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.

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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

When do adults stop believing in their creativity?

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Take a look at this sweet video from the folks at Brit+Co.  They inspire creativity for women with tutorials, projects and an online store.  If you work with a troop of girls, then you know that they are all amazing artists and always believe that their art should receive top billing on the refrigerator art gallery.  When do we stop thinking of ourselves as creative?  Maybe you still do think you are creative (a lot of scout leaders are), but when was the last time you did something creative just for YOU?

I spend easily spend a lot of time on Pinterest.  I love looking at ideas, and can get easily sucked in to spending an hour just browsing and pinning.  I even have a board named “Stuff I want to make”.  What I don’t have is a board called “Stuff I made”.  That’s sad.  I need to stop pinning and start doing!  In case you need some additional inspiration for your own creativity (well OK, you can look for ideas for your troop too), here’s some fun sites that I like to visit:

Instructables:  DIY How to Make Instructions

Craftsy: Learn it. Make It.

Craftster:  No Tea Cozies without irony.  Amazing community of crafters willing to share their ideas.

CraftGawker:  Curated photo gallery of handmade arts & crafts.

Brit & Co:  Educating, Inspiring and Supporting Makers.

MakeZine:  If your taste runs more towards robotics, electronics, rocketry, woodworking, this site is for you.

Have fun exploring, but don’t forget to take time for yourself and just create.  And next time the girls are working with paint and glue, get in there with them.  Girl Led does not mean that the girls get to have all the fun!  Be a fun example for the girls to always think of themselves as an artist.   Leave a comment if there are any other fun sites that you visit for creative inspiration.

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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Troop Snack and School Lunch ideas

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I think the worst thing about back to school is making lunches every morning. It’s too expensive to do hot lunch for the kids everyday, so I pack up lunches for the kids.  I found this website with some amazing ideas for non-sandwich lunches, then I realized that a lot of these would make great snacks for troop meetings too.  Thanks to Keely McGuire and her amazing compilation of lunch ideas, you are sure to find something that the girls will enjoy for troop meetings.  (and her recipes are gluten-free and allergy-free too, so you’ve got everyone covered).  My favorite are the little Italian mini quiches.

You can find this recipe here:  Lunch Made Easy .  She swapped out the pepperoni with GF bacon to keep them allergy free.  So clever. 

Planning a good troop meeting

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Are you having a hard time getting the girls to settle down or work together at your meetings?  The best way to cure the crazies at your meeting is to have a plan and keep the same routine for each meeting.  Girls know what is expected, gives them a sense of order and makes planning easier for the adults and the girls.

Include each of the following in your meetings:

Pre-Opening:  Always have something for the girls to do while everyone arrives.  It can be as simple as crayons and paper (even for older girls!).  Give them a challenge when they arrive to draw their portrait or something they want to share with the rest of the group.  Have a game ready to start that is easy to join in to for the girls as they arrive.  Duck Duck Goose, Red Light Green Light, or any game in a circle where others can join in.  Sing a fun camp song, it’s always great to hear a group singing when you arrive.

As your girls get older, have the patrol that is responsible for the opening do their prep time while the others are playing a game.  You might also have journals for each of the girls to write something about their week or what they are looking forward to at the meeting.

Opening:  Brings everyone together and signals that the meeting has begun.  Flag Ceremony, Song, Circle Time Sharing are examples of an opening.  If your girls are new to each other, this is a great time to play a name-game, or a game where you all learn something about the other girls (like favorite food, color, animal, etc.).

Business:  Where the girls make the decisions for the troop.  Collect dues, plan outings, create a kaper chart.  Review your past outing, did everything go as planned?  What would they change for the next outing?  The key here is for the GIRLS to do the planning (with gentle guidance from the leaders).

Major Activity:  This should be a fun activity, possibly working toward a Badge, learning a new skill, making something, creating a presentation for another troop.  This can be any topic that the girls are interested in.  Tap into your parents in the troop for their expertise.  Many parents will be thrilled to come teach the girls about their favorite hobby.  Don’t forget about that talented Aunt, neighbor, or your best friend, they can be a great resource for teachers.

Clean Up:  Before the parents arrive, make sure the girls participate in the clean-up process.  For us, that means putting tables and chairs away before leaving, so more hands is better.  For little girls, sing a clean-up song as you go so everyone stays focused.

Closing:  This is really important, so try not to let your meeting time slip away and skip this part.  It’s a great time to give the girls encouragement and praise, remind them of what you discussed today, share a short moment of girl scout sisterhood.  Most troops do this with a closing friendship circle where one girl starts a friendship squeeze that goes around the circle.  Each girl makes a wish before sending the squeeze to the person next to her.  Arms are crossed right over left and holding the hand of the two people next to you.  When all are done, girls raise their arms and the circle “twists” up and out to release the girls.  You can also have the girls sing a song, or share a compliment about someone else in the group.

Try this simple plan over your next few meetings and you’ll see girls come in to the room excited to start and asking how they can help get ready for the meeting!