Rally Troop: multi-age troop for all GS Levels

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If you are involved in recruiting for your service unit, then you know how frustrating it is to have a list of girls looking for a troop and no leaders available to start a new troop.  It breaks my heart.  So this year I finally decided to do something about it.  When we have new girls interested in joining, we will first try to find a traditional troop for them to join, but if none exists, or they are too full, then we’ll invite them to join the “Rally Troop”.  We’ll have gatherings once per month so the girls will at least have the experience of attending a meeting monthly, plus they will be invited to all of our SU events (and be connected to the council with their events as well.)

Now don’t forget that I still have my troop of 12 Seniors (all freshman in high school), and you’ll hear more about them later, but this is specifically for K-8th grade girls.  What I am hoping is that troops will form out of the groups that meet for the Rally Troop once the families see how much fun we are having (and hopefully we’ll have a chance to do some adult coaching too.)  If each age group has an adult that can coordinate an outing or field trip each month, then the girls will be getting a full GS experience.

I needed a location , leaders to help with each level, and a cookie mom and treasurer to help run the Rally Troop.  I will coordinate all of the administrative stuff for the Rally troop girls (registration, email communications, etc.)

A local school donated their multi-purpose room space for us to meet on Sunday Afternoons for two hours.  Luckily 3 generous women stepped up to help me create a plan for the badge workshops.  Cookie Mom and Treasurer – still looking for those lucky volunteers. 🙂

Read below to see how this is going to work.  (In my mind this will be successful, but I will be sure to share the actual outcome in another month!)

badge_juniorgswayBadge Workshops for 4 of the months
We are going to host 4 of the meetings as “Badge Workshops” and we’ll invite all current GS members (in our town) to attend as well if they want to earn the badge too.  This will make sure that we have a good number of girls in each level.  We’ll break the girls out into GS levels, and work on the badge appropriate to their level.  Girls will do an opening and closing together, and break up to work on their badge requirements.   Girls who are currently in a troop will pay $5 to cover the cost of the badge and the materials to attend the Badge Workshop.  The girls in the Rally Troop will be invited for free (they will be doing cookie sales together later this year to fund their workshops)

badge_dancerBadge Workshop Topics
The 4 leaders met together and decided to coordinate the badge topics so we could somewhat share resources and have a theme.  The Daisy level will be working on 2-3 petals at each meeting, but joining in when we do a group activity.  Many of the Brownie and Junior activities will tie in perfectly with their petal requirements too.  (Trust me, there will be a little flexibility on the petal requirements, you sometimes have to be a bit creative)

  • First Aid Badges – all levels (Daisies can incorporate Friendly & Helpful, Responsible for What I Say and Do, Courageous and Strong Petals, etc.).  We’ll be inviting First Responders to come and do a show & tell; inviting an EMT, Nurse, or other experienced first aider to help each level, girls will put together first aid kits, etc.
  • Performance Arts Badges (Brownie: Dancer; Junior: Music; Cadette: Public Speaking). Goal is to also do an investiture/rededication ceremony at this meeting too (a great opportunity for the Cadettes to practice with their public speaking!)
  • Artist Badges (Brownie: Painter; Junior: Drawing; Cadette: Comic Artist).  Should be a fun and messy meeting!badge_juniordrawing
  • Girl Scout Way Badges – all levels.  Here is where we’ll teach some traditional songs, prepare some skits for our upcoming campfire, and prepare for our bridging ceremony the next month.

Other Meetings throughout the year
We have a few all-scouts meetings that we do every year.  The Rally Scouts will be included in these events as well, helping to round out the full year of activities:

  • Cookie Rally (right before cookie season)
  • World Thinking Day Celebration – all the other troops will be hosting booths.  Our brand new Rally girls will be invited to attend as participants.
  • All Scout Campfire – where they will perform those songs and skits prepared during the Girl Scout Way Badge workshop.
  • Court of Honor and Bridging Ceremony.  Finish out the year with a bridging celebration and a Court of Honor to celebrate the girls achievements and the wonderful contributions of our volunteers.

What about the Senior and Ambassador Girls?
We have a very “top heavy” service unit, meaning we have more older girls than younger girls currently.  That’s a great problem to have when you need helpers at Badge Workshops, right?  Our Senior and Ambassador girls are invited to attend and we’ll put them to work as teachers, mentors, song leaders, flag ceremony teachers, etc.  Having a troop of Senior girls myself, I know the minimal availability of their time, and how many other activities pull them from scouting.  I wanted these Sunday afternoon workshops to be optional for them.  Show up and we’ll put your leadership to work, but if you have too much homework, that should come first.  While it would be great to have this as a “girl led” program, sometimes necessity has to take over and we need the adults to do the behind-the-scenes prep work for the workshops, then invite the older girls to attend if they have the time.  Most of them have earned these badges and will be able to easily jump in as helpers.

So that’s the plan!  We are blessed to have some very courageous leaders that have volunteered to help with this program.  One of the leaders even said that she grew up in a multi-age troop and loved it!  So we’ll see, this may be a means to an end (getting new troops started) or it may be the beginning of brand new multi-age troop.  I promise to report back after the first meeting and share all the details in case you want to try the same thing in your service unit.


How to build a lighted parade float.

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We have a lighted parade in our town every Fall to celebrate the Harvest.  This is such a fun parade and we have had so much fun building our floats.  So much more fun than sitting in the hot sun during our 4th of July parade!  While it is a little more work (OK, it’s a lot more work) to build a lighted float, it still is a great way to share Girl Scouting.

If you do a google search for lighted parades, you’ll find a ton of holiday (Christmas) ideas, but very little for other themes.  I had seen someone at another parade use pool noodles to make these huge flowers and thought they would look amazing with little lights added.  Since it is so late in the year, I couldn’t find pool noodles, but they did have pipe insulation at the hardware store that worked perfectly.  Take each piece of pipe insulation and make a big loop and secure with a zip tie, then zip tie each of the loops together on the side until you have 6 loops secured together.  You need 10 feet of lights for each loop.  Walmart has single color light strings at 20′ each, so three strings linked together covered the entire flower.  Bunch a small string of white lights in the middle for the flower center.  Then you need to attach a support going up and down and a cross bar as well.  Wood worked great here, because we were then able to screw them into the sides of the trailer.


Get a small generator to go on your trailer and LOTS of extension cords and link everything up.   Purchase a large container of zip ties of various sizes, you will need a lot!


We added rope lights around the sides of the trailer and up over the arch.  We have a portable music speak, so we brought the iPad and played Melinda Caroll’s “Ignite Girl Scouts” song as we went along the parade route.   A super fun night!

Getting ready for World Thinking Day 2014

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wtd_patch_2014World Thinking Day can be either the best event of the year, or it can be a complete stress on the leaders.  It all depends on how you approach it.  Many troops designate another parent to lead the WTD planning and preparation, which I think is great, but it is super important to remember that this should be a Girl Led, Girl Planned, and Girl Executed event.  So your booth might not look as polished and complete as YOU would like it to, but the girls need to take ownership.  You can always tell which booths were made by the parents and which ones were made by the girls.  It’s sort of like the whole 5th grade Science Project  when Sally shows up with her nuclear reactor experiment on the back of a flat bed truck.  Now who really did the work?

Here’s the info for World Thinking Day 2014:  http://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/global/world_thinking_day/

I am excited about this theme “education opens doors for all girls and boys”.  School is something that all our girls understand, but it’s a new concept for them to think that other kids might not have the same opportunities as they do.  There will be new resources up on the World Thinking Day website here soon. (only 2013 and older info right now):  http://www.worldthinkingday.org/en/activities10

I had the privilege of viewing a documentary this summer called Girl Rising (http://girlrising.com/) that addresses the power of education to change the world by following 9 girls in 9 different countries and telling their stories.  If you get the opportunity to see this, please do.  It is not appropriate viewing for younger girls, but age 13 and up would greatly benefit from seeing this.  This film ties in directly with our WTD theme for 2014.

I am hoping that my girls will select a country where girls do not have the same opportunities for education, so they can see how important it is for us to champion for the rights of girls everywhere.    Feel free to comment and share your ideas for WTD.  How do you choose your country, what activities do you do in your booth?  Does your Service Unit host a big event, or is this just a troop activity?

Whatever you do, remember Girl Led and let the girls take ownership for the success (or failure) of the project.  They will always learn more by planning a project with their own ideas.  A little guidance to help them think through each idea is always appropriate (so they don’t attempt to build a 10 foot Eiffel tower without thinking through how to transport and how to keep it safe from falling over), but let them dream big and I think you’ll be amazed at what fun ideas they come up with.


World Thinking Day Mexico Booth

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This year our troop decided to showcase Mexico for our World Thinking Day Country.  The hardest part was coming up with the food that we were going to serve.  We tried horchata (sweetened rice milk), Aqua Fresca (diluted pineapple pulp drink on ice), Mexican Hot Chocolate, Chips & Salsa, Taquitos (not really mexican, I know), and Mexican wedding cookies.  We ultimately decided on the Chips and Salsa.  Simple and everyone loved it.

The fun part was our “milagros” craft.  Milagros means miracle and is usually a charm pinned on a saint from someone who experiences a miracle and is thankful.  For example, if you had a heart transplant and survived, you might pin a heart charm on your favorite saint as a thank you. (this is such a simplistic explanation, check out the wikipedia definition for more info).  We toned that down a bit and just had the girls make a milagro about something they were thankful for.

We took the cheap tin pans that you can buy at the dollar store and flattened them out.  Cut off the tall edges first, then flatten out the inside (where the indents and embossed wording might be) with a rolling pin, or other smooth object.  Do this on a hard smooth surface to get the best results.  We traced a heart shape on the tin and cut these out.  The girls used dull pencils or the ends of paint brushes to “draw” their design on the heart, then we hot-glued a pin on the back.  The girls were very creative with their designs.  It was tricky trying to show the girls how to write a word “backwards” so it would show up embossed on the other side.  The older girls got it, but not so much for the younger ones.

Their costume was the tricky part.  I had visions of making colorful circle skirts for each of the girls, but that was so unrealistic with my time.  My friend found striped fleece blankets (with fringe) at Walmart on sale for like $3.50 each!  We were able to make TWO ponchos out of each blanket.  Add a sombrero and the girls looked great!  So the colors may not be traditional Mexican colors, but they were cute.

The girls made some tissue paper flowers to cover the poles of our shade pop up tent and then posters with the Mexican flag, a map, and some info about Girl Scouts in Mexico.  Overall a great success.


How to build a fake campfire

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Have you searched all over the internet for how to make a fake campfire for indoor scout activities?  Well, I did.  I needed a fake campfire for our float that we were building for our town’s lighted parade this September.  I would have a hard time explaining the $100 expense to purchase the pre-made fake campfire, so I figured I could make my own for a lot less.  Here’s the only decent photo I got of the parade float and you can barely see the fire in front of the pink tent (but wasn’t that cool the way we made the pink tent glow?)

OK, back to the fire.  Here are few more photos from when we last used it indoors:

Can you see the green crate under the wood?  This is what holds the “mechanics” of the fire.  We have to stack wood around the crate to make it look like a fire and this is the only part that needs a little work (not to mention it is a pain to cart in all this wood).  Inside the crate, held together with zip ties and a few bamboo sticks for support, are two light fixtures (the clip on type from the hardware store), one with a yellow light and one with an outdoor red flood light.  Go for the extra cost on the flood light, gives a much better glow.  Put these at the bottom of the crate, then rig a small personal fan (like this one) above the lights (this is where the bamboo sticks came in handy).  Above the fan (on top of the crate) line up 3 more bamboo sticks (the kind you find in the garden center for plant stakes) and tape them to the top at a diagonal (but all three are parallel to each other).  Take a white plastic grocery bag and cut out three large flames from the all-white part of the bag.  The plastic from these bags is super thin and light and floats perfectly when lined up with the fan.

Here are the girls putting the wood around the green crate.  You can see the red light on the plastic flames.  Use zip ties to pull all the cords together and attach them to an inexpensive power strip (not the expensive power surge computer type).  When I think of a way to camouflage the power cord running to the wall outlet, I will let you know.

We just cut down an old pine tree and I have a bunch of bark that has released from the wood.  I think I’ll figure out a way to attached the much lighter bark to the outside of the crate so I don’t have to drag the firewood when we want to use it.  Some fake rocks at the bottom would give a good look too.  Watch for fake fire Part II when I have the improvements made.

Anyway, while this is maybe not as clean and neat as the pre-made fires, mine only cost about $30 to put together (got the fan on sale at the end of the summer).   I’ll try to get some more pics of the fire in the dark next time we use it!

Celebrating Juliette

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Most of you know that our founder, Juliette Gordon Low was born on October 31st (Halloween), so it is an extra special day in Girl Scouts.  This month our troop hosted what we call a “Scout Shout”, a monthly meeting where all the girl scouts in our area get together for a fun activity.  Since we hosted on October 29th, this was the perfect opportunity to work on our “Girl Scout Way” badge for most of the girls.  We held a wide game that centered around celebrating Juliette’s birthday.  Look in the Junior Girl’s Guide for a sample of a wide game listed in the badge sheet for Girl Scout Way.  We used several of these stations and modified them a bit to accommodate our location.

I just had to share my little pumpkin carved in honor of Girl Scouting.  I was going to carve the trefoil, but then realized I would have a really large hole in the middle of the pumpkin (that would not look so good!), so went for the GS logo with the smaller trefoil in the corner.

The girls started with a craft (a Halloween craft, in honor of Juliette’s birthday), then went on to a station where they had to act out a character.  The next station had a quick introduction to using a compass and then on to the “learn how to fold a flag” station.  Our final station was our “campfire” where the girl’s learned how they would greet a Girl Scout from another country and sang some traditional songs.  (I will share how we made our own “fake campfire” in another post).

And of course, Juliette had to make an appearance.  Here she is with Rapunzel.  I have to give credit for the costume to a good friend from another town who has collected tons of Vintage Girl Scout uniforms and paraphernalia.  She put together this great costume and I have borrowed it a few times.

What amazes me about Juliette is that she didn’t start the Girl Scouts until she was well into her 40’s.  Love the example that sets for all us adults too!  Happy Birthday Juliette!