New Troop Tips: Exploring Your Community’s Resources
As a new troop leader, there is so much to learn. Each troop meeting and outing will add more knowledge and skill to your troop leader toolbox. Pretty soon you’ll have definite opinions on which Girl Scout repeat song you can (and cannot) handle on its fifteenth go round (looking at you, Princess Pat!), you’ll be able to predict how many fruit snacks a group of 10 first graders will consume in a single sitting, and your conflict resolution strategies will grow exponentially as you help the girls navigate working together to make choices for your girl-led troop. What other tools are essential for your leader toolbox? Exploring your community’s resources through networking!
Why? As a new leader, one of the more daunting tasks can be organizing meetings and outings that build the girls’ skills and help them grow, all while not depleting the troop checking account. Those zoo overnights and science museums are awesome, but too many higher priced experiences can quickly drain your troop’s finances. You need to find some resources and opportunities in your community that are fun, educational, and cost-effective. How? It’s time for some networking!
Using Your Extended Network
When we think of networking, we often think of rooms full of people handing out business cards and making awkward small talk. But in Girl Scouts, networking can just mean asking people connected to you, your troop, and other Girl Scout leaders about opportunities and resources in your community. After all, they also live there and know people in the community. So put their knowledge to use!
For specific skills and or badges, such as the girls want to work on their Brownie Hiker or Junior Geocacher badges, you can ask your troop members (and their parents) if they know someone that enjoys those activities and would be willing to share their skills/knowledge by leading an activity with the troop. You won’t always be able to find a local expert or outing for every badge topic, but chances are if you’ve got a list of 8 badges the girls want to earn this year, taking that list to your troop’s network and asking for their help connecting with local experts or hobbyists will net you some guest speakers or activity leaders.
Another great resource in your network are the other troop leaders in your area. These leaders have already spent time and effort exploring their communities and are awesome assets in your search for cost-effective things to do in your community. Plus, they usually love sharing the fun (and sometimes wacky) things their troop has done over the years! So the next time you are at your area’s troop leader meeting ask for recommendations of outings and community speakers that other troops have used that were low cost and fun. You’ll leave the meeting with a list of girl-approved activities and experiences (and probably some hilarious stories, too!).
Need some more options? While every community is different, we’ve collected some common resources our leaders have recommended over the years. Check them out, ask your network, and see what opportunities your troop can find in their local community for some wholesome Girl Scout fun!
Some Common Community Resources
- Local Parks & Recreation Districts: many counties across our council have nature and environmental education opportunities available for youth through their local park district or a nearby state park. Generally these opportunities are tax payer funded and may be offered a low to no cost for residents of the district. If you Google Park District or State Park near me, you can often find information on resources available in your community.
- Local Fire & Police Departments: first responders are an important part of your local community and often want to share their knowledge and skills with area youth. So ask the local fire or police department if they have youth tours, or can send a guest speaker to cover part of your age level’s Safety Award. Some local fire departments and paramedics will even offer first aid training for youth at little cost.
- Financial Institutions: many local financial institutions have goals for educating youth in the community on financial literacy topics that pair nicely with our badges. With national initiatives like Teach Children to Save, these institutions are looking for opportunities to share their knowledge with local youth. So ask a local bank (maybe where your troop checking account is) if they’ll give the girls a tour of the bank and help your girls earn a financial literacy or entrepreneur badge.
- Solid Waste Districts: it may seem a bit odd to plan a field trip to the water treatment plant, but exploring how things work is a great way to inspire young minds. Check with your county solid waste district to see what educational and outreach presentations or tours they offer residents on topics like recycling, solid waste, drinking water, and wastewater systems.
- Soil & Water Conservation District: did you know that there is an organization in your county who promotes using natural resources like soil and water wisely? And some of them have education staff who will offer low cost programs, workshops, and other resources to educate area youth on conversing our natural resources. So check out what’s available in your area. For more information contact your county’s Soil & Water Conservation District staff.
- OSU Extension Offices: the Ohio State University extension office in your county is a great resource for local information on community contacts for a variety of topics related to agriculture, natural resources, and more. Volunteers have been able to connect with local experts on things like gardening, sewing, and photography by contacting their local extension office.