When you first get together with girls (and this may also be a meeting with parents/guardians, or you may decide to hold a separate meeting for the adults), you’ll likely want to accomplish some or all of the following, depending on how much time you have and on the grade level of the girls:
- Get to know the girls, and give them a chance to get to know each other. Ice-breaker games—in which girls share simple details about each other, or are charged with finding out about another girl with whom they are paired—are a simple way to start off your first meeting. Check your council resources or search the Internet on “ice-breakers for kids,” and a wide variety of options will open for you.
- Introduce the journey books and the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. You can start with something as simple as asking the girls to raise hands or shout out what “leadership” means to them, and then compiling a list that you tie to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience—especially the three keys (discover, connect, and take action). Or you can do something more complex, like having the girls create masks of the characters in their journey book, and each choosing a character to play for the evening. The journey adult guide gives you additional ideas for having conversations about the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and journey books with girls and their parents/guardians.
- Talk about the three processes (girl-led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning) in a grade-level-appropriate way. Consider dividing the girls into small groups or two-person teams to recall the activities they’ve led in the past, the times when they’ve learned something new by doing an activity and the ways in which they’ve learned new things by working as a team with a few other girls. What was beneficial about those experiences? What was difficult about them?
- Find out what interests the group, including other adult volunteers. Do they want to dig deeper about the journey or a related theme? Without promising anything (yet!), ask the girls to talk about what they care about, what they’ve always wanted to do, and how they would spend their time if money or other barriers were no object. Build from the ideas shared, but also ask direct questions of the girls who seem shy or unsure about answering, so that no one is left out.
- Talk about how they want to schedule their time together, starting with the draft schedule you bring. (See the planning in a girl-led environment section below for more information about drafting a rough schedule for the year(s). Can they organize and plan a field trip or longer travel opportunity that will allow them to learn more about a particular topic or theme? Is there an event that meshes with this topic or area of interest? Can the girls locate and communicate with an expert in the field via e-mail or social media? Can they invite a local guest speaker to answer specific questions or demonstrate particular skills? Which badges can the group choose to work on that will deepen their skills in this particular area? Are they interested in pursuing their Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards?
Planning in a Girl-Led Environment
To start planning your time with girls, first draw up a simple calendar.
If your group will be meeting for less than a year (such as resident camp or a series), adjust the calendar to suit your needs. In the same way, if you’re planning a multi-year event (such as a travel excursion), add one or two more years to the framework. Then dependent on their grade level and the type of Girl Scout group, consider the following questions:
- How many meetings will you have each month? When do you plan to break for holidays?
- How many weeks do you need to allocate for the Girl Scout Cookie Sale or other money earning activities?
- Should you schedule guest speakers and other visitors?
- If you’ve worked with this group before, what are their preferences? Badge work? Field trips? Other activities? Can these also be tied to the journey theme? For more ideas, see the online journey maps, and then choose the grade level of the girls you’re working with.
Make sure to include all of these in your calendar as a starting point. Girls will fill in the details as they guide their own journey.
Once you’ve drafted a loose framework, it’s time to ask the girls what they think. Remember: You want girls to lead, but younger girls will need more guidance, while older girls will require far less. Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors may not want to you to draft any sort of calendar in advance, so if they balk at the work you’ve done, simply put it away and let them take the reins. Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies, on the other hand, may only be able to fill in a few ideas here and there, as you uncover their personalities and interests.
Before your group even opens a journey book, ask the girls what the journey and related theme mean to them. Maybe the theme ignites a discussion (or even debate!) that helps the girls chart their course for the year. In your discussions, probe to find out what the girls are most interested in accomplishing during their time together, and then help them connect those interests to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.