Fall is approaching and Girl Scouts are starting to head back to school, which means girls, parents, and volunteers alike are about to get a whole lot busier! But despite how hectic the new troop year can be, in today’s connected world, ideas and inspiration are at your (and your troop’s) fingertips! Whether you are a new troop leader or a seasoned troop volunteer, you can use your resources wisely and get help online, from useful links to email or zoom conversations with other volunteers and staff, not to mention the most important advice—from the girls you are leading and advising! Here are three easy steps and some great ideas to make meeting planning go smoothly this year:
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Connect with Your Troop’s Vision
Connect with troop members about what their vision is for the Girl Scout year. Even the youngest Daisies can tell you the things they are excited about. If your Girl Scouts are up to it, you can even ask them to create a SMART goal for what they want to grow in or experience during the troop year to help steer your meeting plans. It might feel easier to plan it all yourself, but Girl Scouts is girl-led, and you wouldn’t want to end up with your girls totally NOT interested in what is on the agenda!
Build in Flexibility
Understand that your troop’s plan is a living document. Even planning for the unexpected, you can be sure to encounter surprises and changes. Things don’t always happen the way you expect, so it’s important to stay flexible and to instill in that same mentality in your girls. For example, that planned trip to the park may need to be canceled and moved to another date due to rain, or your Amazon shipment of craft supplies was delayed so you need a new plan for a project. Revisit your troop’s vision for the Girl Scout year often to see if you are on track or if adjustments need to be made.
Pick a Date and Brainstorm
You can decide how much time the troop should spend on the planning: do you need just the first meeting of the year for Daisies and Brownies? Maybe the first two meetings of the year for older girls? Set a specific timeframe for planning and then move forward. The girls will want to get down to business, not just plan the business!
There are many ways to go about this process. You can just work on a few meetings at a time, or shoot for deciding on the whole year. Just be sure to document all ideas from each troop member even if they are far-fetched or big dreams for the future! Those ideas can spark other ideas and be able to be turned into something that would work.
Pro Tip: When planning your troop year, remember that variety is key! Think about the six essential Girl Scout experiences: badges and awards, outdoor activities, entrepreneurship, Girl Scout traditions, community service, and special events. How can these be worked into your troop planning? The Girl Scout Year Planner is also an excellent resource for ideas!
Documenting Your Brainstorming
Try these brainstorming ideas to get your girls involved and excited:
- Keep track of ideas on a large roll of butcher paper, a whiteboard, or even a shared Google doc! You can divide it into categories like Badges to Earn, Field Trips, Service Projects, Fun, GS Journeys, etc. As ideas are shared, put them in the correct column. Then you can revisit this throughout the year crossing things off that were done, adding to it, and/or nixing things if there is a change of heart.
- Give each girl a Brainstorming Sheet and let them fill things in themselves. This is a great option for older girls or if you have members who have a difficult time speaking up in large groups. Then, have each girl present their top three favorite ideas and add them to a list.
- Make it a game! Give everyone 5 minutes to write down (or think about and tell you) as many song ideas as possible. Then give everyone 5 minutes to make a list of the badges they are interested in doing this year… and so on for as many topics (snacks they like, service projects to do, trips they want to take, etc.) as you think are necessary. Encourage them to work together and come up with at least 10 (or whatever amount you want) things for each category.
- When you think you have exhausted all ideas (or you look around and everyone actually seems exhausted!) it’s time to narrow things down to some top favorites to get the year started. You can do this through voting, discussion, ranking, etc. Just be sure everyone is feeling included.
Now it’s time to make the plan. If you have Daisies and Brownies, you may have to take the lead on this part. If you have older girls, let them give it a try and help them along if needed.
Divide the top favorite ideas into the months that you will be meeting (download monthly plan sheet here). If you only meet twice a month, be sure that you don’t overfill the month making it hard to get it all done. Add in important Girl Scout dates or upcoming events, and don’t forget to add Fall Product Sales and Cookie Season!!
Narrow it Down and Fill in the Details
Look at the upcoming month and build your meeting agenda plan for the meetings that month. This is where your resources come in. You have connections within Girl Scouts that can help you: your service unit, fellow Troop Leaders, Girl Scout websites and social media pages, and even the parents in your troop.
The internet can become a co-leader! Search the internet to check if someone has done your idea before, and build off of their success. Are you working on the woodworking badge? Search those terms to find some activity options. Is your troop learning to bake together? Have each girl search for a recipe she wants to try and pick as a troop.
You can do all of this research yourself, keeping the troop vision in mind, or do it with the girls at a troop meeting. If you have older girls, you can assign different parts of the agenda to each girl in the troop and have them report back with their suggestions.
Here is a list of general key words/phrases to search to help get you started. As you narrow down your plans, your searches will get more specific.
- Girl Scout badge ideas
- Journey in a Day
- Easy to Make Snacks
- Field trip ideas in (name of your city)
- Fun Games for Groups
- Ice Breakers for Groups
- Campfire Songs
- Quick Crafts for kids
- Service projects in (name of your city)
- Volunteer Opportunities in (name of your city)
- Deals for Girl Scouts
- Badge ideas for (name of badge) badge
- Ideas for working with Girl Scout Daisies
- Ideas for working with Girl Scout Brownies
- Ideas for working with Girl Scout Juniors
- Ideas for working with Girl Scout Cadettes
- Ideas for working with Girl Scout Seniors
- Girl Scout Bronze Award
- Girl Scout Silver Award
- Girl Scout Gold Award
- Money earning
- Daisy Petal Ideas
- Girl Scout Cookie Booths
- Video on how to ___________
Hopefully the tips above and the printable resources will help you start off on the right track this Girl Scout year. Just remember, you don’t have to do it all yourself! Use your resources wisely, whether that is getting help from the girls, finding ideas online, enlisting the help of troop parents, or talking to other Girl Scout volunteers. With a straightforward plan, room for flexibility, and so many resources at your fingertips, your meeting planning is bound to be one your troop will adore.
What to do next:
- Review some of GSNorCal’s volunteer resources on everything from Fall Take Action Program to essential forms and documents.
- Meeting virtually with your troop? Check out these virtual meeting best practices.
- Looking for some structure for your meetings that you can alter as needed? Learn about the elements of a troop meeting.
- Don’t re-invent the wheel! Snag some meeting ideas from this full year of Girl Scout Meeting ideas.
Shannon McMath—Shannon McMath is the Leader of Troop 10280 in Santa Rosa – a WONDERFUL group of Cadettes who have been together since kindergarten! In addition to volunteering at the troop level she has worn many Girl Scout hats… Leader Support Manager, Program Support Manager, Program Team, Learning Facilitator, Regional Delegate, National Delegate, and more. Her passion is traveling to new and interesting places and she shared that passion with Girl Scouts by hosting a trip to Costa Rica in 2017 and Ecuador/Galapagos.