Discover a world of Girl Scouts beyond your troop by connecting with girls and adults outside of your regular troop activities. How do you go beyond? Attend a large event, either through a council-operated event or a Service Unit event. These fun activities are a great way to keep girls and adults connected to Girl Scouting and broaden their network. Events can help girls and adults connect with families, engage the community, gain new skills and build relationships with their sister Girl Scouts. Here are 5 reasons to add a beyond the troop activity to your calendar this year:
- Connect with Others! Girls (and adults) enjoy meeting other Girl Scouts from their local neighborhood, from across town, and from across the state. The friendships formed at these events broaden their horizons and cross geographical, social, and economic boundaries. At school they may be separated by constricting labels such as jock, cheerleader, or geek but at these events everyone is brought together under the inclusive banner of Girl Scouts!
- Engage the Family! Events create a stronger connection with Girl Scout families, especially events that draw the family directly into the fun. So invite the dads to Father Daughter Adventure Day, bring the entire family to Family Night, or check the camp section on our website in January for 2016 Me and My Guy/Gal events at camp. You can also talk with your Service Unit members to see what opportunities/events happen in your area to engage families.
- Save the Teen Girl Scouts! As girls grow older and troops get smaller some teens start to think they’re the only older girls in Girl Scouts. So not true! Attending a large event geared towards teenagers such as CSA Fall Conference, CSA Leadership Conference (February 13-15, information in program event guide page 36) or organizing a county wide CSA trip reminds our older girls that the sisterhood of Girl Scouts is much larger than their troop or school.
- Build Community Awareness! Sometimes the community has no idea what amazing things Girl Scout troops are doing in their own town. How sad is that? So the next time you’re planning a Girl Scout Pinewood Derby Day or a county wide Bridging Ceremony, involve the community. Include local dignitaries and organizations as derby judges, master of ceremony, event/activity sponsors, or whatever engaging role you can think of to help your community members understand that Girl Scouts are still going strong. Consider inviting the local media out to report on your event. Through this you’ll create a stronger community presence and maybe you’ll hear fewer “really, we still have Girl Scouts in our community” comments from your neighbors.
- Large events are fun! It’s hard to describe the energy and excitement that gathering a large group of Girl Scouts together generates so we’re going to go with “giant amounts of fun”. And who doesn’t need more fun in their life?
Now that you know all of the benefits, what beyond the troop experience will you try this year? Whatever it is, we know it’s going to be awesome!
We’ve all been there. There’s a badge or an activity that the girls are super excited to try and we know that the skills required for that badge are so outside of our comfort zone that just thinking about it makes us anxious. Maybe your Cadettes want to earn the Digital Movie Maker badge and you’ve yet to master programming your DVR. Or your Juniors are ready to test out their Simple Meals abilities and you burn toast on a regular basis. So what do you do? You find a community partner! How do you find one? Here are some of our favorite tips for connecting with partners in our communities to give girls the amazing experiences they need to grow into confident women.
- Spread the Word. Don’t forget to use your human resources. Ask the girls (and their parents) who they know or what organization they recommend contacting who has experience with that skill or badge area. Mention at the monthly volunteer meeting that your troop wanted to work on the Digital Movie Maker badge and see if another troop has a contact that helped them earn it. Join our Volunteer Support Group on Facebook and post your need to the Girl Scout community there. Odds are, out of your extended networks, someone will have a great idea or a contact.
- Involve the Girls. Girl Scouts is girl-led. So make sure to let the girls be part of your brainstorming and recruiting efforts. Think of an age-appropriate way they can participate in this process. A great way to include them is to have them tell the partner why they want to do this in person, in a letter, or Daisies could create drawings. We all know it’s really hard to say no to determined children who have a goal and a plan for achieving that goal (our cookie sale success proves this).
- Make a Plan. Once you’ve identified a potential partner, it’s time to figure out what you need from them and what you’re willing to do for them. Do you want them to facilitate all 5 steps of the badge or maybe 1-2? Are you willing to travel to them? Buy any supplies? Talk to the girls and help them plan out asking the potential partner for help. Think about who will make the ask (are the girls able to do it), what will they ask for (specifics), and how to respond to their answer. You can even write a short script (check out this article on how to ask for pointers) and role play possible answers (enthusiastic yes, tentative maybe, apologetic no) so that everyone feels prepared.
- Ask. Remember to make it a question, and to ask for something concrete and specific such as “our Cadette troop needs to connect with a local expert to earn part of our Digital Movie Maker badge, we’d love to come to your tv station and go on a tour with a member of your camera crew”. They may end up offering more or less than what you ask, but the conversation will go better (and they’ll call you back faster) if the message and the request are specific. You can even bring a copy of the badge requirements so the potential partner can see exactly what is needed and can judge what parts they are best equipped to help girls earn.
- Tug at their Heartstrings. People are much more inclined to say yes when their emotions are engaged. So don’t shy away from passionate pleas. We’re not saying you have to make them cry, but be sure to help the person understand the mission behind what you are asking of them. Why are you asking them to come demonstrate something about their career/hobby? Because they’re going to inspire the next generation of women in that field-that’s why! Potential partners should know what Girl Scouts does (we build confident, courageous girls who change our world) and how their contribution will help make that mission a reality.
- Expect a “Yes”. Attitude influences results. If you and the girls go in expecting to be rejected, you probably will be. Instead start the conversation with the expectation that they’re going to say yes. It’ll put a smile in your voice and confidence in your words. Then if their answer is no, and there will be some “no’s”, make sure to thank them anyway for their time and move forward on brainstorming a Plan B. Don’t let the girls (or yourself) get discouraged. Learning to persevere and to meet obstacles with grit is the key to success.
So are you ready to find a partner and tackle that difficult badge now? Armed with a plan, a plea, and backed by your girls, we know you can!
Sleeping bags and giggling girls…there’s just something special about a troop overnight that you can’t get anywhere else. Maybe it’s bonding as you sneak by the adult during a 2 am snack run or the silly stories whispered among friends but whatever it is, it’s essential to Girl Scouts! And we’ve got some great suggestions to take your troop overnight to the next level.
- Sleep With the Fishes: Or as close as you can get with Sharks After Dark at Newport Aquarium. Or take a walk on the wild side with one of our zoo partners, with options like Safari Overnight (Toledo), Sleep With the Manatees (Cincinnati), and Night Owl (Columbus) you’re sure to have a wild night! Contact the education department at your zoo of choice for more information.
- Rat Basketball and Explosion Shows: Only at COSI. Always bringing fun and science together, the camp-ins here are a long standing Girl Scout tradition. Girls 14 and up can even go behind the scenes as Program Assistants. For science, technology, and teamwork programming this place is hard to beat. If Columbus seems too far, Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta also does awesome overnights and Imagination Station in Toledo has some excellent badge related science workshops so check them out as well.
- Cowboy Up: saddle up with the wranglers at Camp Willson as you explore the countryside on horseback. You’ll ride to a primitive campsite, spend the night, and hop back in the saddle for several more hours of riding before your adventure ends. Not quite ready for primitive camping? Test your riding skills at Marmon Valley Farm. Take a trail ride, spend the day on the farm, and sleep in the bunkhouse for a less primitive but still memorable overnight adventure.
- Explore the River: Spend a day (and a night) on the water with Little Miami Canoe Rental. They’ll pick you up at Camp Whip Poor Will, teach you the basics, and then let you wander the byways of the Little Miami. Camp out in Oregonia on the river and then paddle down to Morrow in the morning. At the end of the trip, they’ll return you to Whip Poor Will.
- Sleep Underground: Everybody loves camping when there’s no fear of rain. For those willing to travel for adventure, the Blue Springs Caverns Overnight in Bedford, IN or Caveman Camp Outs at Cumberland Caverns-TN are the perfect overnight to explore the natural wonders of the cave without giving up modern conveniences like restrooms. Not ready to sleep in the cave but still want to explore? Try out the Waterfall Crawl at Marengo Cave in IN for muddy adventures and then spend the night at their bunkhouse or join our outdoor staff for our Caving Trip April 30-May 1, 2016 for more underground adventure. Contact Tori Houck (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on our trip.
- Backpack through the Wilderness: Explore the outdoors and sleep under the stars as you load up your backpack and take a hike to the perfect overnight location. First timers can learn all about the basics at one of our Backpacking Workshops, then try it out during our Backpacking Overnight at Van Buren State Park. Ready for a lengthier trip? Join our council-wide Backpacking Trip and help us plan the entire trip. Contact Vicki Proctor (email@example.com) or Tori Houck (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on these events.
What are you waiting for? Start planning your next troop overnight today! Don’t forget to check Safety Activity Checkpoints before your go and use the Travel and Troop Trip Overnight Planning Manual from our Required Trainings to make sure you’re ready for your overnight.
It’s almost fall-time to stop and smell the campfire! Summer’s heat and humidity will soon give way to cooler temperatures and autumn’s colors. This is the perfect time of year to introduce girls to another Girl Scout tradition: cooking outdoors. So grab (or borrow) a dutch oven, some roasting forks, and test out a few of our tried and true campfire delights on your next outdoor cooking adventure! Here are a few of our favorite recipes to get you started.
- S’mores–always a Girl Scout favorite. There’s a reason these tasty treats have their own national day-they’re delicious! But if you’re looking for some variety, try swapping out the chocolate for a Reese’s cup or sandwiching your marshmallow between trefoil cookies. You could even grab some foil and a banana and try Banana Boat S’mores. The fruit makes it almost healthy, right?
Banana Boat S’mores
- Chicken Hobo-wrapped in foil with potatoes and carrots and cooked to perfection this is one of the simplest and tastiest main dishes. We love to change the portion size to individual so each girl can choose her vegetables and make it her own. Plus the minimal clean-up makes this a keeper!
- Campfire Cones-another tasty dessert that’s easy enough even your Daisies will be able to assemble them with some adult supervision. These prove ice cream cones have so many more uses than just to hold ice cream.
- Dutch Oven Pizza–who says pizza must come in a cardboard box? You can make this kid-friendly favorite over the fire using charcoal or wood with this easy recipe.
- Walking Tacos-this recipe gives you a taco in a bag. A favorite for those who believe plates at campfires are unnecessary supplies.
- Brown Bears-for simple and sugary it’s hard to beat these doughy sweets. Roast them till they’re golden brown and you’ve got a tasty dessert.
- Dutch Oven Coca Cola Chicken-heat up some coals and pull out the dutch oven for this crowd pleasing main dish. Guaranteed to make any soda loving camper’s day!
- Camper’s Breakfast Hash-make tired campers roll out of their sleeping bags and wander out for breakfast, this skillet recipe is a great way to start the day outdoors.
Can you think of more outdoor cooking favorites? Need help building your outdoor cooking skills? Learn more from our outdoor staff-come to Camping 101 this fall or save the dates for Campfire Cooking and Campin’ Fever in the spring (look in our Program Event Guide-spring event registration on Ebiz opens in November). The great outdoors are calling, grab your roasting forks and answer the call!
You’re on your way. You’ve followed our 6 tips for new leaders as best you could and you’re starting to plan the year with your girls and your team of committed adults. Now for that next important question. How are we going to pay for all of this stuff? The troop needs markers, crayons, paper supplies, craft supplies, and so much more. What about their books and uniforms-should the troop or parents buy them? Insignia and badges? The questions and supply lists go on and on and while we promise that Fall Product and Cookie Sales will soon be a big help, your troop needs a plan for the basics now.
We hear you and we’ve got some great tips from volunteers who’ve done it. So take a deep breath, scroll through, and learn from Girl Scout volunteers who survived their first year without breaking the bank as they advise you how to make it all work on a shoestring budget.
- Ask for donations. You can send a basic supply list to troop parents and ask them to donate items to the troop (glue, scissors, crayons, markers) or even specific needs for crafts like extra fabric, pony beads, or things of that nature to help get you started. Encourage parents to pass it to their friends and family members or businesses that they have personal ties to in your area to widen the reach.
- Make uniforms optional! The minimum Girl Scout uniform is the membership pin. While sashes, vests, and insignia are iconic (and adorable) many troops allow parents to choose if they want to buy their daughter a sash or a vest and the basic insignia (including the pin) for their first year. For trips and activities some troops buy/make Girl Scout t-shirts to make spotting their girls easier in large groups. After your first year, revisit this with your girls and parents, show them the costs, and see if they want to use troop funds from product sales to purchase uniforms or save those funds for activities, supplies, and badges.
- Explore your community. There are free programs in most communities if you just know where to look or who to ask. Will the firehouse let your troop tour them as they work on their Safety Award? Does the local park have nature programs for children that can help with the Bugs badge? Seasoned troop leaders in the area are a great resource for finding these gems, so connect with them at a Service Unit meeting or on the GSWO Volunteer Support page to find fun (free) things in your area for your first activities.
- Agree on troop dues. Troop dues are a specific sum that parents or the girls themselves contribute to the troop. They are entirely optional and each troop chooses to have dues and what those dues will be. Talk with your troop (parents and girls) and make an agreement about what dues will be collected and what they’ll be used for so that everyone is on the same page and has ownership of the decision. It can be as simple as collecting $1 per meeting from every girl or asking for a specific amount from each family at the beginning of the troop year (usually between $20-40). One troop that charged $40 in dues every year had a Mother state at their meeting “where else do we get an entire year of activities and good lessons for only $55 ($15 membership, $40 dues)?”
- Share ownership of troop finances. When parents and girls are included in the troop’s finances and understand the income/expenses of the troop, they make better decisions about spending. So let parents/girls know how much badges cost, the amount the troop will make off each cookie box sold, and that if their daughter signs up for the Spookwalk event but doesn’t attend the troop is not refunded the registration fee. The more they know, the better choices everyone can make, and the easier it will be to handle the troop’s finances.
- Borrow key resources (or go digital). Before you buy every girl her very own Daisy Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting ask around. Is there a copy in the local library or at the Girl Scout center you can borrow? Would a bridging Brownie troop let you borrow/have their Daisy 3 Cheers for Animals Journey Adult Guide? Can you access all of the needed information digitally through the Volunteer Toolkit? While we cherish our Junior Girl Guide from when we were 10, buying all of the books can quickly deplete a first year troop account. If a girl wants one, send her to the council shop to buy her very own.
Does this help with first year money-worries? We hope so! If a member of the troop has financial barriers, remember Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we want every girl to be able to find her wow with us. We offer financial assistance for membership as well as for camps and program events because money should never be what stops a girl from finding her courage, growing her confidence, and building her character!
Growing up in Girl Scouts, we discovered a world full of fun experiences, made a whole bunch of new friends, built our confidence, and made our world a little better along the way. And those are just a few of the benefits! Our alumnae say Girl Scouting was positive and rewarding for them and they rate their Girl Scout experiences very highly (Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study). While no list could show the entire collection of activities and experiences we had earning badges, selling cookies, going on exciting trips, outdoor exploring, making a difference in our community, and more for your Labor Day fun we’ve made a list of 5 signs you were a Girl Scout. Is your favorite on this list?
- You were giving three-fingered salutes as part of your Girl Scout Sign way before Katniss made it cool! And you can still recite the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Those words were branded into your brain at every meeting and will likely still be there 20 years from now when you’ve forgotten your 2nd grade teacher’s name.
- You were making deals and honing your people skills while running your own business before most kids even got their first jobs. Those Five Skills the Girl Scout cookie program talks about? Yeah, you’ve got them, and you’re not afraid to show them off!
- You upcycled before upcycling was cool. After making a bag out of an old t-shirt and a bird feeder out of a plastic bottle at camp you feel compelled to find a use for useless things. Throwing things away shows a serious lack of creativity!
- You have at least one lifelong hobby that you discovered because of Girl Scouts. After all, you put a lot of effort into those badges-why wouldn’t you keep learning and improving your skills!
- You know with a little help from friends you can solve any problem. Remember that time your troop had to set up tents and cook dinner over the fire in the middle of a rainstorm? You figured that out and you’ll figure out whatever else the world throws at you. Bring on the challenges world, you’ve got this!
With Girl Scouts, you did more than you ever thought you could, dreamed bigger dreams than you ever imagined, and — oh, yeah — changed our world. Bet your 10 year old self didn’t realize paddling a canoe or selling thin mints would help her do all that, did she?
Want to reconnect with Girl Scouts as an alumnae or get updates about what’s new along with inspiring stories of girls and volunteers who are changing our world with Girl Scouts? Join the Alumnae Association today!
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:
- 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.
- 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 this fall, a parent view and a Finance tab were added in early September, and new badge content was added 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- It Keeps Parents Informed- Primary caregiver 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.
- 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!