Bridging has long been an important part of Girl Scouts. It marks the girls’ transition from one level to the next, honors their achievements alongside their Girl Scout sisters, and celebrates their commitment to the Girl Scout Movement. Here are some tips for helping your girls make their troop’s bridging a fun and memorable occasion for everyone involved!
1. Use Your Resources Wisely
Each level of Girl Scouting has special bridging awards and activities (outlined in the appropriate age-level The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting) that can help girls decide how to mark this special day. One of the more popular methods is to hold a special bridging ceremony, but your girls may want to recognize this important transition another way--and that's fine too! No matter how they decide to celebrate, the Girl Scout Shop offers Bridging Kits for every level of Girl Scouting, which include must-have uniform items and certificates for girls bridging to the next level.
2. Add Props
3. Go Outside
As they are generally held in late spring, outdoor ceremonies can be a wonderful way to include nature in this important day. Many of our council properties would make a lovely location for the ceremony or an overnight leading up to the ceremony. The Tucson Girl Scout Resource Center even has a bridge located on the property! Just be sure to take our desert weather into account, and ensure that girls and their families bring sun protection and water.
4. Include Others
5. Personalize It
Let the girls add songs, poems, stories or activities that they love! Showcase the troop's accomplishments over the last year or two at their current level, or give your girls space to brainstorm and dream for the future. Check out Pinterest’s Girl Scout Ceremony pins for creative ideas for your ceremony that other troops have used. There is no right or wrong way to bridge, as long you are marking and honoring the girls’ progression and growth as Girl Scouts.
Super proud of how your bridging ceremony turned out? Don't forget to send photos and stories to Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org and share them with Girl Scouts and volunteers across our council.
*This post has been adapted from Girl Scouts of Western Ohio.
As a camping professional, one of the questions I hear the most is, why camp? Why, when there are so many other options, should someone choose a Girl Scout camp experience? After 20 years, I think I’ve heard every last reason from parents against adding camp to their girl’s summer schedule: “We already spend a lot of time outdoors as a family, take family vacations, and visit national parks.” “She gets plenty of outdoor time at soccer practice.” “Dance team is enough exercise.” “She has lots of friends at school.” Yes, all of these activities are wonderful, and you should encourage your girl to keep doing them—but you should also consider encouraging your girl to go to camp.
And now, because I know you’re going to ask, here’s why: Girl Scout camp is so much more than girls doing regular ol’ stuff outdoors. Yes, we offer archery, swimming, ropes, horseback riding, theater, hiking, art, backpacking, outdoor cooking, and more (so much more!). And while each of these activities are great, the greatness of a Girl Scout camp is more than the sum of its parts—it’s all of the activities, friendships, experiences, personal growth, tradition, and fun, sprinkled with camp magic and mashed together over the span of one, two, or even three weeks away from home.
Let’s jump right in to the 7 ways Girl Scout camp is so beneficial for girls (and may be the best choice for your girl this summer)!
1. Camp Gives every girl the chance to be a part of a powerful sisterhood that will have her back through thick and thin.
2. Camp is the perfect opportunity for her to challenge herself in a supportive environment.
As part of each Girl Scout camp experience, campers learn to conquer their fears, take healthy risks (physically, socially, and emotionally), and make decisions on their own. And the encouragement girls receive from fellow campers and staff makes it a safe environment to try new things, experience failure, and try again. Whether she is overcoming a fear of heights on the rock wall or trying a new vegetable in the dining hall, Girl Scout camp provides a much-needed space to explore new, and sometimes fearful, challenges that will ultimately give her the courage to challenge herself at school and in her community. That’s grit, and it’s powerful stuff.
4. Camp gives girls access to empowering mentors and role models who will help her succeed.
At camp, girls won’t just be learning from their peers! Girls need caring adults, other than their parents, to invest in them and serve as positive role models. In fact, experts say that kids love to learn, but it’s only natural to feel fatigued from being instructed by adults day-after-day! At camp, your girl will have the chance to meet college-aged adult mentors (her camp counselors) who genuinely want her to be the best version of herself and who will encourage her to make her bed, take showers, take turns, and take on new challenges in a way that parents can’t fairly compete with. Ask any parent of a seasoned summer camper and I’m sure they’ll agree: spending time away from home, finding role models in older campers and counselors, and learning from people with such varied backgrounds is nothing short of formative for their children.
5. Summer camp intentionally helps kids develop the soft skills they won’t learn in the classroom.
Learning to share, communicate, and live with people she isn’t related to is a really useful skill (and great preparation for college, living with roommates, and succeeding in the professional world). Fully participating in the Girl Scout camp experience means joining a community where everyone must agree to cooperate and respect each other as they live and share a space with other campers. This environment teaches girls to address conflict, adapt to different personalities, work together, and learn to compromise with each other.
In the great outdoors, girls succeed by becoming an active part of their camp community. They learn teamwork and collaboration through ropes course challenges, preparing meals, setting up tents, cleaning their campsite, and spending time with mentors that model positive behaviors. They live together, share chores, resolve disagreements, and experience firsthand the importance of communication and interpersonal skills. Most importantly, girls learn from each other as they’re given the chance to experience girls and staff from incredibly varied backgrounds and start to discover that the world is so much bigger than the 50-mile radius they call home.
7. At camp, singing loud, silly songs is practically a sport (and it’s good for the soul)!
There’s no denying that singing kooky camp songs is the best, but did you know singing is also good for your health? Songs are an integral part of daily life at camp, and stick with girls long after the summer is over. Ask anyone who went to summer camp what their favorite camp song is, and chances are you’ll get more than the title—I bet most people will belt out the entire song for you!
If you don’t think you’ve ever experienced the joy of song before, think about a time you sang ‘happy birthday’ at someone’s party or your alma mater’s fight song at a football game. It’s an experience filled to the brim with freedom, comraderie, and happiness, and it just feels good to let loose every once in a while.
In conclusion: camp may be exactly what your girl needs this summer.
So, what’s the best thing about camp? And no, it’s not hitting your first-ever bullseye, canoeing across the lake with friends, or reaching the top of a mountain to see the world from new heights (though those are awesome perks she’ll be talking your ear off about when she returns). As a parent, you may not be there to see it but, when she’s at camp, she’s learning about the world around her, skill-building, and challenging herself in ways you’ve never thought possible. And when she returns home, you might not notice it right away, but I can guarantee she’s grown.
Maybe, in the months after her stay at camp, you notice her start to find her voice, try a new food, or expand her friend circle. Maybe she offers to help out around the house or joins a new club at school. Whether it’s a new behavior, new skill, or a new level of confidence, you might start to wonder, where in the world is this coming from?This—the personal growth, the courage to be herself, the daring to try new things—is what camp brings to the table. Girl Scout camp is the full developmental package and, the most important part is, you’re not there.
*This post has been cross-posted from GS of Northern California, adapted to include photos and details from GSSOAZ, and is written by Mary-Jane Strom, the Senior Director of Camps & Adventure at Girl Scouts of Northern California.
When was the last time you sat down with your girl and encouraged her to make something—something she wanted to truly create—from scratch? In a society seemingly run by screens, it can be easy to forget about hands-on projects, yet those can be some of the most important activities for your girl to do. The act of making things isn’t just fun, it can set her up for major success in life.
“Making capitalizes on play-based experiences (the best way for kids to learn), and is also a wonderful entry to the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as kids are naturally curious and creative,” says Girl Scouts Developmental Psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. Plus, making emphasizes the process—the actual doing—rather than the end product in a way that so little in our lives does. From dreaming up ideas and designing projects to testing ideas and problem solving on her own terms, these hands-on projects are one of the best ways to keep your girl learning.
The art of creation also gives girls agency in a world where most things—where they live, when they go to school, even what they’re having for dinner—are usually out of their control. “Kids live in a world largely built and managed by adults,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “When they are given the freedom to make something entirely of their own imagination, designing how it looks and operates, they can feel true ownership and control in a way they don’t often have the opportunity to.”
Being able to follow through on an idea of your own is psychologically satisfying. “When a child—or anyone—dreams up a project, but then has to hand it over to someone else to execute, they’re giving away part of their power,” she continues. “Meanwhile, the process of transforming their idea into a tangible object or product allows that person to retain complete control over the look, feel, and function—and culminates with an amazing sense of pride.”
What counts as making, though? Really, lots of things! Your girl can make or build a:
You can play a big role in encouraging your girl to be a maker. Here’s how:
1. Set aside an area in your home as a free-for-all making space. Creativity is rarely neat, and your girl needs to feel that it’s okay to explore and really get her hands dirty.
2. Gather found objects your girl might be inspired to make things from. These can be paper towel tubes, excess tin foil, sticks, rocks, old scraps of fabric, string, rubber bands, random buttons, empty milk cartons or cardboard boxes, and even age-appropriate and safe pieces of outdated electronics and appliances. All of these items—along with some more traditional crafting supplies like glue, tape, paints, markers, and construction paper—will give her the materials she needs to get going. Open-ended creativity and building projects and toys can also be helpful.
3. Set aside uninterrupted time for her to brainstorm projects and then actually make them.
4. Ask her to talk you through what she made and why she made certain decisions. What does she like most about the project, and what (if anything) would she do differently next time?
5. Take photos of her creations and create a Maker gallery on the refrigerator, in the hallway, or in her room.
1. How do I renew myself and/or my girls?
It’s simple! Just log-in to your My GS account by clicking on the gold MYGS on our website! Your username is your email address and if you’ve forgotten your password, there is a link there that will send you a reset email. Once logged in, just navigate to the first tab at the top labeled “Membership” and you will be given the option to renew your members from there. If you are a troop leader OR co-leader, you will also have access to the “Troops” tab at the top and can renew 1 girl or your entire troop (girls and adults) from that tab.
2. Why do I show as inactive on my troop's roster?
Great question! So this could be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes technical/system errors occur and people are simply marked inactive when they should be active. The more likely answer however is that either a) your membership isn’t renewed for the most current membership year or b) your background check has expired and you haven’t renewed it yet. Council will send you a link to renew your background check roughly 2 weeks prior to your expiration date so you don’t have to remember.
Note: If you have a current membership AND a current background check and are STILL showing as inactive, call/email customer care so we can help you!
3. Why do girls appear on my roster that are no longer in my troop?
If a girl was placed in your troop at any time during a particular membership year, she will stay on your roster for that entire membership year, even if she is transferred to another troop after one day. She will be labeled as “inactive.” This feature is from GSUSA, so we can’t change it. The good news is that if you log-in to the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK), you will see the most up-to-date, current roster as it will show only girls registered for the current year.
Note: Just a reminder that our membership year runs October 1st-September 30th.
4. What do my parents need to do to volunteer?
Many hands make for light work! If you have some parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/2nd, 3rd, or 4th cousins wanting to volunteer with your troop, it is a short, sweet process to get them approved. They can just log-in to the My GS account and navigate to the membership tab. Once there, at the bottom, they will see the option to “ADD A NEW MEMBER TO HOUSEHOLD” and will have the option of either Girl of Adult. They would simply search your troop number and select the volunteer role they are wanting (ex. Troop support Volunteer, Troop Product Manager, etc.) They will need a membership of $25—adults pay the same price for a membership as girls) and a background check. After they finish their registration, our background check vendor ASURINT will automatically send them a link to complete their background check. This is done all online, they don’t need to go anywhere or upload any documents.
If your troop number does not show up, advise the adult or girl to click “UNSURE” and write your Troop number in the dialog box that comes up. This will help our staff understand where the person should go!
Note: Background checks and memberships are required annually!
5. What resources do I have to plan my troop meetings/teach a specific badge?
Great question! The new Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) is an amazing online tool that allows you to plan meetings, send out mass emails to every caregiver in your troop, and has lots of resources for leading girls. You can access the VTK via the MYGS button on our website. Once logged in, if you click Year Plan, then Add Meeting, the VTK will allow you to pick level of your girls and what type of meeting you are planning (i.e. a ceremony, badges, awards, etc.). Each meeting has a meeting overview, activity plan, and materials list. It has numerous meeting aids and how-to guides. The VTK is designed more for leaders of Daisy, Brownie and Junior troops but older girl troops can still use it!
Note: If you’re a multi-level troop, make sure to deselect multi-level and pick each level separately when selecting an activity or badge. Multi-level on the VTK will only show the curriculum that is appropriate for all levels, while each level has more resources!
Alexa (Lexie) Schwalbach and was born and raised in Tucson, AZ. She studied at NAU with a major in Political Science. Even though she loved Flagstaff, she decided to return home to Tucson because she loves the weather, Wildcats and the beautiful scenery! She has worked at the Girl Scouts of Southern AZ for almost two years and loves being in Customer Care because she is able to interact with our awesome volunteers every day!
So you’re a new volunteer, that’s great! But…. Now what? Here’s what I did when I got started to help it all feel less like a hurricane sweeping into your life!
1. Check Out Online Resources
I highly recommend checking out the GS Southern AZ Volunteer Facebook group, your local area Facebook page, as well as the Council’s website and even GSUSA. The resources online are truly endless! If you have a Pinterest account, you’ll also find endless tips from Leaders and Volunteers across the country!
2. Go to a Troop Leader Orientation
It is A LOT of new information to learn, but hang in there! Personally, the Troop Leader Orientation was the most helpful when I was getting started. These can be found online, or scheduled with your Troop Support Specialist, and will be your start-up guide to starting your Troop.
3. Find a Mentor
Reaching out to Council to find a mentor to talk to is a great way to connect with becoming a new Troop Leader. Someone who has been a leader or volunteer for a while will have a lot of advice, knowledge and personal experiences… just soak it all in! (Another great way to connect with a mentor is to attend your local Area Team meetings! Learn more here.)
4. Watch Videos
GSUSA has tons of videos online that help new volunteers. You can find them by browsing their website, or re-posted on their blog! Often, they are short and informative and perfect for learning the ropes.
5. Talk to Troop Support
If it wasn’t for our Troop Support team, I would still be chasing my tail in a circle! They are here to support you, so just give them a call or drop an email, and they can point you in the direction you need to be.
Just hang in there, breathe, and remember it’s all worth it!
Melissa is a brand-new Girl Scout Leader! She started in Girl Scouts when she was young and thinks of it as her safe place filled with happy thoughts. As a resident of Morenci, Melissa is an in-home child care provider and a tour guide at a ghost town! She was our first volunteer to reach out to write for the Low Down, and wants to thank all our volunteers for what they do!
Whether your daughter is in pre-K or heading to prom this year, it’s never too early (or too late) to give her the tools she’ll need to live her best life. And among the countless skills and bits of wisdom that will serve her over the years, having these six tricks up her sleeve will give her the confidence to truly take on the world.
1. Where to Draw Boundaries
You want your daughter to be courteous, respectful, and kind, but there’s a difference between that and being a doormat for others to take advantage of. Do her “friends” only want to hang out so they can copy her math homework? Is someone in her life—and adult or another kid—pressuring her to do things that feel uncomfortable? Talk to her now about these types of scenarios even if they haven’t come up yet. You want to make sure she has the skills to stand up for herself with confidence. Saying a simple “no,” without feeling the need to give excuses or apologies takes confidence—which you can help her with.
2. The Art of Managing Money
Understanding how to manage money isn’t just a nice-to-know, it’s a necessity for this generation. Help younger girls separate their allowance into amounts they’ll save, spend, or donate will set the groundwork for success. Then when your girl gets a little older, giving her a budget and having her plan her own birthday party will take that decision-making to the next level. Financial literacy will not only help your girl understand the value of a dollar, but also help ensure that she’ll be on secure financial footing for life.
3. When (and Who) to Call for Help
As early as possible, all children should know to call 911 in the case of an emergency—but what about when your girl is older? Will she feel comfortable calling you or another trusted adult for help in an emergency situation where you might disapprove of her actions or who she’s spending time with? It’s imperative to make sure your kids know that even if they use poor judgment, the adults in their lives love them and prioritize their safety above all else.
4. How to Avoid Burnout
We all know at least a couple people who are notorious for over-booking themselves or even sometimes have to bow out of commitments at the last minute out of sheer exhaustion. Don’t let your daughter become one of them! Get her a kid-friendly calendar to keep in her room and let her update it with birthday party invites, soccer matches, school project due dates, and anything else going on in her world. Then have her figure out where and when she has time in her calendar for rest and relaxation. Time management and balance are obviously super important in the working world, but as we all know, they go a long way in keeping yourself healthy and happy, too.
5. The Ability to Keep Moving
Whether she’s on a bike, navigating transit, or in a car, your girl should know how to get out of a fix. Help her learn how to repair her own bike, read a map, and change a flat on the family car when she’s old enough. Even if she’s not that excited to learn this stuff now, she’ll thank you later when she’s not stuck waiting around for a tow-truck.
6. How to Be Heard
You can have 1,000 great ideas, but if you don’t communicate them in a way that will make people listen, they’re not going to help you much. Roleplay with your girl so she learns how to introduce herself with confidence when she meets new people face-to-face, help her understand basic strategies of making a compelling argument (she’ll need facts to back up her points!), and work on direct communication of facts, ideas, and feelings. Finally, talk her through the admittedly sometimes confusing world of social media, texts, emails, phone calls, and—yes!—even the hand-written letter, versus when an in-person chat is best. People skills like these will help her ace that college interview, launch herself into her dream career, and have healthy relationships with friends and partners as she grows up.
*Adapted from GSUSA's series, Raising Awesome Girls
Area Team is a great way to network, stay in the loop and learn about resources. Read on in this great article from GSNorCal.
Between Girl Scout meetings and all of your kids’ other activities (plus, oh yea, family time), attending a monthly Girl Scout area team meeting may seem out of the question. But remember, being a troop leader isn’t a solo activity, and as you continue to grow with Girl Scouts, these area team meetings will become even more valuable! Led by local volunteers and a Council liaison, area team meetings create a tight-knit sense of community within specific geographical regions, providing personal assistance and helpful resources that every Girl Scout volunteer should take advantage of.
With that in mind, here are five reasons why you should attend your area team meetings:
1. You’ll have the opportunity to network with other volunteers!
Take an hour or two to leave the house, meet your fellow Girl Scout volunteers, and most importantly, make new friends. Once you find another troop that can go on a field trip with you, help you with a badge activity or bridging ceremony, or discover a sister troop at your school, you’ll be glad you left your house. We all need to meet other strong individuals who share a common bond and there’s no better place to do that than at your area team meetings!
2. You can lend a hand and put your skills to good use.
The area team is always looking to add new members – passionate volunteers with great ideas who want to contribute to the success of the area team for the benefit of the girls. Attending these meetings will give you an idea of how you can offer your expertise to the team. Maybe you’re a tech wizard who can help keep your area team connected via Facebook, social media apps, or email newsletters. Or perhaps you’re a savvy businesswoman with a huge net of local connections who can offer a space for meetings or an opportunity for girls to meet influential community members. Think about your skills and what you can bring to the team, then get involved!
3. You can learn (or teach) something new.
Area team meetings are interactive, giving veteran troop leaders the opportunity to pass along ideas and teach Girl Scout traditions, like songs, craft ideas, ceremonies, and skills. Was your latest camping trip a huge success? Tell your story and share your best practices! Did you work on a badge that was super fun and the girls got a lot out of it? Share it – or have your girls come and talk about it. Leaders of all experience levels are always looking for new ideas to bring back to their troops to keep things fun and fresh!
4. You can get your troop involved in volunteer or money-earning activities.
Area team meetings are a great place for your troop (especially an older girl troop) to practice ceremonies they’ve been learning. You can open the meeting with the Girl Scout Promise and Law and a flag ceremony and close the meeting with a fun game and the friendship squeeze. Area team meetings also sometimes need child care and, if you have older girls who are First Aid certified, this would be a great opportunity for them to give back to the area team. They could even charge a nominal fee and raise money for a trip or outing!
5. You’ll stay updated with what's happening at the Team Meeting, Council and National level.
From announcements involving upcoming events and workshops to tips for fall product sales or Girl Scout Cookie sales, a lot of information is shared at area team meetings. These meetings will ensure you know everything that’s going on – that way you’ll be able to help your troop stay active in the community, participate in local events, and discover new opportunities to grow!
We have members spread across Southern Arizona but with the help of our area teams, our volunteers and leaders can receive the special attention they deserve. So the next time you’re debating on whether or not to go to your next area team meeting, just do it, because these dedicated staff and volunteers are here for you – to help you and your girls have the best experience possible.
*This post was adapted from GS NorCal's blog The Trailhead.
Angela Borchert is finishing her sixth year as a Girl Scout leader in Vacaville/TAFB Service Unit and loves every minute of it. Her Girl Scouts have helped her embrace glue guns and dirt while taking her on her first kayaking outing. She’s been camping more times in the last four years than she has her entire life thanks to Girl Scouts!
Looking for fun things to do with your Troop in Cochise County? Look no further!
1. Benson - Kartchner Caverns State Park.
Experience a “live” cave which is host to a wide variety of unique minerals and formations. Enjoy the Discovery Center which features museum exhibits, regional displays, a theatre and more. The park also includes campgrounds, hiking trails, shaded picnic areas, and a hummingbird garden.
BONUS: There is a Council’s Own patch (from Cactus Pine) that you can earn.
2. Sierra Vista – Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve.
The Canyon is home to over 170 varieties of birds and a variety of plant and animal life. The Visitor Center includes a Please Touch Room with bird nests, snake skins and other wildlife bits. Guided tours available.
3. Bisbee – Queen Mine Tour.
Ride the mine train deep into the mine and search for remaining veins of copper, gold, turquoise, silver, lead, and zinc to experience the lives of miners as they toiled in the tunnels.
BONUS: Here's a chance to introduce STEM and the science and engineering behind mines!
4. Tombstone – Gunfighter Ghost Tour.
Visit the 10 most haunted spots in Tombstone’s Historic District on this one hour tour. Make a day of your Tombstone visit and visit the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
5. Willcox – Chiricahua National Monument.
Use up to 17 miles of day-use hiking trails to provide opportunities to discover the beauty, natural sounds and inhabitants of the almost 12,000 acre site. Don’t miss out on the Faraway Ranch.
BONUS: Find your inner Go Getter by accomplishing one of these amazing hikes!
Rosi Southee was born and raised in England where she was a member of Girl Guides for 12 years. Her scouting life, took a break for a while, but restarted in Sierra Vista when her daughter joined as a 1st grade Brownie. After one year as a volunteer became a troop leader and after 7 years in that role, Rosi began working for Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona in 2012 and now is the Membership Manager for Cochise, Graham & Greenlee Counties. Rosi is the mother to two college students (UofA and NAU) and loves dogs, chocolate, and Samoas!