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It seems like there’s never enough troop meeting time for all the things your Girl Scouts want to do! For many troops, time is limited to an hour or two each month. Our troop is large (over 30 girls!), so focusing our time on what they want can be a challenge. Girls’ interests change and focus as they get older—when they were Daisies they wanted to do everything! Now with most of our troop Juniors and above, we’ve learned that we get more engagement when we focus on badges and sisterhood at meetings and then use interest groups to meet our multi-level troop’s diverse interests.
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Interest groups can focus on just about anything. They are a great way to have parents with specialized skills support the girls too! Our template can be a great place for any troop to get interest groups off the ground with just a few simple steps.
In our troop, we’ve put together a “make the world a better place” group and a “cookie pro” interest group. For “make the world a better place” we’ve chosen to focus on our military outreach, community outreach, and kindness projects. They meet for 30 minutes after the regular meeting and have one focus on each meeting. For example, in our most recent meeting, we packed a box of goodies for our adopted sailors, as they will be deployed over the holidays.
Here’s an example of our notes from the meeting:
Issue: They wanted sailors to get a handmade holiday card. Leaders then asked them if it was a better use of time to have the six interest group members make cards or to have card-making as an opening activity at a meeting.
Solution: The girls asked if the opening meeting could be a holiday card-making activity because they knew that they wanted a lot of cards but felt it would be better for the whole troop to make them rather than just a few group members. Then after the meeting, they packed those cards made by the whole troop into a box with lots of goodies.
The girls are owning their interest group project and directing the activities, but leaders are helping them problem solve and asking questions that help them move forward. These interest groups allow leaders to help girls focus on what they are really interested in, and allow girls to work in smaller groups on specialized activities and get more hands-on problem-solving opportunities.
For our cookie pro interest group, our top sellers lead the group, and girls that are interested in business and entrepreneurship are encouraged to join. Since our cookie sales fund everything we do, girls can focus on goals and get one-on-one support for learning business skills.
This year we are planning a cookie carnival. With the new family-oriented pins and our troop working to pay for a big trip out of state, the girls in the interest group decided that everyone needed to work together, and came up with the carnival.
This year’s carnival is a little different than other events. The girls in the cookie pro group will plan it and make the prizes, but it will be the adults on the cookie team and program assistants will run it. Program assistants are girls that are Cadettes and older that are working on their leadership skills and related awards. This will allow the cookie pro group members to walk around and encourage their Girl Scout sisters while also getting a refresher course in entrepreneurship. They also had requests to learn from older girls with more experience. That’s where the Program Aide’s come in!
Here’s an example of our notes from their meeting:
Issue: The cookie pros interest group said that every girl needs to learn about the rules of cookie booths.
Solution: They requested a Program Aide that had been selling cookies for at least 6 years run that booth and give her best advice for being successful. So we have a girl that is getting ready to bridge to adult and has been selling cookies since she was a Daisy running this carnival booth!
Issue: The interest group also said that one of the things they don’t like is that often adults will talk to each other, leaving the girls with nothing to do, or feeling ignored.
Solution: They specifically asked if the booths could have a “thing for adults and a thing for girls” so that everyone could be engaged. This also helps parents understand the importance of the cookie program, and encourages them to partner and support their girl.
Council Interest Groups
Our council also has interest groups in areas like backpacking, robotics, and astronomy that are run at the council level. These groups are made up of girls from various troops and/or girls who are not registered in other troops. All of these girls join these groups because they are passionate or want to learn more about the topic and enjoy spending time with girls who share their interest. I’ve chosen to be the adult leader of the astronomy club for our area, and, being pros at interest clubs, over half of our club is made up of girls from our troop! It’s great because these girls “know the ropes” and are encouraging their Girl Scout sisters in the club to form their own clubs within their troops! Our astronomy club includes girls from all over the area and we meet once per month. During the meeting, we focus on Astronomy related topics. We’ve visited a meteorite lab, learned about constellations and explored life on Mars for the Mars Rover. You could even create interest groups within your service unit, allowing more girls to come together and share their passion.
Interest groups are a great way to encourage girls to find their passion and expand their skills. But more than that, interest groups are an amazing tool to keep all your girls engaged and supported, no matter their interests or age. What interest groups could your troop start?
What to do next:
- Managing a multi-level troop? Let your older Girl Scouts take the lead with planning different activities and crafts for the younger girls in their troop.
- Do your Girl Scouts want to explore the stars? Join a Girl Scout Astronomy Club, where Girl Scouts 8th grade and older can explore the cosmos, plan field trips, enjoy night sky viewings, and more space related activities!
- GSNorCal has more offer top-notch leadership programs for all girls, from involving girls in our Board of Directors’ meetings to training them up to be Camp Counselors. Learn more about how your Girl Scout can take the lead.
Richel Newborg—Richel is a troop leader to Troop 2740 located in Fort Worth, Texas (although she was born and raised in California). Her mom and grandmother were also Girl Scout Leaders. Her favorite memory so far as a troop leader was packing friends, family, and excited girls into her living room (almost 50 people) when their bridging/rededication ceremony was rained out. It was crowded but an awesome celebration of Girl Scouting and they even managed to have a real bridge!Richel is a troop leader to Troop 2740 located in Fort Worth, Texas (although she was born and raised in California). Her mom and grandmother were also Girl Scout Leaders. Her favorite memory so far as a troop leader was packing friends, family, and excited girls into her living room (almost 50 people) when their bridging/rededication ceremony was rained out. It was crowded but an awesome celebration of Girl Scouting and they even managed to have a real bridge!