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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.
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  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!

Girl Scout Destinations: Mission Specialist Sam

Meet Sam-Western Ohio’s Space Mission Specialist. How did Sam go from being an Ambassador Girl Scout in Fostoria, Ohio to a confident Space Camp Alumni? We’re so glad you asked! It all started with a little girl whose mother put Sam in Girl Scouts so she’d overcome her shyness and have fun. Then years of troop adventures, friendships formed, and confidence building trips and activities went by and Sam was ready for a challenge: a Girl Scout Destinations trip. These trips are for individual girls through GSUSA and require girls to apply for the trip, be accepted from the applicant pool, and raise the funds for the trip.

Looking over the list of trips Sam decided that Advanced Space Academy: Mission Specialist was just her style.  After all who could resist a chance to take a space walk to repair a satellite, command the I.S.S., and test their skill at the bottom of the Underwater Astronaut Trainer (UAT) during a SCUBA session? Sam worked diligently polishing her application, meeting the deadline, and was chosen from a large pool of applicants for Space Academy.

The next challenge was payment. Sam put her nose to the grindstone during the Fall and Cookie sales to set and meet goals. Sam earned $621 through the cookie sale that she could use towards her trip! She also applied for (and was awarded) a scholarship to help offset the cost. After months of diligent money earning, Sam’s efforts finally paid off: she had secured the necessary funds and was ready for her trip!

There were more challenges to come after Sam arrived at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Was she scared? Yes. In her own words “the first day we got there it was pretty scary. I didn’t know where anything was or anyone there. We were just told to be at orientation by 2:30 and when you got there you sat in a huge room full of every one who was part of Space Academy and Advance Space Academy. You didn’t even know if the person sitting next to you was your team yet.” Practicing courage, Sam stuck it out and went to meet her team.

The next few challenges were mission related. Being a Mission Specialist meant Sam got to go scuba diving, climb a rock wall, and go out into the payload bay and fix a satellite. To do that she had to be harnessed in and hung from the ceiling in a superman position. Sam even conquered the Pamper Pole “aka the scariest thing I’ve ever done”. No idea what a Pamper Pole is?  Check out the guy in the video below!

Sam’s final challenge at Space Academy she called the “everyone dies mission” or EDM which actually stands for extended duration mission. During the mission the girls choose their job and work as a team to accomplish a goal. Sam managed to die seven times and kill everyone on her team at least once on accident. The girls did everything from being tricked into opening the door in the middle of launch to crashing and killing everyone. She says that while “we may have died A LOT, we had a lot of fun and we still worked well as a team“.

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On her last evening they had a Girl Scout closing ceremony. Until then Sam hadn’t realized how many girls were there through destinations. She thought “it was really cool, we sang camp songs, traded swaps, then ended with a friendship circle”. Then it was time for graduation. All the girls wore flight suits and got to shake Robert “Hoot” Gibson’s hand and were welcomed into the family of Space Camp Alumni. Her team won the Outstanding Team award for always keeping a positive attitude and having fun. And just like that her grand journey was over! She’d overcome all the obstacles to get there, faced each challenge on the mission, and returned home a more confident and independent young woman.

But wait, Sam’s Girl Scout story isn’t over! Ready for a new challenge, Sam’s going on a different destinations trip this year. Given the courage and determination she showed at Space Academy, we can’t wait to hear about her next journey. So what destination will you try out? Don’t let challenges hold you back, Sam’s story proves it can be done!

You Might Be a Girl Scout Leader If:

You’ve turned in your finance report, early birded your troop for fall, and finally eaten that last box of thin mints in your freezer. Before the troop year starts all over again, take a minute to remember some of the experiences this year that happened because you said yes to being a leader. Those things that only another Girl Scout volunteer would understand. Here’s a few of our favorites that set our leaders apart to get you started.

You might be a Girl Scout leader if:

  1. You’ve legally slept on the floor of public buildings-and have the back pain to prove it.
  2. You know more than 2 ways to light a fire. Not quite you? Bring your girls to Intro to Outdoor Skills and starting building those skills with your troop. 
  3. You have more experience fundraising than most professional fundraisers and know where to look in Volunteer Essentials (in Volunteer Resources) for our policies and procedures.
  4. “Make New Friends” and “The Brownie Smile Song” run in a permanent loop in your head. Need more songs to drown them out? Download the Songbook from Girl Scouts Rock the Mall.
  5. You can tell the difference between a happy scream and a spider scream from three tents over and have a designated kaper chart chore with the title “official spider wrangler”.  
  6. You know what a tax ID number is, and how to use it to get discounts (as a non-profit organization, we’re tax exempt-use form in the Forms and Documents section and get those discounts).
  7. You have developed negotiation skills that put a U.N. ambassador to shame. And for those rough middle school years we recommend the aMAZE: The Twists and Turns of Getting Along Journey.
  8. You have a duffel bag sized first aid kit stashed in your car, “just in case”. And emergency rations (snacks) stuffed in your purse next to a printout of Safety Activity Checkpoints from previous activities (also found in our Forms and Documents under Frequently Accessed Forms). 
  9. You correct people when they refer to fun patches as “badges”. As our founder said “a badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout.” What fun patch does all that?
  10. You’ve endured years of paperwork, sore muscles, and muddy adventures because you know that with Girl Scouts you’re changing the world-one confident girl at a time. You go, girl!

Now take that well deserved summer break. Catch up on your reading, play outside, and let fall find you fully refreshed and ready for the next troop adventure! Want to see what kind of Girl Scout Leader you are? Take this fun quiz and find out: http://bzfd.it/1yXgp8q.

The key to success: GRIT!

What is grit and why is it so important to our (and our girls’) success? Grit is a combination of persistence and resilience that is not related to talent or IQ. People with grit can accomplish things that seem almost impossible.

We all know them. The girl who refuses to give up on the high ropes course (despite her fear of heights) and finally (after multiple attempts and falls) conquers the course and her fear. The leader who sticks with her girls (through their hard middle school drama years) supporting them and coaching them until they grow into passionate adults who know they have the skills and the work ethic to make a difference in the world. These women and girls all have one thing in common. It’s not their natural talent or their high IQ. Rather it’s their work ethic and ability to roll with the punches: they are gritty!

So how do we build grit in our girls? According to a study at Stanford University the answer is: Mindset! What’s that? The Thrive Foundation defines mindset as “an attitude toward your own abilities, be they intelligence, skills, talents, or aptitudes.” According to Dr. Carol Dweck there are 2 main mindsets:

  • The fixed mindset: You believe that your personal qualities are fixed and that you have been given only a certain amount of talent, intelligence, ability, and/or character. You are either good or bad. Have a lot or a little. You can improve around the edges, but either you have it or you don’t.
  • The growth mindset: You believe that your personal qualities are things you have worked hard to establish including talent, intelligence, ability, and/or character. You believe that although many people differ in the initial amount of talent, aptitudes, and abilities, everyone can change and grow through hard work and experience. (Dweck 2006)

The growth mindset by another name could be called learning by doing (experiential learning). It says the more I practice, the harder I try (and fail), the more I grow and the more successful I become. This is a pillar of the Girl Scout program and having this growth mindset (being gritty) directly contributes to success. The Thrive Foundation (and Girl Scouts) believes that caring adults “can help youth acquire a growth mindset through modeling it in their own lives and encouraging youth to work hard to improve their abilities, including their intelligence, their moral character, their talents and their interests.” Can we be that role model? Can we be gritty for our girls? We think we can. Let’s help our girls grow up with grit by showing them the way!

 

9 Tips to Prevent Homesick Campers

The sun is shining, the day is warm, and you’re helping your child pack for their big summer adventure. It’s camp time of year again and we’re so excited to welcome hundreds of young ladies to our camps. While checking off the packing list for camp, don’t forget to have a conversation with your child about homesickness. Why? Because it’s normal to miss home and by talking about it with your child and making a plan you will help them work through their feelings more quickly and get back to having an awesome time at camp! Here are a few prevention tips from the American Camp Association that will help your camper deal.

Before Camp:

1. Work together as a family to select a camp, make plans, and pack. The unknown can be scary so make sure that your camper is involved in the selection process, knows the details of camp (how long, what the daily schedule looks like, if possible visit the property before camp), and helps pack so she feels entirely prepared. You can even allow her to pack a favorite stuffed animal and/or picture so that she will have a reminder of home while at camp.2. Role-play anticipated camp situations. Practice using a flashlight to find the bathroom in the middle of the night or what she’ll do when she finds a spider in her tent (hint: calling a counselor is okay, screaming and running for the office is not). You won’t be able to cover everything but having a plan for some will help her deal with the unexpected and keep her moving forward.3. Schedule practice time away from home, such as a long weekend at a friend’s house. Sleeping in a strange place can be unsettling the first (or second) time for a child and not having a parent around can lead to anxiousness once those lights go out so give her a practice run close to home so she knows she can do it.4. Experiment with the best coping strategies during this practice separation. Pack that stuffed animal that she can hug when she’s feeling homesick, encourage her to take a few deep breaths to calm down, and then join the fun again. Talk over what helped and what didn’t when you pick her up so she’ll remember what works for her when she’s at camp.5. Avoid the “pick-up deal”! Never ever say, “If you feel homesick, I’ll come and get you.” This conveys a message of doubt that undermines her confidence and almost guarantees you’ll be picking up your child. Let her know you believe in her ability to work through her feelings (with help from our staff) and make it to the end of camp. It’s amazing what girls can do when they know someone believes in them! 6. Write letters. Prepare pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes for her to bring to camp, then give her a letter from home to open her first night at camp. Who doesn’t love mail? Plus writing letters home will give her a chance to organize her camp experience and the letters willl make great mementos.

During Camp Encourage Her to:

7. Stay busy! It’s hard to wallow in homesickness if you’re fully immersed in an activity. Give her a few ideas for downtime that will help keep her mind busy too, like reading her favorite book (make sure to pack it). 8. Talk with someone. Sometimes just acknowledging the feelings goes a long way. Encourage girls to seek out a counselor. They make great resource and chances are this is not their first encounter with a homesick kid this summer. 9. Remember camp is not a life sentence. A week (even two) will be over in the blink of an eye. Encourage her to remember that she’s not at camp for her whole life-just a few weeks.

Homesickness will always be a part of camp, but with a little planning it is a manageable part. Plus it’s great practice for life. After all, everyone leaves home eventually so what better way to prepare girls to be courageous and independent young women than having an amazing adventure at Girl Scout camp? Check out our camp options on our website and get your kid to camp this summer!

Highest Awards: What To Do

Last week we listed 14 things Not To Do for a Girl Scouts Highest Award. Now it’s time to list what TO DO for your Highest Award.

  • Complete the Pre-requisites: girls must be registered members, the appropriate age level for each award (check here), and must have completed a Journey at that age level before they can begin planning their Highest Award project. Girls earning their Gold Award who have not previously earned their Silver Award must complete 2 Senior or Ambassador Journeys before beginning the Gold Award process.
  • Learn from an Expert: we highly recommend girls attend one of our Highest Awards 101 workshops or webinars, or the Silver and Gold specific workshops (check Ebiz for upcoming dates) OR contact the Highest Awards support staff in your region. It is especially important for the Gold Award that the girl does the contacting about her specific Gold Award Project! Your staff support contacts are:
    • Cincinnati- Devon Beck (devonbeck@gswo.org)
    • Dayton- Sarah Kelly (sarahkelly@gswo.org)
    • Lima – Megan Ramey (meganramey@gswo.org)
    • Toledo – Rebecca Sarantou (rebeccasarantou@gswo.org)
  • Explore Your Community: every community is unique and has different assets and organizations that effect the needs of the community. While community A may have access to awesome  STEM programs for children because of a local university’s outreach department, community B may have no STEM programs available for children that don’t require driving to community A. What is a need for one community may be a strength for another and vice versa. Good places to start checking into the needs of your local community are the local newspaper and news channels. You can also interview long time residents of the community about the needs and assets they see in your area. Use Community Mapping too.
  • Identify Issues You Care About: you’ll be spending a large amount of time on your project, so consider what things you value and skills you have that you enjoy sharing. What sparks your interest? Whether it’s music, science, or animals find a community need that relates to that topic so that your project centers around something you’re passionate about and enjoy.
  • Investigate the Root Cause of the Issue: when you hear about a problem or an issue, always ask “why” this is an issue so that you can trace it back to the root cause of the problem. Need an example? How about you discover your town has a low employment rate. Now find out why. Are there not enough jobs for the amount of workers available? Do the workers available not have the right skill level for the open positions? Maybe a lack of transportation in the community means the unemployed cannot get to the open positions? Although multiple communities may have the same issue, the root cause of the issue may be very different. When investigating:
    • Demonstrate courage as you investigate your issue, knowing that what you learn may challenge your own and others beliefs about your community.
    • Use a variety of sources- interview people, read books and articles, find professional organizations online.
    • Remember to evaluate each source for reliability and accuracy. Bob’sAngryRant.com is not as reliable a source as a reputable news-site or organization in your community.
    • Make a global connection-think about others who may have worked on the same problem in the past, or check the internet to see how others around the globe deal with your issue. What can you learn from their approach? For example, if your local park has noticed a sharp decrease in their bee populations find out what other parks/towns/places have done to help with this issue. Research why being a world without bees is a bad thing and how it affects other issues (for the curious here’s why).
  • Find a Mentor: seek out a project advisor who has expertise in the topic of your project either through their own job, volunteer opportunities or general knowledge of the topic. *Note: your parent/guardian or troop leader cannot be your project advisor.
  • Build Your Team: seek out people with valuable skills who are also passionate about your issue. Remember to respect different points of view and ways of working and that they are your volunteers so this is a choice for them, not an obligation. Work with their schedules and be prepared to be flexible in your timeline to accommodate their schedules.
  • Develop Your Project: identify a main goal for your project that everyone involved can understand and seek a way to meet that goal. The basic thing each girl should be able to say is “through our efforts we achieved X, and because of X, we lessened/made a positive impact on issue Y in our community“. A simple example is “through our creation of a bee friendly garden at the local park and our bee advocate junior gardening workshops we created a place for bees to thrive and educated community members on the importance of bees and because of this the bee population will grow in our community”.
  • Make a Plan that Lasts: being organized and thinking through a probable timeline are essential to a quality project. Consider the impact too: is it short term or are there aspects that will have an effect beyond your initial involvent? As a leadership Take Action project the goal is to make a lasting impact on a community need, so the project needs long-term benefits and community support. This is the difference between Service and Take Action. Service projects are done FOR the community with a short impact, while Take Action  projects are done WITH the community so that the impact is sustained. Still not clear? Click the link above for a more in-depth look at the difference between service and Take Action.
  • Gold Award Only- Get Approval: while the Highest Awards support staff welcome questions about projects from all levels, the Gold Award has an added requirement in its approval process. Girls must submit a Gold Award Proposal with a detailed project plan attached to council. Once received, members of the Gold Award Committee will contact the girl with project feedback and dates of upcoming committee meetings so that each girl can present her project plan to the committee in her region for approval before officially starting the project.
  • Put the Plan in Motion: you’ve made a plan, found your team, plotted out a timeline and (for Gold Award) gotten the approval needed. All that’s left is taking action to make your world a better place! Don’t be discouraged if something does not happen exactly as you thought it would or if there are unforeseen obstacles that you must overcome. This is all part of being a leader and making an impact. So keep brainstorming your way around obstacles, consult your team, troubleshoot issues with your advisor as they occur, and reach your goal!
  • Share Your Story: demonstrating to an audience what you have learned sets the stage for even broader impact, and is sometimes the best way for you to recognize what you have accomplished and see how much you have grown. It will also help you get others inspired to act! Need ideas? Here are a few ways to share your story, for more check the award guidelines in the Highest Awards section of our website:
    • Create a website or blog about what you have learned and how your project will help your community.
    • At a workshop for community members, present what you have learned and what your project will do for the community. Or do a presentation for a group of younger Girl Scouts—you will definitely inspire them!
    • Write an essay or an article for your local or school newspaper
  • Reflect: congratulations on completing a project that makes a difference! Take some time to think about all that you have accomplished. Who did you meet that you didn’t know? What did you learn from others about your project issue, about your community, and about yourself? What would you do differently if you did it again? This is Step 4 of the Take Action process.
  • Make it Official: all awards must turn in a final report and evaluation (in the Highest Awards section of our website) to be official. Each award requires a slightly different final report (Bronze is a checklist, Silver is a Final Report with attached questions, and Gold is a Final Report and Presentation before the Gold Award Committee) and approval process. The Bronze Award is leader approved and the pin can be purchased in our shop when the checklist and evaluations are turned in. The Silver Award is leader approved but council must confirm after they receive an individual final report from each girl and purchasing pins in the shop requires the approval letter from council. The Gold Award is approved by the Gold Award Committee after the Final Report and a presentation before the committee and pins are purchased for the girls to be given out at the annual council-wide Gold Award Ceremony in March.
  • Celebrate: you’ve accomplished so much, it’s time for a celebration. Invite friends and family to an end of the year party and recognize the girls in your troop who earned this award. Does your service unit have a picnic/banquet/end of year event? If so, take a moment to recognize all of the girls in your community who have earned these awards. It doesn’t have to be big and splashy to be meaningful!

Now that you’ve got a handle on what to do for your Highest Award, go out and start investigating how you can make a change in your community. Dream big, you’ve got a lot of power inside of you and a whole team of people cheering you on as you make your world a better place!

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