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6 Reasons to Love the Volunteer Toolkit

Girls have more fun when they can shape their own experience, do hands-on activities, and work together as teams. Girl Scout volunteers have more fun when they have easy access to resources that help them spend less time planning/coordinating and more time with their girls trying new things, making friends, and exploring the world of opportunities available to Girl Scouts!

Our Volunteer Toolkit (more information here) launched last spring by GSUSA is one of those critical resources. It allows girls and leaders to explore meeting topics and program activities together, and follow the fun as they plan their Girl Scout year. A digital planning tool, it gives volunteers (and girls) resources and program content to get the year started—and keep it going smoothly! But it can do so much more than that and we love its versatility. Here are some of our favorite reasons to love this new resource:

  1. It’s Everywhere– as a digital resource volunteers can plan and prepare practically anywhere their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer are! Stuck in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and need to email the troop a quick reminder not to forget their rain boots for Saturday’s creek stomping trip? Pull out your smart phone, click on the My Troop tab, and send out your reminder.
  2. It’s Evolving: GSUSA is updating content, adding functions, and improving this tool based on feedback from the councils and volunteers using this resource.  The My Troop tab went live last week, then a parent view and a Finance tab will be added in early September, and new badge content will be added by the end of August for Brownies (Computer Expert, Brownie Sense, Outdoor Adventurer) and Juniors (Entertainment Technology, Social Butterfly, Horseback Riding). As the years go by, more content will be added and features will be upgraded/altered based on input from volunteers across the nation.
  3. It’s Customizable: K-5 troop leaders can choose from pre-populated (out-of-the-box) year plans from the Year Plan Library or create your own customized plan by dragging and dropping meetings into your customized Year Plan track. All leaders (K-12) can use the “Create Your Own” Year Plan to add custom activities, trips, and council activities/events to their Year Plan.
  4. It Tracks Important Things: Through the  My Troop and Meeting Plan tabs you can keep track of who’s registered in your troop, their meeting attendance and achievements like badges/Journey awards earned, and their guardian’s contact information. Then in the Finance tab, you can track troop income and expenses. You can even use it to electronically submit your finance report. All of these things, in one digital resource!
  5. It Keeps Parents Informed- In early September the primary caregiver will have the ability to view their girls’ troop year. Features include: read only views of My Troop Tab (no contact info), Year Plan, Meeting Plan, and Financial Tab. For tech savvy parents that means less need to call troop leaders to ask what’s on the packing list for the annual camp out, when the next meeting is, or what the troop spent their money on this year. It’s like a digital Girl Scout parent planner/calendar that instantly updates when changes are made. 
  6. It’s Green: This resource will replace the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and the Journeys as the primary resource for Girl Scout volunteers for badge and Journey requirements. While girls can still enjoy having their own Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and the Journey girl books, volunteers will be able to find the content in those resources through this digital resource. Less books to buy, store, and lug around with your troop materials! Let the trees rejoice!

So now that you know our favorite things about the Volunteer Toolkit, what are you waiting for? Try it out yourself and join the digital Girl Scout age!

The Girl Scout Way: Take Action Weekend

Girl Scouts have been offering a helping hand to those in need and working together to improve their corner of the world for over 100 years. Our legacy of service goes all the way back to our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, who had a clear vision of what she wanted Girl Scouting to be and made sure that service to others was embedded in our mission. To honor the spirit of service that Juliette placed at the heart of our organization, we’re inviting troops across Western Ohio to join your sister Girl Scouts on October 9-11, 2015 in honoring Juliette’s legacy by completing a Take Action Project, while working on your Girl Scout Way badge (available for brownies and up).

Brownie Girl Scout Way BadgeThis is our second Girl Scout Way: Take Action Weekend and we’re so excited to hear about the amazing projects that girls across Western Ohio will participate in to make their corner of the world a better place. This is for all grade levels council-wide! Girls can work with their troop and/or service unit to plan a project in their community that addresses a community need. Don’t forget to identify other organizations and individuals who can help the girls accomplish their goals and then put their plan into action. When girls take the lead with the support of the community, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish! Don’t forget to register your project before you start. T-shirts will be available for purchase before the weekend, the order for the shirts must be received no later than Friday, September 18. Questions? Contact! So what will you be doing October 9-11th? We’ll be making a difference in our community-come join us!

More Than a Walk- 7 Hiking Activities for Girl Scouts

Exploring the outdoors on a hike with young girls is an amazing experience. The sound of wind in the trees, the smell of dirt beneath boots, a chipmunk scurrying for cover as six girls give chase-these are the moments that build lifelong memories. But sometimes on a long trail nature needs a little help to keep the “are we there yet?” or “I’m bored” comments at bay. To make hikes an even more fun and engaging experience, so much more than just a walk, here are some of our favorite activities and games that’ll keep girls occupied as they mosey down the trail.

  1. ABC Hike: particularly useful for Daisies or young hikers, ask girls to start at the beginning of the alphabet and identify something on the trail that begins with “A” then work through all the letters in the alphabet. If girls get stuck on a hard letter (like X or Z) see if they can find trees whose trunks make an X or sticks that fell in a Z pattern.
  2. Girl with magnifying glass outdoorsNature Detective: turn the girls into amateur sleuths by asking them to find a strange geological or biological feature (tree bending around another tree, a rock shaped like a face, or a cave-like rotting log). Have them approach it, touch it, and see if they can figure out what it is or why it is as it is. This is a quick activity to get girls to engage their reasoning skills as they use as many of the senses as possible for investigating the world around them. Many trail maps have fun names for these odd formations like the Devil’s Bathtub at Hocking Hills State Park but if they don’t, the girls can always make up their own nickname too.
  3. The Never Ending Story: help girls create a unique story as they hike. One person begins to tell a story and then passes it along to another person to continue the plot and so on. The rules can vary, with one version where each girl gets to add one sentence to the story or another where a girl must stop in mid-sentence and another girl has to finish the sentence. This is a great way to keep groups of girls hiking together, laughing, and being creative. Plus the stories are always hilarious!
  4. Scavenger Hunt: this one can be planned ahead where girls get a list of things to find (but not always keep) as they begin the hike or the leader can keep it as a back up for when energy starts to lag. The directions can be as simple as challenging the girls to find things that are fuzzy, small, rough, bumpy, smooth, big, soft, sticky, squishy, lumpy, wet, living, growing, round, triangular, moving, make noise, hard, smelly, etc. Or if the leader is familiar with the trail she can make a list of landmarks on the trail itself.GSports14_VaSkyline_-1609
  5. Rainbow Colors: ask girls to try to identify things along the trail by the colors of the rainbow. Once the girls start looking closely for each color they’ll be amazed at how many colors are found in nature.
  6. Blindfold Hike: a more challenging idea for older girls this activity has the girls pair off. The first girl will be blindfolded (to explore and discover things in a new manner) and the other will be the guide (responsible for the safety of the blindfolded person). Lead the group over different types of terrain asking girls to guess where they are going. Have them study a tree and tell all they can about it by using all their senses but sight, or ask them which direction they are traveling. Have the girls switch roles. Best on a well-maintained trail where the leader is familiar with upcoming obstacles and hazards.
  7. Night Hike: if your girls are masters of day time hiking, change it up by taking them on a favorite trail after dark. For a first try pick a night with some natural light from the moon, leave the flashlights at home (they destroy night vision), and learn to see the world through night’s eyes!

If you’re still a bit nervous about trekking off with your troop or want a guide for your first hike, contact your local parks department to see if they have guided hikes coming up soon. Or come out to one of our properties for a program event like Junior-Habitat ExploringAdventuring with Maps-Brownie/CSA/Junior or Brownie Hiker and explore with us. What are you waiting for? Tuck a few of these ideas into your backpack and turn a walk into an outdoor adventure!

7 Ways to Take Your S’mores to the Next Level on #NationalSmoresDay

Happy National S’mores Day!


Today is a VERY important national holiday (who doesn’t love S’mores), but also a great opportunity to expand your knowledge. Everyone knows about the classic, toasted deliciousness we call the S’more. But, did you know the first-known recorded version of a “S’mores” recipe can be found in an official Girl Scouts publication from 1927? The recipe is credited to Loretta Scott Crew, who reportedly made them by the campfire for Girl Scouts. At Girl Scouts, we take our history and traditions pretty seriously, but we also recognize the need to try new things. Even a treat as perfect as the S’more could use a little elevating! That’s why we’re celebrating with 7 ways to take your S’mores to the next level.

  1. Put it in a waffle cone.
    We know that sounds weird, but trust us! Gather all of your delectable ingredients (mini-marshmallows, chocolate chips, etc.), drop them inside the cone, wrap the waffle cone in tin foil and place it in the fire, the oven or on the grill!campfire-cones
  2. Make it in a skillet.
    Put your chocolate and marshmallows in a cast iron skillet and heat it up for a delicious S’mores dip you can enjoy indoors! Crunchy graham crackers will help you scoop up the perfect chocolate to marshmallow ratio, every time. Forget that spinach dip or chips and salsa, s’mores dip is what parties are made of.Indoor-Smores-045b
  3. Freshen things up.
    Replace your Hershey’s with an Andes Mint or a York Peppermint Patty. Why pop a breath mint after dinner, when you can finish things off with a S’more? It just makes more sense.giphy
  4. Bring on the peanuts!
    Replace your Hershey’s with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. If you can find the bars instead of the actual Reese cups, they work a little better and are often found in the theater candy or baking area in your local grocery store. You’re adding peanut butter to something that’s already incredible… what more can we say?peanuts
  1. Add a strawberry.
    WARNING: This suggestion is so delicious it may cause a fight between campers or woodland creatures, we recommend prepping lots of strawberries in advance. Once you’ve sliced up your strawberries, just sandwich one between your toasted marshmallow, chocolate, and two crunchy graham crackers. Yummm!strawberries
  1. Add more Girl Scout goodness.
    Just when you didn’t think it was possible for a s’more to get any better… try bringing Girl Scout Cookies into the mix. Ditch the graham crackers and use Trefoils or Shortbread as your base. Those are our favorite suggestions, but who’s to say you can’t use Samoas, Tagalongs, or Thin Mints! Things may get messy, but we promise not to judge.adams
  1. Share with friends!­
    Hanging out by the campfire is about much more than S’mores. It’s about friendship and fun! The best way to take your S’mores to the next level is to share them with your sister Girl Scouts or best friends. Nothing seals the bonds of friendship quite like the ooey-gooey goodness of toasted marshmallow. Making S’mores brings together the best of ingredients and the best of friends.foxandthehound

Shout out to Troop #42820, Megan S. aka Tortoise, and our amazing volunteers (Karen M., Kelly K., and Marylee L.) for sharing their amazing S’mores ideas with us!

Connecting the Present and the Past with Girl Scout Traditions!

The legacy of Girl Scouts is a powerful force. A sisterhood built by millions of courageous women that reaches back a hundred years and spans the globe. How do we connect our current Girl Scouts with this legacy in a meaningful and impactful way? By continuing some of the traditions of Girl Scouts and connecting the past with the present through shared experiences.GS Sign

What are those traditions? And how can you work them into a modern Girl Scout meeting? Here are a few basic Girl Scout traditions and some resources for including them in the upcoming troop year:

  • For generations Girl Scouts have been opening meetings with the Girl Scout sign as they say the Girl Scout Promise. The three fingers represent the three parts of the Promise. Add the tradition at your next troop meeting!
  • A traditional meeting closing is the friendship circle. Everyone stands in a circle, crosses their right arms over their left, and clasps hands with their friends on both sides. This circle stands for an unbroken chain of friendship with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world. Don’t forget to make a silent wish as a friendship squeeze is passed from hand to hand. Many troops sing “Make New Friends” as they pass the squeeze, which is why it’s one of the Top 5 Camp Songs Every Girl Scout Should Know.

  • Another beloved opening or closing for a meeting or an event is a flag ceremony. In this ceremony the American flag is carried by a color guard and is honored as the symbol of our country and all the people it represents. Never participated in a flag ceremony before? Check out a Flag Ceremony Workshop at Camp Butterworth or ask an older troop in your area (or a Girl Scout alumna) to teach your troop this patriotic tradition.
  • Ceremonies of all types are part of the legacy of Girl Scouts. They mark special events such as Bridging, Investiture (welcoming new members), Rededication (renewing members), celebrating Highest Awards recipients, and many other occasions. There are no official ceremony requirements so girls can be creative. They can plan a ceremony around a theme, such as friendship or nature, and express themselves in thought, words, or song. Or check out some ceremony outlines like these from Girl Scouts of Black Diamond for more ideas.
  • When attending large events or traveling Girl Scouts often make small tokens of friendship to exchange with the Girl Scouts or Girl Guides they meet. These little gifts are called SWAPS, which stands for Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere or Shared With A Pal. They can be complicated or simple. Here are some of our favorite SWAPS to try out with your
  • Many troops celebrate Founder’s Day or Juliette Low’s Birthday, October 31. This valued Girl Scout tradition is a time to remember the important role Juliette Low played in the development of the Girl Scout movement in the United States.

Which of these Girl Scout traditions will you add this year? Let’s connect with our past and honor the legacy of Girl Scouts who’ve come before us as we move forward into our next 100 years of sisterhood!


6 Tips for New Troop Leaders

Congratulations. You volunteered to be a Girl Scout leader. All the other parents are so happy (or relieved) and the girls are dancing around the room in excitement. Everything is awesome. Then as you leave the parking lot you have THE MOMENT. What moment? The “oh what have I gotten myself into” moment.  Don’t worry, it’s normal. Every leader has that moment. Take a deep breath, you can do this! And because we’ve all been there, here are six tips from veteran leaders to help you thrive in your new role.

  1. Meet the Parents– Everything you do during your term as a scout leader may revolve around the girls but they come attached to families who have expectations and resources. So don’t forget about them when you’re just starting out. Schedule a parent meeting where you can find out if the parents of your scouts have a special skill that would be valuable to share. Perhaps someone works at an interesting place that would be a great field trip or has a connection for the perfect meeting location. The better you get to know your parents the more you will learn about resources available to you, the involvement level the family expects to have in the troop,  and it’ll help you better understand the girls. 
  2. Form a Team– The most successful troops have a core group of adults that help make the magic possible. Those parents you met? Some of them will make excellent team members. Make sure to make your requests specific, instead of “I need help” say “I need help with snack at our next meeting” or “I need chaperones and drivers for our field trip to the zoo”. It’s much easier to get people to volunteer the first time if they know what they’re volunteering to do. And if they (and their daughter) have fun, they’ll be back for more!
  3. Use Your ResourcesWorried you don’t know enough about Girl Scouts? It’s okay. You aren’t expected to know everything right away. We have resources to help you learn what you need, such as Training (Girl Scouting 101, Lodge and Troop Camp Training, and age level trainings), a Troop Start-Up Guide, and Volunteer Essentials all at your fingertips here. Still have questions?  Our customer care staff can help, give them a call at 888-350-5090. Attending your local volunteer meeting is also a great place to learn from other volunteers’ experiences. If you don’t know when that is for your area, ask the community engagement staff at your regional office.
  4. Be Careful Not to Compare– There will always be another volunteer or troop who look like they have it together all the time. Don’t make the mistake of comparing your troop to theirs. Girl Scouts is not a competition and each troop (and leader) has great moments and epic fails. Even the perfect troop has a story about a day when they set their tents up in a low lying area and an overnight rainstorm flooded the tents. Or the time the leader arrived at a meeting and realized she’d left crucial supplies at her house. Nobody is perfect, so embrace your imperfections, learn from mistakes, and keep moving forward (just as you’d tell the girls to do). 
  5. Involve the Girls- Our organization is girl-led because when girls are given the opportunity to lead amazing things happen. And we all need a little amazing in our lives, right? So get the girls involved in the planning from the beginning and as they grow older and more capable keep handing over more and more of the troop planning, finances, and organization to them. You’ll be surprised what they can accomplish when given opportunities by a leader who believes in them.
  6. Have Fun– Remember that Girl Scouts should be fun for both the girls and the volunteers. While we are always advocates for having Fun with Purpose and building Leadership, it’s okay to plan an activity that is just fun. Chances are whatever game, craft, or activity the girls take part in they’re going to come out of it with their relationships strengthened and their confidence in themselves boosted. 

Feeling better about your decision to volunteer? Are you ready to be the role model she’ll always remember? We certainly hope so. Thank you for stepping up to lead and helping girls build courage, confidence, and character. Together, we’ll make the world a better place!

The Power of Yet (To Get Her There)!

Yet is a powerful word for young girls (and for adults). Adding a simple yet or a not yet to a sentence can change everything for a struggling girl. Don’t see how? Think of a time when you were trying to master a new skill. Like that difficult kickflip on your skateboard or plunking out “Heart and Soul” on the piano. Was there a moment when you failed (again) and the frustrated words “I just can’t do it” popped out of your mouth? Of course there was, everyone has those moments. Now what if someone nearby had added a “yet” or a “not yet” to that sentence? Let’s say it again: I just can’t do it yet. Can you feel the difference? That tiny yet makes a “never going to happen” into a “this is possible”. That is the power of yet. Not quite convinced? Check out Carol Dweck and let the research speak for itself.

Thinking of overcoming challenges with a yet mindset makes failure a part of the journey, just one more stop on the road leading to success. It means girls process the errors they made, correct them through practice or strategy, and continue working toward the goal. The power of yet is an awesome tool for fostering growth mindset- a topic we discussed in The key to success: GRIT! that helps girls be successful. When girls struggle with a new task, when they strive for big goals, when they feel too small to make a difference, helping them embrace the yet gives them the confidence to accept where they are now because that is not all they will ever be. And it’s not just for girls. What goals are you striving for? What legacy will you leave? You’re not there yet, but with hard work (and a growth mindset) we believe you’ll get there and help your girls reach their dreams too!


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