Guest Editorial: How to Take on Girl-Led Service Projects
by Kate Harold
Service is important to many of our troop’s families, and of course it’s a big part of what Girl Scouts is about.
Last year my co-leader and I decided to embark on a service project with our troop that would last throughout the school year, rather than being a one-time event. At that time, our troop consisted of 13 second grade Brownies and one sixth grade Cadette.
After our first year being a troop together, we received feedback that many of the girls and their families liked participating in the service projects we did. We decided it was important to make service a big element of each troop year’s activities going forward.
In keeping with the Girl Scout aim that activities be girl-led, we wanted to let the girls have a say in what service project we did. Here’s how we did it.
Early on in the year at one of our meetings, we presented the girls with three service projects: collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, collecting broken crayons to be recycled, and making no-sew fleece blankets for children in foster care. The girls then voted on the project they wanted to do, using pennies that they dropped into jars. For our voting jars, we use old Play-Doh containers, cleaned out and with a slot cut in the lid, which we connect with the tenet to “use resources wisely” from the Girl Scout Law.
The girls chose to make the no-sew fleece blankets. I used the fall to coordinate the project and purchase materials. Our Cadette helped shop for and purchase the fleece. Then I set up four different dates throughout the winter to make the blankets. Parents volunteered to host blanket-making sessions in their homes. This worked well as it allowed every girl in the troop to be able to participate in a session when it worked best with her schedule.
At each session, the hosting parent talked with the girls about what they were doing and why.
Once all of the blankets were made, we used time during one of our troop meetings to discuss Warm Welcomes, the organization that would be receiving our donations. The girls learned about what foster care is, what other types of items the organization collects for children in foster care, and how and why these donations are helpful.
We ended the year by taking our blankets with us on an outing to Warm Welcomes. One of the founders of the organization met with us, talked to the girls about the organization, and showed us around the facility. We gave each girl a question to ask the founder while we were there. We wrote these down on paper so the girls wouldn’t forget their question. They asked things like, “Have you had other Girl Scout troops make blankets for your organization?” and “What kind of service projects did you do when you were little?” and “Were you a Girl Scout when you were our age?” This not only helped to keep their attention, but also allowed the girls, rather than the adults, to lead the discussion.
The project worked so well last year that we will be following a similar plan for this year. At our first meeting this year, we again presented the troop with three service projects to vote on, tying each into one or more tenets in the Girl Scout Law. The girls cast their votes, and we’ll get started on planning how to carry out the project at our next meeting. My co-leader and I hope these ongoing projects will instill understanding in the girls and a passion for making the world a better place that they will carry with them into their adulthood.
Kate Harold has been a Girl Scout troop leader since 2012, first for her older daughter’s troop and now for her younger daughter’s. She appreciates the doors that open up for the troop when the words “Girl Scouts” are mentioned to various organizations throughout the community. Kate is a freelance writer who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and their three kids.