by adiba nelson, inclusivity expert and author of meet clarabelle blue
Since its inception, Girl Scouts has been an organization for girls of all ages, races, religious beliefs, and abilities. Every girl who wanted to join could, and for the last 106 years, has! Girl Scouts' founder, Juliette Gordon Low, was herself deaf from an early age, and a fierce advocate for the inclusion of girls with disabilities or special needs. Where once children with special needs were sent away, or hidden in the home, today we see more and more families living active, public lifestyles, including their children with special needs. And that means we’re also seeing more and more girls with various special needs joining Girl Scouts, which is fantastic! But not all Girl Scout volunteers have experience working with children of different abilities, which sometimes results in Girl Scouts with special needs being unable to participate in all of their troops' activities or programs, due to unintentionally exclusive practices.
You can't know what you don't know, of course! But giving every girl a chance to be a Girl Scout is so important - not only for those girls with special needs who want to participate, but for every girl in the troop to grow alongside a group of Girl Scout sisters who can share all kinds of different perspectives and life experiences. As the mom of a Girl Scout with special needs, and the author of an award-winning children's book on inclusivity, here are some things I recommend that all volunteers consider when creating programs and activities, to ensure inclusivity across the board.
Would you be able to fully participate in this activity/program if you had mobility issues? What about if you had sensory issues, or a seizure disorder? If the answer is "no," you may need to either rethink the program or activity, or think of alternatives or adaptations that would still allow girls that need accommodations to participate and have a great time.
Talk To the parents
No one expects you to be an expert in inclusion, accessibility, or adaptations. But often times, the parents are. If you have a girl in your troop with special needs (visible or invisible) feel free to let the parents know that you want to make sure their child is getting the most out of her Girl Scout experience. Let them know that you would really appreciate any guidance or input from them in regards to what works best for their child. It’s not considered rude, and I’m willing to bet they’ll appreciate your commitment to an excellent experience for ALL the girls in your troop.
Facilitate and lead
You may need to be more hands-on when facilitating some activities, to help the other girls understand how they can all work together, taking everyone’s needs into account. Remember that YOU set the tone for how your girls will interact with each other, special needs or not.
Read Meet Clarabelle Blue!
No really. I know it seems funny to say “read my book” to understand the concept of inclusion and special needs, but I’ve had countless families tell me that it not only helped them understand inclusion, but also started a kid-friendly conversation around special needs, inclusion, and being a friend. So if you know you have a girl with some special needs joining your troop, maybe give it a quick read!
I hope you find this information helpful in building inclusive troops. And for those of you who want to give your girls the opportunity to discover inclusivity for themselves, be sure to register them for the Girl Scouts for ALL patch program coming up on April 14th! I can't wait to meet you and your Girl Scouts.
It's that special time of year when Girl Scouts of all ages celebrate and show the world what it means to be a G.I.R.L. (Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader). March 11th - 18th is National Girl Scout Week!
Girl Scout Week always includes March 12th, to commemorate the day Juliette Gordon Low officially registered the first 18 girl members in Savannah, Georgia. And since one day just isn’t enough time to honor such a momentous occasion, we’ve dedicated a whole week to celebrating the greatness of Girl Scouts! Girl Scout Week begins on Girl Scout Sunday and ends on Girl Scout Sabbath--two opportunities to reflect on what it means to be a Girl Scout within the context of your faith.
Traditionally, Girl Scouts also marked Girl Scout Week with seven days of service. Use this modernized activity list to celebrate the week. Each day, choose at least one activity to complete from that day. (If you want to push yourself – do more than 1 each day!)
When Girl Scout Week is complete, come pick up your Girl Scout Week fun patch at the Girl Scout Shop! (This patch and additional fun patches to mark each day will be available in all council shops.)
Sunday, March 11 and Saturday March 18th
Girl Scout Sunday is the perfect time to honor your faith, and even be recognized as a Girl Scout in your place of worship. Maybe you will attend a religious service; earn your My Promise, My Faith pin; or sing/say grace at a meal. You can also...
Monday, March 12
Happy Birthday, Girl Scouts USA! We’re 106 years old today! Celebrate National Girl Scout Day by reconnecting with the Girl Scout Promise and Law, and the history of our Movement. You can...
Tuesday, March 13
Be a Go-Getter! Here’s your chance to show the world what it means to dream big and achieve your goals #likeaGirlScout.
Wednesday, March 14
Time to be an Innovator! Think outside of the box, explore unfamiliar territory, and experiment. You might especially want to dive into STEM today--that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, four fields where girls and women are breaking barriers and innovating every day.
Thursday, March 15
Seeking challenges, learning from setbacks, and getting up to try again are all part of the Girl Scout D.N.A.! Be a smart Risk-taker today, and step outside your comfort zone. You can...
Friday, March 16
Be a Leader. Practicing everyday leadership, from stepping up when the going gets tough to taking action on causes you care about, is at the core of the Girl Scout experience. Today, you might...
Saturday, March 17
As a Girl Scout Volunteer you’re not only a role model who gets to show her something new, but you also get to share all those memorable moments together. You make a difference at Girl Scouts and your impact is so special! Today is a day to celebrate you.
Have you had the chance to explore the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) and all that it has to offer? Or maybe you’re totally new to the VTK? Either way, that’s A-OK – we've got you covered!
The Volunteer Toolkit is a digital resource that supports troop leaders and co-leaders, making the process of running a troop easier and more efficient. Through the VTK, troop leaders can plan the troop’s calendar year, email parents with one click, manage the troop roster and membership (hello, quick and easy Renewal!), access badge and Journey content, and so much more.
In early 2018, GSUSA rolled out a few enhancements that we’re excited to share with you – a major update to the Resources tab, an all-new interactive Help Menu, and Smart Tips designed to make VTK usage a breeze.
1. Meet the updated resources tab
The new Resources tab provides quick access to the information you need the most, organized by topic and program level. Here, you’ll find everything from program-specific resources (think: Award Logs, Uniform Placement guides, and Bridging requirements) to helpful GSSOAZ-specific links for Highest Awards, trips and travel, product sales, and more.
Once you're logged into MYGS, navigate to the Resources tab by selecting Volunteer Toolkit > Resources.
2. get quick support with the interactive vtk help menu
The VTK Help Menu is here when you need it the most (and out of the way when you don’t)! To access the Help Menu, simply click on the fly-out panel. From here, you can quickly type your question into the search box to comb the list of the available how-tos.
Walk-Thrus (denoted by the speech bubble icon) will seamlessly generate an interactive, step-by-step tutorial designed to help you navigate the VTK and complete your desired task from start to finish. If you select a video tutorial (denoted by the play button icon), one of GSUSA’s Volunteer Toolkit demo videos will pop up on-screen to give you a no-nonsense overview of the VTK’s various features.
3. hover over the embedded smart tips for a more powerful vtk experience
You’ll now find Smart Tips sprinkled throughout to make it easier than ever to have an intuitive experience with the VTK. Wherever you see a Smart Tip icon (green circle with an “i” in the center), just hover your mouse over the icon to learn more.
If you already have a favorite troop management system in place for this year, that’s fine too! Don’t feel like these enhancements mean you need to dive right in and re-build your troop meeting plan from the ground up. The Volunteer Toolkit is an added resource for new and returning volunteers and there isn’t a right or wrong way to use it—so log in, take a look around, and see what you think!
*This post has been adapted from GS of Northern California's guide to the VTK.
At Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, our business is helping girls thrive as they grow. Keeping kids safe is a huge part of thriving. We know that kids today face more and different challenges to their safety than was the case when many of us were growing up.
We are proud at Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona to have answered the call to action on how to prevent, recognize and react to the epidemic of child abuse. We seek to inspire all our Girl Scout adults to be Stewards of Children.
Did you know that 1 in 10 children will be victims of sexual abuse before they turn 18? The financial, social and economic costs are incalculable, not just for the child and their family, but for society as a whole. It is a public health issue that needs focused efforts on educating adults about child safety. It is unrealistic to think that a young child can take responsibility for fending off sexual advances by an adult. Adults are the ones who need to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Yet, the statistics clearly show that adults aren’t shouldering this responsibility. We believe that adults want to, they just don’t know how.
Stewards of Children is a two-hour training for adults that focusses on these 5 simple skills:
The training is available in person or online, in both English and Spanish. If you’d like to learn more please visit Darkness to Light for a wealth of resources including a new app that puts information and skills at your fingertips.
Timalee is Chief of Staff at the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. It is because of her connection to amazing women who helped her find the courage to stand in truth, to tell her truth and to heal her truth that she learned to live more authentically. At Girl Scouts she has a passion for lifting up women of all ages. Timalee is also a Darkness to Light Certified Instructor and an Authorized Stewards of Children Facilitator.
If you have any questions regarding this blog post or would like to schedule an in-person Stewards of Children workshop for a group of any size, please contact Timalee at firstname.lastname@example.org
An anonymous reminder from a long time Leader.
In the middle of all the Cookie Madness that I like to call Cookie Crazies I am reminded of why we as Leaders do what we do.....
When I first started as a Troop Leader six years ago, I had a new group of kindergarten Daisies. In this group were a couple very shy girls, a couple overly-outgoing girls, a handful who just rolled with whatever we did, and one who was wild (you know the one...we ALL have at least one!). Fast forward six years to today: some of our girls have moved on, some new ones have joined, but as the Leader, I have watched them all as they grow, and seen who they have become.
One of the shy girls from the first year of kindergarten (the one who never said a word and often hid behind her mother's legs) is now out front and center. Head high at the booth, she asks EVERY person if they want to buy Girl Scout Cookies, counts back change, and interacts with customers so naturally. She is our top seller, selling well over a 1000 boxes of cookies every year.
One of the overly-outgoing ones (the one who talked over everyone, who threw fits and pouted when she didn't get her way) now is at the booth working with her sister Girl Scouts on a plan to switch jobs every 30 minutes. I can see her figuring out how to get to practice on time and still get in more hours at a cookie booth so that she can reach her goal.
One of the go-with-whatever girls (the one who never used to contribute any ideas, who never had an opinion about anything) — well, now she is the one who makes suggestions on where to go and how we can make things better in our community. She fights for her ideas with well-thought-out and persuasive words.
Last but not least, the wild one (the one never in her seat, talking out of turn, acting crazy and never on task)... She is still wild and crazy, but she talks to customers, helps set up and clean booths, makes up cheers and songs to pass the time during slow periods. She is learning when she is stepping on others' toes, and apologizes when she needs to.
Each one of these girls gets something different out of their time in Girl Scouts, learning life skills and developing themselves into young women who will move mountains and rock the world.
But it is not just the girls who get to benefit from this amazing organization. I am blessed to be able to see the transformation, see the growth, see their faces when they explore new ideas and activities -- see the courage, confidence and character that each girl builds everyday.
So when the world starts to get crazy and you think WHY am I doing this!? Take a second to sit back and watch your girls... They are learning, growing, and becoming amazing individuals, because YOU made a commitment to the them and chose to be a part of this experience with them.
Enjoy the CRAZIES and all that comes with it!!
This post was provided by a GSSoAZ Leader who asked to be anonymous.
Attention, Troop Leaders! Make this cookie season more manageable by following these tips:
Avoid the temptation to do it all yourself. We understand that you might be tempted to do it all—you’re a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™, after all! But by delegating some cookie sale responsibilities to troop parents, you’ll have more time to spend on activities with girls as you deliver our one-of-a-kind Girl Scout programming and prepare them for a lifetime of leadership, success, and adventure. This cookie season, recruit parents to pitch in so you can focus on leading all of your troop’s many other activities.
Split cookie volunteers’ responsibilities into smaller pieces--lessening the load for everyone! For example, consider assigning a parent to help manage your troop cookie inventory, and keep parents informed of upcoming events. It’s also super helpful to recruit a parent to help manage booth sales. Rather than expect one parent to pick up and drop off all girls during cookie booth sales, request that the other girls come individually, easing the burden of the parent who will work the booth. You might also designate someone to be in charge of coaching girls as they work to meet their cookie sale goals, earn their Financial Literacy badges, and maximize learning and skill-building opportunities.
And make sure to emphasize that these roles are a short-term commitment so parents don’t feel overwhelmed when they decide to lend a hand.
Be clear about your expectations. Let parents know exactly what’s expected of them and provide as many details as possible so they understand what they’re committing to. Make sure they know the troop’s goals, contact information for all involved, and deadlines for turning in cookie forms and money.
Send each volunteer a welcome email with all pertinent information, (e.g., forms or training they need to complete, important phone numbers or websites they will need to access, schedules, etc.). You might even want to draft some follow-up notes for parents that you can send to remind them of important deadlines.
Focus on the impact. When talking to parents about volunteering, help them understand the bigger picture. Do they realize that the cookie program funds the troop activities that girls participate in all year long? If you already know some of the plans your girls have for their cookie earnings, share as many examples as possible to show potential volunteers how their contribution means greater success and an overall better Girl Scout experience for their girls. And if you have any numbers from previous years’ sales, even better! Use these stats to demonstrate to volunteers exactly what a successful cookie season can do for their girls and how they can be an integral part of that. Send them to Powered by Cookies so they can see for themselves just some of the amazing things girls can do when powered by cookies.
Give special recognition to cookie volunteers. Be sure to thank parents in your troop who put in special effort during cookie season. Send them an email, a handwritten note, or a thank-you message on Facebook. Simply expressing your gratitude goes a long way!
Show parents who can't volunteer how they can still play a part. Not all parents will have the desire or time to volunteer with overall troop cookie management, and that’s OK! Let them know they can still be a huge part of the troop’s success by supporting their girl throughout cookie season—helping her set and work toward goals; connecting her with potential new customers, like friends and family; tracking her progress; and encouraging her to keep going when obstacles arise. And, of course, by always taking the time to celebrate her accomplishments!
*Post is adapted from GSUSA
Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) recently launched the G.I.R.L. Agenda Powered by Girl Scouts, a nonpartisan initiative to inspire, prepare, and mobilize girls and those who care about them to lead positive change through civic action. The multiyear effort celebrates the Girl Scout legacy of civic engagement, and for the first time ever, we’re sharing these free, expert-curated resources beyond our 2.6 million members so we can reach as many girls as possible. The materials are derived from renowned Girl Scout programming that has driven generations of girls over the past century to become leaders.
Although the initiative is new, encouraging girls to speak up and advocate for the issues and ideas important to them is not. In fact, even before women could vote in the United States, Girl Scouts could earn the Citizen badge by displaying their knowledge of government and how to get involved!
As part of the initiative, we’ve introduced the new Good Neighbor badge for Daisies (girls in grades K–1). This badge joins a lineup of existing Citizen badges—Celebrating Community, Inside Government, Finding Common Ground, Behind the Ballot, and Public Policy—that engage girls in age-appropriate activities involving community service, public policy, government, voting, and more. Over time, the badges build girls’ knowledge of local and global communities and show them how their actions as citizens make the world better for everyone.
Daisy Good Neighbor Badge
Groups of people are called communities. You’re part of lots of communities! Your Daisy troop is one, and so is your class at school. You can help your communities by being a good neighbor. Find out how in this badge.
Brownie Celebrating Community Badge
Communities often celebrate what makes them special. A Brownie group is a community! Other communities—your town, state, and country—have celebrations, like ceremonies or parades. They might also celebrate by building statues or museums. In this badge, find out what your communities do to celebrate all the people in them.
Junior Inside Government Badge
Do you ever wonder exactly what government is and what it does? Active citizens should know the basics of government, so here’s your chance to go behind the scenes. In this badge, you’ll explore laws that affect you every day, meet people who work in government, and be active in government yourself!
Cadette Finding Common Ground Badge
Democratic governments exist to help citizens with differing opinions find common ground—the place where people’s thoughts, opinions, and beliefs intersect. Whether it’s Congress, your state, or the local town council, elected leaders often have to make trade-offs, giving up some things they favor to gain support for others. In this badge, investigate how our government does it—and how you can, too.
Senior Behind the Ballot Badge
In a democracy like ours, voting isn’t just a right—it’s a responsibility. It’s how you make your voice heard and make choices about how you think things should be done in government. In this badge, you’ll explore the importance of voting and find out about the electoral process in the United States and around the world.
Ambassador Public Policy Badge
You want your voice heard. It’s so important that one of your Leadership Journeys is about just that—speaking up about, and acting on, issues that are crucial in your world. And if you want your voice heard by government, it helps to know about public policy: the laws and government actions surrounding particular issues. To influence public policy, it’s important to know how a citizen can work to effect change in her community, her country, and her world. This Ambassador Citizen badge is your opportunity to find out.
*adapted from GSUSA
Ready to take your Troop hiking? Here are a few tips!
Before you head off on your hike make sure to plan and prepare by checking the weather, making sure everyone has a map, knowing what the availability of facilities and where water is located. Have your Girl Scouts brush up on their Leave No Trace principals beforehand to avoid shocking them on the trail.
The foundation of your hike is the daypack, so work with your Troop to prepare it! If you’re leading Daisies on their first hike, make sure they wear a light day pack with only snacks and water. A good rule of thumb is for young beginner hikers is to cover a mile in 30-45 minutes. As they progress in Girl Scouting, they can add more to their pack, and more miles to their hike!
Below you will find a quick list of hikes perfect for your first venture outdoors with your Troop. Remember that Southern Arizona is filled with beautiful nature so why not check it out! Share your experience online with the hashtag, “#gsoutdoors”.
Sabino Canyon has many short and easy nature walks starting at the visitor center. Check out their naturalist page to see the calendar of children programs and to schedule a Talk and Walk. When the stream is running, bring a snack and watch wildlife from a safe distance.
Saguaro National Park (East)
The Freeman Homestead Trail has a 1-mile hike with awesome interpretive signs along the way. There’s a lot of wildlife to see here, especially down in the wash near the cliff side. Keep your eyes peeled for a Ringtail lounging on a tree limb, or a pair of Great Horned Owls watching you from a tree. Before you go, check out the map to see the cactus forest and the web of trails at the Park that you can customize based on the distance and elevation you want your Troop to try.
Saguaro National Park (West)
King’s Canyon trailhead is linked to King’s Canyon wash, which is a two mile walk with petroglyphs hidden in the wash on the rocks. Daisies might need a hand to get down to the wash, but there are steps throughout the trail. Just like Saguaro National Park East, check out the map to design how far you want to go!
BONUS: Teach your girls to be Innovators by designing their route ahead of time!
Who doesn’t love Mount Lemmon? Although there are many to choose from, check out Rose Canyon Lake Trail #37. This easier trail leads hikers around the water’s edge and provides many spots for photography, bird watching and just pain strolling. The one-mile loop even features some logs near the water which is a great spot to sit back and enjoy a snack.
Catalina State Park
This state park is more than just a great spot to hike; it would be the perfect place for a Troop’s first camping trip! For some easy hikes, check out the Nature Trail which is a one-mile loop beginning at the Trailhead parking lot and wanders through typical desert scrub vegetation of the low foothills. The trail features great interpretive signs regarding the local wildlife, plants and geology. Also beginning in the Trailhead parking lot, try the one-mile Bird Trail. It crosses a wash, and if its flowing it may result in wet feet and some fun!
Xitlaly loves connecting people to the outdoors! You’ll often find her sitting on a thinking rock, leafing through a wildlife guide, or eating a PB&J on the trail. Xitlaly is also known as Baja during camp! She got her camp name because she found her love for the outdoors during family camping trips to the beach in Baja California, Mexico.
Xitlaly is available for troop visits and plans monthly outdoor programs. You can contact her at email@example.com.