GSNorCal Volunteer Essentials
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 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 assistance 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