Next Adventure: New Mexico

Ahhhhh, it’s time for another road trip. This summer we went east to Alabama, but this week I am heading off west across Texas to spend some time in New Mexico with a friend. We decided that we would like to go exploring, no real set schedule, no reservations. Just a car packed with camping gear and a list of places we have to go see: White Sands, Carlsbad, the State Fair (which happens to coincide with our trip). 

I can’t wait to see all the sights, and do all the things. The driving part, I’m not looking forward to, just because I don’t really like driving in mountain areas. But I’m really looking forward to camping in this beautiful weather!

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Cook Kits

Every year, my Older Troop evolves their cooking methods and cooking gear, trying out new techniques and new things to make.  To prep for their 2015 campout, they learned how to make vagabond stoves and buddy burners using the traditional #10 can (acquired from the local elementary school for free!) and tuna cans.

In 2016, my Co-Leader and I had a great idea to make a “cook kit” for the girls, so they could take home their own stove (instead of me storing them in my garage) to be ready for the next campout.

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Here’s a picture of one of our cook kits next to one of our old #10 can vagabond stoves.  The girls managed to abscond with all of the smaller stoves we made for the 2016 campout.  However, they looked just like their bigger cousin, only using a 28 oz. tomato can  instead.  As you may be able to tell in the picture, our buddy burners this year were made out of cat food cans, so as to fit in the smaller stove.

We spent one meeting prepping the cook kit contents in stations, with help from the parents that were spending the night at camp with us.

Station 1 – First Aid Kit

IMG_7029Their first aid kits were made from Altoid tins, covered in white duct tape and a red electrical tape cross on the top.  Inside, we gave them wipes and cotton swabs for cleaning a wound, antibiotic ointment, bandaids and larger bandage.  While the girls assembled the first aid kits, our camping First Aider talked to them about treating burns: clean the wound, cool the wound with water or ice, and cover the wound.

Station 2 – Buddy Burners

My Co-Leader and I precut the cardboard strips for this project (cookie cases to the rescue!!) because we had the girls cut them last year.  Not only did it take forever, but they whined and tried to get out of it, because even in seventh grade, they just don’t really have the hand strength for it not to hurt a lot to cut the cardboard.  So, all they had to do was roll the cardboard strips around a birthday candle tightly and insert the roll into the cat food can.  Then they took it over to the propane stove, where my Co-Leader was melting and pouring wax.

Station 3 – Vagabond Stove

Here, we had the dad who was coming camping with us.  Working with the tin snips made him happy. He cut the doors using the shears, and watched as the girls punched the holes using the church keys.

Station 4 – Menu planning and testing

This was my station.  We had a full vagabond stove set up roaring (heating chili for Frito Pie, I think) to show the girls who had just joined our troop how it works.  They also got to vote on which meal choices they wanted at this station.

Can Decoration – At Camp

When we actually went to camp, we wanted to surprise the girls with their finished cook kits.  So, we got the 1/2 gallon paint cans from The Container Store, and some beautiful mehndi inspired bandanas, and some hotpads.  And duct tape. 🙂  One of the activities at camp was to decorate their paint can with duct tape, and label it with their name.  Then by the end of the weekend it had been used, filled, and didn’t come back to my garage!

The girls’ final cook kits contained:

  • 28 oz. vagabond stove
  • 2 cat can buddy burners
  • bandana (to hold back their hair, or to wear bandit style if the fire gets really smoky)
  • hair elastics (for the girls with long hair)
  • potholder
  • first aid kit

After the Rally . . .

Can we all just take a moment and be thankful that GSUSA and all of our local Councils are now able to register girls and adults online?  I can remember the stacks and stacks of paper registrations I had to deal with as a Placement Specialist the year before it went live in my Council.  At least 5″ of quadruplicate forms.  And then each new Troop Leader was handed a stack at least 1/2″ thick.

But it’s not that way anymore.  However, even with online registration, Troop formation is still not an automatic thing.  Unless your Service Unit/Community manages to get all of their new Troops formed at Rallies, then the Registrar and Placement Specialist will have some work to do after the Rally sorting girls into new and existing Troops.

One of the main goals for any Placement Specialist or Registrar or Recruiter (whichever your area uses) is – believe it or not – to place EVERY GIRL in a Troop.  If we had our way, every girl who wanted to be a Girl Scout who be placed in a Troop.  The problem comes in the forms of well meaning parents and Troop Leaders.

Parents whose daughter has to be in THIS Troop, because well, those girls have been friends forever and their Troop sounded like they had so much fun last year, and of course I can’t be the Troop Leader for a new Troop.  *sigh*

Troop Leaders who will take girls from THIS elementary, but not THAT one.  Troop Leaders who say their Troop is closed until their best friend’s daughter wants to join.  Troop Leaders who think they can only handle 6 Brownies in their Troop.  Troop Leaders who are finished after Juniors, but their girls would really like to continue on to Cadettes. *sigh*

How to be kind to your Placement Specialist as a Parent

  • Be very clear on the days and and times when your girl will be available for Troop Meetings.  These can range from once a month to once a week, depending on the Troop.
  • Be very clear on how flexible you are.
  • Know whether you want your girl in a single level or multi-level Troop.  Here’s a post which compares them.
  • Know how you want to volunteer to help your Girl Scout’s Troop.  In my Community, girls with guardian who volunteer at Rally Night get placed before girls whose guardians are “too busy” to help in any way.  Girls whose guardian volunteers to be Troop Leader get first dibs, of course.
  • Understand that the older your girl is, the harder it will be to place her.  As Troops get older, they start closing to newcomers because they have started planning bigger activities, that require bigger budgets.  It is not fair to accept new girls halfway through saving for that big trip – not to the girls who have already been working towards their goal.
  • Give the Placement Specialist a method of contacting you that you will actually check and respond to.  If she/he is going to go through the effort of trying to find a home for your girl, the least you can do is take the effort to respond to her.  They are not going to spam your main email account.  They don’t have time for that nonsense.

If you’ve been a Registrar/Recruitment Specialist/Placement Specialist/Whatever your area calls the person who places girls into Troops, what other words of wisdom would you give new Girl Scout parents/volunteers?

Senior Bridging Meeting

You know how you can get the girls in your Troop to sign up to run meetings, you can get them to communicate with you, and get them to plan ceremonies and bring all the materials. You can get them to do all that, but you still sometimes can’t get them to TALK TO EACH OTHER! 

Le sigh. 

Opening

Pledge of Allegiance, Promise, and the Law

Senior Girl Scout Presentation

We had three lovely 10th graders who were able to join us to talk about the differences between being a Cadette and being a Senior. They spoke about their continued love of camping, the change to a once a month meeting schedule, the greater opportunities. But they focused on things that I really wanted my girls to hear:

  • Increased Leadership opportunities – they really emphasized that they loved working with younger girls at events and at camp. 
  • Increased responsibilities – to the Troop, taking ownership of the Troop’s activities; which leads to,
  • Increased planning – yep, I’m not a weirdo for making you plan your own meetings. That’s really a thing that you’re supposed to do. 

I really appreciated the way they talked to the girls about Girl Scouts fitting into their schedules easily, although the Gold Award will eat a lot of their time. 

Bridging Ceremony

We had two competing ceremonies planned for our bridging tonight, but thankfully there was enough time for the two girls who signed up to run the ceremony to step outside and work it out. 

While they did that, I wrangle the rest of the girls to make a symbolic bridge for them to cross over. We had intended on using the actual bridge that was outside, but the weather did not cooperate, with rain coming down for the whole meeting. So the girls simply made a “bridge” using two rows of chairs. Not fancy, not Pinterest worthy, but it worked. 

It was a nice ceremony, the girls did a good job. There was a nice poem read line by line by the girls, and finishing with the Girl Scout handshake and a certificate for each new Senior. (I made up a certificate for each girl, and that way I know how many bridging badges to get: total girls – certificates left over. Sometimes I don’t catch every girl who shows up because they will show up at all times throughout the meeting.)

Snacks and Chatting

My co-leader brought some s’mores snacks for the girls, so after the ceremony we just let them have a snack and sit and chat. Do some Troop bonding that the other Troop talked about. 

And I snuck in some Troop business. I used to do all Troop business while they were having snacks because that was when I knew they would be quiet. Just to let you Daisy Troop Leaders know – they learn how to talk with their mouths full as they get older. . . 

Closing

As always, our Troop meeting ended with a friendship circle, a couple of rounds of “Make New Friends”, and then a friendship squeeze. We used to have arguments and hurt feelings over who led the squeeze. This year, the girls who are running the meeting do it, one from each side of the circle. No arguing, and the squeeze gets done twice as fast. Which is a pretty big deal when you regularly have more than a dozen girls at a meeting. . .

Some Rally Night Ideas

In case your Service Unit/Community hasn’t quite gotten started on planning your Rally Night, or you will be doing more than one, here’s a list of ideas that worked in the past for our Community:

Before the Rally

  • Advertise!  Flyers at every school you serve, lawn signs, banners, posters, whatever your schools and neighborhoods will let you get away with!
  • See if you can have a table at your school’s Open House or Meet the Teacher Night.  Some of our schools allow it, some don’t.  Or maybe even just a couple of Older Girls in uniform handing out flyers.
  • Get every EXISTING Troop to fill out a form showing whether they are open, what volunteer positions they need filled, what levels they are, when and where they meet, etc.  The online tools will give you some of this information, but knowing what the Troop is asking for helps you fill those holes effectively.

At the Rally

  • Our Community tries to make this an adult event, rather than one for the girls.  But children always show up, so be prepared for that – even if the flyers all say don’t bring the kids!  It’s better to prepare for the kids to come, than to turn away potential Girl Scouts and volunteers because you didn’t get a Cadette Troop to come do some work on a Babysitting Badge by playing with the kids that show up.  Or those High School girls who always seem to need service hours for one group or another.  This can be used toward the Service to Girl Scouting Bar, too!
  • Have displays as the parents walk in the doors.  Uniforms, Girl Guides, scrapbooks, everything!  Parents don’t know what they are signing up for besides cookies, camping, and college applications.  SHOW THEM.
  • Have a sign in sheet right by the entrance.  That way your Placement Specialist can cross-reference people who showed up versus people who registered.  And maybe send the ones who came but did not register an email a few weeks later, checking to see if they were sure they didn’t want to register – especially if the specialist ha some holes to fill in the Troops.
  • Have one of your Ambassadors, or a Senior, speak to the crowd.  Give her the experience of talking before a crowd, give them the experience of seeing what poised young ladies our muddy campers become.  Have the girl talk about why she is still in Girl Scouts, what it has given her, what she has learned from Scouting.
  • Don’t forget the Flag Ceremony, Promise and Law – it’s a great way to include those younger girls.
  • Have tables, rooms, or corners set up for each level, depending on what your space offers you.  At each of these, have a leader who has led that level before, but is not currently leading that level.  They can speak with experience, but aren’t trying to put all the best girls in their Troop. 🙂  We typically have spaces set aside for each grade K-5, and then one area for Older Girls, because our recruitment drops off so drastically in sixth grade.  But there is always a handful of Older Girls who show up, so make sure you have somewhere for them!
  • Have some way of keeping track of who is placed in which Troop formed that night, hard copy, just in case.

Here’s a couple of forms I made, based off of ones I created when I was on the Recruitment Team.  Even if you can’t use these directly, they may give you ideas you can tweak.

  • TroopSurvey – this is a great tool for finding out which existing Troops need new girls and new volunteers.
  • NewTroop – this sheet helps you keep track of what Troops you form at Rally Night, and who volunteered to be what!

Newsletter

I know that one thing new leaders can never get enough of is information.  Having to search for it, though, is not always not he top of your list, right?  So, how about more Girl Scout goodness delivered fresh to your inbox?  Every month, but only once a month?  Sounds like you need to sign up for my newsletter. 🙂

What will you get each month?  Articles, facts, printables, SWAP ideas, sneak peeks at what I’ll be blogging about that month – all free, and all relevant to that month in Girl Scouting.  For instance in September, I discuss the best way to form Troops that fail at Rally Night – a little shoutout to all the Service Unit/Community Managers/Leaders out there and Registrars, and Recruitment Specialists, and Placement Specialists, and all of the other wonderful volunteers who spend so many hours setting and hosting Rally Night.

You may have already seen the Mail Chimp Pop-up, but if you missed it the one time it pops for you, click the link for a form for you to sign up for my monthly newsletter.