Read below for some great tips adapted from GSNorCal!
Are you feeling the anticipatory butterflies dancing around as you plan your first Girl Scout troop meeting? Me, too! Because if your meetings are anything like mine, you might sometimes feel like you and your girls are having so much fun that there’s just not enough time to get everything done, especially when your girls would rather be eating, crafting, coloring, chatting, playing, or doing basically anything other than moving on to the next activity. So whether you’re the first-timer or one of your girls are, try to calm your nerves by creating a meeting plan that will help you and your girls get comfortable with your regular routines and predictable practices.
As a brand new troop leader who had never taught Daisy-aged students, part of my own learning process was adjusting my expectations for what could be completed during our time together and what needed to be changed to accommodate my girls’ growth. From taking too long chatting and eating during snack time to just running over on our activity, budgeting time without feeling rushed is still one of my ongoing struggles, but having a meeting plan provides a simple way to structure the timing of activities, stay on track, and accomplish your troop’s goals. Here’s my 5-step meeting game plan that helps me keep our meetings focused, efficient, and fun:
During pre-meeting time, the girls are usually wound up so we play a game that involves getting out energy—something they can easily learn on the fly or something they already know. One of our favorites is tossing a ball while standing in a circle facing one another and asking a question of our fellow sisters, like “If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?”
This type of game is active without being rowdy and also encourages the girls to practice paying attention to one another. By the time our game finishes (ideally every girl has answered at least one question) and we’re ready to start the meeting, we check the Kaper chart, and jump into the meat of our meeting.
Pro Tip: If you need more ideas for pre-meeting activities, you can always poll your girls by asking them to write down their suggestions for pre-meeting ideas on slips of paper, then collect the papers and draw one at the end of each meeting as a fun “hook” to get your girls to look forward to coming to the next meeting!
Our meeting opening consists of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Girl Scout Promise, and the Girl Scout Law, in that order. My troop has some members who are new to Girl Scouts, so we use posters with the Promise and Law written on them as visual cues to help the girls remember or learn the verses.
Our next activity can vary from meeting to meeting, but it’s usually Business & Snack. My troop is ruled by their tummies (who isn’t?), so I find that it’s usually best to begin with our snack time. As the girls help pass out snack, the rest are seated listening to upcoming events and troop updates. The girls then have a chance to ask me questions or just hangout and chat with their troop sisters. As fun as this part of our meeting is, it does have the potential to run amok if you don’t keep an eye on the time! Limiting snack time to 15-20 minutes is one of my best practices for keeping our troop on track.
After my first few meetings, I quickly realized that having 12 little girls facing each other around a table was not the best way to accomplish our activities in a timely way. After speaking with an experienced Girl Scout leader buddy, I found that she splits her troop in half and rotates the groups from activity to activity in order to keep the girls focused. I loved this idea, especially since kindergartners at my elementary were already used to rotating to different stations in their classrooms; it was another easy way to create a familiar routine while also giving me more control over the girls and what actually was accomplished during our meetings.
Pro Tip: Assistance from parent helpers allowed the adults the ability to be closely involved in teaching the girls and ensuring that they actually completed the activities. The younger the girls, the tougher the activity, the more adult hands will be appreciated!
When we have 10-15 minutes remaining in our meeting, we start clean-up. We make sure to look over the table and the floor, especially if our snack or activity was particularly messy. For this coming year, my girls are going to magically turn into “Clean Teams” enjoying a friendly competition to make our meeting place look better than when we arrived. Motivating the girls to want to clean instead of running around is challenging, but I am hoping the thrill of teamwork and friendly competition might ignite those who aren’t happily picking up.
Just like opening the meeting, our closing is simple and routine. We sing one of our favorite songs while holding hands and passing around a friendship squeeze. As it travels around the circle, the girls make a wish and step one foot forward into the circle. At the end of the squeezes and wishes, the girls lift their arms above their heads and twist out of the circle saying, “Girl Scout Out.” There are so many choices for songs and various ways to close a meeting (a quick Google search will find you many options); it just depends on the mood you and your girls are in and whether you want it to be serious, fun, or emotional.
And that’s my 5-part plan for focused Girl Scout troop meetings! What works best for you and your girls? Do you follow a similar plan or something much different? I’d love to hear how other leaders (and different grade levels) run their meetings, so leave your best practices in the comments below!
What To Do Next:
*This post was originally published from the GSNorCal blog The Trailhead
Liz LiVolsi is a former Girl Scout and now a Girl Scout leader of 12 eager second grade girls. She is Midwestern transplant who adores everything Girl Scouting: spending time outdoors, crafting, going on quests and learning. Follow Liz and her troop’s adventures on Instagram: @datroopleada.