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Helping girls find their spark!

Everyone needs a spark in their lives. What is a spark? According to the Thrive Foundation for Youth a spark is a passion or skill that we feel deeply and helps us grow. They come from deep within and are a source of joy and energy. A spark can be many things from an interest in music, to a passion for animals, a love of one’s country, or a deep seated desire to help others. Why are sparks important? Research shows that children who know and develop their spark-and have adults who help- have higher grades, empathy and social competence, and have a sense of purpose to name a few of the benefits.

Volunteers, parents, and friends can become Spark Champions by providing a wide variety of experiences for the youth in their lives to help them discover their spark and encouraging them to explore it further.  Working on badges and Journeys the girl-led way is a great method for finding and nurturing the sparks in your troop members. When adults give girls ownership of their troop activities and let them decide what interests them and what they want to do/learn about, it gives them the confidence to follow their interests and feeds that spark so that it can grow stronger and more deeply ingrained in their lives. When a child finds and follows their spark, it’s a wonderful thing to behold. Check out Jamila’s video to see how a Girl Scout found her spark and what she’s doing to share it with others and make it part of her future.

Now that you know what a spark is, think of the individual members of your troop. What are the sparks in your troop? What activities ignite that light of excitement in each girl’s eye? How can you help encourage that spark? Let’s make this year in Girl Scouts the year of SPARKS! 

Popular Troop Trip Destinations

ICWT travel

Girls have been exploring the world around them since 1912 and one important experience is the troop trip. If you’re looking for the next memory maker for your troop we’ve got some exciting destinations for your girls. Here are a few of the more popular trips troops from Western Ohio took in 2013-2014.

1. The Zoo: what a great place for combining badge work and adventure. Many zoos have education programs for youth, some that are Girl Scout badge specific, and overnights with themes like Safari Overnight (Toledo) Sleep With the Manatees (Cincinnati), Creatures of the Night (Ft. Wayne), and Zoo Careers (Columbus). There is something for almost every age level. Contact the education department at your zoo of choice for more information.

2. COSI: the camp-ins here are a long standing Girl Scout tradition. There are day camps for K-3 girls and overnights for 1-8. Girls 14 and up can even become Program Assistants and go behind the scenes. For science, technology, and teamwork programming this place is hard to beat. Imagination Station in Toledo also has some awesome badge related science workshops so check them out as well.

3. Chicago, IL: there’s just something about the Windy City that draws troops. Maybe it’s Union Station’s central location that allows troops to use a train as transport instead of driving, maybe it’s the bunks at HI Hostel, or great program providers like the Field Museum and Shedd Acquarium. Maybe it’s just Ginos deep dish pizza. Whatever it is, it has troops returning year after year to join the fun.

4. Savannah, GA: for many Girl Scouts a trip to the Birthplace of our founder is the ultimate destination. It helps that Savannah is a lovely city full of history, sunny days, and southern charm. The staff at the birthplace even provide a great list of local partners to help visitors explore and make trip planning easier.

Now that you know some of the popular trip destinations for our council, gather your girls and start planning your next memory making adventure. Remember to follow these Six Steps to Your Next Troop Adventure. Need more ideas? Check out  Got the Travel Bug?.

I Can’t Wait To…

What can’t you wait to see the girls in your group do this year?  Many Girl Scout groups take a break for the summer but it’s never too early to start the ball rolling for the new membership year.  In July, begin getting your first meeting date on your calendars.  While it’s important to make your plans based on what the girls are interested in, it’s also good to know what parents want their daughters to get out of Girl Scouting.  Send this video out to the parents in your troop and ask them what they hope to see their daughters conquer this year.

Got The Travel Bug?

Every girl deserves the opportunity to see the world and Girl Scouting provides many different opportunities to make that happen. Girls love travelling and learning about themselves, different cultures and navigating maps, transportation and sightseeing. It is a great way to put all those leadership skills to work!

Getaways are short term travel opportunities set up for troops or groups. GSUSA partners with several organizations that sponsor trips just for Girl Scouts! They provide a fun itinerary and special deals to give your group the perfect start to your travel plans. Check out the list of over 25 trips to find out which ones your troop is most interested in.

GSWO Service Trip is a council wide trip for girls in 6-12 grade to travel while serving others. This group will be chosen a year before departure and will plan all aspects of the adventure; where to go, what issue to address, what community to serve, who they’ll work with and what fun side trips they’ll experience.

Destinations offers girls the chance to take big trips with Girl Scouts from around the world. Choose from both domestic and international trips. International travel is considered the ultimate travel experience for girls. Travelling internationally can be a wonderful opportunity for girls to gain cultural insight, an appreciation for differences and similarities, and a broadened perspective. As girls mature in Girl Scouts, many consider travel one of the most exciting aspects of their membership. Financial assistance is available through host agencies as well as Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, and you can also fund the trip through participation in the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

This summer, Girl Scouts of Western Ohio is sending ten girls on destinations trips all around the world. Girls will be travelling to Space Camp in Alabama, China, Morocco, the Caribbean and Ireland. Congratulations to all the girls who were selected for these amazing experiences!

For more information about any of these opportunities, contact Elizabeth Vessell at

Ways for Girl Scouts to Utilize Community Partners

You might be asking yourself, “What is a Community Partner?”  A community partner is a community organization and/or business that offer Girl Scouts tours, workshops and/or other resources to support their Girl Scout Journey, badge work or service projects. For example; if a Girl Scout Senior wants to earn her Car Care badge, which includes basic car maintenance, vehicle safety, safe driving practices, emergency procedures and car efficiencies, she could visit AAA to talk with an expert or she could create a new community partner with a local repair shop and set up a recurring educational opportunity for all other Girl Scout Seniors to attend.

Four simple ways to find Girl Scouts of Western Ohio community partners:

1).Community Opportunity List A list located on our website that you can sort by region, topic and grade level at any time to best fit your needs!

2). Program Opportunities Book  An annual publication that contains community partners and council-Sponsored activities with a description of all of the activities they offer.

3). Service Unit meetings/emails/Facebook Make sure to attend your Service Unit meetings and join emails/Facebook groups to stay in the loop of community partners in your neighborhood.

4).The Troop! Troop leaders and parents are experts in your own community. We EMPOWER you to think outside of the box and ask the girls what activities they want to do most.  After a trip to the local Farmer’s Market, creatively link it back to the Daisy Flower Garden Journey by reviewing the Sample Sessions in the Facilitators Guide and you will see the girls have completed “Good Thoughts, Good Deeds, Garden Needs,” by doing something that they wanted to do: Visit the Farmer’s Market.

YOU have the ability to facilitate the activities that girls want to do and link them back to Girl Scouts, so get out there and get involved! Watch this quick video of an example of a great community partner event between Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma and The Oklahoma City Zoo!

Simple Ways To Transform Parent Engagement

dad fishingGirl Scout leaders are some of the most dedicated, selfless and creative people. But, they can’t do it all by themselves! In Girl Scouting, we hear this from volunteers annually through face-to-face feedback and formal surveys. While we recognize that parent support is critical to the success of our mission,  we have an “untapped” resource; it’s the fathers of the girls. Perhaps finding ways to include fathers can be to everyone’s benefit. says that, “Children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them.”

We can all agree the female role models are important for girls and are a big part of our Girl Scout history.  We can also agree that girls benefit from having positive male role models who can introduce new skills and support girls to become leaders. Voila, a winning combination. Now, how can we find ways to include more positive male role models in troop activities while engaging more parent support.  Check out the suggestions below:

  • Invite fathers to events where girls have the opportunity to explore the world around them like camp activities, field trips and group project implementation.
  • Host a father/daughter dance in partnership with your local service unit.  You can help create a fun environment for fathers and daughters to get to know one another.
  • Invite fathers to engage in activities like service projects, troop meetings and product sales.
  • Invite fathers to give their input on sensitive topics like bullying and self-esteem. They may have unique insight to these topics.
  • Invite fathers to share their careers with girls.
  • While working on the requirements for skill builder badges, search out fathers in your troop that hold the skills necessary for overseeing a particular skill.
  • Remember to be sensitive to girls who may not have an active father in their life.  Make activities for dads open to girls and a positive male role model in their lives.  It could be a grandparent or uncle who is really ready to step up and support the troop.
  • Share this video with the fathers connected to your group to get them inspired to get involved.


10 Tips to Help Teens Prepare for College

Planning for college can be one of the more daunting tasks on the parental to do list. As troop leaders you can be a great asset in this process to help relieve the pressure or simply serve as a helpful guide for where to look for resources. And with a little help from these awesome resources and planning guides, a good organizational system (binders or checklists are highly recommended) and a positive attitude this can be a fun and exciting process for all who are involved.  As you know by now, the girls can really take the lead in the process with the right guidance.  Now you get to see all of your hard work as a volunteer pay off as the girls take all of their skills and put them to action towards their next big step in life.

Tip 1: Leader Magazine’s:College Bound article published by GSUSA has excellent advice and a short timeline of what to do in each grade to prepare. They recommend starting in middle school.

Tip 2:  Looking for a more detailed checklist? Here is a guide prepared by GSUSA called Route to Success: An Adult Guide to College Planning that provides you with a yearly checklist of important steps in the process starting as a freshman and continuing until graduation.

Tip 3: Check in with your high school guidance department. They will have access to information on upcoming ACT/SAT tests (most colleges require one for admission), registration booklets that include example test questions and may also have review books for those tests, computer programs, and other resources to help prepare for those all important tests. Most will also have information on popular colleges/universities and their admission requirements. They are an invaluable resource.

Tip 4: Narrow the field. Encourage teens to consider what matters most for their college experience and then research schools who are strong in that area. There are some great websites for this such as the Princeton Review’s College Rankings. They have rankings on different topics, such as the quality of academic departments, the location, financial aid, campus life and many others. Look at the websites of colleges they are interested in, request information from the admissions department, and check the published demographics of the students as well as data found on websites such as The College Board for an overview to gauge if this is a good fit for your student.

Tip 5: Once a list of top choices has been established, schedule a college visit with those choices. Nothing beats learning by doing and the best way to really get a feel for a campus and find the right fit for your teen is to do so in person. Follow this simple checklist from the College Board for things to do and ask on your visit.

Tip 6: Research scholarships and financial aid. Colleges can come with a large price tag and it is best to evaluate what is feasible for the family’s finances, what the graduate can contribute through work/study, loans and what other forms of aid are available before committing to any school. Fill out the Federal Student Aid free application and then research other scholarships and aid sources such as scholarships that are available for Girl Scouts on GSUSA’s website and other free scholarship search engines. Here is a US News article comparing the merits of the top 5 scholarship search engines.

Tip 7: Compare the assets and disadvantages of top choices. Consider things such as proximity to home (will travel expenses be a financial strain?), class size, career placement success of graduates (ask during tour), access to favorite recreational activities (if your teen is a nature lover an urban area campus may not be ideal), overall cost as related to confirmed scholarships and financial aid, likelihood of admittance based on published student demographics and your teen’s test scores/GPA, and the cost to apply.

Tip 8: Apply to those choices. Check over the admission process and ask for knowledgeable individuals to review the application and any accompanying essays/documents needed far in advance of the application due date. This could be a teacher or guidance counselor at your teen’s school. Poorly proofread applications and essays or hurriedly written letters of recommendation can hinder receiving that all important acceptance letter so double and triple check before hitting submit on any application.

Tip 9: High school isn’t over until graduation. Senioritis and a lack of focus as graduation nears are natural but colleges look at all grades even those received after official acceptance. Remind teens that their ending GPA does matter so keep up the good work until graduation.

Tip 10: Celebrate! Your teen is ready to Bridge to Adult after many years of preparation. As her leader, mentor, or parent you have made such an impact on her life and now it is time for her to take all of the skills acquired in her years in Girl Scouts and step into the world as an adult with “courage, confidence, and character”.



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