Our troop is in a transition time with the girls entering 6th grade.  Some girls are getting super busy with outside activities and others might be losing interest.  Surprisingly, we also have 4 new girls wanting to join the troop.  Most of the members of the troop have been together since 1st grade, and I know they will look back on their Girl Scout time together and say “we had so much fun together”.   But other things are pulling them away…

And that is a GOOD THING!  We don’t want the girls to be only focused on Girl Scouting, we want them to find their passion, to find what motivates them, and to THRIVE!  So this is where the flexibility comes in.  As a leader, you need to keep the door open and revolving for many of the girls.  It needs to be inclusive (that comes from the leaders, the girls won’t be showing this much until they are a bit older) and we need to encourage the girls that are interested in other things that they don’t have to choose.

In my troop, I have an Irish Dancer that takes classes twice a week, a Ballerina that takes classes 3 times a week, another girl who is involved in local Drama productions, another on both the Swim team and the Volleyball team, and another one who is on an elite Softball team and probably heading for a Softball scholarship to college.  How can these girls do this AND be a part of the troop?   By keeping your troop open, offering lots of opportunities for interaction (not just troop meetings) and being supportive of their accomplishments.  By the time the girls are Cadettes, the troop should really be “girl led” (I have already gotten on the soap box about that one in this post).  This means that the girls are deciding which activities are important to them, which badges they want to earn, what fun field trips they would like to take.

Softball Girl is able to attend meetings, but most of the weekend activities are off limits because of tournaments.  I make sure we have at least one fun outing in the fall and another in the spring that she can attend.   I make sure that our meeting times don’t conflict with the dance classes of my year-round dancers.  Girls in sports are encouraged to take a few months off from meetings and then come back when practices are over after the season ends.  We continue on with badges, but make sure that all girls know they are welcome to come and go as needed.  Drama Girl takes a break whenever she is involved in a play.   By focusing on what is making these girls thrive, I am able to keep them interested in Girl Scouting.

Here in Northern California, we have a partnership with the Thrive Foundation where we encourage girls to find their “spark”, what motivates them, what gives them joy.  You can find complete information about the program here: ThriveFoundation.org  I love that the program asks the girls to find a Spark Champion, someone who will help them either find their spark, or help them become delve deeper into a spark that they already have.  This might be you, their Scout Advisor, or it might be their parent, coach, a teacher, or someone in a position to mentor a girl in her area of interest.  Girl Scouting is the perfect place for girls to try out different “spark opportunities” and they may find something that really interests them.  A girls’ spark is not always a tangible “talent” like dance or music, it might be that a girl gets great joy in helping children.  You can help her find opportunities where she can put this into action.  Or maybe her spark is that she is really interested in reading.  Show her how she can share that love with others, or even start a blog where she reviews the books she reads, or maybe introduce her to a book club.  Anything that keeps their spark growing.

As the girls get older, the Girl Scout troop needs to evolve to meet the needs of its members. Asking girls to attend 6-10 meetings in a row to complete the journey they need for their Gold Award might not work for everyone’s schedule, but plan an overnight weekend to complete 90% of the journey all together at once and suddenly you have the girls excited to get together for a sleepover. If not everyone can make it, partner with another older girl troop and plan two weekends and let the girls choose which one they can attend.

I am certainly not going to say that this makes planning easy for the leader/advisor of the troop, but if you have been with the girls for a while, then you are invested in their lives. An extra weekend investment is certainly a small price for a lifetime of memories, and giving them the knowledge that there are adults that care about their future and their goals.

If you have an older girl troop, I would love to hear your ideas for being a “flexible” leader and how you keep your troop together. Feel free to share in the comments.