Girl Scout store. The badge sets can be earned individually or in concert with Leadership Journeys.
Pamphlets, typically for our new badges, contact the requirements and can be purchased in the retail store or online. They can also be purchased as a digital download.
The Volunteer Toolkit provides meeting plans for Girl Scout Badges and Journeys. These plans are pre-set to allow quick start. To learn more about the individual requirements and activities, you can also reference other curriculum resources on the GSNorCal website or the Badge Explorer on the GSUSA website.
New outdoor badges were introduced in early 2015 after girls voted to choose the topic for their badge. The outdoor badges were created for Brownie through Ambassador girls. The requirements can be purchased in printed form or purchased for download here: www.GirlScoutShop.com/new-girls-choice-outdoor-badges.
The Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards are Girl Scouting’s highest awards. These awards offer girls relevant, grade-level-appropriate challenges related to teamwork, goal setting, community networking and leadership. They also engage girls in building networks that not only support them in their award project, but in new educational and career opportunities.
Like everything girls do in Girl Scouting, the steps to earning these awards are rooted in the GSLE. This is why, to earn each of these awards, girls first complete a grade-level Journey (two Journeys for the Gold Award or a Silver Award and one Journey). With Journeys, girls experience the keys to leadership and learn to identify community needs, work in partnership with their communities, and carry out Take Action projects that make a lasting difference. They can then use the skills they developed during a Journey to develop and execute projects for their Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards. Girl Scouts has just introduced a web app that takes girls step-by-step through the Gold Award requirements.Visit http://www.girlscouts.org/program/highest_awards/gold_award/asp to take a peek.
GSNorCal's website www.GSNorCal.org/awards provides all information for awards, including council specific requirements. Girls, parents, and volunteers must view or attend a GSNorCal training. In-person trainings, webinars, and GSNorCal's online training are offered for Silvery and Gold Awards. Bronze Award training is offered online only. Online training can be found at training.gsnorcal.org for all three levels. Webinars can be found in the Activity Finder. In-person trainings can be found at Discoveree and by talking to your local Service Unit. Girls must submit the online final report for the Bronze and Silver Award (both available at www.GSNorCal.org/forms). Girls must submit online proposal for approval and the online Final Report for Gold Award at www.GirlScouts.org/GoGoldOnline.
Did you know that a Girl Scout who has earned her Gold Award immediately rises one rank in all four branches of the U.S. Military? A number of college-scholarship opportunities also await Gold Award Girl Scouts. A girl does not, however, have to earn a Bronze or Silver Award before earning the Girl Scout Gold Award. She is eligible to earn any recognition at the grade level in which she is registered.
As a Girl Scout volunteer, encourage girls to go for it by earning these awards at the Junior through Ambassador levels. Check out some of the award projects girls are doing by visiting forgirls.GirlScouts.org/wp-content/themes/theMap.html or talk to a few past recipients of the Girl Scout Gold Award. You’ll be inspired when you see and hear what girls can accomplish as leaders—and by the confidence, values, and team-building expertise they gain while doing so. And imagine the impact girls have on their communities, country, and even the world as they identify problems they care about, team with others, and act to make change happen!
All this, of course, starts with you—a Girl Scout volunteer! Encourage girls to go after Girl Scouting’s highest awards—information on the awards and guidelines for you to use when helping girls earn their awards are also available online www.gsnorcal.org/awards
For information regarding troop bank accounts and funding awards [MONEY: Options for Funding]
Girls work with GSNorCal when applying for small grants to support their Awards take action projects. Contact email@example.com if you plan on applying for a grant at least 21 days prior to submitting your grant application. More information about grants can be found here: DoSomething.org
Snapshot View of Prerequisites and Requirements
|Bronze Award||Silver Award||Gold Award|
Information and electronic forms for girls working on the Bronze, Silver or Gold Awards can be found on the GSNorCal website at www.GSNorCal.org/awards. Each award has specific prerequisites and requirements that must be met in order for a girl to complete a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Take Action project and earn the award.
The Bronze Award is the highest award for Junior Girl Scouts, girls in grades 4-5, and is designed to be completed within the group setting, but can be done individually. Adults and girls take the online Bronze Award training to learn how to do the Bronze Award prior to planning the project. For training, please visit training.gsnorcal.org.
Council approval is not needed to begin the work or to purchase the award. Approval is given by the supervising adult. Troop leaders notify the council upon project completion by submitting the Bronze Award final report form found on our website: www.GSNorCal.org/forms.
The Silver Award is the highest award for Cadette Girl Scouts, girls in grades 6-8. This award is primarily completed within a group setting in teams of no more than four, however individual girls may also earn the award with a team of her own volunteers. Adults and girls take a Silver Award training to learn how to do the Silver Award prior to planning the project. For training, please visit training.gsnorcal.org.
Council approval is not needed to begin the Silver Award, but an electronic final report form must be submitted to the council Program Department for final approval immediately after completion of the work. The Silver Award Final Report can be found at www.GSNorCal.org/forms. The Silver Award pin can be purchased at the council store once the girl’s final report has been accepted by the program department. Silver Awards must be completed by September 30th of the year in which girls complete 8th grade.
The Gold Award is the highest recognition a girl can earn in Girl Scouts. This award is for Senior (grades 9-10) and Ambassador (grades 11-12) girls. Preliminary work is completed with approval of a supervising adult, but pre-approval by the council must be obtained before work can begin on the final project. Adults and girls take a Gold Award training to learn how to do the Gold Award prior to planning the project. For training, please visit training.gsnorcal.org.
The council’s volunteer Gold Award Committee works directly with girls, and pre-approves projects, monitors progress, receives final reports, and approves completions. Work for the Gold Award must be completed by September 30th directly following high school graduation, or their eighteenth birthday, whichever is the later date. Gold Award pins are available at the council store. You’ll receive instructions on how to pick up your Gold Award Pin upon acceptance from the council.
For more information about these procedures, please visit: www.GSNorCal.org/awards. It will be very helpful for you to read the general information on the website first so we can better assist you with your specific questions.
For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 447-4475 Ext. 0
Please Note: The Bronze, Silver and Gold Award pins may not be purchased until after a girl has earned the award.
Everything you need to know about awards is on the council website. The following are available at www.GSNorCal.org/awards
|Bronze Award Resources||Silver Award Resources||Gold Award Resources|
A Tradition of Honoring Girls
Girls earn the Journey Summit Award by completing all three Journeys at their grade level. It will be placed just below the Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards on a sash or vest to recognize the importance of the award. This is now the highest award that a Daisy or Brownie can earn, and second only to the Bronze Award for Juniors, the Silver Award for Cadettes, or the Gold Award for Seniors or Ambassadors.
My Promise My Faith Award and Religious Recognitions
The Girl Scout Law includes many of the principles and values common to most faiths. And even though Girl Scouts is a secular organization, we’ve always encouraged girls to explore spirituality via their own faiths. Girls of all grade levels can now earn the My Promise, My Faith pin. By carefully examining the Girl Scout Law and directly tying it to tenets of her faith, a girl can earn the pin once each year she participates in Girl Scouting. The My Promise My Faith pin is found in the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and can be earned by girls of any faith.
Religious Recognition programs are also developed and administered by each of the major religious groups themselves. Through Girl Scouting, each girl is encouraged to become a stronger member of her own religion. Girls who choose to participate in one of these programs usually do so outside of their regular group meetings with a group of girls guided by a spiritual counselor or with their own families. Individual awards are listed on the council website. PRAY (Programs of Religious Activities with Youth) works with various religious groups to develop requirements for the various awards. You can find information about requirements and ordering information on the PRAY website: www.PrayPub.org
www.gsnorcal.org/en/about-girl-scouts/our-program/highest-awards/additional-awards.html For more information, please contact
email@example.com or call (800) 447-4475 ext. 0
The National Park Service and Girl Scouts of the United States of America have partnered to create the Girl Scout Ranger Program. Girl Scouts are invited to participate in a variety of existing, organized educational or service projects at national park sites, or design their own experience or project to align with Journey work, badge activities, or a Take Action or Highest Award project. Girl Scouts are awarded certificates and/or patches for their participation. Find out more: www.nps.gov/subjects/youthprograms/girlscoutranger.htm
Awards & Opportunities for Older Girls
The Girl Scout program for older girls (grades 6-12) involves much more than working on awards. In fact, some girls may not be interested in earning the Bronze, Silver or Gold Awards and, while a little gentle encouragement never hurts, girls should not be pressured to do so. When working with older girls, it is crucial to remember that girls should have ownership of their program. We challenge both leaders and girls to be flexible and to explore the full potential of all available program options.
This special award is available to Girl Scout Cadettes who assist a Girl Scout Brownie troop in completing a Brownie Journey. There are separate Leader in Action awards for each Brownie Journey. Requirements can be found in the Cadette Program Aide Facilitator's Guide at www.gsnorcal.org/forms or in the Brownie adult guides for each Journey. There are specific ideas for what girls might do to earn the LiA for each Journey in the Program Aide Girl Workbook at www.gsnorcal.org/forms. The LiA is a prerequisite for earning the Program Aide.
Cadettes receive their Program Aide award by earning one LiA award, completing the GSNorCal Program Aide curriculum, and working directly with younger girls. Requirements for the Program Aide are found in the Cadette Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and the Program Aide Booklet. Check out the Program Aide Girl Workbook and the Cadette Program Aide Facilitator's Guide for tons of helpful information and ideas. www.gsnorcal.org/forms This program enables girls to become proficient in an area of interest, and to develop leadership skills by sharing their specialized knowledge with younger girls in a troop, group, activity, or event setting. Girls can also specialize in areas such as crafts, computers, games, and songs. For more information on Program Aide trainings, check with your local Service Unit team.
Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors mentor young girls in a camp setting as they build skills toward becoming a camp counselor.
To earn this award Girl Scouts complete a leadership course on outdoor experiences and work with younger girls over the course of a camp session. Requirements for the CIT can be found in the Senior and Ambassador Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting. Additionally, Girl Scout Ambassadors can earn their CIT II Award. Girl Scout Ambassadors earn this award by working with younger girls over the course of at least one camp session while focused on increasing their skills in one specific area--such as riding instruction, lifeguarding, or the arts. Requirements can be found in the Ambassador Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting. For more information about the CIT/CIT II programs, please visit www.CampRocks.org/leadership
This award is for girls who’d like to mentor a Girl Scout Daisy, Brownie, Junior or Cadette group outside of the camp experience. Girls who have completed ninth grade are eligible to earn this award. Girls complete a group leadership course, and commit to helping a younger girl troop under the guidance of that troop’s leader. The program usually spans five to eight months with time split between course work and 25 volunteer hours with the troop. Requirements can be found in the Senior and Ambassador Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting.
Girls in grades 6-12 work with adult advisors to plan activities for other girls. Girls are in the driver’s seat and make decisions about issues they care about that benefit girls in their areas. This is a great way for girls to make a
big impact on the council and have fun, too. For more information, contact your local office or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As a Girl Scout 14 years or older, girls are eligible to be a Girl Board Participant. The Board of Directors meets throughout the year to conduct business. Girl Board Participants are elected by the council, serve for one year, voice their opinions, and vote on issues critical to the future of GSNorCal. www.gsnorcal.org
Delegate to the National Council of GSUSA
Girls aged 14 and older are eligible to be a delegate to the National Council, which meets every three years. Delegates, who are elected by their council, serve for three years; they voice their opinions and vote on issues critical to the future of Girl Scouting. Contact email@example.com for more information.
GSNorCal Regional Delegate
Girls aged 14 and older are eligible to be a Regional Delegate and attend the GSNorCal Annual Meeting held each year in the spring. Regional Delegates are elected by their regions. Girls aged 14 and older are eligible to run for either a one or a two year term. Regional Delegates are the liaison between the members of their region and GSNorCal’s Board of Directors. They carry information to the members, and gather input to inform their vote on issues of great importance to the future of our council. Nominations are open October, and elections are held in January. www.gsnorcal.org/en/our-council/leadership/delegate-governance.html
In addition to leadership awards tied to the Journeys and national proficiency badges, girls can show they belong by adding emblems to the front of their vests or sashes and participation patches on the back.
Emblems show membership in Girl Scouts, a particular council, a particular troop, or in some other Girl Scout group. These can be worn on the front of a sash or vest (see the diagram in the handbook section of The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting to see where these are placed.
The troop crest is chosen by the girls in a Girl Scout troop. The crests are worn by Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors. Center the troop crest directly under the council identification strip. Throughout its history, Girl Scouts has assigned no specific meaning to troop crests. The items used in troop crests, such as flowers and other natural elements, often have various meanings that have come to be associated with them by cultures around the world. Some of these elements carry multiple meanings, and sometimes their symbolism has changed and evolved through the ages. Some of these meanings are offered in the description of each crest, which may be of interest to girls and their adult volunteers. You can think of a troop crest as a symbol for your troop's interest and character. All the troop crest descriptions are available in your Girls Guide to Girl Scouting and the girls can decide what the symbols mean for them. We encourage you and your troop to talk about each option and vote to select your troop crest.
Where to place emblems, insignia and awards
The Uniform Insignia Booklet www.GSNorCal.org/forms shows the emblems and earned awards for each grade level with illustrations which show exactly where girls can place their emblems, awards, badges, pins, and patches on their vests and sashes.
Participation patches (or fun patches) represent activities girls have tried and are fun ways for girls to remember special events they’ve attended. Since these patches and pins aren’t tied to skill-building activities like the earned awards are, they are worn on the back of a girl’s sash or vest. Think of back of the vest or sash as a scrapbook for the year.
You can purchase emblems and patches, along with badges and leadership awards at: girlscoutshop.com/NORTHERN-CALIFORNIA-COUNCIL
For retail shop locations [ABOUT GSNorCal: Office & Retail Locations]
Opportunities to dive into science, technology, engineering, math (Girls Go Tech), environmental and conservation activities (Green By Nature), as well as the world of tinkerers and inventors.
The For Girls section of GirlScouts.org features Badge Explorer, an overview of all of the badges girls can earn, and other programs girls can participate in individually and as a troop. For Girls is updated frequently, so check back often—and invite girls to do the same!
Program boxes are filled with hands-on activity materials and instructions, designed to introduce girls to the science and technology we interact with every day. Using program box materials, girls collaborate to explore everything from animal habitats to engineering with wind power. Troops, groups, and individuals can borrow a program box from the council to make a Journey connection, earn a skill-building patch, or just have fun with something new.
Girls Go Tech - Apply scientific concepts and find innovative solutions to real world problems through hands-on activities. 15 badge or patch-earning boxes to choose from!
Green By Nature - Connect with nature while learning to value and protect our Northern California home and beyond with these 5 engaging, rocker-earning boxes.
Girls Learning Environment and Energy (GLEE) - Demonstrate your commitment to making the world a better place with these 2 patches-developed with Stanford University.
Robotics - Design, build, and program your own robot. Use LEGO® Mindstorm NXT or VEX Robot kits to help you develop an interest in robotics and complete a challenge. Reserve your kits online now!
How do I reserve a box? Our boxes have been very popular, so we ask that you request a box at least 8 days before you'd like to use it. We will customize your box to your troop size and make sure it is stocked and ready to go. You can make a reservation online to get started on a fun exploration of science of our natural world. To reserve a program box, specify the preferred date and your local council office to check availability:
Where do I pick up the boxes? After your reservation has been accepted, you may pick up the boxes at your local GSNorCal office.
How long can I keep the boxes? Boxes can be borrowed for up to 12 weeks, but we're always glad to get them back more quickly so that others can use them. After 12 weeks, a late fee will be charged automatically.
How much do the boxes cost?
Green By Nature (all ages) and Girls Go Tech(grades K-3 + Robotics): $5/per girl
Girls Go Tech (grades 4 - 12): $10/ per girl
There is also a refundable $100 deposit per box that is charged at the time of booking. The deposit will be returned to you when boxes are returned to your local office and inventoried. The deposit is to ensure all non-consumables, such as binoculars, scissors, glue guns and other equipment are returned. If a non-consumable is missing, the cost to replace it is paid for out of your deposit. Please allow 5 business days for staff to inventory the box, and an additional 7-10 business days for your refund.
If you are serving a large group of girls (25 or more), ask us about special pricing.
What is in the boxes? Almost all the materials you need are included in the boxes, as well as detailed instructions. Some boxes might require items such as ovens, cameras, computers, printers, or water that are not included in the boxes.
How can these boxes be fit in to our program year? These boxes may be used at troop meetings/events and are great to use with large groups or at weekend events. Other suggestions: older girls can teach activities to younger girls, Camporees, Day Camps, or Service Unit events.
Is there additional training for the modules? If you are planning to offer an event to a large group (Camporee, Day Camp, Service Unit event) arrangements can be made to have a STEM staff person come out to train your volunteers. Girls Go Tech (grades 4 - 12) has online training videos.
Do girls earn a patch? Yes, there are patches or badges for each module. You may purchase the patches, badges and rockers online and in our Alameda and San Jose offices.
For more information about Program Boxes visit GS NorCal Program Boxes
Please reserve your box through Doubleknot.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program
In addition to giving girls an opportunity to earn money to fund their Girl Scouting goals, taking part in the Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls five important skills that serve them throughout their lives: goal setting, money management, people skills, decision making, and business ethics. [PROGRAM: Product Program]
Being outside is a great way for girls to explore leadership, build skills, and develop a deep appreciation for nature. Whether they spend an afternoon exploring a local hiking trail or a week at camp, being outside gives girls an opportunity to grow, explore, and have fun in a whole new environment. www.GirlScouts.org/program/basics/camping
Publications & CDs
There are a variety of publications, and other resources available in our GSNorCal retail stores, as well as songbooks with CDs and songs for every occasion. www.GirlScoutShop.com/NORTHERN-CALIFORNIA-COUNCIL
Two of the Journey series—It’s Your World—Change It! and It’s Your Planet—Love It!—are available in Spanish, as are two new supporting books for Spanish-speaking volunteers to use with Spanish-speaking and bilingual Girl Scout Brownies and Juniors :¡Las Girl Scouts Brownies Cambian El Mundo! (Girl Scout Brownies Change the World!) and ¡Las Girl Scouts Juniors Apuntan a las Estrellas! (Girl Scout Juniors Reach for the Stars!). The books, which introduce the Girl Scout movement to these girls and their families, provide everything you need for a fun-filled year in Girl Scouting. girlscoutshop.com/NORTHERN-CALIFORNIA-COUNCIL
Take Online Training
There are numerous modules to help you understand and use the national program resources, including:
- Girl Scout Program
- Journeys (for each level)
- Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting (for each level)
- Uniform & Awards (for each level)
Go to training.gsnorcal.org and click on your Leader course for the appropriate program level.
Take In-Person Training
Use the Program and Event Guide and the Activity Finder on the GSNorCal website to access Adult Learning opportunities as well as side-by-side experiences with girls. These experiences offer learning and networking opportunities.
Finally, consider attending one of our council-wide Learning Events. Fall Festival and Discoveree each offer numerous workshops in a whole variety of topics. See all our available in-person course on our Volunteer Learning Portal.
All of this may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry. The next few pages give you an idea of what’s involved when you use the National Program Portfolio with girls at each Girl Scout grade level. The first page shows the options girls have using the national program resources, and the second page shows how to fit that in with the other opportunities that girls have.
Recent studies have shown that girls love variety, and really want to have unique challenging experiences and adventures in Girl Scouting.
outside is a great way for girls to explore leadership, build skills,
and develop a deep appreciation for nature. Whether they spend an
afternoon exploring a local hiking trail or a week at camp, being
outside gives girls an opportunity to grow, explore www.GSNorCal.org/en/about-girl-scouts/get-outdoors.html, and have fun in a whole new environment.
Remember: If girls will go on an overnight trip or engage in any high adventure activity, you must have GSNorCal approval for your activity. [SAFETY-WISE: Trip Checklist]
Outdoor Interest Groups provide volunteer-run, girl-centered outdoor program opportunities for older girls. All Girl Scouts, grades 5-12, are welcome to join whether they are independent Girl Scouts or members of a traditional troop. Outdoor Interest Groups include: Backpacking, High-Adventure, Mariners, & Older Girl Adventure Interest Groups. For more information, please visit:
Ropes Course Rentals
We offer different options for groups to choose from when renting the ropes course at either Camp Bothin or Skylark Ranch. Unique opportunities are available to build teamwork with your group, develop climbing skills, participate in an individual challenge, and more through this ultimate high adventure activity! [ABOUT GSNorCal: Property & Rental Information: Ropes Course Rentals]
Camps: Day and Resident
Day Camps, Resident Camps and Core Camps offer a variety of outdoor activities for girls, and are usually held during the summer months. Day Camps at both the service unit and council level are usually one-week sessions at convenient in-town locations. Resident camps last for more than three nights. Core camps are short-term outdoor programs, lasting from one to three nights and are managed by the council.
Camp brochures highlighting our council-run camps are mailed to all girls (and adults registered as troop leaders) in October. Some volunteer-run camp flyers containing detailed information are available in the winter and spring online at www.CampRocks.org.
All registered Girl Scouts as well as non-Girl Scouts are welcome to register.
Day and resident camps run by volunteers are held at community locations throughout Northern California. Parents and volunteers can often attend with their daughter in exchange for helping in different areas of camp operation.
Volunteer Run Resident Camps
Volunteer run resident camps occur in many local areas. Flyers are mailed or given to girls in those areas in late winter with registration opening in late winter and spring.
Butano Creek — in San Mateo County near the town of Pescadero
Camp Tall Trees — Northern Humboldt County
Two Sentinels — on the shores of Lake Kirkwood high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Kamp Konocti — Fairfax, CA (new location)
Organized resident camps run by full time and seasonal Council staff members. Girls attend as an individual, not with their troop or parents (except for family camp programs).
Council Run Resident Camps
Bothin - Marin County
Skylark Ranch — overlooks the Pacific Ocean north of Santa Cruz
- Sugar Pine — in the Sierras in Calaveras County
Registration for camp opens on December 1.
As the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world, the Girl Scout Cookie Program and the Girl Scout fall product program are foundation experiences during which girls learn to think like entrepreneurs and to develop vital business skills. Plus, Girl Scouts Cookie proceeds power fun and enriching experiences for Girl Scout troops year-round!
Participation in Girl Scout Product Programs provide exceptional opportunities for girls to develop life skills, such as leadership, teamwork and commitment, along with business skills in marketing, project management and budgeting, and is the best way to fund group activities. Out program materials offer fun and age-appropriate activities for all girls to learn these life and business skills.
Did you know that the Girl Scout Cookie Programs is the largest girl-led business in the country, with sales of more than $700 million per year for girls and their communities nationwide? That’s right. The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the leading entrepreneurial program for girls. No university has produced as many female business owners as the Girl Scout Cookie Program has. If you have a moment, watch the latest Girl Scout video for an inspiring look into just how powerful those treats—and the girls who sell them—can be.
Girl Scouts have been selling cookies to earn money as early as 1917, only five years after Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scout movement in the United States. Since then, it has become a part of American culture as well as the premier financial literacy program for girls.
Product programs are appropriate for all girls K-12. The online fall product program, includes nuts, candies and magazines, and kicks off the year in October with an animal conversation take action project. The iconic cookie program takes place in late January through mid-March and will include a brand new lemon cookie this year! Information about both of our product programs can be found under Cookies+ on our GSNorCal website and from your local volunteer Service Unit Product Manager during the appropriate season.
A Sweet Tradition
It has been decades since Girl Scouts began selling home-baked cookies to raise money. The idea was so popular that in 1936 Girl Scouts enlisted bakers to handle the growing demand-- and the rest is history. Explore Girl Scout Cookie History to find out how cookies have bolstered generations of girls who make the world a better place.
Teaching Skills for a Lifetime
In addition to giving girls an opportunity to earn money to fund their Girl Scouting goals, taking part in the Girl Scout Product Program teaches girls five important skills that serve them throughout their lives. Through "learning by earning," Girl Scouting aims to empower girls through the development of five essential skills through their participating in the cookie program:
- goal setting
- decision making
- money management
- people skills, and business ethics
In 2012, the Girl Scout Research Institute set out to understand the extent to which Girl Scouts actually develop these five essential skills, as well as to examine the specific ways girls benefit from their participation in the Cookie Program. Findings included:
- Overall, a majority of Girl Scout "Cookie Entrepreneurs" develop the 5 essential skills.
- 85% of girls developed Money Management skills, reporting that they had developed budgets, taken cookie orders, and handled customers’ money.
- 80% of girls developed their Goal Setting, learning how to set sales goals and action plans.
- 77% of girls developed their Decision Making, learning how to work as a team, deciding when and where to sell, and deciding what to do with the money they earned.
- Girls who developed the 5 skills learned new things while selling cookies that will help them in school and other areas of their life than girls who did not (93% vs. 63%).
- Overall, girls reported that selling cookies was fun (96%). Learning by earning made it even more fun.
- Girls who attended troop or group meetings about selling cookies, practiced how to sell Girl Scout cookies with their friends and family, and worked toward the Cookie Business and Financial Literacy badges developed more skills.
- Girls who acted as leaders, engaged in hands-on learning experiences, and worked cooperatively as part of a team developed more of the 5 skills than girls who did not.
What do girls like the most about selling cookies?
"Working toward a goal and sorting and organizing the customers’ orders." - Junior Girl Scout, 4th grade
"Knowing that I’m helping my troop and my community." – Junior Girl Scout, 5th grade
"Doing math to figure out how many I have left to sell for my goal." – Brownie Girl Scout, 3rd grade
"I love counting how many I sold." – Brownie Girl Scout, 3rd grade
Most of all, girls who participate in the product program gain a tremendous amount of confidence. It’s not easy to ask people to buy something—you have to speak up, look them in the eye, and believe in what you’re doing. These are all skills that help a girl succeed now and throughout the rest of her life.
Provides Money for Girl Scout Activities
Participating in the Girl Scout council‐sponsored product program gives girls proven opportunities to earn money and/or credits for their other Girl Scout program activities.
Girls may earn official Girl Scout rewards related to product sale activities, and each council may choose to provide items such as participation patches, reward items, and council reward cards and council credit for event fees, camp fees, grants for travel and Take Action projects, as well as materials and supplies for program activities. GSNorCal's plan for rewards applies equally to all girls participating in the product sale activity. GSNorCal involves girls and parents in the selection of awards and administration of troop proceeds earned through the product program.
Reward cards are issued as a girl reward for Product Product participation based on sales ranges and are not a dollar-per-dollar calculation. Girls choose their rewards, so they may choose to receive items instead of reward cards. Reward Cards may be used to purchase items at all GSNorCal retail stores and to register for qualifying event, such as the following:
- GSNorCal Council-sponsored events listed in The Guide (formerly the Program Event Guide)
- GSNorCal Day/Resident Camps
- GSNorCal Service Unit Camporees or Events
- GSUSA Destinations programs
Girls in grades 6-12 who are members of a troop with a council-approved Trip and/or High-Adventure activity planned, or girls in grades 9-12 with an approved Gold Award project, may request that all or part of their Product Sale Reward Card be converted into troop funds to support council approved troop trips, high-adventure activities, or approved Gold Award projects. Upon receipt by the troop, this becomes part of the troop funds and follows the same guidelines for handling of troop money. Through a democratic process, the troop agrees on fund usage for the council-approved trip/high adventure/Gold Award activity.
Helps the Community
Product program troop proceeds also contribute significantly to the girls’ local councils and communities through funding girls' Take Action projects. Groups are strongly encouraged to put group funds to good use by holding program events and/or supporting a service project in the community.
Stretches the Family Budget
Recognition and rewards benefiting girls and families can also be earned through this program, including ways to stretch the family budget by partially or fully funding resident camp experiences, participation in Program Guide events, and more.
The Girl/Adult Partnership
One special aspect of the Girl Scout program is that girls have the opportunity to partner with caring adults. Underlying all the lessons that girls can learn from their participation in the Product Program is the girl/adult partnership. Ideally, this is a partnership between the girl and her leader and between the girl and her parents/guardian. Adult members do not sell cookies, they participate only in supporting the direct involvement of girls. During the Product Program the girl/adult partnership may look like this:
- An adult and girl working together to make plans and set goals.
- An adult assisting a girl by giving her access to the information and training she needs but letting the girl do the selling and delivering of cookies.
- An adult guiding a girl in understanding sale finances and letting her practice her skills.
- An adult advising a girl on how to market her cookies but allowing her to make her make her own decisions.
- An adult helping a girl understand her responsibility to support her local council but ensuring that her participation is voluntary.
- Girl safety is the top priority. Volunteers, parents and girls should be familiar with and practice the following:
- Safety Wise – Volunteer Essentials
- Girl Scout Cookie/Council – Sponsored Product Program Safety Activity Checkpoints
- Safety Tips for Product Sales
- Computer/Online Use: Safety Activity Checkpoints
Cookie and Financial Literacy Awards
There is one Financial Literacy and one Cookie Business badge to earn each year for each grade level (Daisy awards are “leaves” instead of badges). The requirements can be found in each level’s Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting.
The Cookie Sale Activity pin is an earned award that is worn to show participation in the Girl Scout Cookie Sale after completing participation activities outlined in the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting. The pin is awarded each year in a different color.
GSNorCal provides a breakdown of “how the cookie crumbles” in our council shown here in this infographic.
Please share this information with girls and their parents/guardians so everyone’s clear on how product program revenue makes it possible for GSNorCal to serve girls. Proceeds resulting from product program support other Girl Scout program activities—in fact, council-sponsored product program participation are a primary way in which GSNorCal raises funds to support Girl Scouting. The percentage of money to be allocated to participating groups (like yours) is determined by GSNorCal and explained to girls and adults as part of the product program activity orientation.
The troop proceeds from product program participation does not become the property of individual girl members. Girls, however, may be eligible for recognition and rewards that they put toward Council-sponsored camps, programs and programmatic materials.
Before You Start
You’re Not Alone!
Support From GSNorCal: Your Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org) has everything you need for a successful Fall Product or Cookie Program: training modules, guides, forms, helpful hints, and other resources are all there for you and your girls to have the most successful product program ever! GSNorCal staff are always eager to answer your questions when you contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 447-4475 ext. 0.
Support from Troop Families: It’s not a requirement to have a "Cookie Parent", but it’s highly recommended. Ask your families to support the troop by taking on helpful roles such as: Troop Sale Manager, Cookie Parent, Booth Coordinator, Cupboard Runner, Money Handler, Inventory Manager, Booth Sale Adult, and Cookie Communications Manager.
Before you start, parents and guardians must grant permission for girls to participate and must be informed about the girls’ whereabouts when they are engaged in product program activities. Specific permission must be obtained when a girl intends to use the internet for product marketing. A parent, guardian, or other adult must know each girl’s whereabouts when she is engaged in product sales, and if and when she is online.
Safety Activity Checkpoint
First, read the Cookie & Product Sale Safety Activity Checkpoint. When girls are selling, these tips will help make booth sales safe and enjoyable for everyone.
Prepare the Girls
The Girl Scout Cookie Program is so well known in communities, it’s likely that your girls will already know a bit about it and want to get out there to start selling as soon as possible. The Fall Product Program is less well-known, but troops can earn higher profit per item, and it’s a great way to build some troop funds at the beginning of the year. Either way, it’s important that the girls have a clear plan and purpose for their product program troop proceeds. One of your opportunities as a volunteer is to facilitate girl-led financial planning, which may include the following steps for the girls:
- Set goals for money-earning activities. What do girls hope to accomplish through this activity? In addition to earning money, what skills do they hope to build? What leadership opportunities present themselves?
- Create a budget. Use a budget worksheet that includes both expenses (the cost of supplies, admission to events, travel, and so on) and available income (the group’s account balance, projected sale proceeds, and so on).
- Determine how much the group needs to earn. Subtract expenses from available income to determine how much money your group needs to earn. Compute how many boxes of cookies or fall product items would need to be sold in order to be able to afford certain activities
- Make a plan. The group can brainstorm and make decisions about its financial plans. Will cookie and other product troop proceeds—if approached proactively and energetically—earn enough money to meet the group’s goals? If not, which group money-earning activities might offset the difference in anticipated expense and anticipated income? Will more than one group money-earning activity be necessary to achieve the group’s financial goals? In this planning stage, engage the girls through the Girl Scout processes (girl-led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning) and consider the value of any potential activity. Have them weigh feasibility, implementation, and safety factors.
- Write it out. Once the group has decided on its financial plan, describe it in writing. If the plan involves a group money-earning activity, fill out an application for approval from GSNorCal and submit it along with the budget worksheet the girls created.
- Before beginning any cookies or other product sales with your group, refer to www.GirlScoutCookies.org.
Communicate with Parents
Ensure that the parents/guardians of all girls participating in product sales are fully informed about the activity including the:
- Safety precautions in place
- Need for appropriate clothing and/or supplies
- Need for advance arrangements for all transportation and confirmation of these plans
- Need for written permission from them in order for their daughter to participate.
- Location of designated sale areas, which are also communicated to the Council
- Financial responsibility of girls and parents
Communicate with Your Local Police Department
Establish a relationship with your local Police Department to determine any support they may be able to provide during product sales, especially those related to booths, and any safety precautions they might suggest. Many service units will make this contact so that troops don’t need to do it. While Police Departments vary from state to state and city to city, many of them have resources such as:
- School Resource Officers who have specific training for communicating with young people
- Community Volunteers who may be able to assist by being present during booth sales
Police departments can also provide information on areas and addresses to avoid, as well as access to known sex offender registries.
Prepare for Emergencies
Regardless of the type of activity, you need to be prepared for emergencies involving girls or other adults. This should include having a first aid kit always available and making sure that if someone is injured and needs help, one adult cares for the injured person while another adult seeks help.
Arrange for Adult Supervision
Adults provide supervision and guidance for all grade levels, and must accompany Girl Scout Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors when they are selling, taking orders for or delivering products. Adults must be present at booth activities, regardless of the age of the girls (see also the section “Knowing How Many Volunteers You Need”).
Adults who oversee Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors must:
- Be aware of how, when and where the girls are selling products
- Be on call when girls are participating in product sales
- Be readily available to them should they need assistance.
- Help girls understand how to be safe in their surroundings, and always enforce the use of the buddy system
Adult supervision for all Girl Scouts extends to any online activity. Consult the “Computer/Online Use” Safety Activity Checkpoints for specific information about safe online practices for all activities, and to obtain a copy of the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge.
General Guidelines - All Sales
Girls make all sales, except in cases where adults are helping Daisies handle money. Volunteers and Girl Scout council staff do not sell cookies and other products; girls sell them.
- Adult volunteers must monitor, supervise, and guide the sale activities of girls at all age levels.
- Girls should be identifiable as Girl Scouts by wearing a Membership Pin, official uniform, tunic, sash or vest, or other Girl Scout clothing.
- Girl Scout Daisies (in kindergarten and first grade) may be involved in council-sponsored product sale activities, but they cannot collect money in any other way except through group dues or parental contributions.
- Girl Scout Daisies should not be asked to sell products for older girl troops (Brownies through Ambassadors). Daisy troop proceeds should remain with the Daisy troop.
- Money due for products sold is collected when the products are delivered to the customer. Guidelines for accepting cash, checks, and credit cards are published in the product guides and must be followed.
- Personal customer information should remain private. Customer credit-card information should not be collected by girls and should not be asked for on any form collected by girls.
- A girl’s physical address, social networking page address, IM name, Skype name or number, or home or cell phone number should never be revealed to anyone outside her immediate circle of friends and family.
- Girls and their families should not keep money at home, school or work, and should instead give the money to supervising adults, who will deposit the money as soon as possible into the troop account.
Guidelines for Selling Door-to-Door or to Friends and Family
- Girl Scout Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors who participate in door-to-door sales must be supervised by (but do not need to be directly accompanied by) an adult. Girls of all grade levels must always use the buddy system.
Buddy System: Using the buddy system, girls are divided into teams of two. Each girl is responsible for staying with her buddy at all times, warning her buddy of danger, giving her buddy immediate assistance if safe to do so, and seeking help when the situation warrants it. Girls are encouraged to stay near the group or buddy with another team of two, so in the event someone is injured, one person cares for the patient while two others seek help.
All girls selling door-to-door should:
- Become familiar with the areas and neighborhoods in which girls would like to sell. Girls and adults should be streetwise and follow their instincts.
- Girls should not walk around with large amounts of money.
- Participate in door‐to‐door sales only during daylight hours
- Wear a membership pin, uniform, or Girl Scout clothing (e.g., Girl Scout T‐shirt) to clearly identify themselves as Girl Scouts.
- Avoid a house or person that makes them uncomfortable. They should walk away and find the next person/place that does not make them uncomfortable
- Call 9-1-1 if they see someone that seems to be acting in a way that makes them feel unsafe. This could include, but is not limited to, any person who is staring at them for long periods, seems to be following them for no apparent reason or takes pictures of them
- Use safe pedestrian practices, such as crossing at corners and obeying walk signals
- Not enter the home or vehicle of a stranger or go into alleys
- Avoid selling to people in vehicles (except at drive-thru cookie booths)
Selling at Girl Scout Booths
Cookie and Fall Product booths, or temporary sales set-ups in areas with lots of foot traffic, are a popular way for girls to sell products as a team. Your service unit has established product booth locations and procedures for signing up for them; contact the service unit before planning a product booth of your own.
- Role play some simple sales techniques before your first booth sale. Help the girls be experts on their products by sampling a box or two during a preparatory meeting. Discuss ingredients, how much the troop makes per box, where the money goes, and what your troop will be using it for.
- Create necklace cards for the girls that display the product names on the front and the prices by quantity on the back - this will help with the math when they get nervous (or busy!)
- Attract customers with colorful signs. Remind girls to be polite and to have their sales pitch ready for interested shoppers.
- Help the girls develop creative decorating or theme ideas for their booths - think about displays, props, even costumes. Cookie costumes are available for check out at GSNorCal office locations.
- Be sure to cover safety and customer interaction for booth and neighborhood sales.
- Schedule multiple booths so everyone has a chance to sell to the public. Some girls may not be able to sell in their neighborhood or to their families.
- Once you’ve gotten approval, check out the booth site before the day of the sale. Talk to business owners in the area so they’ll know what to expect. Find out what security measures are in place—these may include lights for evening sales and whether a security camera watches the booth area—and where the nearest bathrooms are located.
- Have all adults review the Product Sale Safety Activity Checkpoints, to make sure adults and the girls are as prepared as possible. GSNorCal policy states that parents/guardians must be aware of/approve their girl’s whereabouts, so keep this in mind when selecting sites for approval.
- Ensure that you have adequate space at the booth (table, products, and girls) to allow safe passage by pedestrians, bikes, and cars.
- Ensure that girls are a safe distance from cars. If possible, set up a safety barrier between cars and the booth. For example, perhaps a few volunteers can park their cars in spaces near the booth location
- Plan to have at least two adults and one girl at the booth at all times. At least one of those volunteers must be registered and have a completed background check on file with GSNorCal. From time to time, volunteers might want to take breaks or will have to accompany young girls to the bathroom, so make sure to have a few extra adults on hand. (In the case where a single girl is selling with her parent, it is then permissible for only one adult to be present.)
- Girls make all sales, except in cases where adults are helping Daisies handle money.
- Respect the surrounding businesses by making sure your booth isn’t blocking a store entrance or exit.
- While girls can receive cash from buyers and make change, they should hand the money to an adult for safekeeping. It is recommended that money be held by adults in small front-facing packs around their waist. Be especially careful with a money box if you use one; make sure it’s under adult supervision and out of public sight. It’s best to keep it against a wall or behind a barrier of cookie boxes. Arrange for cash to be removed from the site periodically. When you do travel with money, have someone accompany you to your vehicle and/or the bank.
- Tip or donation jars are never allowed as they constitute a direct solicitation for money.
- Girls and adults do not confront or engage an irate customer, but call local authorities for assistance.
- If someone takes money or cookies from your booth, do not attempt to physically recover the stolen items and do not allow the girls to do so. Instead, get a good description of the offender(s), call 911, and alert local security (if applicable). Make sure girls know what to do in case of theft. Report any incidents by submitting the Incident Report Form on GSNorCal’s website.
- Report any suspicious people in the area to local security or police. Submit the Incident Report Form on GSNorCal’s website.
- Before beginning any product sales with your group, refer to www.GirlScouts.org
|Online Marketing is Allowed||Online Selling is NOT Allowed|
Girls may send email messages to alert friends and relatives about product sales and accept customer commitments via email. In other words, potential customers can relay (via email or a Facebook post, for example) that, “Yes! I’d like four boxes of Thin Mints and three boxes of Shortbread cookies.
Completing the transaction and collecting money online is NOT allowed other than through the council provided links (Digital Cookie and Fall Sale links). You may not independently sell items online (for example, through a site that has an electronic shopping cart).
Using Online Resources and Social Media to Market Cookies and Other Products
Girls may use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, text messages, IMs, and emails as online marketing tools to let family, friends, and former customers know about the sale and collect indications of interest after the season start date. All are effective ways that girls 13 and older can promote cookie and other product sales. Girls under 13 cannot independently set up online marketing sites. Girls under 13 can use their parent's or guardian's online sites with their approval and supervision. Social media is a fun, fast way to get out an urgent message, such as, "It’s Girl Scout Cookie time!" Posting, tweeting, or pinning such a message will get the attention of friends and family.
It is important to remember the twofold purpose of the Girl Scout Cookie Program when selling cookies or other products. The primary purposes of these sales are to help girls grow and develop and to generate the revenue necessary to provide Girl Scouting to as many girls as possible. For this reason, girls should be directly involved in any sales that are made, whether in person or over the Internet.
The following sections detail how girls can use electronic marketing, social media, and group websites to gather sale commitments from family, friends, and previous customers. First, please keep in mind:
- All online activities must be under the supervision of adults.
- Girls should never arrange in-person meetings with online contacts, other than to deliver cookies and only with the approval and accompaniment of a parent or designated adult.
- Girls must have parental permission to use social media or the internet.
- Girls must meet age limits set by the provider, which is 13 and above in most cases, as per the United States Child Online Privacy and Protection Act and the Child Online Protection Act.
- In order to make sure that girls are aware of how to safely use the Internet, you should discuss online safety issues with the girls and distribute copies of the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge. The girls should also take a copy of the pledge home and go over it with their parents. Both the girl and her parent should sign the pledge.
- Girls can market to and collect indications of interest from customers within GSNorCal’s zip codes. Refer prospects that come from outside council jurisdiction to the cookie finder at www.GirlScoutCookies.org. Family members and Digital Cookie/Fall Online sales are the exceptions to this rule.
- Be sure to discuss with girls the need to treat customer email addresses from current and past years—as well as phone numbers, IM addresses, Facebook accounts, Twitter handles, and mail addresses—with respect; they are private and must be kept so.
Girls may send e‐mail messages to alert friends and relatives about product sales and accept customer commitments via email after the season starts.
When writing e-mail messages or onlingirls should sign with their first name only, along with their group number or name and their council name (Girl Scouts of Northern California).
A Girl Scout’s last name, address, phone number, or email address should never be posted. For Digital Cookie a girl may post her unique Digital Cookie URL on her Facebook page and may email it to friends and family (for additional information please refer to Safety Activity Checkpoint for Online Product Sales, Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Volunteers and Digital Cookie Pledge for Girls)
Personal emails, street addresses or phone numbers of girls should never be exposed to the public. Instead, use one of the following:
A blind return address account where the girls’ name or personal email is not revealed to the customer and is instead hosted on a secure site
A group account, monitored by an adult (such as email@example.com)
An adult’s email account, which is supervised by that adult
Product-related email is not intended to be spam (unwanted texts or emails), however, so remind girls to be sure that their messages will be welcomed by the receiver.
Social media sites may be used to market product, however, all applicable GSUSA and council guidelines must be followed. Always have a parent’s or guardian’s permission when using pictures of girls on a website. This is especially important if the girl is under 13 years old.
Do not post addresses of group meeting places, dates and times of meetings, events or trips on a website. Instead, an adult who wishes to communicate upcoming events with families of Girl Scouts should send an email to the families
Do not allow automatic posting of messages to a website. All postings to message boards, social media and guest books should have adult oversight and be screened prior to posting live.
Ensure that websites do not show personal email addresses of girls, but use a troop, group or adult’s email.
Any use of online video sharing sites (such as YouTube), where the video is representing Girl Scouts or Girl Scout products, must follow specific requirements for that site, as well as GSNorCal guidelines. Girl Scout photo release forms (or the Annual Permission Form) must be filed for girls pictured by parents/guardians and any adults pictured.
For additional information and guidance please see the “Girl Scout Cookie/Council-Sponsored Product Sale: Safety Activity Checkpoints”, “Computer/Online Use: Safety Activity Checkpoints”, the Digital Cookie “Terms & Conditions for Girl Scouts”, and “Terms & Conditions for Volunteers”.
For Digital Cookie there are additional, specific guidelines, some of which are:
- Girls must read and accept the Girl Scout Digital Cookie Pledge before they can participate in Digital Cookie
- Volunteers must read and accept the Digital Cookie Terms and Conditions for Volunteers before they can participate in Digital Cookie
- Girls may only post about their participation on Digital Cookie on social media that allows them to restrict access to friends and family (e.g. Facebook).
- Parents/guardians must approve the content of a girl's Digital Cookie web page before it goes live
- For girls under 13 years old, a parent/guardian must manage the girl’s web site and be responsible for all content. In other words, girls under 13 are not allowed to post anything to their websites; it must be done by their parent/guardian.
- For additional information and guidance please see the "Girl Scout Cookie/Council-Sponsored Product Sale: Safety Activity Checkpoints", "Computer/Online Use: Safety Activity Checkpoints", the Digital Cookie "Terms & Conditions for Girl Scouts", "Terms & Conditions for Parents/Guardians" and "Terms & Conditions for Volunteers".
One critical task for each troop/group is to keep excellent records and establish a clear accounting system for all money earned and spent. As the group’s volunteer, you’re in charge of making sure money is spent wisely, excellent records are kept (such as, keeping copies of all receipts in a binder or folder), and all income is tracked, too. For older girls, your job is to oversee their work, as they learn to keep impeccable records.
GSNorCal has donation programs for the product sales where customers may purchase products for the sole purpose of having them donated to an organization. Care to Share is the council-sponsored community service project which allows customers to donate products through Girl Scouts to benefit military troops and community food banks. This is a great talking point for girls to share with their customers and a great way to help teach girls that the cookie program can make a big impact in their community and to others.
Here are some things to remember about product donations:
- All product donation programs must be approved by GSNorCal.
- Donated products must stay within the council jurisdiction unless GSNorCal has the approval from other council jurisdictions.
- Donated products cannot be resold and must be used in a responsible and ethical way.
- Donated products are used in a way that does not undermine the work of GSNorCal or jeopardizes the integrity of the Girl Scout Brand.
It has always been the practice of Girl Scout councils and the vendors to guarantee customer satisfaction with their products. If a customer for some reason is not satisfied with the quality of their products, they can contact the vendor via the number printed on the product packaging.
Troops/group should notify GSNorCal if they are aware of any customer dissatisfaction by submitting the online Product Complaint Form (https://www.gsnorcal.org/en/our-council/documents-and-publications/Prod_Product_Complaint_Form.html), contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (800) 447-4475 ext. 0.
Rewards and Money Management
There are a few specific guidelines—as required by the Internal Revenue Service—that ensure that sales are conducted with legal and financial integrity. To that end, consider the following reminders and cautions:
- All rewards earned by girls through the product sale activities must support Girl Scout program experiences (such as camp, travel, and program events), but not scholarships or financial credits toward outside organizations.
- One troop account will contain all monies earned through product sales and/or other council-approved money-earning efforts.
- With troop leader support, girls will decide what Girl Scout programs, activities or trips the troop will engage in and what money-earning activities the girls will undertake to support their plans.
- Troop Leaders will communicate the girls' decisions with regard to participation, money-earning and planned activities to parents/guardians and troop families and any later incoming girl members to fund the agreed-upon plans. Troop may allocate funds among girls in the troop in a manner that reflects the girls' range of participation in money-earning activities and not a dollar-for-dollar accounting by girl.
- In cases where girls have left the troop and will no longer be participating in troop trips or activities, funds will remain with the troop.
- Rewards are based on sales ranges set by councils and may not be based on a dollar-per-dollar calculation.
- In cases where new girls are added to the troop and these new girls wish to participate in in-progress trips and activities, parents/guardians will be asked to cover their daughters' costs to account for monies that other girls have already earned prior to the new girls' arrival.
- Troops and Groups are encouraged to participate in council product program as their primary money-earning activity; any additional group money-earning shouldn’t compete with the Girl Scout Cookie Program or other council product sales.
Recognizing Cookie Sellers in the Media
The Girl Scout Cookie Program has always been about and focused on the program outcomes, through which girls learn important entrepreneurial and life skills and invest their earnings to positively affect their local communities; the cookie program has never been about and does not focus on individual girls' sales results.
- There are many impressive cookie bosses throughout the United States and the Girl Scout Movement will continue to recognize dynamic cookie sellers for various achievements tied to the Girl Scout Cookie Program.
- Girl Scouts of the USA does not currently track the top seller(s) of Girl Scout Cookies on a national level and does not identify a specific Girl Scout as the number one or "record-breaking" national cookie seller.
- Girl Scout councils should not reference such girls as "top sellers" in the media. Doing so detracts from the essence of the Girl Scout Cookie Program, which is based on offering girls important experiences in entrepreneurship, business, and finance from a young age, as well as providing girls and local Girl Scout councils with the funds necessary to power amazing experiences and opportunities for Girl Scouts year-round.
Benefits of Trips
A Girl Scout trip is an opportunity for girls to have fun, to experience adventure, and to enrich their ongoing Girl Scout program. A Girl Scout trip is defined as any time a group has an activity at a location other than the regularly scheduled meeting place. If the group will start and end at the regular meeting location, but will walk to a local park or other destination, this activity is not defined as a trip.
Safety Activity Checkpoints and the guidelines in this booklet should be consulted when planning a trip of any length. Care should be taken to determine if troops are ready to participate in troop/group travel and trips. Safety and money-earning procedures are also available in this resource.
Not only do some of the most memorable moments in a Girl Scout’s life happen while taking trips, but travel also offers a wealth of opportunities for girls to develop leadership skills. The following few sections help you prepare girls for local, regional, or international travel of any scope and duration.
Letting Girls Lead
Although it's tempting to do all the planning and take care of the logistics, your girls would miss out on a great opportunity to build their life skills. Whether the trip is a day hike or a cross-country trek, the basic steps of trip planning are essentially the same. It’s true that as the locale gets farther away, the itinerary longer and more complex, the planning specifics become richer and more detailed, but planning every trip—whether it's a day-long outing or an international trek—starts by asking the following:
- What do we hope to experience?
- Who will we want to talk to and meet?
- What will we ask?
- Where are we interested in going?
- When are we all available to go?
- Will everyone in our group be able to go?
- Are there physical barriers that cannot be accommodated?
- What are hours and the need for advance reservations?
- What are our options for getting there?
- What’s the least and most this trip could cost?
- What can we do now to get ourselves ready?
- How will we earn the money?
- What’s the availability of drinking water, restrooms, and eating places?
- Where is emergency help available?
- What safety factors must we consider?
- What will we do as we travel?
- What will we do when we get there?
- How will we share the Take Action story?
As girls answer these questions, they begin the trip-planning process. In time, girls can make specific arrangements, attend to a myriad of details, create a budget and handle money, and accept responsibility for their personal conduct and safety. Later, after they’ve returned from an event or trip, girls also have the chance to evaluate their experiences and share them with others.
Include Girls With Disabilities
Communicate with girls with disabilities and/or their caregivers to assess any needs and accommodations. Make sure that reasonable accommodations are made for girls with disabilities. Learn more about the resources and information that Global Explorers and Wilderness Inquiries provide to people with disabilities.
Using Journeys & The Girl's Guide in Their Travels
Girl Scout travel is an ideal way to offer girls leadership opportunities. Encourage girls to choose one of the three series of National Leadership Journeys. The Journey’s theme will give girls a way to explore leadership through their travels. Use the adult guide to incorporate activities and discussions that help girls explore the Three Keys to Leadership (Discover, Connect, and Take Action) as they plan their trip and eventually travel.
Tying your trip to the topic of a Leadership Journey is a cinch. For example, if Cadette girls have chosen MEdia, before their trip they can read online newspapers from the area to which they’re traveling—and evaluate when they arrive how well the media reflects the realities there. If Senior girls are using SOW WHAT?, they can plan to observe agricultural practices in other parts of the country or around the world. Ambassadors using BLISS: Live It! Give It! can build a trip around dreaming big—and empowering others in their community to dream big, too.
If girls also want to complete skill-building badge requirements as part of their trip, they can. The most obvious example is the Senior Traveler badge, which fits perfectly into planning a trip. In addition, girls can explore other badge topics, depending on the focus of their trip. For examples, Cadettes can explore the food in other regions or countries for their New Cuisines badge, Seniors can find out about international business customs as part of their Business Etiquette badge, and Ambassadors can work on their Photography badge while documenting their trip.
To find out more about the exciting series of Journeys and The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting [PROGRAM: National Program Resources].
For additional Outdoor and STEM Journeys with even more trip and travel opportunities, please see the Volunteer Toolkit.
To ensure that any travel you do with girls infuses the Girl Scout Leadership Experience at every opportunity, limit your role to facilitating the girls’ brainstorming and planning—but never doing the work for them. Allow the girls to lead, learn collaboratively, and learn by doing (and by making mistakes). All the while, however, provide ideas and insight, ask tough questions when you have to, and support all their decisions with enthusiasm and encouragement!
Girls love trips. And Girl Scouts is a great place for them to learn how to plan and take exciting trips, because travel is built on a progression of activities—that is, one activity leads to the next. Girl Scout Daisies, for example, can begin with a discovery walk. As girls grow in their travel skills and experience and can better manage the planning process, they progress to longer trips. The Journey Adult Guides have a lot of other ideas about trips that bring the Journey to life. Here are some examples of the progression of events and trips in Girl Scouting:
- Local Field Trips (Daisies and older): A walk to the nearby garden or a short ride by car or public transportation to the firehouse or courthouse is a great first step for Daisies.
- Day Trip (Daisies and older): An all-day visit to a point of historical or natural interest (bringing their own lunch) or a day-long trip to a nearby city (stopping at a restaurant for a meal)—younger girls can select locations and do much of the trip-planning, while never being too far from home. Note: Full-day trips may be very challenging for Daisies, especially for kindergartners who have not experienced short trips. Make sure girls take some short trips before they progress to a full day trip.
- Overnight trips (Daisies and older): One (or possibly two) nights. This could start with one night camping or staying at a Girl Scout property and progress to a visit to a a state or national park, or nearby city for sightseeing, staying in a hotel, motel, or campground- or even an overnight at a large museum! These short trips are just long enough to whet their appetites, but not long enough to generate homesickness. Note: A Daisy troop may participate in an overnight experience if the girls are ready. Brownie troops can participate up to two nights. For camp, girls who have completed kindergarten may independently participate at day camp and in resident camp experiences lasting up to three nights. Girls who have completed first grade may independently participate in resident camp experiences lasting four or more nights.
- Regional Trips (Juniors and older): Three nights or four nights camping or a staying in a hotel, motel, or hostel within the girls’ home region (for example, New England, the Upper Midwest, the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest, and so on).
- National trips (Cadettes and older): Travel anywhere in the country, often lasting a week or more. Try to steer clear of trips girls might take with their families and consider those that offer some educational component—such as incredible cities, historic sites, and museums around the country. Perhaps the girls want to plan a trip to some national parks as part of the Girl Scout Ranger program!
- International Trips/ Independent Travel (Cadettes and older*): Travel around the world, often requiring two or three years of preparation. International trips are available to Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors who have successfully participated in a progression of overnight trips with Girl Scouting. When girls show an interest in traveling abroad, fill out the online Trip and High-Adventure Approval form (www.tinyurl.com/GSNorCalTravelApproval) to get permission to plan your trip. You can also download the Global Travel Toolkit to help with trip planning. Adult volunteers should ensure that girls are mature enough to participate in the trip. Factors to consider are adaptability, good decision-making, previous cross-cultural experience, group dynamics, team capability, language skills (where applicable), and specific skills and interests related to the trip. Visiting one of the four World Centers is a great place to start www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/global/world-centers.html, but also consider traveling with international service-learning organizations to perform community service, or meeting up with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from around the world at an international scouting event. All international groups should register with S.T.E.P.-the U.S. Department of State travel registry. In addition to completing council forms, troops should complete this online Intent to Travel Form. Be sure to also read the Trips and Travel Safety Activity Checkpoints, the Travel Section below and the Outings, Trips and Travel Section of the Safety-Wise chapter of Volunteer Essentials to learn about specific policies related to travel and ensure you meet all GSNorCal requirements for international travel.
- Tips for Girls Traveling Alone: If a Girl Scout Cadette, Senior, or Ambassador will be traveling alone during any part of a trip, use the opportunity to help her feel comfortable with and capable of being on her own. Always talk first with her parents to assess her maturity and ability to handle herself, and have them complete an emergency form. If she is flying, discuss the possibility of booking a nonstop flight to make her trip less stressful, and ask parents to consider contacting the airline which can make special arrangements for any unaccompanied minor. With the girl herself, develop a trip plan, discuss security and safety, and talk about avoiding excess communication with strangers, not wearing a nametag, and avoiding exposing money or other items (such as smartphones or iPads) that are attractive to pickpockets.
Travel Progression Checklist
If your group is thinking about travel, consider first whether the girls are mature enough to handle the trip. Determine a group’s readiness for travel by assessing the girls’:
- Ability to be away from their parents and their homes
- Ability to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings and situations
- Ability to make decisions for themselves and the good of the group well and easily
- Previous cross-cultural experiences
- Ability to get along with each other and handle challenges
- Ability to work well as a team
- Skills, interests, and language skills (where applicable)
Group Dynamics & Team Capabilities
A successful trip is dependent upon the ability of the group to work and function together as a team. The team includes girls and any adult chaperones who will be participating in the trip. Certain factors are crucial, including:
- the ability to function as a team member
- the ability to follow as well as lead
- the ability to accept more direction and leadership from the group leaders than they are used to at home.
A group needs to establish a working relationship prior to traveling together. This can be done through planning meetings, activities, and electronic correspondence prior to the trip. Ways of addressing differences and emergencies, whether life-threatening, cultural, or due to individual attitudes, should be discussed prior to travel.
Establishing a team agreement prior to leaving for the trip on how the group will function and make decisions is very important.
Here are some things to consider:
- Safety rules and expectations.
- What are your rules for the buddy system, and what if two girls clique up for the entire trip?
- Curfews and consequences for breaking them.
- Policy on bringing extra money for souvenirs or snacks.
- Rules/expectations about cell phones, iPods, and other electronic devices.
- How will the group decide where/what to eat?
- Expectations regarding restaurant behavior, and how much food is suitable to order at one meal.
- Expectations on how to behave in public, e.g. visiting museums, participating in a tour, etc.
- What to wear and not wear.
- How much luggage to pack/bring.
- For adults: What is the role of a chaperone? What is expected of a chaperone?
Girl Scout troops/groups planning an international trip are strongly encouraged to use the Global Travel Toolkit. The toolkit is a nuts and bolts resource for international travel, including planning advice, procedures for international travel, budgeting suggestions, cultural recommendations, and resources on Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting all over the world. Download your Global Travel Toolkit at forgirls.girlscouts.org/travel/resources/global-travel-toolkit/
The Global Travel Toolkit consists of the following sections:
|Exploration: The Girl Scout Guide to Global Travel
Takes girls through the steps of planning their own international group trip. It’s filled with tips and tricks for traveling abroad.
|The Adult Guide to Girl Scout Global Travel
Serves as a companion to The Girl Scout Guide to Global Travel and The Girl Scout Travel Log.
|The Girl Scout Travel Log
A journal for girls to record their travel experiences – before, during and after your trip.
Travel resources, handouts, and GSUSA forms. Please use GSNorCal forms for travel and use this document for the additional resources.
Additionally, there are other great travel resources available on the Global Travel Toolkit site:
GSUSA Destinations are amazing national and international travel opportunities lasting 2 days—3 weeks with specific themes. These opportunities are sponsored by GSUSA in partnership with a council or travel organization and open to individual girls ages 11-18. To be considered, girls need to submit 2 letters of reference and an application by November 1 for first round acceptance. Sponsoring groups select the applicants. We recommend submitting your application early for better results. For more information on this exciting opportunity and for tips on how to help fund this type of travel opportunity, please visit our website at forgirls.girlscouts.org/travel/ or email email@example.com.
There are six categories of GSUSA Destinations:
- Domestic—events within the U.S.
- International—events outside of the U.S.
- Outdoors—events ranging from learning outdoor skills to Outward Bound challenges on land or sea.
- STEM—events that take science to a new level. Learn animal behavior or what a doctor’s life is like.
- People—events that visit cities and countrysides so you can experience the culture of new places.
Apprenticeships—events that give you hands-on,
real-life experience in a potential career field.
This is a fun option for troops who want to explore two-to four-day events created just for Girl Scouts. Getaways are open to troops and don’t require an application process. Learn more at: forgirls.girlscouts.org/travel/take-a-trip/getaways/
GSNorCal Travel Opportunities
Girl Scouts offers many travel opportunities so girls can see new places, meet new people, and learn about different cultures and ideas. Whether exploring your own neighborhoods, going on overnight camping trips, participating in a GS event across the country, or flying to a World Center, Girl Scouts are continually expanding their horizons through travel. Join us for a special council organized travel trip or travel the world as a troop. For more information about these exciting opportunities, please visit www.gsnorcal.org/en/about-girl-scouts/travel.html
From the Birth of Girl Scouting to the World Centers
The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah, Georgia, is a fantastic place for Girl Scout Juniors and older to visit. Reservations and council approval are required to take a group of girls to visit the birthplace, and most educational opportunities are booked at least a year in advance, so book early! Families and individuals, however, do not need to reserve a tour in advance.
In addition, four lodges are available in England, Mexico, Switzerland, and India for use by Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, each with hostel or dormitory-style accommodations. The world centers are operated by WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and offer low-cost accommodations and special programs. They are also a great way to meet Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from around the world. www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/global/world-centers.html
Closer to home, check with your council to see whether council-owned camps and other facilities can be rented out to the group of girls with whom you’re working.
The end of this trip doesn’t have to be the end of a girls’ time with Girl Scouting. Some girls participate in Girl Scouting in all sorts of ways; others are excited only about travel. What lies ahead for them—and for you?
- Girls who have never been involved in any other way besides travel may be looking for longer-term opportunities closer at home. Younger Cadettes may want to participate in resident camp, while Seniors and Ambassadors—as well as older Cadettes—will want to hear all about upcoming series and events at your council.
- Girls who have traveled once tend to want to travel again. Be sure girls are aware that other travel opportunities, such as GSUSA Destinations, will exist for them in the years ahead. The great experiences they had on this trip may have prepared them for longer and more global trips in the future.
- Girls may want to hear about the Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards, which are opportunities for them to make a dramatic difference in their communities—and to have plenty to brag about with college admissions officers, too!
And what about you? If you’re ready for more opportunities to work with girls, be sure to let your council know how you’d like to be a part of girls’ lives in the future. Are you ready for a year-long volunteer opportunity with a troop? Help organize a series or event? Take another trip? The possibilities are endless.
Throughout the long history of Girl Scouts, certain traditions remain meaningful and important and are still practiced today. This section gives you an overview of annual celebrations in the Girl Scout year, as well as other revered Girl Scout traditions. Be sure to look in The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and Leadership Journeys for more information on songs, outdoor activities, historical anecdotes, traditions, and ceremonies.
Girl Scouts celebrate several special days each year, which you’re encouraged to include in your group planning.
- February 22: World Thinking Day (the birthday of both Lord Baden-Powell and Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the originators of Boy Scouts and the Scouting Movement worldwide). World Thinking Day, first created in 1926, offers a special day for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from around the world to “think” of each other and give thanks and appreciation to their sister Girl Scouts. February 22 is the mutual birthday of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement, and his wife, Olave, who served as World Chief Guide. Today, girls honor World Thinking Day by earning the World Thinking Day award, which focuses on an annual theme selected by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. They also show their appreciation and friendship on World Thinking Day not only by extending warm wishes but also by contributing to the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, donate.GirlScouts.org/worldfriendshipfund which helps offer Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting to more girls and young women worldwide.
- March 12: The birthday of Girl Scouting in the USA. The first troop meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia, on this date in 1912. Note that Girl Scout Week begins the Sunday before March 12 (a day known as “Girl Scout Sunday”) and extends through the Saturday following March 12 (a day known as “Girl Scout Sabbath”).
- April: Volunteer Appreciation Week centers on the long-standing National Girl Scout Leaders’ Day (April 22), but expands the definition of volunteers beyond troop leaders to include all the volunteers who work in so many ways on behalf of girls in Girl Scouting.
- October 31: Founder’s Day (Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday)
Over time, any organization is going to develop a few common signals that everyone understands. Such is the case with Girl Scouts, which has developed a few unique ways to greet, acknowledge, and communicate, some of which are listed here.
Girl Scout Sign
The idea of the sign came from the days of chivalry, when armed knights greeted friendly knights by raising the right hand, palm open, as a sign of friendship. To give the sign, raise the three middle fingers of the right hand palm forward and shoulder high (the three extended fingers represent the three parts of the Girl Scout Promise). Girls give the sign when they:
Girl Scout Handshake
The handshake is a more formal way of greeting other Girl Scouts, and is also an appropriate way to receive an award. Shake left hands and give the Girl Scout Sign with your right hand.
The quiet sign can be extremely useful to you as a volunteer, so teach it to girls during your first meeting. Raise your right hand high with an open palm. As girls in the group see the sign, they stop talking and also raise their hands. Once everyone is silent, the meeting can begin.
When we stand in a friendship circle, we stand with our right hand over our left. Sometimes, we have the Friendship Squeeze, when we gently squeeze hands in turn all around the circle.
Girl Scout Slogan and Motto
The Girl Scout slogan is, “Do a good turn daily.” The Girl Scout motto is, “Be prepared.”
Whether singing around a campfire or joining a chorus of voices on the Mall in Washington, D.C., Girl Scouts have always enjoyed the fun and fellowship of music. In fact, the first Girl Scout Song Book, a collection of songs put together by girl members, was published in 1925.
Songs can be used to open or close meetings, enhance ceremonies, lighten a load while hiking, or share a special moment with other Girl Scouts. For tips on choosing and leading songs, go to http://gsuniversity.girlscouts.org/resource/song-leading-workshops/. A variety of songbooks are also available for purchase. Check out your council shop or visit the GSUSA online shop.
Ceremonies play an important part in Girl Scouts and are used not only to celebrate accomplishments, experience time-honored traditions, and reinforce the values of the Girl Scout Promise and Law, but also to encourage girls to take a short pause in their busy lives and connect with their fellow Girl Scouts in fun and meaningful ways. Many examples of ceremonies—for awards, meeting openings and closings, and so on—are sewn right into the Journeys, including ideas for new ceremonies girls can create.
Girls use ceremonies for all sorts of reasons. Here’s a brief list, in alphabetical order, so that you can become familiar with the most common Girl Scout ceremonies:
- Bridging ceremonies mark a girl’s move from one grade level of Girl Scouting to another, such as from Junior to Cadette. (Note that Fly-Up is a special bridging ceremony for Girl Scout Brownies who are bridging to Juniors.) There are learning modules, as well as lots of ideas and resources about the bridging process and ceremonies in the Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org) for each level.
- Closing ceremonies finalize the meeting, with expectations for the next. A closing ceremony may be as simple as a hand squeeze while standing in a circle.
- Court of Awards is a time to recognize girls who have accomplished something spectacular during the Girl Scout year.
- Flag ceremonies can be part of any activity that honors the American flag.
- Girl Scout Bronze (or Silver or Gold) Award ceremonies honor Girl Scout Juniors who have earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award (Cadettes who have earned the Silver Award; Seniors or Ambassadors who have earned the Gold Award), and are usually held for a group and combined with council recognition.
- Girl Scouts’ Own is a girl-led program that allows girls to explore their feelings and beliefs around a topic (such as the importance of friendship or the personal meaning they get from the Girl Scout Promise and Law) using the spoken word, favorite songs, poetry, or other methods of expression. It is never a religious ceremony.
- Investiture welcomes new members, girls or adults, into the Girl Scout family for the first time. Girls receive their Girl Scout, Brownie Girl Scout, or Daisy Girl Scout pin at this time.
- Opening ceremonies start troop meetings and can also begin other group meetings.
- Pinning ceremonies help celebrate when girls receive grade-level Girl Scout pins.
- Rededication ceremonies are opportunities for girls and adults to renew their commitment to the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
- Golden Gate Bridging is a special ceremony and celebration for girls bridging from Juniors to Cadettes, and is held in late April or early May. Bridging Juniors join 5,000 of their sisters and cross into older girlhood on one of the most famous bridges in the world! Girls from across the country celebrate in true Northern Californian style on the Golden Gate Bridge and conclude the day with a party just for them. The girls play games, do crafts, and partake in activities that reflect the adventures that lie ahead as Cadettes on Crissy Field. Check out GSNorCal for event and registration information.
No One Right Way, Make New Traditions
Like much of Girl Scouting, there are few hard and fast rules for planning and carrying out ceremonies; what really counts is that the occasion has special meaning for the participants. There are traditional ways to do things, but it is also fun to create some new traditions. Some occasions call for pull-out-all-the-stops formality, and on other occasions, ceremonies can and should be more light-hearted and informal.
Mix & Match
Ceremonies can be mixed and matched or used in combination with each other. For example, a bridging ceremony might (and usually does!) incorporate an opening ceremony, a flag ceremony, a rededication ceremony, as well as using a closing ceremony.
Ceremonies can be edited to fit the situation, and become even more meaningful with a little personalization.
The most important thing to remember when planning ceremonies is that they are for the girls. The most meaningful ceremonies to the girls will be the ones that they have planned themselves. Remember that ceremonies are opportunities for the girls, not the adults, to express themselves, and that is far more important than it is to put on a polished production.
If you’re working with girls who want to host a special ceremony or event—large or small—be sure girls are leading the event-planning, instead of sitting by passively while you or another adult plans the event. To get girls started, ask them to think about the following questions:
- What sort of event do we have in mind?
- Who is our intended audience?
- Will it be outdoors?
- Does the audience have to be invited, or can anyone come?
- What’s our main topic or focus?
- What’s our objective—what do we hope to accomplish at the end of the day?
- Will one or more speakers need to be invited? If so, who? How do we find speakers?
- Where will the event take place?
- Is there a charge for this venue?
- Is the venue large enough to accommodate the audience?
- Do we have to obtain permission to use this venue? If so, from whom?
- Are there adequate facilities for the audience? If not, how much will extra portable toilets cost, and how many do we need?
- Is there adequate parking or a drop-off point for girls?
- Do we need tables? chairs? podiums? microphones? speakers?
- What sort of entertainment will we provide?
- Will we provide or sell refreshments? If so, what kinds?
- How many chaperones will we need? Who will we ask?
- What emergency care do we need to plan for? Is the event large enough that local police and fire departments need to be notified?
- Do we need to purchase additional insurance for non–Girl Scouts?
- How will we advertise the event?
- What decorations will we use?
- Will we give away any keepsakes?
- Will we charge for the event?
- Who will set up the event?
- Who will clean up after the event?
- How will we determine whether the event was a success?
Ideas for girl-led events with family, friends, and community experts are also available in the Leadership Journey adult guides!
The GSNorCal Heritage Committee has collections of historic US Girl Scout uniforms, International uniforms, and camp uniforms. They may be rented for fashion shows, book reports, or service unit or troop events. Juliette’s Trunk is also available for check-out, which includes hands-on activities to help girls learn about old-time Girl Scouting. You can also borrow historic handbooks, a game about Juliette Low and other memorabilia. Contact the Heritage Committee in your area.
GSNorCal’s Heritage Committee also maintains a Girl Scout Museum at Camp Bothin in Marin County. Contact the Heritage Committee to arrange for a tour (a two-week notice is recommended.) Several of our council offices also have historical displays and change them throughout the year. The Heritage display at the Alameda office is adjacent to the retail store and the displays in San Jose and Chico are in the lobby areas. These displays may be visited during regular store/office hours.
Heritage Committee Contact
Please visit the council website at www.GSNorCal.org/museum for more information or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (800) 447-4475 ext. 0 to be put in touch with the right people to assist you.
Quick Links to GIRLS & ADULTS Chapter Topics: Engaging Girls At All Grade Levels | Troop Size | Understanding Healthy Development in Girls | Creating A Safe Space For Girls | When Sensitive Topics Come Up | Creating An Atmosphere of Acceptance & Inclusion | Girl Scout Meetings | Planning in A Girl-Led Environment | Letting Girls Lead | Troop Government | Preventing & Managing Conflict | Sample Troop Year | Friends & Family Network (Adults) | First Parent/Guardian/Caregiver Meeting | Working With Parents & Guardians | Additional Resources |
As a Girl Scout volunteer, you’ll have the opportunity to guide girls of all backgrounds, behaviors, skills, and abilities. You’ll help her develop leadership skills she can use now and as she grows—all in a safe and accepting environment. This Girls & Adults chapter gives you tips for doing just that.
You’ll read about how to effectively mentor girls to reach their highest potential, and how to effectively engage parents and other volunteers.
One of the key elements of participation in a Girl Scout troop is the group experience. Girl Scout groups are large enough to provide a cooperative learning environment and small enough to allow development of individual girls with a recommended troop size of twelve girls. Data shows that troops and groups have the most positive experience and stay together when they have at least twelve girls. Larger groups tend to have fewer problems with girls not getting along—girls can take a break from each other when there are other girls around. Getting along with people in a group and being tolerant of others are important life skills. Sometimes new volunteers are hesitant to have a larger group of girls. But, with twelve girls (or more), you have more adults to help and spread out the responsibilities.
The following group sizes are recommended ranges for each program level:
- Girl Scout Daisies: 5–12 girls
- Girl Scout Brownies: 10–20 girls
- Girl Scout Juniors: 10–25 girls
- Girl Scout Cadettes: 5–25 girls
- Girl Scout Seniors: 5–30 girls
- Girl Scout Ambassadors: 5–30 girls
Although troop size may vary greatly, all troops need to stay open to a minimum of twelve girls. If the troop is listed in the Troop Opportunity Catalog, the troop will automatically stay open until twelve girls are registered with the troop. Troops that have fewer girls may meet and carry out their activities, but should always be open to taking more girls. Large troops can be super fun, and offer lots of opportunities for different groups of girls to interact with each other.
Just being attentive to what girls are experiencing as they mature is a big help to girls. So take some time to understand the likes, needs, and abilities of girls at different ages.
As you listen and learn along with girls, you may find it useful to review the highlights of their development. What follows are the developmental abilities and needs of girls at various grade levels. You’ll also find these listed in the adult guide of each Leadership Journey. Plus, the activities in the Journeys are set up with the following guidelines in mind! Of course, each girl is an individual, so these are only guidelines that help you get to know the girls.
Girl Scout Daisies
At the Girl Scout Daisy level (kindergarten and 1st grade), girls . . .
This means . . .
|Have loads of energy and need to run, walk, and play outside.||They’ll enjoy going on nature walks and outdoor scavenger hunts.|
|Are great builders and budding artists, though they are still developing their fine motor skills.||Encouraging them to express themselves and their creativity by making things with their hands. Girls may need assistance holding scissors, cutting in a straight line, and so on.|
|Love to move and dance.||They might especially enjoy marching like a penguin, dancing like a dolphin, or acting out how they might care for animals in the jungle.|
|Are concrete thinkers and focused on the here and now.||Showing instead of telling, for example, about how animals are cared for. Plan visits to animal shelters, farms, or zoos; meet care providers; or make a creative bird feeder.|
|Are only beginning to learn about basic number concepts, time, and money.||You’ll want to take opportunities to count out supplies together—and, perhaps, the legs on a caterpillar!|
|Are just beginning to write and spell, and they don’t always have the words for what they’re thinking or feeling.||That having girls draw a picture of something they are trying to communicate is easier and more meaningful for them.|
|Know how to follow simple directions and respond well to recognition for doing so.||Being specific and offering only one direction at a time. Acknowledge when girls have followed directions well to increase their motivation to listen and follow again.|
Girl Scout Brownies
At the Girl Scout Brownie level (2nd and 3rd grade), girls . . .
This means . . .
|Have lots of energy and need to run, walk, and play outside.||Taking your session activities outside whenever possible.|
|Are social and enjoy working in groups.||Allowing girls to team up in small or large groups for art projects and performances.|
|Want to help others and appreciate being given individual responsibilities for a task.||Letting girls lead, direct, and help out in activities whenever possible. Allow girls as a group to make decisions about individual roles and responsibilities.|
|Are concrete thinkers and focused on the here and now.||Doing more than just reading to girls about the Brownie Elf’s adventures. Ask girls questions to gauge their understanding and allow them to role play their own pretend visit to a new country.|
|Need clear directions and structure, and like knowing what to expect.||Offering only one direction at a time. Also, have girls create the schedule and flow of your get-togethers and share it at the start.|
|Are becoming comfortable with basic number concepts, time, money, and distance.||
Offering support only when needed. Allow girls to set schedules for meetings or performances, count out money for a trip, and so on.
|Are continuing to develop their fine motor skills and can tie shoes, use basic tools, begin to sew, etc.||Encouraging girls to express themselves and their creativity by making things with their hands. Girls may need some assistance, however, holding scissors, threading needles, and so on.|
|Love to act in plays, create music, and dance.||Girls might like to create a play about welcoming a new girl to their school, or tell a story through dance or creative movement.|
|Know how to follow rules, listen well, and appreciate recognition of a job done well.||Acknowledging when the girls have listened or followed the directions well, which will increase their motivation to listen and follow again!|
Girl Scout Juniors
|At the Girl Scout Junior level (4th and 5th grades), girls . . .||This means . . .|
|Want to make decisions and express their opinions.||Whenever possible, allowing girls to make decisions and express their opinions through guided discussion and active reflection activities. Also, have girls set rules for listening to others’ opinions and offering assistance in decision making.|
|Are social and enjoy doing things in groups.||Allowing girls to team-up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities.|
|Are aware of expectations and sensitive to the judgments of others.||Although it’s okay to have expectations, the expectation is not perfection! Share your own mistakes and what you learned from them, and be sure to create an environment where girls can be comfortable sharing theirs.|
|Are concerned about equity and fairness.||Not shying away from discussing why rules are in place, and having girls develop their own rules for their group.|
|Are beginning to think abstractly and critically, and are capable of flexible thought.||Juniors can consider more than one perspective, as well as the feelings and attitudes of another. Asking girls to explain why they made a decision, share their visions of their roles in the future, and challenge their own and others’ perspectives.|
|Have strong fine and gross motor skills and coordination.||Engaging girls in moving their minds and their bodies. Allow girls to express themselves through written word, choreography, and so on.|
|Love to act in plays, create music, and dance.||Girls might like to tell a story through playwriting, playing an instrument, or choreographing a dance.|
|May be starting puberty, which means beginning breast development, skin changes, and weight changes. Some may be getting their periods.||Being sensitive to girls’ changing bodies, possible discomfort over these changes, and their desire for more information. Create an environment that acknowledges and celebrates this transition as healthy and normal for girls.|
Girl Scout Cadettes
At the Girl Scout Cadette level (6th, 7th, and 8th grades), girls . . .
|This means . . .|
|Are going through puberty, including changes in their skin, body-shape, and weight. They’re also starting their menstrual cycles and have occasional shifts in mood.||Being sensitive to the many changes Cadettes are undergoing and acknowledging that these changes are as normal as growing taller! Girls need time to adapt to their changing bodies, and their feelings about their bodies may not keep up. Reinforce that, as with everything else, people go through puberty in different ways and at different times.|
|Are starting to spend more time in peer groups than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.||That girls will enjoy teaming-up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities, as well as tackling relationship issues through both artistic endeavors and Take Action projects.|
|Can be very self-conscious — wanting to be like everyone else, but fearing they are unique in their thoughts and feelings.||Encouraging girls to share, but only when they are comfortable. At this age, they may be more comfortable sharing a piece of artwork or a fictional story than their own words. Throughout the activities, highlight and discuss differences as positive, interesting, and beautiful.|
|Are beginning to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home.||Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure”: girls learn from trying something new and making mistakes.|
Girl Scout Seniors
|At the Girl Scout Senior level (9th and 10th grades), girls . . .||This means . . .|
|Are beginning to clarify their own values, consider alternative points of view on controversial issues, and see multiple aspects of a situation.||
Asking girls to explain the reasoning behind their decisions. Engage girls in role-play and performances, where others can watch and offer alternative solutions.
|Have strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and are able to plan and reflect on their own learning experiences.||Girls are more than able to go beyond community service to develop projects that will create sustainable solutions in their communities. Be sure to have girls plan and follow up on these experiences through written and discussion-based reflective activities.|
Spend more time in peer groups than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.
|That girls will enjoy teaming up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities. They’ll also want to tackle relationship issues through both artistic endeavors and Take Action projects. Alter the makeup of groups with each activity so that girls interact with those they might not usually pair up with.|
|Frequently enjoy expressing their individuality.||Encouraging girls to express their individuality in their dress, creative expression, and thinking. Remind girls frequently that there isn’t just one way to look, feel, think, or act. Assist girls in coming up with new ways of expressing their individuality.|
|Feel they have lots of responsibilities and pressures—from home, school, peers, work, and so on.||
Acknowledging girls’ pressures and sharing how stress can limit health, creativity, and productivity. Help girls release stress through creative expression, movement, and more traditional stress-reduction techniques.
|Are continuing to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home.||Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure”: girls learn from trying something new and making mistakes.|
Girl Scout Ambassadors
|At the Girl Scout Ambassador level (11th and 12th grades), girls . . .||This means . . .|
|Can see the complexity of situations and controversial issues—they understand that problems often have no clear solution and that varying points of view may each have merit.||Inviting girls to develop stories as a group, and then individually create endings that they later discuss and share.|
|Have strong problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and can adapt logical thinking to real-life situations. Ambassadors recognize and incorporate practical limitations to solutions.||Girls are more than able to go beyond community service to develop projects that will create sustainable solutions in their communities. Be sure to have girls plan and follow up on these experiences through written and discussion-based reflective activities.|
|Spend more time with peers than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.||Girls will enjoy teaming up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities. They’ll also want to tackle relationship issues through artistic endeavors and Take Action projects. Alter the makeup of groups with each activity so that girls interact with those they might not usually pair up with.|
|Frequently enjoy expressing their individuality.||Encouraging girls to express their individuality in their dress, creative expression, and thinking. Remind girls frequently that there isn’t just one way to look, feel, think, or act. Assist girls in coming up with new ways of expressing their individuality.|
|Feel they have lots of responsibilities and pressures—from home, school, peers, work, etc.||Acknowledging girls’ pressures and sharing how stress can limit health, creativity, and productivity. Help girls release stress through creative expression, movement, and more traditional stress-reduction techniques.|
|Are continuing to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home—and are looking to their futures.||Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure": girls learn from trying something new and making mistakes.|
The Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) reports in More than ‘Smores that participating in casual outdoor activities in Girl Scouts, like playing, walking, or taking field trips in the outdoors made girls stronger problem solvers and challenge seekers. These outdoor experiences often place girls in new physical, psychological, and social situations that motivate curiosity and foster a sense of discovery. These challenges "require girls to become more self-aware and to cooperate, communicate, and solve problems." (2014 More than S'mores, page 5)
A safe space is one in which girls feel as though they can be themselves, without explanation, judgment, or ridicule. Girl Scout research shows that girls are looking for an emotionally safe environment, where confidentiality is respected and they can express themselves without fear.
The environment you create is as important—maybe more—than the activities girls do; it’s the key to developing the sort of group that girls want to be part of. The following sections share some tips on creating a warm, safe environment for girls.
Girl Scouting is for the enjoyment and benefit of the girls, so meetings are built around girls’ ideas. When you put the girls first, you’re helping develop a team relationship, making space for the development of leadership skills, and allowing girls to benefit from the guidance, mentoring, and coaching of caring adults.
The three Girl Scout processes (girl-led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning) are integral to the girl-adult partnership. Take time to read about processes and think about how to incorporate them into your group’s experiences. GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: THE GIRL SCOUT LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE (GSLE)
Girl Scout activities should be age-appropriate and should build on existing skills, while being just a little bit (attainably) challenging. Activities should build the girls' skills as they go.
Recognizing and Supporting Each Girl
Girls look up to their volunteers. They need to know that you consider each of them an important person. They can survive a poor meeting place or an activity that flops, but they cannot endure being ignored or rejected. Recognize acts of trying as well as instances of clear success. Emphasize the positive qualities that make each girl worthy and unique. Be generous with praise and stingy with rebuke. Help girls find ways to show acceptance of and support for one another.
Girls are sensitive to injustice. They forgive mistakes if they are sure you are trying to be fair. They look for fairness in the ways responsibilities are shared, in handling of disagreements and in responses to performance and accomplishment. When possible, consult girls as to what they think is fair before decisions are made. Explain your reasoning and show why you did something. Be willing to apologize if needed. Try to see that the responsibilities, as well as the chances for feeling important, are equally divided. Help girls explore and decide for themselves the fair ways of solving problems, carrying out activities, and responding to behavior and accomplishments.
Girls need your belief in them and your support when they try new things. They must be sure you will not betray a confidence. Show girls you trust them to think for themselves and use their own judgment. Help them make the important decisions in the group. Help them correct their own mistakes. Help girls give and show trust toward one another. Help them see how trust can be built, lost, regained, and strengthened.
Girls expect and want conflicts to be dealt with consistently and fairly. For more information, go to [ENGAGING GIRLS: Girls: Best Practices - Preventing & Managing Conflicts]
Inspiring Open Communication
Girls want someone who will listen to what they think, feel, and want to do. They like having someone they can talk to about important things, including things that might not seem important to adults. Listen to the girls. Respond with words and actions. Speak your mind openly when you are happy or concerned about something, and encourage girls to do this, too. Leave the door open for girls to seek advice, share ideas and feelings, and propose plans or improvements. Help girls see how open communication can result in action, discovery, better understanding of self and others, and a more comfortable climate for fun and accomplishment.
Communicating Effectively with Girls of Any Age
When communicating with girls, consider the following tips:
- Listen: Listening to girls, as opposed to telling them what to think, feel, or do (no "you shoulds") is the first step in helping them take ownership of their program.
- Be honest: If you’re not comfortable with a topic or activity, say so. No one expects you to be an expert on every topic. Ask for alternatives or seek out volunteers with the required expertise. (Owning up to mistakes—and apologizing for them—goes a long way with girls.)
- Be open to real issues: For girls, important topics are things like relationships, peer pressure, school, money, drugs, and other serious issues. (You’ll also have plenty of time to discuss less weighty subjects.) When you don’t know, listen. Also seek help from GSNorCal if you need assistance or more information than you currently have.
- Show respect: Girls often say that their best experiences were the ones where adults treated them as equal partners. Being spoken to as a young adult helps them grow.
- Offer options: Providing flexibility in changing needs and interests shows that you respect the girls and their busy lives. But whatever option is chosen, girls at every grade level also want guidance and parameters.
- Stay current: Be aware of the TV shows girls watch, movies they like, books and magazines they read, social media they engage with, and music they listen to—not to pretend you have the same interests, but to show you’re interested in their world.
One way to communicate with girls is through the LUTE method—listen, understand, tolerate, and empathize. Here is a breakdown of the acronym LUTE to remind you of how to respond when a girl is upset, angry, or confused.
- L = Listen: Hear her out, ask for details, and reflect back what you hear, such as, "What happened next?" or "What did she say?"
- U = Understand: Try to be understanding of her feelings, with comments such as, "So what I hear you saying is . . ." "I’m sure that upset you," "I understand why you’re unhappy," and "Your feelings are hurt; mine would be, too".
- T = Tolerate: You can tolerate the feelings that she just can’t handle right now on her own. It signifies that you can listen and accept how she is feeling about the situation. Say something like: "Try talking to me about it. I’ll listen," "I know you’re mad—talking it out helps," and "I can handle it—say whatever you want to."
- E = Empathize: Let her know you can imagine feeling what she’s feeling, with comments such as, "I’m sure that really hurts" or "I can imagine how painful this is for you."
Consider the following tips when working with teenage girls:
- Think of yourself as a partner, and as a coach or mentor, as needed (not a "leader").
- Ask girls what rules they need for safety and what group agreements they need to be a good team.
- Understand that girls need time to talk, unwind, and have fun together.
- Ask what they think and what they want to do.
- Encourage girls to speak their minds.
- Provide structure, but don’t micromanage.
- Give everyone a voice in the group.
- Treat girls like partners.
- Don’t repeat what’s said in the group to anyone outside of it (unless necessary for a girl’s safety).
Girl Scout Research Institute
It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen to girls. Since its founding in 2000, the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) has become an internationally recognized center for research and public policy information on the development and well-being of girls. Not just Girl Scouts, but all girls.
In addition to research staff, the GSRI draws on experts in child development, education, business, government, and the not-for-profit sector. We provide the youth development field with definitive research reviews that consolidate existing studies. And, by most measures, we are now the leading source of original research on the issues that girls face and the social trends that affect their lives. www.GirlScouts.org/research
In Girl Scouts, "sensitive issues" are subjects that may be deeply rooted in beliefs and values, or are controversial topics. Examples are topics such as these: relationships, dating, violence, human sexuality, eating disorders, pregnancy, suicide, death, drug/alcohol use, or current events of a controversial nature.
It’s not uncommon for girls of any age to spontaneously talk about these topics. They are faced with them in school, in the news, and in magazines, and will want to talk about them together. This is especially true with pre-teen and teenage girls. Also, the girls in your troop/group may choose a sensitive issue as a program focus. Girl Scouting plays an important role in helping girls explore their values and beliefs and gain self-confidence in their ability to make good decisions.
According to Feeling Safe: What Girls Say, a 2003 Girl Scout Research Institute study, girls are looking for groups that allow connection and a sense of close friendship. They want volunteers who are teen savvy and can help them with issues they face, such as bullying, peer pressure, dating, athletic and academic performance, and more. Some of these issues may be considered "sensitive" by parents, and they may have opinions or input about how, and whether, Girl Scouts should cover these topics should be covered with their daughters. (http://www.girlscouts.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsusa/forms-and-documents/about-girl-scouts/research/feeling_safe.pdf)
Girl Scouts welcomes and serves girls and families from a wide spectrum of faiths and cultures. When girls wish to participate in discussions or activities that could be considered sensitive—even for some—put the topic on hold until you have spoken with parents and received guidance from GSNorCal.
You should know, GSUSA does not take a position or develop materials on issues relating to human sexuality, birth control, or abortion. We feel our role is to help girls develop self-confidence and good decision-making skills that will help them make wise choices in all areas of their lives. We believe parents and guardians, along with schools and faith communities, are the primary sources of information on these topics.
Parents/guardians make all decisions regarding their girl’s participation in Girl Scout program that may be of a sensitive nature. As a volunteer leader, you must get written parental permission for any locally-planned program offering that could be considered sensitive. Included on the permission form should be the topic of the activity, any specific content that might create controversy, and any action steps the girls will take when the activity is complete. Sensitive and Controversial Issues Permission forms are available from www.gsnorcal.org/forms. Be sure to have a form for each girl, and keep the forms on hand in case a problem arises. For activities not sponsored by Girl Scouts, find out in advance (from organizers or other volunteers who may be familiar with the content) what will be presented, and follow GSNorCal's guidelines for obtaining written permission.
Listen and Ask: As the preceding sections suggest, you can help most just by being an empathetic listener. Sometimes, you may also find that by asking questions, you can help girls figure out how to get more information and guidance at school or at home. You don’t have to solve their issues, but you can put them on the trail toward solving them.
Arrange for Education: If you observe that girls need or want more information on a topic that concerns them, check with your Volunteer Development Manager (VDM), Membership Manager (MM) or other GSNorCal staff member about opportunities for arranging topical discussions with experts on areas such as healthy eating, or coping with bullies and cliques. You can reach your VDM at email@example.com. They will get back to you within a few days.
Don’t feel that you have to solve everything! Your role is to help girls get information from those trained people who can provide it. Council staff has built up relationships with community experts who can help.
What may seem benign to one person could be a sensitive issue for another. When you or the girls wish to participate in anything that could be considered controversial, including health or education in human sexuality, advocacy projects, work with religious groups, or anything that could consider a political/social debate, put the topic on hold until you’ve obtained written parental permission. See the Sensitive and Controversial Issues Parent Permission Form available from www.gsnorcal.org/forms. For non-Girl Scout activities, find out in advance from organizers or other volunteers who may be familiar with the content what will be presented, and follow GSNorCal's guidelines for obtaining written permission.
Report concerns: There may be times when you worry about the health and well-being of girls in your group. Alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, abuse, depression, and eating disorders are some of the issues girls may encounter. You are on the front-line of girls’ lives, and you are in a unique position to identify a situation in which a girl may need help. If you believe a girl is at risk of hurting herself or others, your role is to promptly bring that information to her parent/guardian or the council so she can get the expert assistance she needs. Your concern about a girl’s well-being and safety is taken seriously, and GSNorCal staff will guide you in addressing these concerns.
If you suspect that a girl needs special help:
Contact your VDM or MM at GSNorCal (firstname.lastname@example.org) and find out how to refer the girl and her parents/guardians to experts at school or in the community. Share your concern with the girl’s family, if this is feasible. Here are a few signs that could indicate a girl needs expert help:
- Marked changes in behavior or personality (for example, unusual moodiness, aggressiveness, or sensitivity)
- Declining academic performance and/or inability to concentrate
- Withdrawal from school, family activities, or friendships
- Fatigue, apathy, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased secretiveness
- Deterioration in appearance and personal hygiene.
- Eating extremes, unexplained weight loss, distorted body image
- Tendency toward perfectionism
- Giving away prized possessions; preoccupation with the subject of death
- Unexplained injuries such as bruises, burns, or fractures
- Avoidance of eye contact or physical contact
- Excessive fearfulness or distrust of adults
- Abusive behavior toward other children, especially younger ones
Your Role With Sensitive Issues
When Girl Scout activities involve sensitive issues, your role is that of caring adult who can help girls acquire their own skills and knowledge in a supportive atmosphere, not someone who advocates any particular position. Here are some guidelines for you:
- Remain neutral
- Provide factual information
- Respect the girls’ family values
- Admit when you don’t know an answer, or if the topic makes you uncomfortable
- Express confidence in the girls’ decision-making abilities.
- Protect the girls’ privacy
- Gently interrupt if the discussion becomes too personal and suggest that you talk it over after the meeting
- If possible, bring in experts
- Sensitive and Controversial Issues Permission Forms should be used whenever you feel the families may wish to be notified. Every region of our council and the country differs in terms of what families feel is okay for girls to discuss at various grade levels.
- Consult with GSNorCal staff for additional support (and whenever there are legal issues involved).
Girl Scouts embraces girls of all abilities, backgrounds, and heritage, with a specific and positive philosophy of inclusion that benefits everyone. Each girl—without regard to socioeconomic status, race, physical or cognitive ability, ethnicity, primary language, or religion—is an equal and valued member of the group, and groups reflect the diversity of the community.
Inclusion is an approach and an attitude, rather than a set of guidelines. Inclusion is about belonging, about all girls being offered the same opportunities, about respect and dignity, and about honoring the uniqueness of and differences among us all. You’re accepting and inclusive when you:
- Welcome every girl and focus on building community.
- Emphasize cooperation instead of competition.
- Provide a safe and socially comfortable environment for girls.
- Teach respect for, understanding of, and dignity toward all girls and their families.
- Actively reach out to girls and families who are traditionally excluded or marginalized.
- Foster a sense of belonging to community as a respected and valued peer.
- Honor the intrinsic value of each person’s life.
As you think about where, when, and how often to meet with your group, you will find yourself considering the needs, resources, safety, and beliefs of all members and potential members. As you do this, include the special needs of any members who have disabilities, or whose parents or guardians have disabilities. But please don’t rely on visual cues to inform you of a disability: Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population has a disability—that’s one in five people, of every socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and religion.
As a volunteer, your interactions with girls present an opportunity to improve the way society views girls (and their parents/guardians) with disabilities. Historically, disabilities have been looked at from a deficit viewpoint with a focus on how people with disabilities could be fixed. Today, the focus is on a person’s abilities—on what she can do rather than on what she cannot.
If you want to find out what a girl with a disability needs to make her Girl Scout experience successful, simply ask her or her parent/guardian. If you are frank and accessible, it’s likely they will respond in kind, creating an atmosphere that enriches everyone.
It’s important for all girls to be rewarded based on their best efforts—not on the completion of a task. Give any girl the opportunity to do her best and she will. Sometimes that means changing a few rules or approaching an activity in a more creative way. Here are some examples of ways to modify activities:
- Invite a girl to complete an activity after she has observed others doing it.
- If you are visiting a museum to view sculpture, find out if a girl who is blind might be given permission to touch the pieces.
- If an activity requires running, a girl who is unable to run could be asked to walk or do another physical movement.
In addition, note that people-first language puts the person before the disability.
Say . . .
|Instead of . . .|
|She has a learning disability.||She is a learning disabled girl.|
|She has a developmental delay.||She is a mentally retarded girl; she is slow.|
|She uses a wheelchair.||She is a wheelchair-bound girl.|
When interacting with a girl (or parent/guardian) with a disability, consider these final tips:
- When talking to a girl with a disability, speak directly to her, not through a parent/guardian or friend.
- It’s okay to offer assistance to a girl with a disability, but wait until your offer is accepted before you begin to help. Listen closely to any instructions the person may have.
- Leaning on a girl’s wheelchair is invading her space and is considered annoying and rude.
- When speaking to a girl who is deaf and using an interpreter, speak to the girl, not to the interpreter.
- When speaking for more than a few minutes to a girl who uses a wheelchair, place yourself at eye level.
- When greeting a girl with a visual disability, always identify yourself and others. You might say, "Hi, it’s Sheryl. Tara is on my right, and Chris is on my left."
When and how often to meet is up to you, your co-volunteers, parents, and girls: it may just be one time for this particular group of girls. Or, if you meet regularly, what day and time work best for the girls, for you, for your co-volunteers, and for other adults who will be presenting or mentoring? Once per week, twice a month, once a month? Most troops meet bi-weekly. Is after-school best? Can your co-volunteers meet at that time, or will meetings work better in the evenings or on weekends? For meeting place considerations [SAFETY-WISE: Meeting Place Considerations]
The sample sessions in the Leadership Journey adult guides will give you ideas about how to plan and hold successful troop meetings that allow girls to Discover, Connect, and Take Action as they have fun with a purpose. (See [PROGRAM: The Girl Scout Leadership Experience] for more on the three processes.) Many volunteers find it helpful to think of meetings having six parts, as outlined below, but feel free to structure the meeting in a way that makes sense for you and the girls.
|As Girls Arrive||Start-up activities are planned so that when girls arrive at the meeting they have something to do until the meeting begins. For younger girls, it could be coloring pages; teen girls might jot down a journal entry or just enjoy a little time to talk.|
|Opening||The opening focuses the meeting and allows girls to start the meeting. Each troop decides how to open their own meeting—most begin with the Girl Scout Promise and Law, and then add a simple flag ceremony, song, game, story, or other ceremony designed by the girls. Girl Scout Brownies, for example, might create a new tradition by skipping in a circle while singing a song. Ceremonies, even when brief or humorous, make Girl Scout time special. The Journey adult guides contain ideas about openings that correspond to Journey themes.|
|Business||Troop business may include taking attendance, collecting dues, making, and planning an upcoming event or trip. This is a good time for girls to take turns leading, especially as they grow up! (Some troops may move the business portion of the meeting to an earlier or later slot.|
|Activities||Activities will depend on what the girls want to do in their troop and how they want to spend their collective time. Outdoor time is important, so encourage the girls to do an activity in a park or forest. If girls are interested in animals, encourage the girls to plan a visit to a zoo or animal shelter. As you engage in one of the three National Leadership Journeys, review the "Sample Sessions at a Glance" in the adult guide for Journey activity ideas.|
|Snack||Treats are an option some troops decide to include in their meetings and range from a bottle of soap bubbles or a jump rope to a food snack. If girls choose to include snacks, guide them to consider the health of a potential snack, as well as possible food allergies. Enlist the help of parents or guardians by asking them to sign up and bring a treat. You’ll also find plenty of snack ideas and signup forms in the adult guide of most Leadership Journeys.|
|Clean-up||Clean-up is a great habit for girls to get their meeting space back to the way it was when they arrived—maybe even cleaner! Girls can also take leadership of the cleaning themselves, deciding who does what. They might even enjoy the tradition of a kaper chart (a chore chart that lists all the chores and assigns girls’ names to each), so that everyone takes turns at each responsibility.|
|Closing||The closing lets the girls know that the troop meeting is ending. Many girls close with the friendship circle, in which each girl stands in a circle, puts her right arm over her left, and holds the hand of the girl standing next to her. The friendship squeeze is started by one girl, and then passed around the circle until it comes back to the girl who started it. When the squeeze is finished, girls twist clockwise out of the circle lifting their arms and turning around and out of the circle. In addition, you may find some helpful, Journey-related closing ceremony ideas in the Journey’s adult guide.|
Icebreaker games that let girls share simple details about themselves are a great way to start off your first gathering. Journeys often start with such an icebreaker, so if you’re digging into a Journey right away, you’ll be all set. You can also check your council’s resources or search the Internet for "icebreakers for kids" to find more ideas.
If you already know which Journey the girls want to do, you’ll find it useful to accomplish some of the following during this meeting. (Note that all these points are detailed in the adult guide for each Journey, too). If your girls haven’t chosen a Journey yet, you can spend time during the first meeting talking about the themes of the three Journeys that are available for their grade level and find out which one the group would like to do. You can then discuss these points in the next meeting, if you run out of time.
- Introduce the Journey, its theme, and its ties to leadership. Each Journey’s adult guide gives you ideas for talking with girls and their parents/guardians about the Journey’s theme and the Three Keys to Leadership (Discover, Connect, Take Action). Just follow Sample Session 1 and you'll be all set!
- Find out what interests the group (and be sure to include the other adult volunteers), so that you and the girls can begin to customize the Journey. Do the girls want to dig deeper into a particular aspect of the Journey? Without promising anything (yet!), ask the girls to talk about what they’re passionate about, what they’ve always wanted to do, and how they would spend their time if money and other barriers were no object. Remind the girls they can do activities inside or outside. Build off the ideas shared, but be sure to include opinions from all the girls. Ask direct questions of those who seem to be holding back or are unsure about answering, so everyone is included.
- Get the girls talking about how they want to schedule their time together. Use the planning pages from their Journey (referring to your draft calendar only as needed, so that the girls lead). Consider questions like these:
- Can girls organize and plan a field trip or longer travel opportunity that will allow them to learn more about a particular Journey topic or theme?
- Is there an event that meshes with this topic or area of interest?
- Can the girls locate and communicate with an expert in the field via email or social media?
- Can they invite a guest speaker to answer questions or demonstrate particular skills?
- Which badges can the group choose to work on that will deepen their skills in this particular area?
- If they are Juniors or older, are they interested in pursuing their Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards?
- Do they have ideas for activities that will involve younger or older girls?
For all troop levels, Daisy through Ambassador and multi-level troops, you can log into your Volunteer Toolkit to find meeting plans, and lots of other tools to help manage the troop.
important to start planning your time with girls. You should consider the
following questions and begin to map out your Girl Scout year:
How many times each month will you meet? When do you plan to break for holidays?
How many weeks do you need to allocate for the Girl Scout Cookie Program?
Will you have time in your schedule for guest speakers and other visitors?
If you’ve worked with this group before, what are their preferences: badge work? field trips? other activities? For specific ideas on how to incorporate badges, trips, and other Girl Scout traditions into a Journey, check out the online Journey maps for the grade level of the girls you’re partnering with.
If your group will be meeting for less than a year (such as at a resident camp or during a series), you’ll be able to adjust the calendar to suit your needs. In the same way, if you’re planning a multi-year event (such as a travel excursion), add one or two more years to the framework.
After you’ve drafted a loose framework, ask the girls what they think. Or, create the online calendar together! Remember that you want girls to lead, but younger girls will need more guidance, while older girls will require much less. Seniors and Ambassadors may not even want you to draft a calendar in advance, so if they balk at what you’ve done, let them take the reins. (Journeys for older girls include planning pages specifically designed to help them customize their Journey.) Daisies and Brownies, on the other hand, may enjoy your calendar and just fill in a few ideas here and there, which will clue you in to their interests.
As your group starts its Journey, get a discussion (or debate!) going on the Journey’s theme and what it means to the girls. Probe to find out what they’re most interested in accomplishing during their time together, and then help them connect those interests to their Journey.
Involving Girls in Meeting & Activity PlanningHelp each troop member do her part to ensure the meeting and activities are enriching and fun. Based on their grade levels and abilities, girls may decide and plan opening and closing activities, bring and prepare treats, teach songs or games, and clean up. As girls grow, they can show and teach younger members about Girl Scouting. They can also assist you in preparing materials for activities. For trips, campouts, parent meetings, and multi-troop events, girls may be responsible for shopping, packing equipment, handing out programs, cleaning up, gathering wood, and so on. As long as you pay attention to grade level and maturity, what girls can do is endless! What better way to prepare them for life after high school?
Yearly Approach: In the spring the girls make lists of ideas for activities the following year. A "draft" calendar is then created for the last meeting and parents sign up to help with the activities. Over the summer, a tentative yearly calendar is put together and folders with the meeting info and schedule along with the roster and calendar. Girls receive their folder at the first meeting and then they can lead the meetings following the calendar that they set up.
Month-to-Month Approach: After the girls make some decisions about what they’d like to do, make a general calendar for the year with the big things they’ve planned, and then prepare a calendar each month with the regular meeting activities which are scheduled. That way, the girls can be planning as they go, and have more flexibility to plan in additional activities doing something they are enjoying. As well, there is less ’pressure’ to finish projects since they can just keep going with them at the next meeting if they want to.
Getting the Girls' Ideas
Discussions and decision-making should be fun! Along with the fun techniques in the Journey sample sessions, here are some other fun ideas. It’s a good idea to use many different ways to get the girls’ ideas and engage them in their planning. Here are fun ways to bring out their ideas.
- Brainstorm Graffiti Sheet: Hang a large sheet of paper on the wall at each meeting. Let girls write ideas or add to other ones already written.
- Fives: Everyone gives five ideas in each of the categories they agree on: crafts, outings, outdoor activities, service projects, awards, etc.
- Idea or Dream Box: Girls suggest activities.
- Jelly Bean Game: Each girl gets a certain number of jelly beans (or Cheerios, grapes, raisins, M&Ms, etc). As you go around a circle, each girl gives an idea or answers a question (such as "What do I like to do?" or "Where would I like to go?") and eats her jelly bean. You can’t eat a jelly bean unless you answer or speak up, and you can’t answer/speak up unless you have a jelly bean.
- Sticky Notes: Have girls draw or write things they like to do on separate sticky notes to post on a large piece of paper for all to see.
- "Taster" activities: Try sample activities and ask for girls’ reactions. They won’t hide their enthusiasm (or lack of it!)
- "What we like to do collage": Have girls cut pictures from magazines or draw pictures of things they'd like to do.
Brainstorm Session: This immediately gives girls the feeling that anything is possible, and ideas will flow.
Checklists or Surveys: Provide a list of possible activities that could be done. Leave space at the bottom of the sheet for them to write in suggestions.
First, allow girls to advocate for some of their choices. Here are some ways to find out the girls’ feelings about the ideas.
- Now, Soon, Later: Three corners of the room are designated "Now, Soon, or Later". As each idea is said, have girls run to the area that corresponds with how they feel.
- Pep ‘N Flash: Ideas are written down on separate index cards and passed out evenly to the girls. Each girl reads a card, all girls say Yea or Boo. If there are any Boos, the card is put in the center of the circle. Keep going around until the only cards left are the ones without any Boos. Narrow choices from there by having everyone only vote three times, etc.
- Spectrum: Have a line with one end for "My favorite idea ever" and the other end for "I’m not interested". For each idea, have the girls arrange themselves on the line according to their feelings.
- Stickers: Write the ideas on a large piece of paper. Have each girl place a sticker next to the ones she likes. Or, give each girl a specific number of stickers—e.g. "you can only vote five times."
Many troops employ a democratic system of governance so that all members have the opportunity to express their interests and feelings and share in the planning and coordination of activities. Girls partner with you and other adults, and you facilitate, act as a sounding board, and ask and answer questions. Girls from Daisies through Ambassadors will gain confidence and leadership skills when given the opportunity to lead their activities, learn cooperatively as a group, and learn by doing instead of by observing.
Girls may choose any form of troop government (or combination) that works for them. They may need to experiment with different things until the troop is running the way they would like it to. The aim is to find a way for every girl to express her ideas and be part of the decisions. The following are some traditions troops have used for girl-led governance, but these are just examples. Journeys offer examples of team decision-making too. View the Troop Government Resources for more details.
|Daisy Circle/Brownie Ring: While sitting in a circle, girls create a formal group decision-making body. The circle is an organized time for girls to express their ideas and talk about activities they enjoy, and you play an active role in facilitating discussion and helping them plan. Girls often vote to finalize decisions. If girls are talking over each other, consider passing an object like a talking stick that entitles one girl to speak at a time.|
Junior/Cadette/Senior/Ambassador Patrol or Team System: In this system, large troops divide into small groups, with every member playing a role. Teams of four to six girls are recommended so that each girl gets a chance to participate and express her opinions. Patrols may be organized by interests or activities that feed into a take-action project, with each team taking responsibility for some part of the total project, and girls may even enjoy coming up with names for their teams.
Patrol leaders meet with adults periodically in what is called a Court of Honor, where patrol leaders bring forward the ideas and plans their patrols are working on.
|Junior/Cadette/Senior/Ambassador Executive Board: In the executive board system (also called steering committee), one leadership team makes decisions for the entire troop. This is similar to student government systems that girls may be familiar with. The boards’ (elected officers) responsibility is to plan activities and assign jobs based on interests and needs, and the rest of the troop decides how to pass their ideas and suggestions to the executive board throughout the year. The executive board usually has a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer and holds its own meetings to discuss troop matters. Limit the length of time each girl serves on the executive board so all troop members can participate during the year.|
|Junior/Cadette/Senior/Ambassador Town Meeting: Under the town meeting system, business is discussed and decisions are made at meetings attended by all the girls in the troop. As in the patrol and executive board systems, everyone gets the chance to participate in decision-making and leadership. Your role is to act as a moderator, who makes sure everyone gets a chance to talk and that all ideas are considered.|
|Task Groups/Committees: Small groups are formed for specific tasks. Task groups may be used to investigate information on a particular question, plan and/or carry out parts of a troop project, or carry out routine and/or special tasks.|
Conflicts and disagreements are an inevitable part of life, and when handled constructively can actually enhance communication and relationships. At the very least, Girl Scouts are expected to practice self-control and diplomacy so that conflicts do not erupt into regrettable incidents. Shouting, verbal abuse, or physical confrontations are never warranted and cannot be tolerated in the Girl Scout environment.
When a conflict arises between girls or a girl and a volunteer, get those involved to sit down together and talk calmly and in a nonjudgmental manner. (Each party may need some time—a few days or a week—to calm down before being able to do this.) Although talking in this way can be uncomfortable and difficult, it does lay the groundwork for working well together in the future. Whatever you do, do not spread your complaint around to others—that won’t help the situation and causes only embarrassment and anger.
If a conflict persists, be sure you explain the matter to your volunteer support team. If the supervisor cannot resolve the issues satisfactorily (or if the problem involves the supervisor), the issue can be taken to the next level of supervision and, ultimately, contact your council if you need extra help.
The easiest way to deal with conflicts is to prevent them from happening! In Girl Scouting, we use many techniques to accomplish this:
- Team Agreements (Ground Rules): It’s a good idea to have the group establish expectations and agree on consequences at the very beginning. The team agreement can be revisited throughout the year to see if it needs any adjustment.
- Girls should be involved in making them.
- Rules/consequences should be settled in advance at a calm time.
- Girls and adults must agree to them (some rules are non-negotiable, especially those relating to safety).
- It's a good idea to post the rules at meetings as a reminder to all.
- It's a good idea to relate rules to the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
- Use Kaper Charts: This allows for a fair way to divide up chores, avoids the appearance of playing favorites or having the leader’s daughter get stuck with more than her share, and also gives a way to mix up the girls to help them get to know each other better. You can make kaper charts in a variety of ways. You can also use kaper charts to rotate tasks for individual girls or to rotate adult responsibilities (and even schedule breaks).
- Teambuilding Activities and Games: Ensuring that the girls have an opportunity to get to know each other is important. This can be done by providing opportunities to work in small groups and pairs, rotating them frequently. Cooperative games can also help the girls in your troop ’be a sister to every Girl Scout’.
- Changing Activities Frequently: Changing activities often can help a variety of problems. Girls, especially young ones, have short attention spans. Savvy adults know that if girls start picking at each other or having problems getting along, that is time to pull out something new to do and possibly change the groups around.
- Split the girls up into groups for activities: This allows the opportunity to put girls together who potentially might be good friends (great idea for shyer girls or if you have a girl or girls who don't yet have friends in the troop), separate girls who are having interpersonal difficulties before the problem escalates, and allows girls the opportunity to get to know all of the girls, rather than always sticking with those one or two "best friends".
- Do It/Did It: Start with two cans and all girls’ names (on popsicle sticks) in the Do It can. Draw a name from the can when you need a line leader, the person to be "It" in a game, or the person who gets to do the special thing that everyone wants to do. Put that person’s name in the Did It can. Start over when everyone has had a turn. (Can also use slips of paper in a bag).
- Program Resources: The adult Journey guides have lots of ideas for how to do activities. There are also fun badges in the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting that foster teambuilding and developing inclusive behavior and empathy in girls.
- Talking Sign: When a girl wishes to speak during a discussion, she taps her raised index and middle fingers (two fingers) in front of her on the floor or
on the table.
- Talking Stick: Have a special stick (could be broomstick size or smaller, could decorate) or other item and the only person who can talk is the one holding it. During certain types of discussions the discussion leader (could be a girl) holds on to the other end and does not let go so she can get it back when needed to hand it to another person.
CFL (Caught Following the Law) Stickers: (Could print CFL with a smiley face on computer return address labels). Walk around during the meeting and stick on those who are ’caught’ following the Girl Scout Law. Don’t use them at every meeting and the girls will never know when they will get one.
- Marble Jar: You will need a small jar and some marbles or some other small objects to fill the jar. You can pre-determine reasons objects are placed in the jar, e.g. everyone turning in permission slips on time, bringing asked for materials, etc. You place objects into the jar for these rewards, and you take objects out of the jar for misbehavior. When the jar is full, they receive a reward: a party, field trip, etc.
- Quiet Sign Leader: (or anyone who wishes to get the group’s attention) quietly raises right hand. The girls should learn that they then also raise their hands, and "when your hand goes up, your mouth goes shut."
If an activity is not going well, it's a great idea to stop and have the group talk about it. Would the group like to take a break? Adjust the activity? Stop the activity and do something else? Did the girls choose this activity? Is it turning out as well as they thought it would? This is a great opportunity to let the girls make some girl-led decisions about what should happen next.
Sometimes it is a good idea for adults to step back and ask themselves whether it really is a problem for the girls to be giggling while doing an activity, being noisy, taking creative license on a project, taking "too long", or not participating in a planned project. Is it really bothering anyone besides you? Do they really need to finish it at all? Girl Scouting is supposed to be fun, and should feel more relaxed than school.
Consequences for Negative Behavior
Discuss the following ideas with the girls when they are creating their Team Agreement to see if they are interested in trying any of them.
- Doghouse: Have a small dog figurine, make a doghouse out of a small box. As long as girls are doing well at meeting the dog stays out of the doghouse to enjoy their activities. When the girls are not following rules, become too loud, etc. the dog retreats to his doghouse to get away. The dog usually will retreat into his house for 5 minutes before he peeks out to check on the girls.
- Blue Spot: The "Blue Spot" can be just a blue piece of construction paper. If someone is breaking a rule or is overly disruptive, the leader (without stopping the activity, and usually without a word) calmly hands the Blue Spot to the girl. She would then take the Blue Spot to a designated place away from everyone and sit until she felt ready to rejoin the group (or a specified few minutes). Occasionally, you may ask if a girl feels like she needs the blue spot and let her make the decision herself.
- Situation Jar: Ask each girl to write some "unacceptable situations" on slips of paper. Discuss these situations together as a troop, and after each has been discussed, place the slip into the jar. When the troop is satisfied that they have thought of all the situations they can, they then all agree to avoid these situations. Situations can be added as the year progresses and as they arise. You might ask: "Is this a situation for our jar?" and then write it on a slip of paper and add it to the jar. You might have an individual girl go to the jar, write the situation and add it to the jar. This accomplishes two things: it makes her aware of the situation, and also gives her a chance to remove herself from the situation and creates a "time out" (a time to refocus).
- Three Strikes: A strike is represented by a ticket. If a girl is breaking the rules, etc., just quietly go over to her with no comment, and place a ticket in front of her. Continue what you are doing. If she continues, place a second ticket in front of her. If it is necessary to place the third and final ticket, she is then instructed to call for a ride home.
- Whenever possible handle issues privately with girls. Each girl must always be treated with respect. Often, behavior problems or acting out may be a result of difficult situations in a girl’s life or simply a bad day.
- Keep your cool! If you find yourself tempted to act or speak in anger, have one of the other adults handle the situation.
- In conflicts, both sides of the story or issue must be heard.
- Girls should talk about their feelings and differences and resolve their own problems as much as possible.
- Avoid calling undue attention to the girl(s) involved. If possible, don’t stop the activity or what you’re doing, and instead have one of the adults speak privately with those involved.
- Never discuss one girl with another (especially with your own daughter) or with another adult who is not part of the leadership team. Issues and conflicts must be kept confidential.
- Program resources can be used to promote conflict resolution and active listening. Use the values in the Girl Scout Promise and Law as behavioral guidelines.
- Involve a girl's parents or guardians in problem-solving. They may be able to help give ideas for effective strategies, or may be able to help you understand a girl's personality or temperament better, or if there may be any issues that might be contributing to the situation.
- Consult with local volunteers (remember to protect confidentiality) or council staff for creative ideas or solutions.
Be aware that acting out or other inappropriate behavior can be a symptom of emotional or physical child abuse.
Volunteers are not "mandatory reporters" under California law, but should consider themselves morally responsible to report any suspected child abuse. Note that you do not have to be convinced that abuse is definitely occurring—if the thought crosses your mind and you think there is a possibility that it could be true, then this means that you suspect abuse.
If you suspect child abuse, contact a council staff member for assistance. Staff members are mandated reporters, and have been trained in reporting suspected child abuse.
Here is just one example of how you and the girls could set up your troop year.
- Hold a parent/guardian meeting.
- Open a checking account.
- Register all the girls in the troop.
- Meet together for the first time, allowing the girls to decide how they can learn each others’ names and find out more about each other.
- Kick off a leadership Journey with the opening ceremony recommended in the first sample session, or a trip or special event that fits the theme. Have the girls brainstorm and plan any trip or event.
- Enjoy the full Journey, including its take-action project.
- Along the way, add in related badge activities that girls will enjoy and that will give them a well-rounded year.
- Have the girls plan, budget for, and "earn and learn" in the Girl Scout Cookie Program.
- Help girls plan a field trip or other travel opportunity.
- Encourage girls to plan a culminating ceremony for the Journey, including awards presentations, using ideas in the Journey girls’ book and/or adult guide.
- Pre-register girls for next year.
- Camp out!
- Participate in a council-wide event with girls from around your region.
- Have the girls plan and hold a bridging ceremony for girls continuing on to the next Girl Scout grade level.
The end of the troop year doesn’t have to be the end of a girls’ time with Girl Scouting, or the end of your time with girls. Some girls may no longer have time for a full-year commitment and will be unsure what’s next for them. Others won’t be able to imagine their lives without this same group of girls. Here’s how you can best reengage your troop:
- Some girls may want other options besides troops. That’s okay—Girl Scouts offers many ways to participate. Talk to girls about day and residence camp, travel opportunities, STEM and robotics offerings, and events your GSNorCal may offer. Older girls, especially, enjoy these shorter-term, flexible ways to be Girl Scouts.
- Some girls will be excited to bridge to the next grade level in Girl Scouting, and will look to you for guidance on how to hold a bridging ceremony. Even if you’re not sure of your continued participation with Girl Scouts (and we hope you will find lots of exciting ways to be involved, even if leading a troop no longer fits your life), be sure to capture their excitement and work with them to a plan a meaningful bridging ceremony.
- If you plan to stay with this troop, but some girls are bridging to the next grade level, talk to your VDM or MM about helping them decide how they’d like to continue in Girl Scouting—perhaps in programs like STEM, events, or travel!
- Talk to girls about earning their Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards, which are opportunities for them to make a dramatic difference in their communities—and to have plenty to brag about with college admissions officers, too.
Forming Your Friends & Family Network
You’ll want to involve other adults in the troop. Most parents and guardians are helpful and supportive and sincerely appreciate your time and effort on behalf of their daughters. And you almost always have the same goal, which is to make Girl Scouting an enriching experience for their girls. Encourage them to check out www.GirlScouts4girls.org to find out how to expand their roles as advocates for their daughters.
In addition to the parents/guardians, think about the people you know whom you admire, who can connect with girls, who are dependable and responsible, and who realistically have time to spend volunteering. Consider business associates, neighbors, former classmates, friends, and so on. If you have trouble finding reliable, quality volunteers to assist, talk to your volunteer support team for advice and support. And feel free to use the sample welcome letter and friends/family checklist in the Girl Scout Daisy, Brownie, and Junior leadership Journeys to assist you in expanding your troop’s adult network.
As part of the Basic Troop Leader training required for new leaders, you will take a short module called "Getting Adults to Help" found in the New Troop Leader section for each program level. training.gsnorcal.org
Troop Leaders are responsible for ensuring that all adult volunteer helpers are adult member-volunteers, which means they have current membership and current and approved electronic background check on file with GSNorCal. Troop volunteers must complete required training(s) for their role on the Volunteer Learning Portal. Please notify volunteers helping your troop about these requirements. Be sure every volunteer reviews and follows the Girl Scout Safety Guidelines [SAFETY-WISE: Girl Scout Safety Guidelines].
Set up positions that work for you, and draw on other volunteers who possess skill sets that you may lack. When you’re ready to invite parents, neighbors, friends, colleagues, and other respected adults to work with you, send them a letter and invite them to their first troop committee meeting.
Your troop committee members might help by:
- Helping at troop meetings
- Filling in for you
- Arranging meeting places
- Being responsible for communicating with girls and parents/guardians
- Locating adults with expertise on a topic of special interest to girls
- Assisting with trips and chaperoning
- Managing troop records
A troop committee may be made up of general members or may include specific positions. The following positions have online training modules available:
Fall Product or Cookie Manager: Manages all aspects of Girl Scout Fall Product Program or Cookie Program activities.
Troop Treasurer: Someone to keep track of the money and financial records.
Trip & Outdoor Advisor: The volunteer you’d look to whenever you need to transport girls for any reason; this person would have volunteers available to drive and chaperone.
Troop Driver: Someone to drive on occasional outings or trips.
Troop Helper/Chaperone: Attends all meetings with girls (or rotates with other adults) and plans meeting activities with girls and other adults.
Troop/Group First Aider: Holds current first aid and CPR certification, accompanies the troop when a first aider is required, knows how to use the Safety Activity Checkpoints, and helps to train girls in safe ways to plan their activities.
Troop Camping Certified Adult: Assumes responsibility for camping activities, trains and prepares girls in camping skills. Attends camping trip.
Backpacking Certified Adult: (Juniors and older) Assumes responsibility for training and preparing girls for their backpacking experience. Attends backpacking trip.
Bronze Award Advisor: (Junior troops) Assumes responsibility for Bronze Award activities, trains girls in guidelines, and helps them through the process.
Silver Award Advisor: (Cadette troops) Assumes responsibility for Silver Award activities, trains girls in guidelines, and helps them through the process.
Gold Award Advisor: (Senior/Ambassador troops) Assumes responsibility for Gold Award activities, trains girls in guidelines, and helps them through the process.
STEM Advisor: Become empowered to facilitate Girl Scout STEM programs – Learn about the GSUSA STEM Badges and advise/organize girls with STEM activities.
The following positions are also suggested but do not have official training available:
Snack Coordinator: Develops schedule for snack responsibilities and communicates schedule to families.
Craft Coordinator: Plans and coordinates a few craft projects for certain meetings and collects supplies for a troop craft box.
Communication Coordinator: Phones families as necessary in the event of meeting changes or last-minuteand develops phone tree for use when troop is on outings.
Sibling Baby-sitter: Watch children during the meetings so other parents can get involved.
Photographer/Historian: Keeps all photos and activity records on file for the year. Creates a scrapbook for the troop and shares pictures with families. Updates troop website if available.
Troop Registrar: Keeps track of member information, ensures that all girls have completed registration and adult volunteers are member-volunteers with current and approved electronic background check on file with GSNorCal. They will create a troop roster, maintain a contact list and keep track of the troop records.
Asking for Help - Best Practices
Remember that not everyone will be able to help out in equal ways—some families may have stressors, such as money challenges, illness, or other problems that they may not feel comfortable sharing. Their daughters need Girl Scouting even more than the other girls!
Open and regular communication is the best way to gain support from parents/guardians. Here are some ideas for successfully recruiting parent/guardian help:
- Online trainings are available for each position. Ask an interested parent to check out the modules for positions they might be interested in.
- Hold a parent meeting to let everyone get to know each other and learn about the girls’ plans.
- Call parents of new girls to introduce yourself and welcome them.
- Send a parent interest survey to find out what the parents’ interests and talents are.
- Invite the parents to attend troop/group meetings.
- Invite parents to special troop ceremonies.
- Plan something special: family picnic, Me and My Guy activity, etc., to invite the families to.
- Ask for help personally—sending a general plea in a newsletter or via email doesn’t always work.
- Make yourself available after meetings to greet and chat with the parents—let them get to know you, and take the time to get to know them.
- Establish good communication: newsletters, e-group, parent meetings, etc. The more families know about the girls’ plans, the more likely they are to offer to help.
- Do activities that involve family interaction: e.g. girls develop family safety plans.
- Ask parents to drive for field trips.
- Give sufficient notice; be specific about what you’re asking for.
- Encourage parents to reach out to other adults; bring in resources.
- Recognize and thank parents for their contributions. Here are a few ideas for expressing thanks:
- Have the girls make thank you cards.
- Have the girls make small thank you gifts.
- Remember to acknowledge contributions in newsletters or electronic communications.
Cash or Gift Card Thank You Gifts
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, volunteers are individuals who perform service for nonprofit organizations without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation. Offering stipends or other compensation to volunteers may inadvertently convert a "volunteer" into an "employee." Volunteers who receive stipends must be treated the same as paid staff and payroll tax contributions must be withheld from their pay; this goes for in-kind benefits as well (they must be assigned fair market value). Volunteer recognition gifts of limited value (e.g., logo shirt, plaque), fortunately, are considered a "de minimus benefit" and are not taxed. However, cash, a gift certificate or a similar item that can easily exchange for cash is treated as compensation.
A parent/guardian meeting, or a meeting of your friends-and-family network (as encouraged in many of the leadership Journeys), is a chance for you to get to know the families of the girls in your group.
Take the "Meeting With Parents/Guardians" course under the New Troop Leader section of each program level. The course will walk you through the suggested agenda and there are many handouts for you to give the families. training.gsnorcal.org
Before the meeting, be sure you and/or your co-volunteers have done the following:
Planning for the Meeting
- For younger girls, arranged for a parent, another volunteer, or a group of older girls to do activities with the girls in your group while you talk with their parents/guardians (if girls will attend the meeting, too)
- Practiced a discussion on the following:
- Girl Scout Mission, Promise, and Law
- Benefits of Girl Scouting for their daughters, including how the GSLE is a world-class system for developing girl leaders
- All the fun the girls are going to have
- Expectations for girls and their parents/guardians
- Ideas of how parents and other guardians can participate in and enrich their daughters’ Girl Scout experiences
- Determined when product sales (including Girl Scout cookie activities) will happen in your council; parents/guardians will absolutely want to know
- Determined what information parents should bring to the meeting
- Used the Friends and Family pages provided in the adult guides for many of the Journeys, or created your own one-page information sheet with
- Contact information for you and co-volunteers and helpers
- The day and time of each meeting
- Location of and directions to the meeting place
- What to bring with them
- Information on how to get Journey resources—books, awards, and keepsakes—and other merchandise like sashes, vests, T-shirts, and so on)
- Gathered or created supplies, including:
- A sign-in sheet
- An information sheet
- Permission forms for parents/guardians (also available from GSNorCal)
- Health history forms (as required by GSNorCal)
- GSUSA registration forms
- Prepared yourself to ask parents and guardians for help, being as specific as you can about the kind of help you will need (the Journey’s Friends and Family pages will come in handy here)
- Decide on the date, location, and time of the meeting, and publicized to everyone
You’re free to structure your parent/guardian meetings in whatever way works for you, but the following structure works for many new volunteers.
Why Girl Scouts?
- As the girls and adults arrive, ask them to sign in. If the girls’ parents/guardians haven’t already registered them online, you’ll want to email or hand out information so they can do so. If possible, bring an internet enabled laptop or tablet so that people could register at the meeting. You may also want to email or hand out a brief information sheet before or at this meeting.
- Welcome the girls and adults, introduce yourself and other co-volunteers or helpers.
- Have adults and girls introduce themselves, discuss whether anyone in their families has been a Girl Scout, and talk about what Girl Scouting means to them. Welcome everyone, regardless of experience, and let them know they will be learning about Girl Scouts today. (If you’re new to Girl Scouting, don't worry - just let everyone know you'll be learning about Girl Scouting together!
If Girls Are Present
Ask the girls to go with the adult or teen in charge of their activity and begin the discussion.
About Girl Scouts
Discuss the information you prepared for this meeting:
- All the fun girls are going to have!
- When and where the group will meet
- The Girl Scout Mission, Promise, and Law
- The Girl Scout program, especially what the GSLE is and what the program does for their daughters
- When Girl Scout cookies (and other products) will go on sale and how participation in product sales teaches life skills and helps fund group activities
- How you plan to keep in touch with parents/guardians (Facebook page or group, Twitter, email, text messaging, a phone tree, or flyers the girls take home are just some ideas)
- Some examples of activities the girls might choose. Adults brainstorm their ideas. Explain that girl planning and decision-making is an important part of Girl Scouting—so all of these ideas will be discussed with the girls before finalizing the calendar.
How Much Does It Cost?
- The cost of membership, including the annual GSUSA dues, the $15 Council Service Fee (for girls, not adult members), and any resources parents/guardians will need to buy (such as a girl’s book for a Journey). Adult volunteers will pay the annual GSUSA dues plus their adult screening fees.
- Discuss the availability of financial aid and how the Girl Scout Cookie Program and other product sales generate funds for the group treasury
- Download the Uniform Cost Sheet from the Volunteer Learning Portal, if the girls want to wear uniforms
- Discuss whether dues or start-up contributions will be collected. Care should be taken to establish an amount that is affordable for all families. GSNorCal recommends $25-$35. Additional funds can be earned through participating in the product program.
- That families can also make donations to GSNorCal - and why they might want to do that!
Asking Adults to Help
That you are looking for additional volunteers, and explain which areas you are looking (be as specific as possible!) Use downloads from the Volunteer Learning Portal:
- Sign up sheet
- Parent Interest Survey
- Discuss adult training responsibilities
Health and Safety Guidelines
- Girl Health History Forms needed for all girls
- Annual Permission Form—an Activity Permission Form will always used for activities outside the group’s usual meeting time and/or place and the importance of completing and returning it
- Supervision and driving guidelines for meetings and trips, Troop Driver Form, proof of insurance and license number for drivers
- Show a few Safety Activity Checkpoints
Registration (including adult screening) is required for any adults who will volunteer with the troop and/or attend an overnight event, including adults who will be supervising girls in the minimum Adult-to-Girl ratio, driving girls, working with money or Girl Scout products, or working with the girls' or other adults' personal information.
Closing the Meeting
Collect any forms. Remind the group of the next meeting (if you’ll have one) and thank everyone for attending. Hold the next meeting when it makes sense for you and your co-volunteers—that may be in two months if face-to-face meetings are best, or not at all if you’re diligent about keeping in touch with parents/guardians via Facebook, Twitter, text messages, email, phone calls, or some other form of communication.
After the Meeting
After the meeting, follow up with any parents/guardians who did not attend to connect them with the group, inform them of decisions, and discuss how they can best help the girls.
Using “I” Statements
Perhaps the most important tip for communicating with parents/guardians is for you to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. “I” statements tell, which are detailed in the aMAZE Journey for Girl scout Cadettes, tell someone what you need from her or him, while “you” statements may make the person feel defensive.
Here are some examples of "you" statements
|Now look at "I" statements|
|"Your daughter just isn't responsible."||"I'd really like to help your daughter learn to take on more responsibility."|
|"You're not doing your share."||"I'd appreciate it if you could help me with registration."|
If you need help with specific scenarios involving parents/guardians, try the following:
If a parent or guardian...
|You can say...|
|Is uninvolved and asks how she can help but seems to have no idea of how to follow through or take leadership of even the smallest activity||“I do need your help. Here are some written guidelines on how to prepare for our camping trip.”|
|Constantly talks about all the ways you could make the group better||“I need your leadership. Project ideas you would like to develop and lead can fit in well with our plan. Please put your ideas in writing, and perhaps |
I can help you carry them out.”
|Tells you things like, “Denise’s mother is on welfare, and Denise really doesn’t belong |
in this group
|“I need your sensitivity. Girl Scouting is for all girls, and by teaching your daughter to be sensitive to others’ feelings you help teach the whole group sensitivity.”|
|Shifts parental responsibilities to you and is so busy with her own life that she allows no time to help||“I love volunteering for Girl Scouts and want to make a difference. If you could take a few moments from your busy schedule to let me know what you value about what we’re doing, I’d appreciate it. It would keep me going for another year.”|
Raising Awesome Girls
From the time she came into your life, you've only wanted the best for your daughter. You want to see her feel happy and loved, be confident, make new friends, stay healthy, excel in school, and eventually rise up the ranks in a career she finds fulfilling. But you also want your girl to be independent, grow into her own person with her own unique strengths and beliefs, and to learn to use her voice. And all of that? Well, it can be overwhelming at times to say the least.
That's why we're happy to share straightforward, realistic, and proven parenting advice on everything and anything you might deal with when raising girls. From when to get a family pet and how to help her make new friends to more serious issues like bullying, discussions about current events, and school struggles, we've got you covered. Hand-in-hand, we can take the guesswork out of parenting and bring the fun back in.
For the full list of articles, visit: http://www.girlscouts.org/en/raising-girls.html
Quick Links to SAFETY-WISE Chapter Topics: Responsibility for Safety |
Girl Scout Safety Guidelines |
Adult-to-Girl Ratios |
Safety Activity Checkpoints |
High Adventure Activities & Forbidden Activities |
Emergencies, Accidents & Incidents |
Permission Forms |
Health History Forms |
First Aiders & Experts |
Meeting Place Considerations |
Girl Scout Activity Insurance |
What To Do If You Witness, Experience, or Suspect Abuse |
Product Sales Program Safety |
Online Activities |
Safety for Events |
Outings, Trips & Travel Checklist |
In addition to fun and friendship, girls are looking for adventure when they join Girl Scouts! These adventures provide them with unique opportunities to try new things, improve skills, overcome fears, and help other girls. Nothing is more important than ensuring the health and safety of girls when they are engaging in these fun adventures. At Girl Scouts, we work hard to build safety consciousness in adults, training staff, volunteers, and girls on all safety protocols so that we can ensure proper supervision, prevent accidents and incidents, and maintain program resources. Instilling in girls an understanding of the best ways to stay safe in today’s complicated world is a top priority for us.
Approaching Activities With Safety in Mind
How can you, as a Girl Scout volunteer, determine whether an activity is safe and appropriate? Good judgment and common sense often dictate the answer. What’s safe in one circumstance may not be safe in another. An incoming storm, for example, might force you to assess or discontinue an activity. If you are uncertain about the safety of an activity, call your council staff with full details and don’t proceed without approval. Err on the side of caution and make the safety of girls your most important consideration. Prior to any activity, read the specific Safety Activity Checkpoints available on the council website at www.gsnorcal.org/forms related to any activity you plan to do with girls. [SAFETY-WISE: Safety Activity Checkpoints]
If Safety Activity Checkpoints do not exist for an activity you and the girls are interested in, check with GSNorCal before making any definite plans with the girls. A few activities are allowed only with written council pre-approval and only for girls 12 and over, while some are off-limits completely. [SAFETY-WISE: Activities That Are Never Allowed]
When planning activities with girls, note the abilities of each girl and carefully consider the progression of skills from the easiest part to the most difficult. Make sure the complexity of the activity does not exceed girls’ individual skills—bear in mind that skill levels decline when people are tired, hungry, or under stress. Also, use activities as opportunities for building teamwork, which is one of the outcomes for the Connect key in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. [GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: The Girl Scout Leadership Experience]
How Are Safety Guidelines Set?
The safety of our members is our highest priority. Protecting the adults’ and the council’s legal interests is also a high priority.
Restrictions on Girl Scout activities are generally set by GSUSA in partnership with our insurance company. Activities that are not allowed by GSNorCal are the activities which are not covered under Girl Scout insurance. These activities are deemed by the insurance company to carry an inherent level of risk that they are not willing to assume. Each council has its own individual insurance coverage. Activities may vary from council to council.
Activities that require prior written permission from the council are those that have additional laws, certifications or other guidelines which must be followed in order to be covered by our insurance. Our Risk Management team will assist you in meeting those guidelines.
GSNorCal believes that most volunteers would rather focus their time on having fun with the girls doing Girl Scout activities, rather than in spending time researching legal texts to ensure that they are following local and state laws and working with the insurance company to make sure that they will be covered.
GSNorCal’s approach is for staff and interested volunteers to monitor laws and guidelines so that you do not have to! When we must place restrictions on certain activities, there is lots of in-depth discussion and research to make sure there isn’t another solution. Guidelines found here in GSNorCal's Volunteer Essentials and on our forms is a result of that work.
Why So Many Forms?
GSNorCal continually strives to streamline and eliminate unnecessary forms. Forms are sometimes necessary, however, to ensure the safety of girls and adults, to comply with insurance and legal requirements and protect the liability of our volunteers and council.
Forms are designed to:
- Act as a checklist to inform you of certain legal or procedural requirements so you don’t have to memorize them,
- Communicate needed information to your troop, service unit or council. Often, this information is needed to support you with the appropriate legal and insurance requirements to minimize your and council's liability and to keep girls safe.
All forms can be found at www.gsnorcal.org/forms.
You, the parents/guardians of the girls in your troop, and the girls themselves, share the responsibility for staying safe. The next three sections explain who’s responsible for what.
Ensuring the health and safety of girls in Girl Scouting is a cornerstone of the Girl Scout Movement. This includes developing safety consciousness in both girls and adults, as well as training staff, volunteers, and girls to ensure proper supervision, planning to prevent accidents and incidents, and maintenance of program resources.
Everyone bears responsibility for safety: the council, the group leadership, the parents/guardians of the girls and the girls themselves. The point of all safety resources produced by Girl Scouts of the USA and GSNorCal is to establish a sound program experience that will protect and maintain the well-being of every Girl Scout, and protect the legal interests of the adults.
Responsibilities of Parents/Guardians/Caregivers
Engage each parent or guardian to help you work toward ensuring the health,
safety, and well-being of girls. Clearly communicate to parents and
guardians that they are expected to:
- Provide permission for their daughters to participate in Girl Scouting as well as provide additional consent for activities that take place outside the scheduled meeting place. This can include such activities such as: product sales, including Digital Cookie; overnight travel; the use of special equipment; or sensitive issues. [SAFETY-WISE: Permission Forms]
- Make provisions for their daughters to get to and from meeting places or other designated sites in a safe and timely manner and inform you if someone other than the parent or guardian will drop off or pick up the child.
- Provide their daughters with appropriate clothing and equipment for activities, or contact you before the activity to find sources for the necessary clothing and equipment.
- Follow Girl Scout safety guidelines and encourage their children to do the same. [SAFETY-WISE: Girl Scout Safety Guidelines]
Assist you in planning and carrying out program activities as safely as possible.
- Participate in parent/guardian meetings.
- Be aware of appropriate behavior expected of their daughters as determined by the council and you.
- Assist volunteers if their daughters have special needs or abilities and their help is solicited.
Responsibilities of Girls
Girls who learn about and practice safe and healthy behaviors are likely to establish lifelong habits of safety consciousness. For that reason, each Girl Scout is expected to:
- Assist you and other volunteers in safety planning.
- Listen to and follow your instructions and suggestions.
- Learn and practice safety skills.
- Learn to “think safety” at all times and to be prepared.
- Identify and evaluate an unsafe situation.
- Know how, when, and where to get help when needed.
In addition, girls can be taught the following skills over time to help them to develop healthy habits for safety:
- Brainstorm possible hazards or potential situations, and discuss how each situation should be handled.
- Agree to safe boundaries (where they can and cannot go) and other expectations for each activity.
- Older girls can be encouraged to consult Safety Activity Checkpoints when planning activities (but adults still carry primary responsibility to make sure these are followed).
Every adult in Girl Scouting is responsible for the physical and emotional safety of girls, and we all demonstrate that by agreeing to follow these guidelines at all times.
1. Follow the Safety Activity Checkpoints. Instructions for staying safe while participating in activities are detailed in the Safety Activity Checkpoints, available on www.GSNorCal.org/forms. Read the checkpoints, follow them, and share them with other volunteers, parents, and girls before engaging in activities with girls. [SAFETY-WISE: Safety Activity Checkpoints]
2. Points common to all Safety Activity Checkpoints include:
- They serve girls by offering girl-led activities and challenging opportunities that teach outdoor skills safety.
- Provide opportunities for active, experiential learning
- Help councils and troops maximize the Girl Scout experience by providing nationally and locally consistent policy that aims to safeguard the well-being of girls and the Girl Scout organization. [SAFETY-WISE: Safety Activity Checkpoints]
3. Arrange for proper adult supervision of girls. Your troop must have at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers present at all times, plus additional adult volunteers as necessary, depending on the size of the group and the ages and abilities of girls. Adult volunteers must be at least 18 years old, be registered Girl Scouts who have completed the adult background check and have taken the appropriate adult learning courses before volunteering.
One lead volunteer in every group must be female. In addition, GSNorCal expects volunteers to be fully capable of performing their duties. Volunteers are not permitted to use or be under the influence of any substance which may impair their physical and/or mental skills at any time when they are supervising girls as part of the adult-to-girl minimums, even if girls are not in the same room or are sleeping. This includes alcohol or prescription medications, medical marijuana, or illegal drugs. [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
4. Get parent/guardian permission. When an activity takes place that is outside the normal meeting time and/or place, or a topic is discussed that could be considered sensitive, advise each parent/guardian of the details of the activity and obtain permission for girls to participate. Communicate with council and parents. Follow council procedures for activity approval, certificates of insurance, and council guidelines about girls’ general health examinations. Make arrangements in advance for all transportation and confirm plans before departure. [SAFETY-WISE: Permission Forms]
5. Report abuse. Sexual advances, improper touching, and sexual activity of any kind with girl members are forbidden. Physical, verbal, and emotional abuse of girls is also forbidden. Follow GSNorCal’s guidelines for reporting concerns about abuse or neglect that may be occurring inside or outside of Girl Scouting. [SAFETY-WISE: If You Witness, Experience, or Suspect Abuse]
6. Be prepared for emergencies. Work with girls and other adults to establish and practice procedures for emergencies related to weather, fire, lost girls/adults, and site security. Always keep handy a well-stocked first-aid kit, girl health history forms, and contact information for girls’ families. [SAFETY-WISE: Emergency Preparedness]
7. Use the Buddy System. Using the buddy system, girls are divided into teams of two. Each girl is responsible for staying with her buddy at all times, warning her buddy of danger, giving her buddy immediate assistance if safe to do so, and seeking help when the situation warrants it. Girls are encouraged to stay near the group or buddy with another team of two, so in the event someone is injured, one person cares for the patient while two others seek help.
8. Travel safely. When transporting girls to planned Girl Scout field trips and other activities that are outside the normal meeting time and/or place, every driver must be an approved adult volunteer, age 21 or over and have a good driving record, a valid license, and a registered/insured vehicle. Male volunteers cannot drive girls without an adult female volunteer present in the vehicle. Insist that everyone is in a legal seat and wears her seat belt at all times, and adhere to state laws regarding booster seats and requirements for children in rear seats. [SAFETY-WISE: Trip & Travel Checklist: Transporting Girls]
9. Ensure safe overnight outings. Prepare girls to be away from home by involving them in planning, so they know what to expect. Avoid having men sleep in the same space as girls and women. During family or parent-daughter overnights, one family unit may sleep in the same sleeping quarters in program areas. When parents are staffing events, daughters should remain in quarters with other girls rather than in staff areas. [SAFETY-WISE: Supervision for Overnight Activities]
10. Role-model the right behavior. Never use illegal drugs. Don’t consume alcohol, smoke, or use foul language in the presence of girls. Alcohol is not permitted at an event where the main objective is girl program. If girls are present where alcohol is served at an adult-only event (sponsored and run by adults), they must be supervised by an adult who is not consuming alcohol who is responsible for the girls’ safety and well-being. (If alcohol is being served at a Girl Scout event, the participants will not be covered by Girl Scout insurance unless prior approval has been obtained from the insurance carrier). Do not carry ammunition or firearms in the presence of girls unless given special permission by GSNorCal for group marksmanship activities. [VOLUNTEERING: Volunteer Management Policies]
11. Create an emotionally safe space. Adults are responsible for making Girl Scouting a place where girls are as safe emotionally as they are physically. Protect the emotional safety of girls by creating a team agreement and coaching girls to honor it. Agreements typically encourage behaviors like respecting a diversity of feelings and opinions; resolving conflicts constructively; and avoiding physical and verbal bullying, clique behavior, and discrimination. [GIRLS & ADULTS: Creating a Safe Space for Girls]
12. Ensure that no girl is treated differently. Girl Scouts welcomes all members, regardless of race, ethnicity, background, disability, family structure, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status or sexual orientation. When scheduling, helping plan, and carrying out activities, carefully consider the needs of all girls involved, including school schedules, family needs, financial constraints, religious holidays, and the accessibility of appropriate transportation and meeting places. [GIRLS & ADULTS: Creating an Atmosphere of Acceptance & Inclusion]
13. Promote online safety. Instruct girls never to put their full names or contact information online, engage in virtual conversation with strangers, or arrange in-person meetings with online contacts, other than to deliver cookies and only with the approval and accompaniment of a parent or designated adult. On group websites or Facebook groups, publish girls’ first names only and never divulge their contact information. Teach girls the Girl Scout Online Safety Pledge that can be found at www.gsnorcal.org/forms and have them commit to it. [SAFETY-WISE: Online Safety]
14. Keep girls safe during money-earning activities. Girl Scout cookies and other council-sponsored product sales are an integral part of the program. During Girl Scout product sales, you are responsible for the safety of girls, money, and products. In addition, a wide variety of organizations, causes, and fundraisers may ask the Girl Scouts to be their labor force. When representing Girl Scouts, girls cannot participate in money-earning activities that represent partisan politics or that are not Girl Scout–approved product sales and efforts. [GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: Participating in the Product Sales] [GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: Advocacy Projects] [MONEY: Money Earning Projects]
Whatever the activity, from camping to cookies sales, adult supervision is required regardless of the grade level of the girls. Adult volunteers must be at least 18 years old and may not still be registered as girl members. The table below has been developed to show the minimum number of adults needed to supervise a specific number of girls (councils may also establish maximums due to size or cost restrictions). These adult-to-girl supervision ratios were devised to ensure the safety and health of all girls taking part in the activity. For example, if one adult has to respond to an emergency, a second adult is always on hand for the rest of the girls. Consult the Girl Scout Adult-to-Girl Ratios Minimum chart below to determine the appropriate number of Adult-to-Girl ratios based on grade level and type of activity. Girl Scouts’ adult-to-girl ratios show the minimum number of adults needed to supervise a specific number of girls. (Sometimes GSNorCal or service units may establish maximums due to size or cost restrictions). The Girl Scout grade level is determined by the current membership year, beginning October 1st. Consult Safety Activity Checkpoints for adult-to-girl ratios for specific activities, as these may differ from standard adult-to-girl ratios.
Girl Scout Adult-to-Girl Ratios (Minimums)
Girl Scout Program Level:
Events, Travel, and Camping
Here are some examples on utilizing the chart:
- If you’re meeting with 17 Daisies, you need a minimum of three adults, at least two of who are unrelated (in other words, not your sister, spouse, parent, or child), and at least one of whom is female. (If this isn’t making sense to you, follow the chart: you need two adults for 12 Daisies and one more adult for up to six more girls. You have 17, so you need three adults).
- Your Brownie troop is going camping with 8 girls in attendance. You will need a minimum of 2 unrelated adults present, at least one of whom must be a female.
- If you have 17 Cadettes attending a group meeting, you need a minimum of two unrelated adults, at least one of whom is female (because, on the chart, two adults can manage up to 25 Cadettes).
Remember that these ratios are minimum numbers—for some activities, it may be necessary to have more adult supervision. In addition, GSNorCal expects volunteers to be fully capable of performing their duties. Volunteers are not permitted to use or be under the influence of any substance which may impair their physical and/or mental skills at any time when they are supervising girls as part of the adult-to-girl minimums, even if girls are not in the same room or are sleeping. This includes alcohol or prescription medications, medical marijuana, or illegal drugs. [VOLUNTEERING: Volunteer Management Policies]
It is the responsibility of the troop/group leader to:
- Make sure that there are always at least the minimum number of adults supervising the girls any time they are participating in a Girl Scout meeting or any kind of activity.
- Ensure that all adults who are providing supervision and are counted in the adult-to-girl ratio are registered members and have completed the adult background check process and are properly cleared.
- Ensure that all adults who are providing supervision and are counted in the adult-to-girl ratio are aware of which other adults are providing supervision—at no time should they allow an unscreened (or otherwise unapproved parent to substitute for their supervision duties).
Adult supervision for girls also extends to online activity
Please consult the following, which are all available at :
- The “Computer/Online Use” Safety Activity Checkpoint www.gsnorcal.org/forms
- Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge www.gsnorcal.org/forms
- Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Girls, Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Parents/Guardians and Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Volunteers, which are all available in the cookie program materials.
Adult Background Check Requirements
Any adult who will be included as a chaperone in the adult-to-girl ratio in an overnight activity must have completed the volunteer background check process.
Adult Sleeping Arrangements
Generally, adults should not be sleeping in tents or the same area, such as a hotel room with the girls. If the girls are not ready to be sleeping without an adult in their tents, shelters, or hotel rooms, it is recommended that the troop plan a simpler trip with indoor dormitory-style sleeping. If adults will be sleeping in the same area with the girls, more than one unrelated adult should be sleeping with more than one unrelated girl. No adult should be alone with any girl, unless she is her or his own child.
To clarify: a troop leader, her mother, and another unrelated female adult could sleep in a dormitory style room with more than one girl in the group.
One adult should not sleep in a tent or a hotel room with girls unless they are all her/his own daughters. If an adult must sleep in the same area with girls, there must be more than one unrelated adult with the group of girls.
Specific Rules Regarding Men & Boys
For overnight events, men and boys must sleep in separate areas and have separate facilities or separate times for bathroom use.
What are Safety Activity Checkpoints?
As discussed previously, Safety Activity Checkpoints and Girl Scout Safety Guidelines are designed to keep the girls and adults safe and to protect the adults and the council from legal liability. There are some activities that GSNorCal's insurance policy do not cover, and others where certain requirements must be met in order for the activity to be covered by GSNorCal's insurance.
When preparing for any activity with girls, start by reading the Girl Scout Safety Activity Checkpoints for that particular activity (www.gsnorcal.org/forms). (If there is no Safety Activity Checkpoint for your activity, check to see if the activity is not allowed.) [SAFETY-WISE: Activities That Are Never Allowed] Each Safety Activity Checkpoint:
- Offers you information on what is required of the site and/or vendor where you plan on participating in this activity.
- How to include girls with disabilities.
- What basic and specialized gear is required for the activity.
- How to prepare yourselves in advance of the activity.
- What specific steps to follow on the day of the activity, and so on.
In addition to reading these checkpoints yourself, you can also email or print them for co-volunteers, parents/guardians, and the girls themselves. The checkpoints are formatted as checklists, so that you, your co-volunteers, and the girls can check off that each step has been accomplished.
Safety Activity Checkpoints
*Paddling and Rowing Sports Progression Chart
Arts and Crafts
Archery | Arts and Crafts | Backpacking | Bicycling | Camping | Canoeing | Challenge Courses | Climbing and Rappelling | Computer/Online Use | Cross-Country Skiing | Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding | Fencing | Fishing | Geocaching | Girl Scout Cookies/Council-Sponsored Product Sale | Hayrides | Hiking | Horseback Riding | Ice Fishing | Ice Skating | Indoor Skydiving | Indoor Trampoline Parks | Inline Skating and Roller Skating | Kayaking | Orienteering | Other Land Sports | Outdoor Cooking | Parades and Other Large Group Gatherings | Playgrounds | Recreational Tree Climbing | Rowboating | Sailing | Scuba Diving | Segway | Shooting Sports | Skateboarding | Sledding, Tobogganing, and Snow Tubing | Snorkeling | Snowshoeing | Spelunking/Caving | Standup Paddleboarding | STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math) | Surfing | Swimming | Theme Parks | Trip/Travel | Tubing | Vaulting on Horseback | Waterskiing and Wakeboarding | White-Water Rafting | Windsurfing | Ziplining |
In keeping with the three processes of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience [GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: The Girl Scout Leadership Experience],
be sure that:
- All activities are girl-led. Take into account the age and abilities of the girls. Older girls can take the bulk of the responsibility for carefully planning and executing activities, while younger girls will require more of your guidance but should still be deeply involved in making decisions about their activities.
- Girls have the chance to learn cooperatively. Have the girls teach each other new skills they may need for the activities, rather than hearing all that from you.
- Girls learn by doing. If research or special equipment is needed, they’ll learn better doing that research themselves rather than by having you do the legwork and report back to them. Even Daisies can do basic research and give reports or do show-and-tell for each other. Ambassadors may need you only for moral support as they research, teach each other, and plan every detail of their excursions.
If Safety Activity Checkpoints do not exist for an activity you and the girls are interested in, check with GSNorCal Risk Management & Travel before making any definite plans with the girls. A few activities are allowed only with written council pre-approval and only for girls 12 and over, while some are off-limits completely. [SAFETY-WISE: High Adventure Activities] [SAFETY-WISE: Activities That Are Never Allowed]
The following restrictions on activities are set to ensure the girls' safety, protect the council's and adult volunteers' legal interests, or both. There are some activities that the GSNorCal's insurance policy does not cover, and others where certain requirements must be met in order for the activity to be covered by GSNorCal's insurance.
Written pre-approval is required from the GSNorCal Risk Management department for any travel or high adventure activities. To request approval for a troop activity, use the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form. Service Units use the Event/Camp Notification & Approval Form to request approval at least one month prior to the event.
Activities that Require Written Pre-Approval From the Council
Activities That Are Never Allowed
Caution: You must get written pre-approval from the GSNorCal Risk Management & Travel Team for travel or high adventure activities. Submit the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form. (www.GSNorCal.org/forms)
Any overnight trip (including camping outings), trips involving air travel, day trips OR international trips.
High Adventure Activities:
Warning: The following activities are never allowed for any member, and are not covered by Girl Scout insurance:
In addition, there are some
activities in which girls and volunteers may not engage when representing
Girl Scouts. These include:
“It’s Not A Girl Scout Event” – Not A Good Idea!
Occasionally, a Girl Scout volunteer, in an effort to support the girls in the activities they would like to participate in, will decide to tell the girls and families that they will do the activity “as friends, and not as a Girl Scout troop” rather than find an approved vendor or modify the activity in order to comply with safety guidelines. Then the girls in the active troop, supervised by the Girl Scout volunteers, engage in the activity together, and the supervising adults choose not to follow a guideline established by GSUSA or the council in Volunteer Essentials or in a Safety Activity Checkpoint.
Not only could this could jeopardize the girls’ safety, it also buts both council and the volunteer(s) at legal risk. Girl Scouts does not cover participants in non-Girl Scout events, i.e., an activity that is not allowed or has not been approved. It may also expose the volunteer to some personal liability if there is an accident, injury or liability that might have been avoided had the volunteer followed Girl Scout safety guidelines.
High adventure activities, overnight trips (including camping outings), trips involving air travel, OR international trips, must be approved by GSNorCal's Risk Management team. Submit the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form. (www.gsnorcal.org/forms)
For the safety of our members, the council must approve sites and vendors for these activities before a troop uses the site or vendor for a troop or service unit event. This procedure is designed to ensure a safe experience for our girls, as well as to protect the legal interests of the adult volunteers and the council.
A list of current High Adventure Approved Vendors can be found on the council website. (www.gsnorcal.org/forms) The approved vendors/facilities listed have met the safety and insurance guidelines for GSNorCal & GSUSA. The Approved Vendors List is updated regularly. (www.gsnorcal.org/forms)
Adding Vendors to the Approved Vendors List
Troops are NOT limited to the facilities and vendors on the Approved Vendors List. If the vendor your troop wants to use is not on the list, BEFORE scheduling your activity, tell the vendor that because your activity is considered high adventure by GSUSA safety guidelines, there are a few steps to complete in order for any GS troop from GSNorCal to use the facility.
The vendor needs to provide GSNorCal with a copy of their Certificate of Insurance (COI) [MONEY: Contracts & Certificates of Insurance] that:
- Indicates at least $1,000,000 General Liability Insurance
- Lists Girl Scouts of Northern California as a Certificate Holder
- Lists Girl Scouts of Northern California as Additionally Insured
In addition, the vendor must agree to follow the Safety Activity Checkpoints related to the activities they offer.
Vendors can apply to become approved vendors by contacting the Risk & Management team. email@example.comIMPORTANT: If a vendor/facility refuses to follow the safety guidelines listed above, then the council will not be able to endorse this vendor/facility on our High Adventure Approved Vendors List OR approve trips/outings for troops to use this vendor/facility.
Please note that approved vendors are subject to change depending on when their Certificate of Insurance (COI) Policy expires. If a vendor’s Certificate of Insurance (COI) policy expires and we are unable to reach the vendor to renew the policy, we must remove the vendor from the list until we receive the updated COI. Please contact the Risk Management team with any questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As you know, emergencies can happen. Girls need to receive proper instruction in how to care for themselves and others in emergencies. They also need to learn the importance of reporting any accidents, illnesses, or unusual behaviors during Girl Scout activities to adults. To this end, you can help girls:
- Establish and practice procedures for weather emergencies. Certain extreme-weather conditions may occur in your area. Please consult with your council for the most relevant information for you to share with girls.
- Establish and practice procedures for such circumstances as fire evacuation, lost persons, and building-security responses. Every girl and adult must know how to act in these situations. For example, you and the girls, with the help of a fire department representative, should design a fire evacuation plan for meeting places used by the group.
- Assemble a well-stocked first aid kit that is always accessible. First aid administered in the first few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, secure professional medical assistance as soon as possible, normally by calling 911.[SAFETY-WISE: First Aid & First Aiders]
(use to help the girls develop an emergency plan)
Girls can and should help develop the emergency plans. Younger girls could brainstorm safety rules, and older girls could develop the entire emergency plan
with adult guidance. Use this checklist to assist you.
- Ensure that all girls understand expectations and rules—for example:
- Should they stay with a certain adult?
- Where is it OK to go? With whom?
- What should they do if they become separated from the group?
- What are the bathroom procedures?
- Design a plan for managing emergency situations, defining how each possible emergency would be handled (by whom, who would be notified—when and how) including consideration of:
- Natural hazards (lake, cliffs, etc).
- Natural disasters (earthquake, storms, floods, fire, etc).
- Each program activity
- Injuries or medical emergencies
- Lost children
- Strangers or intruders
- Establish and communicate emergency evacuation plan with all participants. Let them know who is in charge in these situations prior to event. Should cars back into parking spots? Where should participants go?
- Specific emergency plans for this trip should include evacuation plans in situations where girls have been dropped off. This is especially important if there are not enough vehicles on site during the event/activity to evacuate all participants.
- Establish a security plan, adult supervision, placement of adults
- Establish an emergency communication system. Who should be notified in case of an emergency?
- Establish an at-home emergency contact person as outlined in STEP 3 the Outings, Trips and Travel Checklist. [SAFETY-WISE: Outings, Trips, and Travel Checklist: Emergency Contact Person]
- Determine how parents will be communicated with in the event of an emergency.
GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan
Although you hope the worst never happens, you must observe GSNorCal procedures for handling accidents and fatalities. At the scene of an accident, first provide all possible care for the sick or injured person. Follow established GSNorCal procedures for obtaining medical assistance and immediately reporting the emergency. To do this, you must always have the names and phone numbers of parents/guardians, and emergency services such as the police, fire department, or hospital emergency technicians and the council emergency number of 1(877) 636-1912 on hand.
After receiving a report of an accident, council staff will immediately arrange for additional assistance at the scene, if needed, and will notify parents/guardians, as appropriate. If a Girl Scout needs emergency medical care as the result of an accident or injury, first contact emergency medical services, and then follow council procedures for accidents and incidents. Your adherence to these procedures is critical, especially with regard to notifying parents or guardians. If the media is involved, let council-designated staff discuss the incident with these representatives.
|GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan|
Emergency Number: 1 (877) 636-1912
In line with recommendations from Girl Scouts of the USA, our council has developed a plan and a team to help respond to any emergency needing the attention of more than local troop or service unit personnel. Such emergencies are incidents of a serious nature that occur during Girl Scout activities.
An emergency is defined as any of the following:
If you become aware of any incident related to the above:
Be Prepared: Carry forms with you!
In case of emergency, troop leaders and event managers should always carry a copy (multiple copies for a large event) of the Media Information Sheet, the Accident-Injury Report Form, and the Incident Report Form, as well as permission forms and Health History Forms. (www.GSNorCal.org/forms)
|Accident-Injury Report Form|
This form is to be used to report any accident/injury occurring at a Girl Scouts of Northern California event, activity, meeting, campout, field trip. etc.
Communicate with GSNorCal Risk Management & Travel staff in the Alameda Office within 24 hours in case of any accident, injury, or incident at by emailing the Accident-Injury Report Form (along with a copy of the girl's or adult's Health History Form) or the Incident Report Form to:
Insurance@girlscoutsnorcal.org or call (800) 447-4475 Ext. 0 during business hours.
For emergencies, notify the council at its 24/7 emergency answering service: (877) 636-1912.
Council staff are prepared and
eager to assist you.
In an emergency, follow the
GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan as outlined above. [SAFETY-WISE: Emergencies, Accidents & Incidents: GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan]
Always call 9-1-1 first (if needed).
|Incident Report Form|
Use this form to report any non-injury incident that occurs which may result in future problems or other future repercussions for the people involved or for Girl Scouts of Northern California. Incidents might include:
If you would like to report anything anonymously, please follow the Whistleblower Procedures [ABOUT GSNorCal: Reporting Serious Concerns]
Every time a group meets at a time or location different from the regular group meeting, you must use a permission form—even if the girls are responsible for getting to that location on their own. Permission forms give parents the “who, what, when, where, and why,” so that they can decide whether their daughter can participate in the trip or activity.
A signed permission form permits you to include the girl in the activity and provides up-to-date emergency contact information.
Registered girl members of the current year, even if over age 18, are required to have parental/guardian permission forms.
We have four types of permission forms at GSNorCal:
|Permission Forms: (www.GSNorCal.org/forms)|
Annual Permission Form |
Girl Scouts of Northern California allows the use of the Annual Permission Form to be used if the activity meets all of the following criteria:
Note that the use of this form does not release the adult volunteers in the troop/group from the responsibility to effectively communicate with every family regarding the nature and logistics of each activity. If there is any possibility of a miscommunication with a family, which could result in a girl being mistakenly left unsupervised or a parent not knowing the whereabouts of their child, it is recommended that a Parent Permission Form be used.
The Annual Permission Form includes options for parents to give their permission to participate in product sales, to use photographs, and permission to participate in surveys or evaluations, in addition to go on trips that are located within one hour’s driving time, that don’t exceed 6 hours, and are not considered high adventure activities. [SAFETY-WISE: High Adventure Activities]
The Annual Permission Form is also available in Spanish.
Parent Permission Form |
The Parent Permission Form is recommended for any activities on a different day/time or different location than regular troop/group meetings. The Activity Permission Form is required for any of the following:
Sensitive Issues Permission Form|
Girl Scouts welcomes and serves girls and families from a wide spectrum of faiths and cultures. When girls wish to participate in discussions or activities that could be considered sensitive—even for some—put the topic on hold until you have spoken with parents and received guidance from your council. When Girl Scout activities involve sensitive issues, your role is that of a caring adult who can help girls acquire skills and knowledge in a supportive atmosphere, not someone who advocates a particular position. You are required to obtain permission forms signed by the girls’ parents/guardians using the Permission for Sensitive/Controversial Issues Form. [GIRLS & ADULTS: When Sensitive Topics Come Up]
Permission to Travel for Minors|
The Permission to Travel for Minors form, which must be notarized, gives the adult chaperones permission to transport minors across international borders. Two individually signed and notarized Permission to Travel With Minors Forms should be carried for each girl signed by each parent or guardian. If a single parent or guardian has custody, attach documentation stating the minor is in the sole custody of the signer of the Permission to Travel for Minors Form.
Girls under the age of 18 traveling from the United States to any foreign country, when not accompanied on the trip by parent(s), must have the notarized form from the parent(s) not accompanying the child stating that:
Girls under age 18 will not be able to board the international flight without this written permission.
Parent/guardian permission may be in the traditional paper form, but increasingly, members may wish to use electronic permission, which allows a much quicker return on permission slips but also raises questions about electronic signatures and scanned documents. In most cases, you do not have to include any special language when using electronic signatures in lieu of a handwritten signature. This is because the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN Act) accords electronic records and electronic signatures the same legal status as written records and handwritten signatures.
Electronic signatures include but are not limited to the following:
- Submission of an online survey through a click
- Submit buttons or check boxes accompanied by language to the effect of, “by clicking the button/checking the box, I agree with these terms.”
- A name typed by the sender at the end of an e-mail message
- Faxed signatures or other electronic transmission of a document containing a handwritten signature
- A code or PIN (such as those used with ATM and credit cards)
Health History forms (www.GSNorCal.org/forms)—which may include a physician’s examination and a list of immunizations—must be collected and kept on hand by the troop/group leader. Keep in mind that information contained in a girl’s health history is confidential and protected by law. The leader or other responsible adult should review the forms and keep them in sealed envelopes to be accessed in case of emergency. This information may only be shared with people who have a need to know the information such as the girl herself, her parent/guardian and a healthcare provider. Only those adults who have a need to review the information should have access to the forms.
Girl Health History Forms
Use this form to retain girls’ medical history and receive permission from parent/guardian for emergency medical treatment. Must have on site whenever girls are participating in any Girl Scout activity (meeting or outing). Completed annually, should be reviewed by parents periodically (they can re-sign and date the form), and must be dated within 2 months of any overnight activity.
Required for resident camp or trips lasting three nights or more, or when girls will be participating in physically demanding or strenuous activities. The required health examination by a professional health care provider must have been within the previous 24 months. Camp and school physicals are accepted.
Adult Health History Forms
Required for adults attending overnight activities or events.
Required for adults attending trips
3 nights or more, or when they participate in strenuous or physically demanding activities. The required health examination by a professional health care provider must have been within the previous 24 months.
For various reasons, some parents/guardians may object to immunizations or medical examinations. Girl Scout troops/groups must attempt to make provisions for these girls to attend Girl Scout functions in a way that accommodates these concerns. Check with council staff if concerned.
It is important for you to also be aware of any medications a girl may take or allergies she may have.
- Medication, including over-the-counter products, must never be dispensed without prior written permission from a girl’s custodial parent or guardian.
- Some girls may need to carry and administer their own medications, such as bronchial inhalers, an EpiPen, or diabetes medication. You must have documentation from the girl's parent or guardian that it is acceptable for the girl to self-administer these medications.
Common food allergies include dairy products, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and seafood. This means that, before serving any food (such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, or chips), ask whether anyone is allergic to peanuts, dairy products, or wheat. Do this even if you are aware of which girls have specific allergies! Even Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies should be aware of their allergies, but double-checking with their parents/guardians is always a good idea.
If an injury occurs, a copy of the Health History Form must be submitted to the council along with the Accident/Injury Report Form to email@example.com or mail to:
Girl Scouts of Northern California
Attn: Risk Management & Travel
1650 Harbor Bay Parkway, Suite 100
Alameda, CA 94502
See [MONEY: Document Retention] regarding retention of these forms.
First Aid/CPR Courses
Emergencies require prompt action and quick judgment. For many activities, Girl Scouts recommends that at least one adult volunteer be first aid/CPR-certified. For that reason, if you have the opportunity to get trained in council-approved first aid/CPR, do it! You can take advantage of first aid/CPR training offered by chapters of the American Red Cross, National Safety Council, EMP America, American Heart Association, or other sponsoring organizations approved by GSNorCal.
Caution: First-aid/CPR training that is available entirely online does not satisfy Girl Scouts’ requirements. Such courses do not offer enough opportunities to practice and receive feedback on your technique. If you’re taking a course not offered by one of the organizations listed in the previous paragraph, or any course that has online components, get approval from GSNorCal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A first aider is an adult volunteer who has taken Girl Scout–approved first aid and CPR training that includes specific instructions for child CPR. The following healthcare providers may also serve as first-aiders: physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, paramedic, military medic, and emergency medical technician.
First Aiders must take the online Girl Scout First Aider course which will familiarize them with their responsibilities, treatment protocols, procedures for emergencies, forms and record-keeping. They must also obtain the most updated version of the GSNorCal Health & Safety Plan.
The Safety Activity Checkpoints always tell you when a first aider needs to be present for troop/group events or activities.
Activities can take place in a variety of locations, which is why first-aid requirements are based on the remoteness of the activity—as noted in the Safety Activity Checkpoints for that activity. For example, it’s possible to do a two-mile hike that has cell phone reception and service along the entire route and EMS (Emergency Medical System) is, at maximum, 30 minutes away at all times. It is also possible to hike more remotely with no cell phone service at a place where EMS would take more than 30 minutes to arrive. It’s important that you or another volunteer with your group has the necessary medical experience (including knowledge of evacuation techniques) to ensure group safety.
The levels of first aid required for any activity take into account both how much danger is involved and how remote the area is from emergency medical services.
Access to EMS
Minimum Level of First Aid Required
Less than 30 minutes
Plus GSNorCal Online Course: Girl Scout First Aider
Download the most updated Girl Scouts of Northern California Health and Safety Plan www.GSNorCal.org/forms
More than 30 minutes
Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR)*
Plus GSNorCal Online Course: Girl Scout First Aider
Download the most updated Girl Scouts of Northern California Health and Safety Plan www.GSNorCal.org/forms
It is important to understand the differences between a first-aid course and a wilderness-rated course. Although standard first-aid training provides basic incident response, wilderness-rated courses include training on remote-assessment skills, as well as the emergency first-aid response, including evacuation techniques, to use when EMS is not readily available.
First Aiders for Large Events
The presence of a first aider is required at resident camp. Day and resident camps require additional health care considerations regarding the first aider qualifications and on-site health care/treatment protocols and documentation. If you will be serving as a Girl Scout First Aider for a day or resident camp, please refer to the Volunteer Run Camp Administration Guide or contact the Outdoor program department at email@example.com. For large events, there should be one first aider for every 200 participants. For traveling or station events where there is a considerable distance between stations, event organizers should consider having first aiders with each group.
First Aid Kit
Make sure a general first aid kit is available at your group meeting place and accompanies girls on any activity (including transportation to and from the activity). Please be aware that you may need to provide this kit if one is not available at your meeting place. You can purchase a Girl Scout first aid kit, you can buy a commercial kit, or you and the girls can assemble a kit yourselves. American Red Cross offers a list of potential items in its Anatomy of a First Aid Kit on their website http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/anatomy-of-a-first-aid-kit (Note that the Red Cross suggested list includes aspirin, which you will not be at liberty to give to girls without direct parent/guardian permission). You can also customize a kit to cover your specific needs, including flares, treatments for frostbite or snake bites, and the like.
In addition to standard materials, all first aid kits should contain your council office telephone numbers [ABOUT GSNorCal: Office & Retail Locations] and emergency telephone number 1 (877) 636-1912, as well as contact information for parents/guardians, and emergency services such as the police, fire department, or hospital emergency technicians.
Your kit should also include:
- Parent Permission Forms (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/parent-permission-form.pdf)
- Health History Forms for Girls (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/girl-health-history-form.pdf)
- Health History Forms for Adults (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/adult-health-history-form.pdf)
- Accident/Injury Report (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/accident-injury-report-form.pdf)
- Incident Report Form (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/incident-report-form.pdf)
- Mutual of Omaha Claim Form (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/insurance-claim-form.pdf)
- Media Information Sheet (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/media-information-sheet.pdf)
The Safety Activity Checkpoints for many activities require having an expert on hand to help girls learn an activity. Please remember that all experts must be approved by GSNorCal Risk Management & Travel staff at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To make it a bit easier, GSNorCal maintains a list of local experts and facilities (such as roller skating rinks) that have already been approved. If your expert or venue is not on the approved list, you can work with GSNorCal’s Risk Management & Travel staff to have them included on the list. It is usually a relatively simple process to have an expert or facility placed on the Approved Vendors List. [SAFETY-WISE: Approved Vendors List]
Some things to keep in mind:
- Does the person have documented training and experience? She or he should have documented experience for the activity in question, such as course completion certificates or cards, records of previous training to instruct the activity, and letters of reference.
- What does she or he need to be able to do? This person should have the knowledge and experience to make appropriate judgments concerning participants, equipment, facilities, safety considerations, supervision, and procedures for the activity. At the very least, he or she should be able to give clear instructions to girls and adults, troubleshoot unexpected scenarios, and respond appropriately in an emergency.
Even when not required to have an expert instruct the girls for a specific activity for safety reasons, it is always a great idea to use your personal and troop networks to find experts to teach the girls particular skills. This will enrich their experience (and yours). Research performed by the Girl Scout Research Institute has shown that girls really appreciate the opportunity to learn from experts whenever possible.
When and how often to meet is up to you, your co-volunteers, parents, and girls: it may just be one time for this particular group of girls. Or, if you meet regularly, what day and time work best for the girls, for you, for your co-volunteers, and for other adults who will be presenting or mentoring? Once per week, twice a month, once a month? Most troops meet bi-weekly. Is after-school best? Can your co-volunteers meet at that time, or will meetings work better in the evenings or on the weekends?
Where to meet can be a bit trickier: a meeting place needs to provide a safe, clean, and secure environment that allows for the participation of all girls. You might consider using meeting rooms at schools, libraries, houses or worship, community buildings, childcare facilities, and local businesses. For teens, you can also rotate meetings at coffee shops, bookstores, and other places girls enjoy spending time.
If you need to sign a contract or use permit or obtain a certificate of insurance for your site, you'll need to have council staff sign that for you. [MONEY: Contracts & Certificates of Insurance]
Here are a few points to keep in mind as you consider meeting locations:
- Cost: The space should be free to use if at all possible. Contact your VDM (GSNorCal staff member) or service unit for help in locating a suitable space.
- Size: Make sure the space is large enough to accommodate the whole group and all planned activities.
- Availability: Be sure the space is available for the day and the entire length of time you want to meet.
- Resources: Determine what types of furnishings (table? chairs?) come with the room and ensure that the lighting is adequate. A bonus would be a cubby of some sort, where you can store supplies or a safe outdoor space for activities.
- Safety: Ensure that the space is safe, secure, clean, properly ventilated, heated (or cooled, depending on your location), free from hazards, and has at least two exits that are well-marked and fully functional. Also be sure a first-aid equipment is on hand.
- Facilities: Sanitary and accessible toilets are critical.
- Communication-friendly: Be sure your cell phone works in the meeting space.
- Allergen-free: Ensure that pet dander and other common allergens won’t bother susceptible girls during meetings.
- Accessibility: Be sure the space can accommodate girls with disabilities, as well as parents with disabilities who may come to meetings.
If this is your first time asking for a Girl Scout meeting place, here are a few speaking points to get you started:
“I’m a Girl Scout volunteer, with a group of ______ girls. We’re doing lots of great things for girls and for the community, like _____ and ______. We’re all about leadership—the kind that girls use in their daily lives and the kind that makes our community better. We’d love to hold our meetings here because ______.”
Here are some questions to consider when deciding if your possible meeting place is suitable:
Meeting Place Safety Guide
Whether meeting at a private residence or elsewhere, use the following checklist before each meeting to think about how to make your meeting place safer to prevent accidents or injuries. The safest possible meeting places should be chosen, and steps should be taken wherever possible to minimize potential risks listed in this guide.
Property owners and renters have legal liability if any person (invited or not) is injured while on their property. Adequate homeowners or renters insurance is a must if Girl Scout meetings or other activities will be held at your place of residence to protect your financial interests. If you choose to hold Girl Scout meetings at your residence, you carry the same legal liability as when any other visitor is on your property or at your place of residence.
Outside Around the Meeting Place
- Does the lighting system illuminate entrances, walkways, and parking?
- Are facility access points located in open, well-traveled areas?
- Are sidewalks and exterior stairs clear of snow and ice?
- Is playground equipment anchored so that it does not tip, slide, or move in an unintended manner?
- Are there pinch, crush or tearing points on individual pieces of playground equipment that could injure a girl?
- Do surface materials in fall zones under playground equipment absorb shock (materials such as rubber-like material, sand, gravel; shredded wood products)?
- If the property has a pool, is the pool access locked so that girls cannot enter the pool area unless swimming activities are to be conducted?
- Are pool chemicals stored, secured, and out of reach from children?
- Are all chemical cleaning solutions kept out of reach and properly stored to prevent access to children?
- Are all prescription medications kept out of reach and properly stored to prevent access to children?
- Are all weapons kept out of reach and properly stored to prevent access to children?
- Are all tools and power equipment kept out of reach and properly stored to prevent access to children?
- Is the area reasonably free of biting, and stinging insects?
- Is access restricted to recreational equipment such as ATVs, archery equipment, trampolines, and other sports equipment unless as part of the planned and supervised activity when allowed?
Inside the Meeting Place
- Are there two or more separate, usable exits available?
- Are exits ever blocked?
- Are exits available clearly marked with emergency lighting?
- Are steps clear of trip and fall hazards?
- Are handrails and railings on stairs present and secure?
- Are floors and walking areas free of trip and fall hazards?
- Is floor space adequate for the desired activities?
- Are toilets and sanitary facilities accessible?
- Do girls or adults have special needs that require adaptations of facilities for their disabilities?
- Are electrical outlets protected with outlet covers?
- Are extension cords tucked away so that they will not be walked on or trip someone?
- Are barriers or warnings provided for hot surfaces like fireplaces, heaters, radiators, and wood stoves?
- Are fire extinguishers available?
- Is first aid equipment readily available?
- Is telephone available and operational?
- Are emergency phone numbers provided for fire, ambulance, police, and poison control center?
Before the Girls Arrive
- Look around to see if there is anything you can do to lessen the chance of an accident.
- Ensure that you have consulted the Safety Activity Checkpoints for all of the activities the girls will participate in.
Every registered Girl Scout and registered adult member in the Girl Scout movement is automatically covered under the basic Mutual of Omaha Activity Insurance plan upon registration. The entire premium cost for this protection is borne by Girl Scouts of the USA, and the basic plan is effective during the regular fiscal year (October 1 to the following October 1). Up to 14 months of insurance coverage is provided for new members who register in the month of August.
This insurance provides up to a specified maximum for medical expenses incurred as a result of an accident while a member is participating in an approved, supervised Girl Scout activity. This is one reason why all adults and girls should be registered members. It is important to remember that non-registered parents, tagalongs (brothers, sisters and friends) and other persons are not covered by the basic plan.
This insurance coverage is not intended to diminish the need for, or replace existing, family health insurance. When $130 in benefits has been paid under this plan for covered expenses, any subsequent benefits from the basic plan will be payable (up to the specified maximum) only for expenses incurred that aren’t covered under another insurance policy. If there is no family insurance or healthcare program, a specified maximum of medical benefits is available under the basic plan.
An optional Activity Insurance plan is available for Girl Scouts taking extended trips (extending three nights or more) and for non-members who participate in Girl Scout activities. These optional plans are secondary insurance that GSNorCal offers to cover participants taking part in any council-approved, supervised Girl Scout activity. Contact your council to find out how to apply.
Ordering Additional Insurance
Troop Leaders (or other registered adults in charge of an event) may order insurance by completing the Trip Insurance Enrollment Plans Form www.GSNorCal.org/forms. Payment for the reasonably priced insurance will be made through an automatic electronic transfer from your troop or service unit bank account. Please e-mail the Risk Management & Travel Assistant if you have any questions at .
All requests must be received 2 weeks/10 workdays prior to the first day of your event.
GS Insurance Plan Comparison Chart
If ANY person—girl, sibling, adult or anyone who is not currently registered as a Girl Scout member will participate at your meeting, trip, or any other Girl Scout gathering, you will need to purchase additional insurance to cover this person or people. If an adult will participate other than as a visiting speaker or presenter or audience member, or unregistered children (siblings or friends) will participate in any way other than as an audience member, the additional insurance is necessary. This insurance is very reasonably priced, and the process is easy. Contact the Risk Management & Travel Assistant in the Alameda office Insurance@girlscoutsnorcal.org. Note that if an adult will supervise girls, she/he must register and complete adult screening.
(included in your membership)
Automatic coverage for registered members for Girl Scout meetings or events which does not exceed a total of 2 nights. You do not need to order this insurance.
(approx.11₵ per person, per day)
To cover participants who are NOT registered Girl Scouts and/or Girl Scouts participating in an event lasting 3 nights or more. Example: If your troop is planning a trip to Southern California for 5 days and 4 nights, you will need to purchase insurance for all of the registered members for the full 5 days because the trip is 3 nights or more.
(approx. 29₵ per person, per day)
This plan is recommended for trips out of state.
PLAN 3P Accident and Sickness Insurance
(approx. 70₵ per person, per day)
For groups with one or more participants who do not have personal family insurance (or where personal insurance may not be honored).
(approx. $1.17 per person, per day)
For any Girl Scout group planning a trip out of the country. It should be purchased in the planning stages of the trip, after it has been approved by the council, due to certain pre-trip benefits. Call the council office to obtain detailed information on how to purchase this plan.
Sexual advances, improper touching, and sexual activity of any kind with girl members are forbidden. Physical, verbal and emotional abuse of girls is also forbidden. All states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have statutes identifying persons who are required to report suspected child abuse to an appropriate agency. Therefore, if you witness or suspect child abuse or neglect, whether inside or outside of Girl Scouting, contact email@example.com for assistance. Staff members are mandated reporters, and have been trained in reporting suspected child abuse.
For additional information, please check the following resources:
- Department of Health & Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway: www.childwelfare.gov/can/
- How to Report Suspected Child Maltreatment: https://www.childwelfare.gov/responding/how.cfm
- Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect: www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/manda.cfm
Adult supervision for girls also extends to online activity.
In order to make sure that girls are aware of how to safely use the Internet, you should discuss online safety issues with the girls and distribute copies of the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge and make sure they understand it. The girls should also take a copy of the pledge home and go over it with their parents. Both the girl and her parent should sign the pledge.
- “Computer/Online Use” Safety Activity Checkpoints"
- Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Girls, Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Parents/Guardians and Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Volunteers (available in product sales materials)
- Follow the Girl Scout Safety Guidelines [SAFETY-WISE: Girl Scout Safety Guidelines]
- Ensure that girls are supervised according to the Adult-to-Girl ratio minimums at all times. [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
- Consult the Safety Activity Checkpoints for every activity the girls [SAFETY-WISE: Safety Activity Checkpoints]
- Use required forms as the safety tools they are intended to be.
- Follow additional guidelines found here in Volunteer Essentials. Don’t forget to use your common sense.
Troop/Group Websites or Social Media Pages
Groups whose girls meet age criteria (13 years or older) and have parental permission may set up a group website or a Facebook group. It can be a fantastic way for girls to share information, market Girl Scout products, and talk about their Take Action projects. Girls under age 13 may not use social networks in Girl Scout activities.
Before you and the girls design a website, do remember that the web is an open forum for anyone, including potential predators. Girls must understand that the Internet is an open means of communication that anyone can access. As such, websites will often attract people other than their intended users. It is therefore important that any information that could jeopardize the safety and security of girls and adults not be disclosed on a website. The following measures will help to ensure girls’ online safety:
- Girl Scouts should only use their first names
- A Girl Scout’s last name, address, phone number, or e‐mail address should never be posted. For Digital Cookie a girl may post her unique Digital Cookie URL on her Facebook page and may email it to friends and family (for additional information please refer to Safety Activity Checkpoint for Online Product Sales, Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Volunteers and Digital Cookie Pledge for Girls)
- Ensure that websites do not show personal e‐mail addresses of girls, but use a troop, group or adult’s e‐mail.
- Always have a parent’s or guardian’s permission when using pictures of girls on a website. This is especially important if the girl is under 13 years old
- Do not post addresses of group meeting places, dates and times of meetings, events or trips on a website. Instead, an adult who wishes to communicate upcoming events with families of Girl Scouts should send an e‐mail to the families
- Do not allow automatic posting of messages to a website. All postings to message boards, social media and guest books should have adult oversight, and be screened prior to posting live.
- Make yours a static site that does not allow outsiders to post messages to the site, or make sure all postings (such as message boards or guest books) have adult oversight and are screened prior to posting live.
- Don’t violate copyright law by using designs, text from magazines or books, poetry, music, lyrics, videos, graphics, or trademarked symbols without specific permission from the copyright or trademark holder (and, generally, this permission is pretty tough to get!). Girl Scout trademarks (such as the trefoil shape, Girl Scout pins, and badges and patches) can be used only in accordance with guidelines for their use. (The Girl Scout trefoil, for example, may not be animated or used as wallpaper for a website).
- Consult resources:
In addition to great resources for girls, there is plenty of advice for adults on how to monitor your child’s online use, family internet safety tips, how to tell which sites are safe and reliable for teens, safe texting, IMing, and gaming, and more.
See additional guidelines specific to participating in the Product Sales Program [GS PROGRAM: Online Marketing]
What is an event?
- Any activity other than just a regularly scheduled troop/group meeting may be an event if it includes other people outside the troop/group
- Girls attending individually – any time you have girls attending as individuals rather than with their troop the activity qualifies as an event
- Promotion – when other troops, groups, or people are invited outside those planning the activity, it is an event
- Size – if more than two large or three small troops are involved, it would be considered an event
- Logistics – a complicated activity where there are many logistics to consider such as site, safety, transportation, etc. would be considered an “event”.
Are you planning events and activities for your service unit or the council? The Event Manager course is required for volunteers running events where this person is responsible for the planning and implementation of the event and for the well-being of the participants. The course is available online. The participant notebook for the course is designed as a checklist, and outlines the safety, financial, and other guidelines for events in GSNorCal. Event Managers are responsible for following all guidelines and procedures covered in the Event Manager course.
For large events, there should be one first-aider for every 200 participants. For traveling or station events where there is a considerable distance between stations, event organizers should consider having first aiders with each group.
If the event will involve an overnight or any high adventure activity, the service unit or other entity hosting the event will submit the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form, in addition to the Event Notification Form. www.GSNorCal.org/forms Troops or individuals attending the event do not have to submit either form to the council.
Use this clickable checklist to help you and the girls plan your trip.
- A trip that is farther than 60 miles from your regular meeting place and longer than 6 hours in duration but not high adventure (at least 2 weeks prior) [SAFETY-WISE: High Adventure Activities]
- Any overnight activity (at least 2 weeks prior)
- An event/trip of any length that includes a high adventure activity (at least 4-6 weeks prior)
- A trip that is 3 nights or more (at least 6-12 weeks prior)
- A trip outside of the state of California
- An international trip (at least 6 months prior)
A Girl Scout trip is an opportunity for girls to have fun, to experience adventure, and to enrich their ongoing Girl Scout program. Sometimes a trip is the culmination of a progression of activities that the girls are already engaged in.
A Girl Scout trip is defined as any time a group has an activity at a location other than the regularly scheduled meeting place. If the group will start and end at the regular meeting location, but will walk to a local park or other destination, this activity is not defined as a trip.
Safety Activity Checkpoints and the guidelines in Volunteer Essentials should be consulted when planning a trip of any length. Care should be taken to determine if troops are ready to participate in troop/group travel and trips.
- Adult Learning Courses
- Budgeting & Money
- Chaperones (follow adult-to-girl ratios)
- Additional Insurance
- Destination Logistics (reservations, contracts, tickets)
- Prepare the girls
GSNorCal offers a variety of training opportunities for you to prepare for a safe and fun travel & outdoor experience with your Girl Scouts. Before venturing outdoors, volunteers are required to have the knowledge and experience to lead a safe and positive travel & outdoor experience. Training requirements for Trip and Outdoor advisors can be found on our Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org). Below is a list of our Trip & Outdoor Courses. All Trip & Outdoor Course training is built on progression and prerequisite courses are required. View the Trip & Outdoor Advisor course page for detailed information.
Trip & Outdoor Basics (online course)
Required before you leave the meeting location for a local field trip, day trip, or longer trip.
Cook In (online course)
Required before girls use knives or prepare a snack or meal indoors. Learn the skills you’ll need to teach girls how to plan, budget, shop, and prepare their own meal.
Sleep In (online course)
Required before planning an indoor overnight at an indoor facility with indoor plumbing and electricity. Learn the skills you’ll need to guide girls as they plan, budget, prepare, and pack for their indoor overnight experience.
Campfire (online course)
Required before you have an outdoor campfire with girls. Learn the skills you’ll need to guide girls to build, light, and manage a campfire with safety in mind.
Troop Camping Certification (in-person course)
This course is required if your troop will either cook OR sleep outdoors (or in shelters without electricity or indoor plumbing). At least one troop adult who will assist girls in planning, budgeting, and organizing the troop camping experience and who will accompany girls on the camping adventure to make sure the trip is both safe and fun must take this course. The course is offered in-person or experienced campers may take the Troop Camping Equivalency as a challenge to the Troop Camping Certification Course.
Backpacking Certification (in-person course)
Required before you plan an overnight backpacking trip with girls. Learn the skills you’ll need to guide girls to plan, budget, shop, and prepare for their overnight backpacking trip.
Extended Travel Training (ETT) (in-person course)
When planning trips of 3 nights or more, national and international trips, the Extended Travel course is required of at least one adult who will attend outing and who is involved in the planning process for the trip. This course should be completed prior to starting the planning process or at least 6 months before the trip. It is highly recommended that girls take this course as well to help facilitate
the girl planning of the trip.
For tips on girl planning and preparation, along with assessing group readiness [PROGRAM: Outings, Trips & Travel] [PROGRAM: Travel Readiness (Progression)] For planning international trips [PROGRAM: Global Travel Toolkit] For travel opportunities [PROGRAM: Girl Scout Travel Opportunities]
- Follow minimum adult-to-girl ratios for events, outings, and trips [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
- Review the Safety-Wise chapter in Volunteer Essentials (this chapter) and any applicable Safety Activity Checkpoints, and establish adult supervision plan
Create Emergency Plan
- Brainstorm safety rules and precautions with the girls such as establishing boundaries, use of buddy system, plan for what to do if lost, etc.
- Help the girls to create an emergency plan. Bring this plan on your trip. The emergency plan should include the communication protocol – who is going to call the at home contact to let them know the group is okay? Who are the contacts for emergency and non-emergency local law enforcement? Who is then going to call the travelers' emergency contacts? And who is going to call your council in case of an emergency?
- Troop leaders should also ensure that girls know WHO is responsible for them, especially if it is a big trip. They should also know how to handle crowded situations and what to do in case they get lost or are in an accident. Perhaps test out these plans by having the girls spend a day in a local city – making sure they can navigate to meeting places and feel comfortable in public spaces, and even to learn how heavy their bags are!
- In the event of an emergency, everyone should stick to the plan. Gathering participants is the #1 priority. Once the group is gathered, call the emergency contact person to communicate the status of the group.
For International Travel:
For international trips, include in-country contacts (e.g. number for the U.S. embassy, American Express, Red Cross) and a "lost plan" for each location you visit in case any group members become separated. Register your group with the U.S. State Department and provide them with a list of names and the group's itinerary.
Before the group decides to travel, the first thing they should do is check the US State Department website for any travel warnings or advisories, and read the individual country descriptions. These might reference certain areas to avoid within a certain country, and always include tips on how to stay safe. travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html
A few weeks before the trip, register the group's itinerary with the US State Department. If the group is registered, the US Embassy knows that they are in the country, and in case of any incident will take active steps to locate the group. The group will also get updates about any security concerns in their destination. State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program step.state.gov/step/
If the group would like to connect with a WAGGGS member troop where they are visiting, they can submit the GSUSA Intent to Travel Form girlscoutsusa.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5dlynji6EziK4Rv
Budgeting & Money
The Girl Scout product program is the nation’s leading business and financial literacy program for girls and it can make a huge difference when financing a troop's travel dreams. Travel adventures cost more than a day trip but this offers girls the opportunity to learn some financial skills that will serve them well throughout their lives while working towards an amazing goal. Girls learn:
- Goal setting
- Customer relations
- Good business practices
Since the money belongs to the troop/group, the adults should not be making the decisions about how it is spent, and instead the girls make the decisions. If they’re ready for a trip, they’re ready for this responsibility, too.
Create a detailed and realistic budget with the girls. Include amounts for any registration fees, transportation, parking, gas, food, tips, insurance, lodging, recreation/entertainment, admission fees, taxes, fees for travel documents and vaccinations, postage, duplication of materials, souvenirs, and emergency funds. Help the girls define personal and group expenses. For extended trips, the Global Travel Toolkit has different templates to help the girls think of all the possible expenses so that they can determine the cost of their trip. Once you have an idea of how much the trip is going to cost, help the girls to figure out how much they need. Use the Trip & Outdoor Budget Planning Tool to assist you and the girls in your troop with planning and budgeting for your trip or outdoor adventure.
Determine whether the Cadette or older girls have product program rewards money that they want to use on this trip. With input from families, the girls should decide how much will be paid by the troop and the amount each girl/family can contribute. Girl Scout trips should be affordable to all the girls in the troop/group. Discuss travel plans, budgeting and money-earning projects with families before finalizing plans.
What’s left after the girls/family contribution is the amount needed to raise through money-earning projects. Establish a group goal. How much will the group need to earn together? [MONEY: Money-Earning Projects - Approval Required]
Have the girls discuss and make decisions in advance, including:
- How to pay bills that occur before, during, and after the trip
- Shall the group pay all or any part of the costs for adult advisors to attend the trip? How many adults? Which ones? Could these adults help with the money-earning projects to help defray their expenses? The group cannot go on the trip without qualified adult chaperones, so this might be considered an expense to the troop/group. Travel Tip: When selecting adults for a trip, define the needs of the trip first. For example, does the trip require a lifeguard, or an adult who has taken Extended Travel Training, or Troop Camping Certification? Select adults that can fulfill the needs of the trip. (Note that it would not be acceptable to use troop funds to pay for “extra” adults who were not needed as part of the adult-to-girl ratios).
- What percentage of money should be held to cover regular troop/group expenses besides the trip?
- Not all families can afford to spend the same amount for activities. Will there be some money set aside for financial aid? How could a confidential system be set in place to allow girls to apply for the funds?
- How should it be handled if a new girl joins the troop sometime before the trip? How would the troop/group help make it possible for her to attend?
- What will the money be used for if plans for the trip fall through?
Set up a group travel bank account to be overseen by two people who work together as the designated adults. Have the two people together be responsible for group funds and keep a daily account of expenditures. Likewise, all funds should not be held by just one person at any time during the trip.
Not all trips involve money-earning projects, but if yours does:
- GSUSA and GSNorCal policies and guidelines must be followed.
Check with the Fund Development Dept. before soliciting funds from local organizations, foundations, or businesses. Encourage girls to present travel plans to potential contributors—but leave the “ask” to adults. In other words, let the girls share their excitement about their goals, but let the adults ask for donations. Asking for money or materials or services is considered fundraising by the IRS and Girl Scout policies, and for many reasons (legal and otherwise), adults are the only people who can raise money for Girl Scouts.
To determine how many volunteer chaperones the girls will need with them on the trip, see the adult-to-girl ratios. [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios] As you ask for chaperones, be sure to look for ones who are committed to:
- Being a positive role model
- Respecting all girls and adults equally, with no preferential treatment
- Creating a safe space for girls
- Prioritizing the safety of all girls e.g. not drinking alcohol on the trip, not leaving the girls alone, etc.
- Supporting and reinforcing the team agreement
- Handling pressure and stress by modeling flexibility and a sense of humor
- Creating an experience for and with girls
- Getting fit (appropriate to the trip)
- Becoming a registered Girl Scout member-volunteer
- Have a cleared background check with GSNorCal
Be sure every chaperone reviews and follows the Girl Scout Safety Guidelines, and understands rules and expectations for the trip.
Be sure the chaperones each understand their responsibilities and which girls they are responsible for, and ensure that the girls also know which chaperone they report to. Specify who is responsible for contacting the emergency contact person in case of any emergency situation. Be sure that everyone understands that the chaperones are responsible for the girls' safety, and not the tour director.
For info, resources, and training: training.gsnorcal.org.
How parents decide to transport girls between their homes and Girl Scout meeting places is each parent’s individual decision and responsibility.
For planned Girl Scout field trips and other activities—outside the normal meeting time and/or place—in which a group will be transported in private vehicles:
- Every driver must be an approved adult volunteer at least 21 years old, and have a good driving record, a valid license, and a registered/insured vehicle.
- Girls never drive other girls.
- If a group is traveling in one vehicle, there must be at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers in the vehicle, one of which is female, and the girl-volunteer ratios on must be followed. [SAFETY: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
- If a group is traveling in more than one vehicle, the entire group must consist of at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers, one of whom is female, and the girl-volunteer ratios must be followed. [SAFETY: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios] Care should be taken so that a single car (with a single adult driver) has at least two girls, and is not separated from the group for an extended length of time.
Current laws regarding car safety seats for children must be followed. Children must be in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. In addition, children under 12 must be in a rear seat (may not ride in a front seat because of air bags).
GSNorCal encourages groups to transport girls in family-sized vehicles which are familiar to the drivers. Vans designed to carry 15 or more passengers are NOT approved to transport Girl Scouts in our council.
Private transportation includes private passenger vehicles, rental cars, privately owned or rented recreational vehicles and campers, chartered buses, chartered boats, and chartered flights. Each driver of motorized private transportation must be at least 21 years old and hold a valid operator’s license appropriate to the vehicle—state laws must be followed even if they are more stringent than the guidelines here.
It is the responsibility of the troop/group leader to ensure that drivers have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. Use the Troop Driver Form, available on the council website www.GSNorCal.org/forms
When driving a vehicle to transport Girl Scouts, take the following precautions and ask any other drivers to do the same. The troop/group leader should familiarize drivers with guidelines for acting in this capacity and ask them to take the online Troop Driver course on the Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org).
Each driver of motorized private transportation must:
- Be at least 21 years old. Girls may not transport other girls. It may be assumed that Girl Scout activities begin when custody of the participant takes place. To be specific, if travel is part of the activity, girls may not transport other girls.
- Hold a valid driver’s/operator’s license appropriate to the vehicle being driven.
- Carry the minimum insurance required by the California Responsibility Law.
- Must be registered members and complete the adult screening process established by the council.
- A male volunteer may act as a driver, but must never have one girl in the car alone, except for his own daughter.
- Keep directions and a road map in the car, along with a first aid kit and a flashlight.
- Check your lights, signals, tires, windshield wipers, horns, and fluid levels before each trip and check them periodically on long trips.
- Keep all necessary papers up to date, such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration, any state or local inspections, insurance coverage, and the like.
- Wear your seat belt at all times, and insist that all passengers do the same. Keep girls under 12 in the back seats.
- Never transport girls in flatbed or panel trucks, in the bed of a pickup, or in a camper-trailer. Girls must always wear seat belts and be in a seat intended for passengers.
- Follow all established rules of the road in California (following the speed limit, keeping a two car length between you and the car ahead of you, not talking or texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic devices, not using ear buds or headphones, driving with your headlights on when your windshield wipers are on, etc.)
- Avoid driving when tired, taking medication that makes you drowsy, or for extended periods at night.
- Plan rest stops every few hours. If driving with others, prearrange stopping places along the way. When planning longer trips, arrange for relief drivers.
- Never travel in caravans (having drivers follow behind one another). This can result in an increased chance of accidents if drivers hurry through a light to stay together, or make unsafe lane changes to follow. Instead, every driver should know where they are going and where any rest stops will be taken.
- Turn in completed Troop Driver Form to Troop Leader. This form should be reviewed and updated on an insurance.
Information and training for drivers is available on the Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org).
Rented or Chartered Vehicles
Even though written agreements are always required when chartering a vehicle, you are not authorized to sign an agreement even if there is no cost associated with the charter. Such an agreement must instead be signed by the council staff person designated by GSNorCal. [MONEY: Contracts & Certificates of Insurance]Rental Vehicles
Troops, Service Units, or volunteer run programs can rent vehicles using Girl Scout funds as long as it is to transport girls or equipment for Girl Scout programming. GSNorCal no longer requires prior approval for those renting vehicles, but does require that all adults driving a rental vehicle to transport girls must be background screened and registered as a troop driver. GSNorCal does not offer rental vehicles, discounts and will not be held liable for any rental vehicle incidents. It is recommended that when an adult rents a vehicle that you purchase the additional rental insurance coverage or make sure that your personal coverage will be sufficient. Rental vehicles are to be treated as personal vehicles when used for Girl Scouting activity.
Groups wishing to lease commercial buses must also have permission from the GSNorCal Risk Management and Travel Team. All vehicles traveling on public roads are equipped with:
- First-aid kits
- Emergency-warning reflectors
- Fire extinguishers
- A cell phone or some other kind of communication device
Commercial bus companies must:
- Be approved by GSNorCal listed on the Approved Vendors List.
- Provide a certificate of insurance with evidence of general liability and automobile liability for the vehicle (minimum of $1 million) and evidence of collision/comprehensive insurance for the vehicle
- Provide evidence of workers' compensation insurance for the driver
- Provide a copy of their last CHP safety inspection.
- Relief-driver availability (if driving hours indicate)
- Show that drivers are approved by the state to carry children.
- Show that drivers are part of the statewide program that monitors driving records.
- Provide seating and storage capacities, as well as bathroom availability for long trips
- Carry emergency equipment
- Documentation of safety-check procedures, including frequency
Use of Ridesharing Companies Not Permitted
Uber, Lyft, Curb, and similar ride sharing companies are not permitted to transport girls because the safety, credibility, and insurance of the drivers is far more difficult to qualify than that of traditional or well-known charter and rental companies. Complete auto insurance coverage is often not available or not sufficient for the majority of ride sharing drivers.
Rental or Purchase Policy for Storage Units & Trailers
Girl Scouts of Northern California supports the rental of storage units and/or purchase of storage units and storage trailers purchased by Service Units and Day Camps in the name of Girl Scouts of Northern California for the use of storing program supplies and product sales property. These units should never be used to store personal property.
Contracts and Agreements are to be signed by the key holders of the units with a minimum of two unrelated signors for each unit. In the case of moving storage units, such as trailers that are purchased in the name of Girl Scouts of Northern California, it is the responsibility of the Service Unit or Day Camp to uphold maintenance and vehicle registration tags for the unit. The storage of the vehicles is the responsibility of the Service Unit or Day Camp. Service Units must annually submit copies of their registration and insurance to the Senior Property Director.
Girl Scouts of Northern California will cover liability insurance on all storage vehicles and units as long as the property is owned and utilized in the name of Girl Scouts of Northern California. Liability insurance will renew annually when contracts or registrations are renewed with facilities or the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. Liability insurance does not cover theft, or in the case of trailers, collision. These extra insurances should be purchased by the Service Unit/Day Camp in charge of the unit. If the Service Unit/Day Camp fails to maintain the vehicle registration and upkeep of vehicles, Girl Scouts of Northern California has the right to transfer the property of unit out of the possession of the Service Unit or Day Camp. No trailer should ever be used without up-to-date registration tags, collision insurance and Girl Scout of Northern California liability insurance.
Additional insurance (beyond basic coverage included in Girl Scout membership) must be purchased for:
- an event where unregistered people are participating
- any Girl Scout activity, event or trip lasting 3 nights or more
- for trips out of state or any other trip where sickness could occur
- where one or more participants does not have personal family insurance (or where personal insurance may not be honored
- any trip out of the country
Consider buying travel insurance in case of flight cancellation, delays, or date changes. This kind of insurance is an added cost, but if the group ends up having to cancel a trip the insurance may be able to reimburse them for flights and other costs incurred. Additional insurance purchased through GSNorCal does not cover these special circumstances and can be purchased through independent insurance carriers.
Any registered or unregistered participant who does not have personal insurance may purchase insurance for the duration of the Girl Scout event/activity through GSNorCal.
All contracts or signed agreements must be signed by a council staff member. Troops and service units are not legal entities, and may not legally enter into contracts. Please allow at least two weeks prior to the date you need the signed agreement.
All reservations should be made in advance. Do not post the exact itinerary on a public website where it could be viewed by anyone. Instead create a closed network such as a closed Facebook group.
Prepare the Girls
The girls should spend time learning or practicing any needed skills (such as dressing for the weather, fire or knife safety, using specialized equipment, etc.) before the trip.
Girls should develop a Behavioral Contract that guides appropriate behavior at events, outings and trips. Be sure all girls understand the rules and expectations, along with consequences for breaking the rules.
If the group will be staying in a hotel, everyone should know where the emergency exits are, and always lock the door. Travelers should not mention their room number in front of strangers.
Online training is available to help trip and outdoor advisors with tips on getting girls involved in planning and preparing girls for certain activities and outings. Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org)
For International Trips: Have the girls find out if they need a VISA or any special immunizations to enter that country, and whether there are health concerns. Check the Center for Disease Control website: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
Be sure to discuss the following items with the girls and their parents before you leave on any trip (you may also want to put this information in writing and have girls sign it):
- Who her buddy is—and how the buddy system works
- What to do if she is separated from the group, whether by accident or because of a crime
- What to do if she loses something significant: money, passport, luggage
- How to report a crime
- What to do if emergency help is needed
- How to perform basic first-aid procedures
- How to deal with a large crowd (if applicable)
- What to do in the event of a crime
- What behaviors you expect—and what consequences exist for not living up to those behaviors
If a Girl Scout Cadette, Senior, or Ambassador will be traveling alone during any part of a trip, use the opportunity to help her feel comfortable with and capable of being on her own. Always talk first with her parents to assess her maturity and ability to handle herself, and have them complete an emergency form. If she is flying, discuss the possibility of booking a nonstop flight to make her trip less stressful, and ask parents to contact the airline, which will make special arrangements for any unaccompanied minor.
With the girl herself, develop a trip plan, discuss hotel security and safety, and talk about avoiding excess communication with strangers, not wearing a nametag, and avoiding exposing money or other items (such as smartphones & iPads) that are attractive to pickpockets.
- Permission & Health History Forms
- Trip Folders
- Emergency Contact Person
Communication with Families
All families should have itineraries, a copy of the emergency plan, and contact information for the trip's emergency contact person.
Permission forms must always be used when:
- Activities are held in a different place than regularly scheduled meetings OR
- Activities are held on a different day or time than regularly scheduled meetings OR
- Activities are considered high adventure [SAFETY-WISE: High Adventure Activities]
Use the appropriate permission form(s) as needed for the trip to communicate plans to the parents/guardians. [SAFETY-WISE: Permission Forms]
Girl and Adult Health History Forms must be signed and re-dated by a parent/guardian within two months of an overnight activity. Health History With Physical Exam Forms are needed for girls and adults for any trip lasting 3 nights or more or for strenuous or physically demanding activities. The required health examination by a professional health care provider must have been within the previous 24 months. Camp and school physicals are accepted. It's important to note that adults also need a health history form for overnight events.
- Permission forms (Annual Permission & Parent Permission)
- Health History forms (in a sealed envelope) for all girls/adults/participants they are responsible for
- Driving Directions/Maps
- Troop Roster
- Pertinent Emergency Contact Information
- Council Emergency Card
- Mutual of Omaha Claim form and brochure
- Accident/Injury Report
- Incident Report form
- Media Information Sheet
- Troop Driver Form and Vehicle Assignment, if the group will be driving
Troop/Group Emergency Contact Person
A troop/group emergency contact person must be established for every trip. Having an emergency contact person allows chaperones to focus on keeping everyone together, safe, and calm while the emergency contact handles communication with families. Your service unit leadership must be given contact information for your troop/group’s emergency contact person in case there are any problems or emergencies that arise on any trip. This person would act as a "point person" in case of any emergency on the trip or an emergency or natural disaster at home while the troop/group is away. The troop/group emergency contact person must be a person who will NOT attend the trip, and should know:
- Which girls and adults are present on the trip
- Where the troop is going
- Dates and times of the trip
- Where and when the group will return
- Contact information for the adults present on the trip
- Contact information for service unit leadership
- Contact information for all families
- How to activate the GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan
|Type of Trip/Event||Approval process and time line for submitting the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form|
|The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form is not required, but you should inform your service unit of the activity plans.|
The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form must be submitted to GSNorCal. Travel plans require approval from the council at least two weeks prior to the trip.
Event/trip of any length includes a high adventure activity
|The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form must be submitted to GSNorCal. Travel plans require approval from the council at least 4-6 weeks prior to the trip.|
|Trip is 3 nights or more||The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form must be submitted to GSNorCal. Travel plans require approval from the council at least 6-12 weeks prior to the trip.|
| International trip||The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form must be submitted to GSNorCal. Travel plans require approval from the council at least 6 months prior to the trip.|
It is recommended that groups spend two years planning and preparing for a major trip. Encourage girls to gather the needed information to submit the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form themselves.
Contact the Risk Management & Travel team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Before discussing what girls should bring, it's a great idea to discuss what they shouldn't bring. Girls should not bring valuable items on any kind of trip. The items could become lost or damaged, and more importantly, could make the girls a target when out in public.
First aid kit
Never give any medication, including over-the-counter medications, to a girl without a parent/guardian's written permission. For extended trips, include items such as Benadryl, Tylenol, anti-diarrhea medicine, medicines for stomach upset and motion sickness. Parents/guardians must indicate on the health forms which over-the-counter medications girls are permitted to take.
- Prescription Medications for Girls: Unless a girl has a physician or parental note to carry her own, adults are responsible to keep medication for girls. This authorization may be needed in situations where home hospitality is given and the girl is away from the first aider. Personal medications to be administered in case of emergency include bee sting kits, asthma inhalers, epinephrine injectors, diabetic medication, diabetic insulin and syringes, ect. (Girls need a physician's note to keep the medication with her at all times.)
- Permission Forms: Annual Permission Forms, Parent Permission Forms, or Permission to Travel with Minor (for international trips)
- Health History Forms for Girls, Adult Health History Forms for overnight trips, and Health History with Physical Forms (for trips of 3 nights or more)
- For International Trips: A copy of her Health History Form with Physical Exam and insurance information, and any medication she must carry with her (e.g. asthma inhaler, diabetic medication, insulin syringes, or epinephrine injectors.)
Emergency Plans and Council Emergency Cards
- All drivers/adult chaperones carry Trip Folders
For international trips:
- Girls and adults should carry international calling cards that you can purchase in local shops, along with instructions on HOW to make a call. Most U.S. cell phones do not work overseas. Contact your phone provider to find out before the trip.
- Girls and adults carry citizenship documents and copies, or documentation of legal status and copies, to reenter the United States. It's also a good idea to have electronic copies scanned and emailed so they can be accessed from a computer. Additionally, adults should carry copies of each traveler's passport.
- Girls and adults should carry itineraries with the address and contact information for every part of the trip, including the nearest US embassy or consulate to each trip location. Adults should carry copies of reservations and confirmations. Each person should have a map.
- A copy of her Health History Form with Physical Exam and insurance information, and any medication she must carry with her (e.g. asthma inhaler, insulin and syringes, or epinephrine injectors.)
- To minimize risk, when traveling overseas travelers should not wear nametags or monogrammed shirts. Uniforms are definitely appropriate at World Centers and WAGGGS events; however, uniforms are not recommended for other travel. It can be each group’s decision whether or not to wear matching or Girl Scout clothing, but right now – in our current environment – it is recommended that they do not. Some groups decide to wear the same color to find each other in a crowd. In this case, solid colors – even green! – will work. However, blending in may be a good idea right now.
For extended trips, girls bring:
- A copy of her Health History Form with Physical Exam and insurance information
- A copy of the group itinerary with all contact numbers
- Personal medications to be administered in case of emergency, such as bee sting kits, asthma inhalers, etc. (Girls need a physician's note to keep the medication with her at all times.)
Follow GSNorCal safety guidelines in Volunteer Essentials and in the Safety Activity Checkpoints. In case of emergency, follow emergency plan.
An ID bracelet (or dog tag) is required for each person with the following information:
- Girl or Adult Name
- Girl Scouts of Northern California
- GSNorCal Emergency Phone Number 1 (877) 636-1912 (include country code for international travelers)
These can be made at a pet store, military surplus store, or ordered online.
Safety Tips for Hotels, Motels, Hostels, or Dormitories
Share these safety tips with girls before you leave on any trip that involves a stay at a hotel, motel, hostel, or dormitory:
- Always lock the door behind you, using the deadbolt and the chain or anchor.
- Do not open the door for strangers; if hotel staff claims to be at the door, call the front desk to confirm.
- Don’t mention or display your room number when in the presence of strangers.
- Never leave jewelry, cameras, electronics, cash, or credit cards in your room.
- Never leave luggage unattended in the hotel lobby (or in an airport or train or bus station).
- When arriving at the hotel, locate emergency exits.
- Keep a small flashlight on your bedside table, along with a small bag with your room key, wallet, passport, and cell phone. Take the flashlight and bag with you if you have to leave the room in an emergency.
- If a fire alarm goes off, get out as quickly as possible. Don’t stop to pack your suitcase.
- Before leaving your room, feel the door: If it is warm, do not open it. Stay in your room and stuff towels around the door. Call the hotel operator immediately. If the door is cool, proceed slowly out the door, looking for flames or smoke. Repeat these instructions for any door you encounter.
- Contact the front desk to make sure girls’ rooms are cleared of any minibars or refrigerators. Also be sure the hotel doesn’t provide access to inappropriate movies on TVs and does not allow long-distance calls. Alert the hotel management that underage girls are staying in the hotel, and ask them to contact you if any girls are seen out of their rooms after bedtime.
- Let the girls problem solve when things don't go according to plan
- Take lots of pictures, share with families
- Have girls write thank you notes to the drivers/adult chaperones
Quick Links to MONEY Chapter Topics: Managing Troop Finances | Financial Literacy Skills for Girls | Establishing A Bank Account | Reporting Responsibilities | Disbanding, Merging, Bridging, or Splitting Groups | Options For Funding | Contributions From Families | Money-Earning Basics | Money-Earning Projects: Approval Required | Collaborating With Sponsors & Other Organizations | Supporting GSNorCal | Contracts & Certificates of Insurance | Safeguarding Members' Personal Information | Document Retention | Online Camp/Event Registration Information |
Helping girls decide what they want to do, and coaching them as they earn and manage money to pursue their goals, is an integral part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE). Your Girl Scout troop plans and finances its own activities, with your guidance. At the same time, the girls learn many valuable skills that serve them throughout their lives.
Girl Scout troops are funded by a share of money earned through council-sponsored product sale activities (such as Girl Scout cookie activities), troop money-earning activities (council-approved, of course), and any dues your troop may charge. This is in addition to the $25* annual membership dues that go to the national organization, (and the $15 GSNorCal Council Service fee which pertains to girl memberships only). This MONEY chapter gives you the ins and outs of establishing a troop account and helping girls manage their troop’s finances, practice successful product-sales techniques, review the safety requirements around product sales, and understand how to collaborate with sponsors and causes.
The girls should always make decisions together on how to spend their funds. All troop money legally belongs to the council to be used by the troop/group to pay for their Girl Scout activities. Everyone should understand that if they leave the troop that the money is not their personal property; under no circumstances would an individual take any portion of the money with her to use for non-Girl Scout purposes, including funding her college education. Further, the IRS has issued an advisory that non-profit organizations may NOT track individual “girl accounts”. Per the IRS, “a section 501(c)(3) organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests. No part of the net earnings of a section 501(c)(3) organization may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.” The IRS took the position that using the money raised in various fundraising activities to further the Scouting program was in accordance with their exempt purpose, but the creation of a reserve fund for individual girls within a troop (i.e. earmarked accounts) is not allowed.
Adult volunteers operate in a position of trust, and must avoid any appearance of financial impropriety:
- Girl Scout funds must never be held in personal accounts, even temporarily.
- Under no circumstances is it appropriate to borrow Girl Scout money for personal use, nor use Girl Scout money for personal expenses.
- Girl Scout adults should not loan money to the troop by paying for expenses beyond a nominal amount, except after previous discussion and agreement by troop members. Any expenditures made personally by Girl Scout adults should be reimbursed in a timely fashion.
- Businesses owned by troop adults should not transact business with a Girl Scout troop, except with the guidance of the council’s Risk Management team (email@example.com).
Registering Girls in Girl Scouting
Every participant (girl or adult) in Girl Scouting must register and become a member of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). GSUSA membership dues are valid for one year from October 1 through September 30. Membership dues are sent by the council to GSUSA; the additional Council Service fee per girl remains with GSNorCal. Membership dues may not be transferred to another member and are not refundable.
Pre-registration for the upcoming membership year occurs in the spring. Girls are encouraged to register early to avoid the fall rush. Early registration helps ensure uninterrupted receipt of forms and materials from the council, helps girls and councils plan ahead, and gets girls excited about all the great stuff they want to do as Girl Scouts next year. Girl Scout grade level is determined by the current membership year beginning October 1. Lifetime membership is available at a reduced rate. A lifetime member must be at least 18 years old (or a 17-year-old high-school graduate) and agree to the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
Troop Bank Account Required to Participate in Product Program
A troop bank account is required in order to participate in the Fall and Cookie Programs. GSNorCal’s portion of the proceeds will be automatically transferred electronically from the troop account to GSNorCal. In addition, one of the signers on the troop/group bank account must complete the online form with bank account information and authorizing the transfer. You will find detailed information in the Product Program manuals.
Your troop/group will not be able to pick up products until the online authorization is set up.
Check Acceptance Policy
Troops should not accept checks with amounts larger than $60, post-dated checks, foreign or non-imprinted checks. Troops are responsible for the handling of their funds and charges incurred in their accounts, such as returned checks.
Policy on Counterfeit Bills
is strongly recommended that troops be careful when accepting money
from customers. GSNorCal suggests the use of a counterfeit money
marker (available in office supply stores). If a counterfeit bill is
detected, please follow these steps:
- Return the bills to the bank- be sure to get a receipt.
- For bills received (no larger than $20) in regards to a council-sponsored product sale, submit an ACH Discrepancy Form—directions are found in the troop manual for each product program.
Online Bill Paying Services
Effective January 2019, GSNorCal has partnered with Cheddar Up, a leading group online payment collection platform, to give troops and service units an easy tool to collect payments, forms and information online. Cheddar Up is free for troops and service units to use; there are no membership or transaction fees for the troop or service unit. A $0.45 convenience fee and any credit card transaction fees are paid by the payer. Payers can pay by credit card or eCheck (electronic check). GSNorCal does not receive compensation for troop or service unit use of Cheddar Up.
Cheddar Up an be used to collect payment from parents or members for a variety of expenses, including:
- Event Registration
- Outings and Events
- Camps and Camporees
- Troop Dues
Troops and service units using Cheddar up must connect their account to their troop or service unit bank accounts. More information about Cheddar Up can be found on our website: http://www.gsnorcal.org/en/for-volunteers/troops/online-payments.html
Cheddar Up does not replace Square or other GSNorCal-approved payment platforms for product sales and should not be used for that purpose. There have been no changes to the Square service offer.
Alternatively, PayPal and Venmo services may be used by Girl Scout troops and service units. It is important to note that if a troop or service unit chooses to use PayPal or Venmo, these services must be attached to troop or service unit bank accounts. Troop and service unit leaders and volunteers should not use their own personal accounts to collect or manage Girl Scout funds or transactions. This practice represents co-mingling of funds, which is strictly prohibited. [See Money Owed to the Council or Taken/Borrowed from Girl Scout Troop Accounts]
Accepting Credit Card Payment
GSNorCal recommends those troops or service units who want to open and manage a mobile payment account use Square (our preferred vendor). Square provides troops a low transaction rate, and no monthly fees or inactivity fees. Troops are responsible for managing their accounts with Square and any resulting fees or liabilities (this applies for accounts with Square and other vendors).
Adults need to take the brief “Accepting Credit Cards” online course to ensure they understand the responsibility and liability of taking credit card payments and to receive specific Square registration and setup instructions. Volunteer Learning Portal training.gsnorcal.org. Troops that have previously used other vendors, such as GoPayment or PayAnywhere, may continue to use those vendors. However, they should be aware that these other vendors may charge annual or inactivity fees, and may charge higher transaction fees than our preferred vendor.
Troops may use their Square or other mobile payment account that has been specifically opened for the troop and tied to the troop bank account to accept payments from families for their dues to the troop or payments for activities in addition to accepting payment from product sales customers. If the troop will input the card number into the reader (rather than swiping the card at the time of payment), they must follow all guidelines to ensure safe handling of the sensitive personal information outlined in the Accepting Credit Cards online course and in Volunteer Essentials, such as not sending the card number via email or fax. [MONEY: Safeguarding Personal Information]
Service Units may use Square or other mobile payment account to accept event registration fees or other payments from troops or individuals. However, these accounts must be set up using GSNorCal procedures and using the GSNorCal tax identification number to avoid co-mingling troop funds with personal funds. The service unit must use a Square account that is specifically opened for the service unit and tied to the service unit's bank account. To avoid co-mingling funds, they may not use a troop card reader that is tied to a troop account. If the service unit will input the card number into the reader (rather than swiping the card at the time of payment), they must follow all guidelines to ensure safe handling of the sensitive personal information outlined in the Accepting Credit Cards online course and in Volunteer Essentials, such as not sending the card number via email or fax. [MONEY: Safeguarding Personal Information]
Money Owed to the Council or Taken/Borrowed From Girl Scout Troop Accounts
GSNorCal reserves the right to pursue collection efforts for unpaid money owed and/or prosecute to the fullest extent allowable under the law. Situations involving large amounts of money or product may require that a police report be filed, and/or be referred to the District Attorney for investigation. Additionally, individuals involved in delinquencies, theft, or misuse of troop funds (such as borrowing funds from the troop account for personal use) will face release from their current Girl Scout position and ineligibility for future appointment. Primary communication and collection attempts will begin and will be the responsibility of GSNorCal staff. Failure to repay the amount owed can result in immediate criminal charges, notification to creditors, referral for collection by an outside agency, and/or wages garnished.
Sales Tax and Non Profit Organizations
Some people believe that nonprofit organizations do not have to pay sales tax. That is not the case in California. The only time that volunteers or GSNorCal staff do not pay sales tax is when the items will be resold. Selling crafts is permitted. If you have a project in mind that may include selling items or reselling any items on behalf of any Girl Scout troop, service unit or other group, please contact Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance before purchasing your items.
The Purchase of Gift Certificates
Troop and service unit funds cannot be used to purchase gift cards. There are tax implications when cash or gifts cards are given to an individual or another organization, no matter how nominal the amount. Federal law dictates that gift card recipients are considered an employee or independent contractor, with all of the requirements that employing an individual requires. This also means that the Federal government views gift cards as taxable income to the recipients.
People often talk about “how time flies”, and how quickly children grow up. When girls become adults and go out on their own (whether off to college, or starting their careers and establishing their own households) they will need to know how to handle their bank accounts and credit cards, pay their bills on time, and learn to live within their means. Later, they’ll need to try to build savings accounts, handle their investments, and start saving for their retirement. Will they be ready?
By building girls’ financial literacy skills as they grow, they’ll be ready to meet their next challenges:
- Going off to middle school ready to pay for gym clothes, yearbooks, deposits
- Heading to high school where they have to be responsible for ever larger amounts of money
- Leaving home and paying bills on time, having their own bank accounts, and living within their means
Try to keep your eye on the age-appropriate financial and sales abilities in the following section to make sure your girls are on track. If they have a chance to practice skills as they go, they will be ready!
Making financial decisions and handling the troop money is considered an important part of the Girl Scout program. Even the youngest girls should be a part of making decisions on how their money is spent and can be given choices such as choosing between purchasing patches or other items or doing additional activities instead.
The troop adults should never make financial decisions without consulting the girls in at least a general way on how their funds should be spent. Other ways to involve girls in their finances:
- Collecting dues and counting the money
- Collecting money and making change at booth sales for fall products or cookie sales
- Investigating the costs of doing certain activities
- Keeping financial records
- Assisting the troop’s adult treasurer in reconciling bank statements
- Assisting the troop’s adult treasurer in completing the Troop Finance Report
To protect girls from legal liability, they may NOT be signers on the troop/group bank account.
Remember: It’s great for girls to have opportunities, like the Girl Scout Cookie Program, to earn funds that help them fulfill their goals as part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE). As a volunteer, try to help girls balance the money-earning they do with opportunities to enjoy other activities that have less emphasis on earning and spending money. Take-action projects, for example, may not always require girls to spend a lot of money!
Reviewing Financial and Sales Abilities by Grade Level
As with other activities, girls progress in their financial and sales abilities as they get older. This section gives you some examples of the abilities of girls at each grade level.
Girl Scout Daisies
At the Daisy level (Kindergarten and 1st grade):
Girl Scout Brownies
At the Brownie level (2nd and 3rd grades):
Girl Scout Juniors
At the Junior level (4th and 5th grades):
Girl Scout Cadettes, Girl Scout Seniors, & Girl Scout Ambassadors
At the Cadette (6th through 8th grades), Senior (9th and 10th grades), and Ambassador (11th and 12th grades) levels:
Helping Girls Reach Their Financial Goals
The Girl Scout Cookie Program is well known in many communities. It is likely that your girls will already know a bit about it and want to get out there to start selling as soon as possible. However, it’s important that the girls have a clear plan and purpose for their product-sale and money-earning activities. One of your opportunities as a volunteer is to facilitate girl-led financial planning, which may include the following steps for the girls:
- Set goals for money-earning activities. What do girls hope to accomplish through this activity? In addition to earning money, what skills do they hope to build? What leadership opportunities present themselves?
- Create a budget. Use a budget worksheet that includes both expenses (the cost of supplies, admission to events, travel, and so on) and available income (the group’s account balance, projected cookie proceeds, and so on).
- Determine how much the group needs to earn. Subtract expenses from available income to determine how much money your group needs to earn. Remember that girls/families cannot be assessed "fees" or "dues" to opt out of volunteering for the troop or participating in product sales.
- Make a plan. The group can brainstorm and make decisions about its financial plans. Will cookie and other product sales—if approached proactively and energetically—earn enough money to meet the group’s goals? If not, which group money-earning activities might offset the difference in anticipated expense and anticipated income? Will more than one group money-earning activity be necessary to achieve the group’s financial goals? In this planning stage, engage the girls through the Girl Scout processes (girl-led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning) and consider the value of any potential activity. Have them weigh feasibility, implementation, and safety factors. Make sure that these decision-making discussions are documented for future reference.
- Write it out. Once the group has decided on its financial plan, describe it in writing. If the plan involves a money-earning activity, fill out a Money Earning Application (https://www.gsnorcal.org/en/our-council/documents-and-publications/Finance_Money_Earning_Application_Form.html) for approval from GSNorCal and submit it along with the budget worksheet the girls created.
Remember: It’s great for girls to have opportunities, like the Girl Scout Cookie Program, to earn funds that help them fulfill their goals as part of the GSLE. As a volunteer, try to help girls balance the money-earning they do with opportunities to enjoy other activities that have less emphasis on earning and spending money. Take Action projects, for example, may not always require girls to spend a lot of money!
If your troop/group is earning, collecting, or spending money for the group, the group needs to set up a bank account. It is required to have a troop bank account if the troop/group will participate in the product program (either the Fall or Cookie Programs).
If you’re taking over an existing troop, you may inherit a checking account, but with a new troop, you’ll want to open a new account. This usually happens when there is money to deposit, such as troop dues, or money from product sales or troop money-earning activities.
When working with a GSNorCal troop account:
- There must be at least two signers on the account at all times.
- All account signers must be currently registered members and have current adult screening clearance, and be affiliated with the troop. Additionally, all adults who will handle money (such as at a product sales booth sale) must be registered and complete the adult background check.
- Signer #1/account "Key Executive" must be designated as the Troop Treasurer.
- Signer #2 should be registered as the Troop Leader.
- To protect them from legal liability, girls may not be signers on the troop account.
- Have Signer #1/account "Key Executive"/Troop Treasurer and Signer #2/Troop Leader work together to be responsible for group funds and for keeping a daily account of expenditures, forming a check and balance system with each other.
- Any one of the signers may write checks for group expenses (multiple signatures are not required). When a signer has written a check or used the debit card, they should inform all of the other signers that an expenditure has been made.
- Keep group funds in the bank. Do not store them in homes or offices.
- Girl Scout Troop/Group funds cannot be co-mingled with personal accounts. Additionally, borrowing Girl Scout money for personal use or using Girl Scout money for personal expenses is prohibited.
- Troop checks may not be imprinted with the name of the leader/adult volunteer. Instead, the account should read "Girl Scouts of Northern California Troop _____" (5 digit troop number).
- Have those responsible for troop funds report to the girls and families on a regular basis (at least four times per year).
- Handle a lost group debit card the same way you would a personal debit card