Artist Meeting, mostly

My multi-level Troop met yesterday, and it was my first time being able to see the new leaders in action. They did wonderfully! And it was really nice to be able to sit with my new Fall Product Manager and make sure she was sure about things for her new role, and bring up the idea of being our Troop Cookie Manager (she said yes! Woooohooooo!). And I was able to talk to three new parents whose girls had just joined the Troop, explain how the Troop works, have them fill out paperwork, and see if they had any questions. 

Daisies

Our new Daisy Leader had things easy, as her daughter was the only Daisy who showed up for the meeting. They did some jewelry making, and then I brought over one of my “back pocket” activities – the Barbie “I Can Be. . .” patch booklet. This proved to be pretty popular with the Brownies, too. Good thing I have several of those ready to pull out when they are needed. . .

Brownies

Speaking of Brownies, they started working on their Artist Badge: Painting. I’m so excited, because my Brownie Leader came up with idea all on her own (with help from Pinterest, of course), and even collected the bottles for it.

 Rather than just making pink cherry blossoms, as shown in the original Pin, she said she wanted more color options for the girls so that they could be more creative – HIGH FIVE! The girls even made their own colors (I did not bring any green paint, but there are green leaves on the fabulous volcano-tree). 

Supplies recommendation: paper plates for putting paint on, paint brushes (for painting the tree), several colors of paint, an empty 22oz. soda bottle for each paint color, watercolor paper (which is nice and thick and sturdy). Supplies we should have brought? A plastic tablecloth to catch spills! No worries, though, the girls cleaned up after themselves. 

Juniors

Our Juniors started their Artist Badge at this meeting, as well – Drawing. Unfortunately, because I had to figure out where I had cleverly hidden the mandalas I printed out, I had to pull out another activity – DYO pencil cases. Which they loved. Because it involved Sharpies. In 24 colors. So, they spent pretty much the whole meeting coloring and designing their pencil case – which still counts for the Drawing Badge! ūüôā

Cadettes

We had an astounding 8 Cadettes show up for this meeting! Since the Cadettes opted not to vote for the Comic Artist badge as one of the ones they wanted to earn, they started working on their Babysitter Badge. My Cadette Leader is using the River Valleys Activity Plans for this badge – because I don’t like reinventing the wheel, just changing the tires. ūüėČ

The Cadettes were also in charge of making Snack for this meeting: hummus and veggies. They got to talk about preparing healthy snacks for the kids they are babysitting, AND finish one step of the New Cuisines badge! I love finding legitimate ways of tying in multiple badges tigether. 

All in all, I think it was a successful meeting, and the girls all seemed to enjoy it. Have your girls started working on one of the Artist Badges?

Why Form a Multi-Level Troop?

We’re gearing up for Rally Season in my Council. ¬†Signing up new Girl Scouts, forming new Troops – this is what September is all about for Girl Scouts. ¬†GSUSA has started making Registration really easy using its online tools, and I’m going to let you talk to the staff and other volunteers at your own Council to figure out any issues you might have with registering for Girl Scouts online.

But let’s talk Troop structure.

PICT0041.JPGSingle Level Troops

This is by far the most common Troop structure in my area. ¬†And judging by the way the Volunteer Toolkit tools work from GSUSA, across the country. What this means is that your Troop only has girls from one grade in it. ¬†These Troops typically start at Kindergarten, and the girls just move in lockstep: Kindergarten to First to Second, Daisy to Brownie to Junior. ¬†Single Level Troops tend to be have between 6 and 18 girls in them, with 2 Leaders. ¬†More if you’re lucky.

The big advantage to this structure is that everyone is literally on the same page.  You have one level of girl, all doing the same activities, earning the same badges.

Multi-Level, Multi-Troops

This one is hard to summarize in a neat little heading. ¬†But what I’m talking about is what used to be fairly common, though I don’t know that it still happens. ¬†Using made up Troop numbers to make it clear, when you begin Girl Scout, your daughter joins Daisy Troop 101. ¬†After two years, she bridges to Brownies, and then changes Troops to Brownie Troop 102. ¬†Again, after two years, she flies up to Juniors, and then changes Troops again, this time to Junior Troop 103.

This structure has the same advantage as a Single Level Troop, everyone in the Troop is the same level.  It also has the advantage of connections with Troops of different levels for those all important Leadership opportunities (Junior Aide, LiA, Volunteer in Training, Service to Girl Scouting Bars, etc.).

The disadvantage, of course, is having to learn a whole new Troop number every time you change levels. ¬†And if you are the Leader, you tend to stay with the Troop (level) rather than your daughter. ¬†Which is a plus if you just LOVE working with Brownies! ¬†And a minus if you just LOVE doing new things! ūüôā

IMG_6281.jpg
Cadettes and Brownies making hummus together, for Snacks and New Cuisines badges

Multi-Level Troops

And then, the reason we’re here: multi-level Troops. ¬†These can be so hard, and yet so rewarding at the same time. ¬†Here are some situations in which multi-level Troops make sense:

  • Sisters. ¬†You have more than one daughter, and you know that your local Community/Service Unit is going to look to you to run a Troop for each of them. ¬†Or you just can’t imagine having two or three or more Troop meetings to shuttle your daughters to.
  • Church/School Based Troop. ¬†This is the scenario I have seen multi-level Troops in most often. ¬†All of the girls at a particular church or school (usually private) are put into the same multi-level Girl Scout Troop, which is supported by the church or school.
  • You can’t say no to girls who want to be Girl Scouts. ¬†This is my situation. After 8 years as a Leader, I could not look at those eager 6th and 7th graders and tell them they couldn’t join my 8th grade Troop, they couldn’t be Girl Scouts. ¬†There were only 4, so they couldn’t form their own Troop.
  • You think a multi-level Troop has so much to offer the girls.

This last one, most people will not actually have it as a reason they started a multi-level Troop, but I want you to consider it.  In a multi-level troop:

  • you typically have way more girls than in a single level troop. ¬†More girls = more parents = more possible volunteers to help you out.
  • the older girls have easy access to Leadership opportunities. ¬†Juniors need to earn heir Junior Aide? ¬†Create a schedule which allows each¬†Junior to help the Daisy portion of the Troop for 3 meetings (and make life a little easier for the Daisy Leader). ¬†Don’t want to run that Junior Journey? Have the Ambassadors do it, with help from the Cadettes and let them earn their ViT and LiA in the process.
  • younger girls SEE what older girls do every meeting. ¬†Last year, my Daisies were so bummed because they could not spend the night at camp with the rest of the Troop. ¬†But, now that they have bridged, they know that is one of the things they get to do, and they know from the Brownies and Junior who DID spend the night, that it is totally worth it.
  • girls see how connected the skills they are learning are, they see the progression that we feel is so important. They see that while they may only be crawling now, if they stick with it, they will be running in no time.
  • you can stay with your daughter as a Leader, as she climbs from level to level. ¬†Or you can choose to stay with your level. ¬†Or both. ¬†My Father-in-Law was his daughters’ Leader until they got to middle school, when he decided to stay as the Junior Leader and let them start scouting without him as a safety net.

There are so many great reasons to start a new multi-level troop, and reasons to make your single level troop multi-level.

Do you have a multi-level Troop?  Why did you decide to lead a multi-level Troop?

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):

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:

 

Back to Troop!

It’s that time of year again. ¬†August. ¬†School is right around the corner, and that means a new year of Girl Scouts is, too. ¬†This year, I have two multi-level Troops to get ready for. ¬†Which is why I am starting so early. ¬†Getting my binders cleaned out and organized. ¬†Prepping forms to be signed. ¬†Planning calendars. ¬†And of course, the two Troops are very different, so they¬†do things very differently from each other.

Virtual Planning

My older Troop, the one with my daughter in it, is all girls in grades 7-9 this year. ¬†They are all pretty tech savvy, with most of the girls having smart phones. ¬†One girl told me that she would be more responsive if I would text her instead of emailing. *eyeroll* Communication is a whole ‘nother post! ¬†For this Troop, getting ready for this year started with a survey I sent out using Survey Monkey where they would rate the Cadette and Senior Badges in order of preference and tell me which Journey the Seniors would like to do, and tell us how many badges they would like to earn this year. ¬†This allowed my assistant leader and I to go through the results, pick out the badges the girls were most interested in (instead of the ones that WE were most interested in, Textile Artist Badge I’m looking at you!) and sort them into our calendar. ¬†Then the calendar got placed into a SignUp for the parents and girls to look over. ¬†This allows them not only to put meetings and events on their calendar, but also for the girls to volunteer to run particular meetings. ¬†Then I sent out the information via email and What’sApp.

IMG_6923Paper Planning

My new Troop just started last year. ¬†While I communicate extensively using email and texting, we still need to get together in person for planning purposes. ¬†My older Troop is going to be multi-level for the first time this school year, but this Troop has been a true multi-level from the beginning with girls in literally every grade from K-6. ¬†Which means I can’t have the girls vote online for what badges they want to earn – most of the girls aren’t old enough to legally be online without parent supervision, and for our youngest girls, it would be the parents voting for sure. ¬†So, our first meeting of the year will be a Planning meeting, where each level will vote on which badges they want to earn, which service projects we want to do, and how we will spend the money we earn. ¬†Then the new Level Leaders and I will get together before the next meeting to set the rest of the calendar. ¬†After we have the new calendar set up, I will make up our first newsletter of the year, and send it out with Troop dates for the first 3 months of the school year.

Need some help planning your year? ¬†Here’s a little worksheet I made to help my Troops plan. ¬†Just jot in the dates of your meetings and events to see how the flow of your year is going to be. ¬†For my new Troop, I’m going to print one for each level so they can plan their individual year. I got the idea from a post over at Keeping It Easy and Simple, but she just showed a picture of it in her binder, so I had to create one for myself.

YearCalendar