Another Community Meeting

So, one of the biggest issues I have with my two troops is that they are in two different, but neighboring Communities.  My newer Troop’s Community already met this month, but my older Troop’s Community had it’s first meeting of the year last night.  I didn’t send out an email asking parents to come to this meeting, although I am thinking that it might be a good idea.

My two Communities are actually quite different, even though they share a border, geographically.  Brazos Valley, my original Community, is more of a suburban, stay at home mom kind of area – which you would think leads to more volunteers.  But actually, most stay at home mom’s are already committed up to their eyeballs, because everyone assumes they sit home all day eating bonbons just waiting to be asked to take on that volunteer role that gives them a reason for living . . . wait.😉 Annnnnyways, between driving their daughters to sports practices, music lessons, religious studies, dance classes, tutoring sessions, and volunteering in the PTO, as a room mom, as a coach – stay at home moms are usually as over scheduled as their children in this Community.  By the time new Troops are being formed at the end of September/beginning of October, they are ready to start saying “no”.

Heart of the Brazos, on the other hand, is further out with more farming communities and double income families.  More girls come in with Financial Aid in this Community, and parents have even less time because after working all day, who wants to teach a dozen 6 year old girls how to make friendship bracelets?

But they have very similar monthly meetings.  Our Council would like us to play games, and have ice-breakers at Community meetings, but that really doesn’t work in Brazos Valley – there was nearly booing when it was brought up.  Heart of the Brazos is trying to do a little bit more of that, but not anything extreme.  Mostly, our Community meetings run like this:

  1. Welcome, sign in, grab an agenda and any other handouts
  2. Council News
  3. Upcoming Community Events
  4. Any special speakers (Council reps, Destinations travelers, Council Delegates, etc.)
  5. Ask for volunteers for “blah”
  6. Close (Brazos Valley does door prizes)

IMG_7031Last night was no exception – except that they didn’t have a printed agenda for us. Since I had already heard most of the news from Council at the Heart of the Brazos Meeting, I really only needed to take notes of Brazos Valley specific stuff.  Which there wasn’t a lot of yet.  Rally Night, and Fall Product are the big things for the next three months.  We did get our Troop’s small stuffed hedgehogs from last year’s Cookie Sale (finally) – pretty cute aren’t they?  I also got our next garage sale approved by the Leadership Team after the meeting was over (that’s our Council’s official form for money earning event requests). And I actually won a door prize, I picked the duct tape collection, since my girls decimated our stock at the last meeting . . .😉

Does your Community/Service Unit have meetings like ours?  Do you do more games and songs, like a Troop meeting?

Cadette Safety Award Meeting

Last night was my Cadette/Senior Troop’s first meeting of the year.  One of the awards that the Cadettes voted on earning this year was the Cadette Safety Award, and I thought that would be a great way to start the year.  We had a couple of girls sign up to run the meeting, and the emails were flying fast and furiously over the past two weeks as they prepped.  I made a point of thanking them for their wonderful communication with me, and how they used me as a resource, like Wikipedia, rather than as the person who tells them how to do it.

Opening

The girls were so excited to get started, they almost forgot to do the Pledge, Promise, and Law.🙂 But one of the audience girls reminded us, and after the appropriate amount of facepalming, we did our normal opening.

img_7002Main Activity – Cadette Safety Award

  1. Babyproofing a room – the girls went around the table discussing ideas for making a room safe for younger children.  There was much groaning about the door handle locks their parents used to have.
  2. Water safety – they went around the table again, this time reading out safety guidelines from this handout and explaining why they thought that was an important guideline.  Then they talked about reaching assists and what could be used as an object to help with one.  No one opted to get on the floor to role-play. *grins*
  3. Teaching younger girls about being lost and stranger danger – since this troop is not as multi-level as the other troop, instead of actually teaching younger girls, they talked about how they would teach younger children, and specifically mentioned that this could be something they talk about with younger siblings, or with younger Troops they work with while earning their LiA’s and Service to Girl Scouting bars, or at camp, when we usually share a space with a younger troop.
  4. Emergency Prep – the girls talk about what a 72 hour kit is, why we need one, what kind of emergencies we should prepare for in our area, and why a deck of playing cards is important.  Many of the girls barely remember Hurricane Ike, which rocked our area 8 years ago and had our neighborhood without power for nearly a week. We talked about sheltering in place, and the girls then made deluxe sit-upons, what my Co-Leader and I are calling Version 3.0 (look for a tutorial later this week).  These can be used at camp, but can also be used as a shelter in place style 72 hour kit.  The girls were each given a card with items to be placed the kit listed on it, which was then laminated to the inside of the bucket lid with packing tape.
  5. Bullying – while the girls were crafting their buckets, they also talked about bullying, and created their anti-bullying pledge.

Troop Business

I kind of snuck in and spoke to the girls for 10 minutes while they were crafting to do Troop Business: updating them on our money earning efforts, discussing whether they would use a Google Hangout for outside of meeting discussion, voting on whether we should celebrate our Silver Award recipients on our own or with the whole Community, and reminding them that they will need to sign up to run 2 meetings, if they haven’t already.

Closing

After the duct tape free for all (OMG – have you seen the GALAXY DUCT TAPE?!?!  This is apparently the coolest duct tape to my girls at the moment.  And they did not like me bringing the s’mores duct tape because it made them hungry.*grins* Good thing I didn’t buy that mac and cheese duct tape.), we closed the way we always do: friendship circle, “Make New Friends”, and a friendship squeeze, started by the two girls who ran the meeting.

Trying to earn this award?  Here’s the 72-hour kit handout I created using ideas from the ready.gov website:

72hourkit

Bridging Ceremony Prep

Our next meeting for my multi-level Troop will be our Bridging Ceremony, and Back to Troop Party.  We were supposed to have an End of the Year Party last year, but it was rained out, unfortunately. So we will be using the s’mores making supplies for the upcoming meeting.  My girls wanted to see which Girl Scout Cookies make the best s’mores, so they saved a box of each variety.  This was, of course, before GSUSA announced that we would be selling s’mores inspired Girl Scout Cookies this year, but it seems like an appropriate way to start the year in light of the announcement.

Now the bad thing is that I won’t be able to be at the next meeting – I will be on my next personal adventure to New Mexico.  I mentioned this to the adults, my new Level Leaders and other parents.  Which meant that it would be more than a month before the Troop would be able to really get started.  I thought that kind of stunk, and so did they.  There were tentative questions – “So, what exactly will they be doing?” “Is there something that tells us what to say?”

YES!  They’re getting it!  I don’t have to be there, they CAN DO THIS!  I am so proud of these women!

I said, all we would be doing is a bridging ceremony and then making s’mores.  Easy peasy.  And of course, I can get you a script for the ceremony.  No one expects you to make this stuff up off the top of your head.  So then I went home, and was quickly reminded how few resources exist for multi-level Troops.  All of the multi-level bridging ceremonies I could find were really old (as in before there were Ambassadors, when it was Studio 2B); or really preparation intensive; or only involved a couple of levels (D,B,and J but no Older Girls or vice versa); or was geared towards and entire Service Unit/Community and therefore required too many girls.

One thing I have found is the best way to scare off a new Leader is to make Leading a new Troop too complicated, too time-consuming outside of meetings, too jargon heavy.  Which is why my original Co-Leader and I just spent one year letting the adults of the Troop sit in on meetings and absorb what it means to be a Girl Scout, what it means to be a Troop.  Get the jargon absorbed without the pressure of leading.  I think this is truly one of the benefits to a multi-level Troop situation.  Experienced Leaders can mentor the new ones.

Back to the problem at hand, though: No ceremony that really fits our Troop.  Okaaaaaay.  Guess I’ll take some existing ones, modify them, and whip up a ceremony that fits our Troop.  And because I’m hoping some of you out there might need this help, too, I’m attaching a PDF of our ceremony (made generic as far as Troop number, and names).

Then there was the issue of certificates.  I like having pieces of paper to pin and staple patches to.  My favorite way of handing out patches to new Girl Scouts is to attach them to a drawing of a uniform, placing them where they should be – with fun patches stapled to the back of the sheet of paper.  It makes it easy for parents who may not know where all the bits and bobs of the uniform is supposed to go.  So, I needed certificates to attach the girls’ membership stars, bridging patches, and Brownie Wings to.

Cue internet search.  Never try to reinvent the wheel in Girl Scouts.  Just take an existing wheel and file it down to fit your axle.

Do you know how hard it is to find a decent looking, non cartoony bridging certificate for EVERY LEVEL???  I mean, besides a generic “Bridging Certificate”.  Which I didn’t want. I actually really like the look of the ones GSUSA makes, with the level-colored bar across the bottom, clean lines, and not a lot of ink splashed across the page so that by the time I’m running the Cadette certificates I still have ink left in my printer.  So I tweaked that and made my own version.

And then I realized that the girls who aren’t bridging this year will feel left out if they don’t get a certificate, too – at least the Daisy and Brownie will.  So I also had to make Certificate of Completion for their first year in a level.  The new girls that have just joined our Troop will have to wait until our investiture/rededication to be the center of the ceremony.  We will wait until December for that, after our Community rallies for the year.

So I’ll be heading into our Troop Committee meeting with badge books, packets for the ceremony, and patches and pins for them to assemble.  Since we have more than two weeks until the meeting, and there are four of them, I don’t have a problem delegating the rest of the assembly to them.  I’m not sure if they’re going to love me or hate me for this; but I think of it as part of the learning to be a Leader process.

Click for my Multi-Level Bridging Ceremony PDF. Feel free to modify as you need.  We only have Daisies through Seniors in our Troop, and none of Cadettes are bridging to Seniors this year.

Some other Multi-Level Bridging Ceremony Sources (most of these are either multi-level packets or ceremony packets):

Another Voting Method

I’ve talked about the different ways of voting that I used this year for my Troops to plan their year.  As I was cleaning out my old Troop binders, I found the remains of another method that I particularly liked for my Cadettes.  At that age, it seems hard to get girls to stop talking, and even harder to get them to tell you how they really feel – especially if it goes contrary to the herd . . . ahem, I mean Troop.  Blind voting using the heads down, hands up method works great for Brownies and Juniors, but once they hit middle school/junior high, it’s whole different ballgame.

So, before I went high tech with online surveys, I used stickers. I would hang printouts around our meeting space and give the girls a restricted number of stickers.  Then I would let them go swarm around, look at the different options and put stickers on the ones they wanted to do.  There was usually small conversations going at each sheet, but knowing that they had a limited amount of time limited that, as well.  Time limits are VERY important at this age range.  Cadettes can talk and talk and talk and talk . . .

You can see some of the voting sheets I made during last year: a set for events going on in our Community, a set for songs we would teach at the Girl Scout Ways Badge Workshop (the girls voted “yes” to that one!), and a set for the badges we would try to earn.  The badge voting sheets were actually passed around the table as I explained what each of the badges actually were (Night Owl is pretty confusing, and the term Netiquette needed to be explained).

Planning Meeting

Well, that went well!

Yesterday was my new Troop’s first meeting of the new school year, the planning meeting I was telling you about.  I didn’t really have a plan, just a list of to-do’s in my head and a stack of printouts.  So here’s what we did:

Opening

We always open with the Promise and the Law, and this time I had newly printed copies of the Promise and the Law in each of the Level Binders I made, so even the new girls could read them.

Badge Voting

After welcoming back all of our returning girls as well as the new girls joining the Troop, we did a quick round of introductions. We ended up having 2 Daisies, 2 Brownies, 2 Juniors, 4 Cadettes, and 1 Senior attending the meeting – a good representation of our Troop.  I had the girls split by Level and asked my new Level Leaders to have the girls vote for their favorite 4 Badges out of the 8 I picked, while I spoke to our one Senior and told her about what I have planned for her this year.  I was so excited that this worked out!  It’s the first time I was able to hand off an important part of the program to other people with confidence.  And according to my Level Leaders, the girls were able to agree quite easily, or with just a bit of negotiations.  I’m really happy that the Brownies want to earn the Bugs Badge!

Service Voting

I also had a bunch of different service project ideas that I brought all the girls together for. A few ideas were really popular, a lot were not popular at all – which was expected.  They got really excited by the towel and blanket drive for the local animal shelter idea.  Because I have yet to meet a girl who didn’t want to help animals . . . and maybe have the opportunity to go to a shelter and play with the puppies/kittens.😉

Information Dump

After all of the voting was done, I gave the girls (and moms) a quick data dump of upcoming events our Community is planning, so that they could get an idea of what the Troop will have the opportunity to do.  I specifically mentioned the upcoming Community Campout in the Spring, which I will not be able to attend – because my other troop will be at their Community Campout at another camp!

Bridging Activities

Then I gave the moms the forms that needed to be updated each year (Health Forms, etc.) and had them fill those out while the girls and I had a round table discussion about each of the different levels for bridging purposes – one of the benefits of a multi-level troop.  I was really glad to have some girls who had transferred in from another Troop (or Council), because otherwise, the girls in my Troop just don’t have a lot of experience in being a Girl Scout yet – just a year, and in some cases much much less because the girl joined toward the end of the year.

Closing

Our Troop always closes with a Friendship Circle, singing “Make New Friends”, and then a friendship squeeze.  The part I loved most this time was when my brand new Brownie Leader asked if adults were allowed to join in.

They’re going to make it.  They’re really going to make it.

Troop Leader Binder(s)

If your Council is anything like my Council, you have a lot of paperwork coming into your hands that you absolutely must take good care of: permission slips, meeting plans, training manuals, meeting notes, girl’s health records, badge records, financial record – SO. MANY. RECORDS.

Most Troop Leaders I know tackle this problem with a binder.  Or several binders, in my case.IMG_6940

I’ve started getting ready for the new year. as I said in my back to troop post, and since I am planning on handing off Leadership roles in my younger Troop, I feel that a good way for them to get started is with a fully stocked binder.  I’m hoping they won’t feel as overwhelmed if they are started with the right tools and the right information.  Their binders will likely evolve over the years as they add to it and take away from it, but I plan to get the binders put together in such a way that we can start the year.

What should be in your Troop Leader Binder?  I’m so glad you asked!  Let’s take a look inside my binder for my younger Troop (click on a picture for the description):

Okay, that’s awesome, right, but that is a pretty big binder.  A pretty big, intimidating binder.  Well, that’s MY binder.  MY binder has to have EVERYTHING in it, since my job is now to coordinate everything.  Now let’s see what I have in store for my Daisy Leader (again, click for more info):

The Daisy Level Binder will also have the Community information section, the Songs and Games section, and the Newsletters section, completely identical to mine.  And of course each level will be similar to this, but appropriately labeled and colored.

But I’m not the only one who has ideas on what should be in a Girl Scout Troop Leader Binder.  Here are some other binders you can take a look at for ideas on making your own:

 

Community Meetings

Last night was my first Community Meeting of the year. (Communities are what my Council is now calling what used to be Service Units, Neighborhoods, etc. – the local volunteer run geographic regions.)  It was for the Community my newer Troop is in.  My first Troop is in a different Community – the one I helped set a good foundation for. They won’t be meeting for another couple of weeks.

I was super excited about last night’s meeting, though.  I had sent out the meeting info to the Troop, and invited everyone to come – especially the parents who were thinking about stepping up to be leaders this year.  I got a response!  I knew at least one mom was going to be coming!  This has never happened before.

And yay, she actually showed up.  And then another one showed up.  With a friend from her homeschooling group who wanted to have her 6 year old join.  And then another showed up. Holy cow, our Troop had 5 people representing, and 2 had already definitely told me that they would be leaders!  I brought the one I knew about ahead of time the Junior Leader Binder I made up, but I will have to get the Brownie Leader hers at our planning meeting next week.

O.M.G.  I might actually get this Troop out of the nest and flying on their own!