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Your Newest Time Saver-The Volunteer Toolkit

GSUSA and Western Ohio 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 who work with K–5th grade troops. For those volunteers, this resource will replace the adult leaders guide for Journeys and the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting. What does that mean in people talk? It means that we have a new resource with a trans-formative 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!

Here are a few frequently asked questions about the toolkit and our answers:

What will I find in the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK)? You will find the five tabs below to help make managing your troop more simple.

  • My Troop: This tab allows you to manage your troop contacts, renew membership, and communicate with parents. This feature will be live by fall 2015.
  • Year Plan: This tab allows you to broadly manage your troop year based on what girls want to do. When you log into VTK for the first time, you will see three year plan options for your girls to choose from including one Girl Scout Badge year and two Girl Scout Journey year plans based on the It’s Your Story−Tell It Journey and the It’s Your Planet−Love It Journey. The first two meetings of each of these year plans will help you decide, in partnership with the girls, which of the three year plans they would like to use based on their interests.
  • Meeting Plan: This tab will also allow you to set your meeting calendar including meeting locations, date and time. In this tab, you will view meeting details including activity descriptions, meeting aids, materials lists, and more.
  • Resources: Here you can also customize activities, delete activities that your girls wouldn’t enjoy and replace them with new activities. You can easily create your own activity or replace it with an activity from within the toolkit. Here you can find additional resources to support the activities that your girls choose to do. Here you will find the Safety Activity Checkpoints, all meeting aids, and other helpful resources. You can easily add the meeting aids to a specific meeting in your year plan.
  • Finances: The finances tab will allow you to submit your troop financial report to the council and share it with parents. You will still have to submit your troop bank statement to the council if you do not bank at one of the preferred banks. (PNC or 5/3 Bank). This feature will be live by fall 2015.

How do I access the Volunteer Toolkit? Starting May 1, 2015, when you visit our website, you will see a My GS tab. You will enter your login credentials there to gain access to the Volunteer Toolkit. The VTK integrates right into the council website to allow the leader to seamlessly go back and forth between the website and the VTK.

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 will continue to be made available via a YouTube link that will live on the GSUSA National YouTube page. Check out the Volunteer Toolkit Tutorial playlist below.

Will all troop leadership have access to the toolkit? Direct primary volunteers for K–5 troops will have access to the toolkit (Leader and Co-Leader). In future releases, the VTK will grow its user audiences to other Secondary Primary troop volunteer roles such as Troop Cookie volunteers. Parents will also be able to view some information in the Volunteer Toolkit in future releases.

Why is the Toolkit only for K-5 troops? Going digital is a new direction for our national organization and we had to start somewhere. Our older girls are very important to our organization and we know that a toolkit for older girls and their leaders will have to look a little different than a toolkit for younger girls. In order to use our resources wisely, we had to narrow our focus as a starting point. That doesn’t mean that we care more about younger girls than older girls.

What if I don’t have internet access at my meeting place? How will I access program materials? You can easily download the materials to your device 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 is not an app so that means that it can be accessed from any computer or device. Libraries are a great resource for volunteers who don’t have access to the internet at home. They can print meeting plans or download them to their personal computer or drive.

Why has Girl Scouting decided to go digital? We have heard about all of the hours that Girl Scout volunteers spend supporting troops. 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. The VTK puts all of this at their fingertips by having a central location for all of their Girl Scout “stuff.” Now volunteers can easily find resources, access the website, and communicate with parents all in one spot.

So are you as excited as we are to start using this new resource? Let’s make the 2015-2016 troop year a year for you to take back some time, finish a long standing project, spend an afternoon blowing bubbles with that special girl in your life. Thanks to the Toolkit you can finally do that thing you always wanted to do if you just had a few more free hours in your week!GS Arizona Cactus-Pine Council Photo

New National Parks Girl Scout Ranger Program

Just in time for Great Outdoors Month (June), Girl Scouts of the USA has announced a Girl Scout Ranger Program in partnership with the National Park Service! “The National Park Service and Girl Scouts of the USA have the same goal in mind: providing meaningful and memorable experiences for girls through unique outdoor experiences,” said Peggy O’Dell, National Park Service deputy director.Through this partnership, girls will be introduced to the many ways they can play, learn, serve, and work in our national parks. We are committed to connecting our nation’s cultural and national treasures with today’s youth—so go ‘Find Your Park’!” Primary.FindYourParkLogo.FullColor

According to the Girl Scout Blog “through the program, girls can participate in a variety of organized educational or outdoor service projects. Additionally, Girl Scouts may design their own project that aligns with their Girl Scout Journey experience, various badge activities, or a Take Action (“highest award”) project. Girls who successfully complete projects will be awarded certificates from the National Park Service and Girl Scout patches.”

Girls and troops who wish to participate in the Girl Scout Ranger Program can visit the National Park Service website to locate a park (“Find Your Park”) near their home and complete the 5 steps to the Girl Scout Ranger Program. There, they can also explore the history of the park and learn about its natural and cultural resources. Troop leaders and parents can arrange for activities like hiking, biking, wildlife watching, and guided interpretive tours, and the Girl Scout Ranger Program will also allow girls to build their own unique park experience, earning badges and patches along the way. Need more information? Check out these frequently asked questions about the program.

As June 13th is national “Get Outdoors Day” and June 27th celebrates all camping has to offer with the “National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Campout, the summer months are the perfect time to start! So what are you waiting for? Find your favorite park, explore a national monument, and become a Girl Scout Ranger!

Sneak Peak: Fall 2015 Program Events

Calling all adventurers: the school year may be winding down but it’s never too early to get excited about your NEXT Girl Scout adventure. Have you ever wanted to test your mettle against a friendly foe with a fencing foil? Find your dream job? Learn what to do when you swamp your canoe? This is your chance! We’ve got a wide array of program events ready to kick off another amazing year, Girl Scout style! Right now we’ve got a sneak peak of our fall program events on our Event Calendar. Find your favorite now and on June 3rd, 2015 when event registration opens on Ebiz to all members who early bird registered for the 2015-2016 membership year, grab your spot before its gone.

While there are too many programs at too many council properties to mention them all, here are 12 upcoming programs we’re excited to offer this fall:Camp Myeerah Canoes 2009

  • Intro to Canoeing: Juniors and Cadettes work on basic canoeing skills such as safety, getting in and out of the canoe, paddle strokes and more. September 20, 2015 at Camp Whip Poor Will, Morrow.
  • The B.I.G. Event: The B.I.G. (Believe in Girls) Event will be an all day celebration that promotes everything that is cool about being a girl. There are hundreds of activity booths for all ages, exhibitors, vendors, programming areas and plenty of fun. Registration for this event opens on May 1, 2015! September 26, 2015 at Bowling Green State University.
  • Sow What Journey Retreat: Jump start your year with the Senior Sow What Journey and be on your way to the Gold Award! Meet girls from across the Council and together ponder land use and global food issues. Spend the weekend earning components of the Sow What Journey and prepare a Take Action project. October 2-4, 2015 at Camp Whip Poor Will, Morrow. Cadettes and Ambassadors plan ahead for 2016 aMAZE and Bliss Journey Retreats at Camp Libbey (Cadette) and Rollings Hills (Ambassador).
  • Program Aide Extravaganza: Join us Cadettes as we learn about upcoming Program Aide opportunities at council events and try out some of the activities from such as creating culinary masterpieces at our Chef programs, exploring engineering through team projects from Junior Inventor, and other fun activities. October 3, 2015 at Woodhaven Program Center, Lima.
  • Father/Daughter Adventure Day: Come and join the fun as you explore the woods, create nature projects, learn outdoor skills, hone your slingshot skills and spend the whole day with that special man in your life. Bring your dad or another adult male role model to spend the day exploring all the activities together-all ages welcome! October 17, 2015 at Camp Whip Poor Will, Morrow.
  • Target Sports Extreme: CSAs if you are ready to try something new, Target Sports Extreme is for you! Get a chance to chuck a tomahawk and shoot paintball slingshots at targets. Work with your team of warriors to win Camp Libbey’s fiercest target competition.  October 24, 2015 at Camp Libbey, Defiance.
  • Adventuring with Maps Overnight: Brownies troops and up participating in an Adventuring with Maps session on either Saturday or Sunday have the option to spend the night in Ittmann Lodge at Camp Stonybrook.  November 7, 2015 at Camp Stonybrook, Waynesville.Bubbles
  • Junior Inventor: Join us as we explore the world of engineering where girls will work together as a team to create the perfect bubble solution, wand, and a mini-commercial to market their product, then build a coaster car that uses gravity to propel it across the floor as they explore what it’s like to be a product designer.  November 7, 2015 at Woodhaven Program Center, Lima.
  • A Taste of Fencing: CSAs this is your chance to experience the sport of fencing. Suit up and you’re ready for some footwork and hand technique: on-guard position, advance, retreat, lunge and parry – and soon you’ll know what to do when you hear the words “En garde”! November 14, 2015 at Woodhaven Program Center, Lima.
  • Dream Jobs: Juniors and Cadettes get a glimpse of some of the exciting careers paths you can choose in life through this workshop on November 14, 2015 at Lourdes University, Sylvania. Join with college professors and students to do hands-on activities in the planetarium, run tests in the nursing lab, perform water experiments in the Learning Lab, and more.
  • Kappa Delta International Girls Day: Brownies and up, Kappa Delta Sorority invites you to an International Girls Day Celebration, designed to teach young girls the importance of having confidence. The celebration recognizes the spirit of girls and encourages girls to make their dreams a reality. November 21, 2015 at the Girl Scout Center, Dayton or November 14, 2015 at the University of Cincinnati.

These are just a small taste of the many wonderful and sometimes wacky program events that are available this fall. Further information about all of the program events we offer can be found in the Program Event Guide available at fall Kick-Off events and at fall Service Unit meetings. Don’t miss out, register for fall events on June 3, 2015. Then don’t forget to mark your calendar for November 2015 when registration opens for winter and spring program events.

5 Reasons To Send Your Kid to Girl Scout Camp!

As any advocate for summer camp will tell you, the benefits of camp are legion. From fostering independence to building self-esteem, there so many skills a child develops in a camp environment that we could go on for days about its benefits (with the research to back it up). Don’t believe us? Check out this study on the Psychological Benefits of Camp from the American Camp Association. Still not sure if your daughter needs camp this year? Here are just a few of our favorite reasons why parents send their child to our camps.

1. She needs a nature reboot. 

Many children today spend minimal time outdoors resulting in what a popular book, Last Child In the Woods by Richard Louv, calls a “nature deficit”. Camp can reconnect girls with the natural world as they discover the wonder of a chorus of bullfrogs on a starry night or spotting a woodpecker while hiking through the woods on a sunny day.

2. She’s in desperate need of a mirror (and boy) detox!

Girl Scout camp allows girls to relax and try new things in an environment free from the social pressures and anxieties surrounding them at school. It’s amazing how much their self-confidence can grow when girls get to spend time not worrying if Billy likes their new hairdo or what the queen bee at school thinks of their shoes.

 3. She needs a non-electronic hobby. 

Our camps are built around themes that interest girls and provide them with the right instruction, equipment and facilities to enhance their sports abilities, artistic talents, and their adventure skills without the distraction of constantly updating their status to facebook, instagram, or twitter. The sheer variety of activities offered at camp makes it easy for kids to discover and develop what they like to do outside the cyber world.

 4. She needs to be challenged!

According to our own research Girl Scouts helps girls learn not to avoid things that are hard for them, and this makes them better students. Girls who are not challenge seekers—who tend to “avoid doing things that are hard for me”—are less likely to feel scholastically competent and academically engaged. Cooperative learning and girl-led experiences in Girl Scouts help girls become stronger challenge seekers.

5. She needs to know how strong she really is. 

Learning how to paddle a canoe, honing archery skills, or simply being in a new place and having to make new friends helps a girl realize how capable she is to learn and grow. Camp is the perfect place for girls to practice making decisions for themselves.

Convinced? We certainly hope so. Check out our summer camp options  and send your child off on an adventure this summer with Girl Scouts! Financial assistance is available, please contact the outdoor program department at your regional Girl Scout office for more information on specific camp sessions.

Leveling Up with Girl Scouts: Bridging Ceremonies and Early Bird

“Walking across that short wooden bridge as a 5th grader with my parents and friends watching and finally becoming a Cadette is one of my proudest Girl Scout memories. That bridge seemed so long (it was really only about 4 feet) and I felt like I’d grown up so much just by crossing it.” – Regina, a Girl Scout alumna and current volunteer.

Milestones in scouting like bridging ceremonies are important touchstones for girls to celebrate their accomplishments and highlight their future adventures. Plus, who doesn’t love a little recognition in their life? While there are specific bridging requirements for earning each age level’s award the ceremonies themselves can be as unique or traditional as the girls wish. As long as the ceremony is personal, meaningful, and fun (if you’re looking for ideas we suggest checking out our post 5 Tips to Make Bridging Memorable) you’ve created an experience girls will cherish for years to come.

As your troop bridges to a new level in Girl Scouts don’t forget registering early (between May 1 and June 30, 2015) for the next troop year has some awesome benefits for both girls and adults. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Girls get the Early Bird patch. And we all know how much girls love (free) patches!
  • Free leader registration! Troops that register at least 5 girls and 1 adult will receive a free (limit 1) adult registration.
  • An extra nickel per box of cookies! Troops that register at least 5 girls and 2 approved adults by June 30, 2015 and participate in the fall sale receive an extra 5 cents for every box of cookies they sell.
  • First access to fall program event registration. A preview of next year’s program events will be available May 1st, 2015 on our website and early bird girls can start registering for them on June 3rd, 2015.
  • No chasing down registrations next fall. We all know how busy fall gets with school starting, fall sports, and getting back into the swing of things. Why not make it easier on yourself and have your Girl Scout paperwork all ready to go? 
  • Toolkit Access on May 1. The toolkit is a new online resource that helps with meeting planning, badge requirements, and organizing the troop year. Check out the YouTube video below for a quick tutorial on how this cool new resource will work.

Need more information on Western Ohio’s early bird registration and incentives? Check out our Early Bird Flier and set your calendar for May 1st to renew your troop’s registration!



5 Things to Do with Cookie Boxes!

It happens every year. The cookie sale ends and you’re left wondering what to do with your hundreds of empty cases and leftover cookie boxes. Here are some of our favorite ideas to cut down on landfill waste and have a little fun with cardboard!

1. Build a Box Maze! Put the girls’ engineering and ingenuity to use with a box maze challenge. Collect cookie cases (and other size boxes) from your service unit and have the older girls create a maze. Then let the younger girls go through and see who can navigate the maze the fastest. This would make an awesome service unit event or larger bridging activity. You can even make a maze for your pets like the man in this video did. Your only limit is your creativity (and storage space)!

2. Create Journals and Scrapbooks. Girls love to share their activities by doodling pictures, writing, collecting memories, and share their world with their favorite adults. Before a trip or at the beginning of the troop year have the girls make journal covers out of their favorite cookie boxes and at the end of the year let them put together a scrapbook to record all the fun they had. Need more ideas? Pinterest is full of crafts and other upcycling ideas.

Thin mint journalscrapbook

3. Make Cardboard Fire Starters! Cooking over a fire is just as big a part of the Girl Scout tradition as selling cookies. What better way to recycle your old cookie cases than to make them part of the outdoor cooking experience? Check out this Venture site for more Firestarters and use the wax soaked corrugated cardboard recipe for your next campfire.

4. Create Charms. Girls love bracelets and beads and what better way to commemorate the end of a sale than by making a cookie box bead to add to their favorite charm bracelet. Here’s a video tutorial on the process.

5. Build a Solar Oven. Help girls explore alternative energy sources by harnessing the power of the sun to make a creative snack. Never built one before? Here are Cardboard Box Solar Oven Instructions as well as some great recipes.

And for those of you who want more ideas, here are 31 things you can make with a cardboard box that will blow your kids’ minds! So what are you waiting for? Grab some boxes, your troop, and start building your own cardboard creations today.

Girl Scout Family Events in 2015!

Girl Scouts and families go together like the chicken and the egg. You need both or the future is totally chicken-less.  Families heft cookie cases, help with troop activities, and provide the support that makes our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character a reality. Girl Scout families, we salute you and invite you to join the fun! Check out these exciting and engaging family activities for 2015.

1. Family Nights at Camp! Bring the entire family to camp at Camp Rolling Hills (Pleasant Hill, OH) or Woodhaven Program Center (Lima, OH)! This relaxing event allows Girl Scouts and their families to explore camp and try new things together like twilight hikes, critter hunts, crafts, games, star gazing and songs around the campfire. And of course there will be scrumptious s’mores before the night is through. Rolling Hills is Friday April 24th and Woodhaven is Friday May 8th, 6pm-10pm. Don’t forget to reserve your family’s spots on Ebiz before registration closes on April 23rd!

 2. Baseball Games! Grab your favorite ball cap and take the family out to the ball game. We have Girl Scout nights with discount tickets available at Dayton Dragons, Toledo Mud Hens and even a Girl Scouts Give Back Night at the Cincinnati Reds where part of the ticket price supports our organization. The Dayton Dragons,  Toledo Mudhens, and Cincinnati’s Florence Freedoms also have troop camping options where girls can sleep in tents on the field!

3. Cedar Point and Kings Island! Take the family to an amusement park this summer with discounted tickets for Girl Scouts. Reserve your tickets for Girl Scout Day at Cedar Point on June 17th, 2015 and Kings Island on June 20, 2015 (username KIGIRLSCOUTS and password COOKIES).

4. Theater! Through partnerships with area theaters, Girl Scout families can receive discount tickets to some amazing shows. Check out the Victoria Theatre Association in Dayton’s upcoming performances and make sure your family opts-in to our monthly newsletter Enews for information on upcoming events with partners like Broadway Cincinnati and others. Not sure if you’ve opted-in to emails from us? Contact the customer care line at 1-888-350-5090 for more information.


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