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.

Badge Tracker for all GS Levels

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Part of my leader tracking/planning binder includes a Badge Tracker.  This Free PDF includes all of the levels from Daisy through Ambassador, print multiple copies of each page for the number of girls in your troop.  Keep them in a binder and track their accomplishments during the year.  Newly updated to include the NEW 2015 Outdoor badges, this is a must for all Leaders.  Also includes the GS Resume page for girls to keep track of their other accomplishments each year.  Note that this is NOT a fillable PDF, it is intended to print and then fill in manually in a binder.  I keep this in my troop binder, along with the rest of my planner and carry it with me to troop meetings and SU meetings, updating as needed.  As the girls get older, you can let them keep track of their own badge accomplishments and have you “sign off” when they are completed.

If you like the “Owl and Tree” design and want the other parts of my bindery system (Meeting Planner, Camping Planner, Product Sales Tracker, etc), they are available at my etsy store:  SonomaStudio

Leave me a comment if you would like this tracker with another design style, or if you have an idea for another type of planner/tracker that would help you as a leader!

DOWNLOAD PDF:  TroopGuide_BadgeTracker2015: Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior, Ambassador

Badge_Cad-Amb Badge_CadetteOnly Badge_Daisy-Junior

What type of lab tests are they running at the Girl Scout Research Institute?

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Did you know that the Girl Scouts have their own Research Institute? While it sounds like they might conduct experiments on girl test subjects, it is actually an amazing resource of information for leaders, parents and girls. They do their own national studies, and also use information from other sources to synthesize findings about anything related to the healthy development of girls.

All the publications are available for free as PDF downloads, or you can sometimes order printed copies from the GSUSA store. This has been a valuable resource when I am creating a presentation about Girl Scouts or needing information for grant applications. The latest paper is Running for a Change: Girls and Politics Pulse Poll.  This paper polled girls about their ambitions, interests and ideas regarding the differences for men and women in politics.  Looking at any other GSI research paper, you’ll find that girls absolutely think that they can lead, have the skills and ability to lead, are good negotiators, and have the confidence to express their own opinions.  Sadly, when asked if they “would have to work harder than a man to be successful in politics”, 74% of the girls agreed.  When asked if they are smart enough to have a career in politics, 84% said “yes” (way to go girls!), but only 32% said that society encourages girls to consider a career in politics.  Don’t you sometimes look at the politicians and think “who would put themselves through that just to be in office?”.  The truth is that we NEED women in politics. We need our voice to be represented, we need the female negotiation skills and we need to encourage our girls to consider this very noble career choice.

womeninpoliticsI just finished watching an episode of Makers on PBS that was all about women in politics.  It was eye opening to hear about the women who have paved the way for a new generation of female leaders in government.  The challenges that they faced were enormous, the bias and sexism was appalling, but through all of this we see how women are willing to negotiate, put aside the posturing and get the job done.  It was inspiring to hear that it was the women of the Senate that were instrumental in bringing an end to the Government Shutdown in 2013 when a group of bipartisan women came together and lead the discussions to compromise that reopened the government.   We raise our boys to be strong, hold firm, and “stick to their guns”, so it is no surprise when the women are the ones willing to get real and begin the negotiations.

Women have a valuable voice and we need to encourage our girls to consider their role as part of the decision making engine that runs our country.  Our girls are now growing up in a world where they know they can do anything.  A few years ago, while doing the AMUSE journey, we put out a list of career choices at a troop meeting and asked the girls to define which ones are for boys and which ones are for girls.  I was so pleasantly surprised when the girls listed astronaut, firefighter, police officer, construction worker, business owner, etc. under the “both” category.  They no longer see gender bias on the career that they can choose, so we have come a long way in just one generation.  Let’s keep them on this path and encourage them to pursue careers where they really can “change the world”.

For a full list of publications available from the Girl Scout Research Institute, visit the GSUSA web page here.

What would you write to your daughter?

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VintageCampImage2

Girl Scout Camp 1923

I came across a letter written by author F. Scott Fitzgerald while getting my fix of blog reading this morning.  (By the way, I traveled to Morocco, Dubai, and Mississippi during my half hour of reading).  One of the blogs linked to this letter, perfect for us to share here because it was written by Fitzgerald to his daughter “Scottie” while she was away at camp.  I am not sure what kind of camp it was, be he refers to her reading in French.  We don’t teach french at our camps.  never will.  just sayin.  We also don’t have a library with Shakespeare.  but I am not opposed to that idea.

It made me think about what I would write to my daughter when she was away at camp.  Truly nothing quite so inspiring as what F. Scott wrote (can I call him F. Scott? Or is that impertinent?) Since I am not a famous author, I won’t hold myself to his standards, but this letter is truly a work of art (and full of love for his daughter).  I love this letter.  It speaks volumes about their relationship.

Well, you read and let me know what you think:

La Paix, Rodgers’ Forge
Towson, Maryland

August 8, 1933

Dear Pie:

I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy — but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed pages, they never really happen to you in life.

All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs “Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

Have had no thoughts today, life seems composed of getting up aSaturday Evening Post story. I think of you, and always pleasantly; but if you call me “Pappy” again I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?

I will arrange the camp bill.

Halfwit, I will conclude.

Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about Cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship
Worry about. . .

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Daddy

P.S. My come-back to your calling me Pappy is christening you by the word Egg, which implies that you belong to a very rudimentary state of life and that I could break you up and crack you open at my will and I think it would be a word that would hang on if I ever told it to your contemporaries. “Egg Fitzgerald.” How would you like that to go through life with — “Eggie Fitzgerald” or “Bad Egg Fitzgerald” or any form that might occur to fertile minds? Try it once more and I swear to God I will hang it on you and it will be up to you to shake it off. Why borrow trouble?

Love anyhow.

 Post inspired by:  Letters of Note

If your house is messy, you are probably a Scout Leader…

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You’re a Girl Scout leader, and I know that you have WAY better things to do than spend time cleaning the house.  Not to mention that you also probably have BINS of scout supplies creeping into every room of your house.   Relax, my Girl Scout warriors, these are signs of someone who spends their time with value, with caring for their own family and for those beyond their doors, someone who has a passion for our future leaders and someone who probably cares about the state of the world, choosing to fight for better opportunities for those in their very own community.  So display your dust-bunnies with pride, there will be plenty of time to clean when the kids are on their own.

I have a neighbor whose house is always tidy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love going to her house!  She may not always have the dishes done, but the house is always very tidy and clean.  A friend came to stay with them and when he saw my house, he looked at her and said “You spend too much time cleaning, look at Darcy’s house, you can tell that she has children living there.” While I knew that was not an accolade to my parenting or cleaning skills, I did take it as a compliment.  That means that people are comfortable here.  A kick off your shoes, put your feet on the coffee table, help yourself to the fridge type of comfortable.  Our house is small, so we do most of our entertaining during the summer in the big backyard.  It too is a bit rustic and we have to dust and de-spider-web everything before we use it (the joys of country living).   I should just pack people inside my little house and let everyone be cozy, right?  Always embarrassed that I don’t have the big living room and big dining room, but wouldn’t that just mean more space to CLEAN?

I recently came across an amazing blog post from Momestery.  You will love her take on the state of her 80’s style kitchen.  When she posted a picture on her popular blog, several people offered ways to “improve” and “update” the look of the kitchen.  This is her response.  Priceless.  Give me Gratitude or Give me Debt.  She had me laughing out loud to her reference to warm diet coke.  Seriously, what did those pioneer women do?  You’ll just have to read the article to understand.

So, in an accolade to Momestery, here is my kitchen in all it’s 80’s pergo floor and oak cabinet style, complete with dog biscuits (and dog in her kennel), dishes on the counter where just a few hours ago, lunches were made with love for my not-so-little-anymore kids.  I am blessed to have a kitchen, to have a family, and to have someplace to call home. Kitchen_photo Now it’s time to get back to planning our troop meetings.  The laundry will just have to wait….

Gearing up for Troop Meetings

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We all know how important the snack is to the success of a meeting (wink)!  Creating a snack calendar at the beginning of the year is very important for your sanity (and your wallet).  Here’s a free PDF Snack Calendar that is editable in Adobe Acrobat.  You can enter the meeting dates, then print the schedule and bring to the first meeting.  Have your parents fill in their name on the chosen date.  Take this home and enter all the girls/parents names on your PDF and either print or email to the families so they all have the schedule.   

Another way is to ASSIGN the dates to the families and then let them do a switch with the other parents if they cannot bring snack on that day.  Depends on your style of troop family management.  You decide the way that will work best for your troop.   

TroopGuide_SnackAssignment

TroopGuide_SnackAssignment

 

This snack calendar coordinates with a set of printable organizers I have created and sell on Etsy (shameless plug here) that might be useful for leaders who are starting out (or seasoned leaders that just want to get everything in one place).  I put all my planners in a binder and handwrite the info into the planners.  If you are digital girl, then these might not be the best for you, but I find that I can combine the two pretty well.  Some of the PDF’s have editable fields, but most are intended to be used in the binder at meetings.   When I am at a meeting with the girls, I don’t pull out my computer to track their badge achievements, I either ask a parent or co-leader to do this in the binder (for Daisy & Brownie level) or ask the girls to take care of this on their own (Cadettes and older).  They turn to the page in the binder with their name and enter the date that the badge requirement was completed.  It’s their responsibility to enter the dates if they completed something at home.  This binder comes with me to troop meetings and to Service Unit Meetings, so it’s all in one place.  Keeps me organized.  

How do you keep yourself organized?  Digital or paper, what’s your preference?  

Volunteer Pledge

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I am currently talking with a new leader who is starting her Daisy troop this year and I can remember that feeling of being so excited, but really overwhelmed because their was so much to learn.  As we get ready to jump into a new year with our troops, it’s time to get organized and get ready to delegate.  Yes, delegate.  “But nobody does it as well as I can” you say.  “I want to make sure we do it right” you say.  “Last time I asked her to help, she dropped the ball” you say.  Ah, the famous last words of the lonely leader. This was posted on GreenBlood News (a yahoo group – highly recommend you join):

VOLUNTEER PLEDGE

I promise to keep my volunteer hours in check,
to keep my spirit and my family first and,
to make sure I ask for help when I start to feel overwhelmed.

I vow to compare myself to no one –
my time and contributions are my own special gift and,
to feel proud that I can do what I do.

I vow to compare no one to myself,
to recognize everyone gives their best of their time and abilities,
to always remember it is the pieces that make the whole.

I pledge to accept less than perfect,
to always remember I am a volunteer and,
to celebrate the joy in making a difference.

Start your year off with a pledge to include more adults in the workings of your troop.  The two main roles that a leader should never be in charge of are Treasurer and Product Sales.  You should absolutely get other parents to help you in these roles.  Doesn’t mean that you don’t attend the trainings, or understand how it all works, but delegate these two critical troop roles to another parent.  Then keep what you enjoy the most and ask other parents to help out.  Can’t attend SU meetings?  Get another parent to take on this role for the troop and provide you with notes.  No time to be First Aid/CPR certified?  Get another adult to take this training and commit to being on the outings and meetings with you.  Does planning for Thinking Day make you crazy?  Ask a parent to take on the planning for this one important event.   Here is a list of troop activities that are great for other parents to help with:

  • Nut/Candy Product Sales Manager
  • Cookie Sales Manager
  • Treasurer
  • Thinking Day Coordinator
  • Snack Coordinator
  • Outdoor Camping Certification
  • First Aid Certification
  • Badge Specific teachers (learn the talents of your parents).
  • Field Trip planner/research
  • Registration Helper (getting all the forms completed from each family at the beginning of the year).

Note:  Don’t forget that any parent helping with the troop needs to be registered and volunteer screened. If you can delegate the parts of troop planning that you enjoy the least, then all your time is spent on the things that are fun for you.  Everyone wins, especially the girls, because that means you’ll be back again each year to guide them in Girl Scouts.  

How to keep Girl Scouts fun for older girls

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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.

Free Download – “All About Me” page

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If you are just starting out the year with your troop, you might want to use a fun page of questions to get to know the girls.  It is also VERY fun to keep these for a few years and then show the girls how much they have changed.  I am working with my Cadettes this year to keep a Girl Scout Journal, that will keep track of their GS “resume” (awards earned, community service, etc.) and also what their dreams and goals are for the future.

I saw a questionnaire like this for teachers to use on the first day of school to get to know their students and thought it would be a great addition for a troop leader to use.  If you have new girls joining your troop, it’s a great way to get to know them.

This is free to download and use for your troop.  If you think of other questions that should be included, or maybe questions that would be best for each age level, let me know and I will make up some new ones for younger girls.

TroopGuide_AllAboutMe (PDF)

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New Planners for Girl Scout Leaders

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I just uploaded a set of new planners for Girl Scout Leaders to Etsy.  I think you will really like these organizational tools that will help you get ready for the new school year.

Reference_group1The main thing that all leaders need is a way to keep track of meetings, contacts, Troop Roster, girl attendance, etc.  The Scout Troop Guide – Meeting & Reference planner ($5.00) is the perfect tool for this!  It’s a PDF downloadable product, so you can save to your computer and print as often as you would like.  I have included a cute cover page for your binder as well!

Reference_Cover

Other items include:

  • School Year Calendar:  Blank calendar for Sept. 2013 to August 2014.  Great for Snack Calendar, Meeting plans, etc.  ($2.50)
  • Campout Planner:  Everything from Menu Planning to First Aid checklist.  A great tool for the Girls to do most of the planning.  ($3.50)
  • Badge Tracker:  EVERY level is included in this PDF.  Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior and Ambassador.  Includes Journey badges, activity badges, religious awards, cookie awards, World Thinking Day, community service, and more.  Print one page for each girl in your troop.  NOW available for FREE Download Here:  https://isthereabadgeforthis.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/badge-tracker-for-all-gs-levels/
  • Multiple Calendar & Personal Planning:  Includes daily to-do list, weekly planner, blank monthly page (you enter the dates), plus a password tracker, personal contact list and birthday/anniversary page.  ($4.00)

Let me know what you think!  If you don’t see a specific item listed here, send me a comment with the specific page that you would like included in a Leader Planner.  If I use the idea, I will send you a FREE set of all of my planners (including your new page!).  I have used these pages for a year now and think they are very helpful, but would love to know how others like them.   I haven’t found anything like the Badge Tracker out there for Girl Scouts.  I keep all my girls’ info in a binder and track each activity based on attendance.

Let’s get organized and ready for a new year!

 

 

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