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Girls of different ages can work well given a balance of activities, lots of discussion, and leader support.
These days, Girl Scout troops can come in all shapes and sizes. They can be one troop of Brownie Girl Scouts from first to third grades working to complete Try-It activities. They can be a group of 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds planning an overnight trip, while another group of fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-graders works on Junior Girl Scout badges.
While multi-age troops take different forms, they all have important things in common: lots of energy and discussion, activities that are fun and accessible to everyone, support from parents and staff, and caring, involved leaders.
Why do leaders take on multi-age troops? "It just made sense," said Dawnelle, of Huntington Beach, California "Think about it: The girls are in classrooms all day with kids the same age and in the same grade. I think they get a more well-rounded Girl Scout experience when you mix kids of different ages together. They get excited about things they might not have explored on their own."
Managing a multi-age troop presents unique challenges. "We have many meetings where we have 20 girls in four different groups, doing four to five different things," Dawnelle said before admitting that she's lucky enough to have four to five adult helpers for almost every meeting. "They all have training, and our skills complement each other."
Cheryl of Girl Scouts–Mile Hi Council, and her co-leader Karen have found that a team approach works best. "We're all a team," said Cheryl, "the two of us and all the girls." Cheryl explains that they choose to do some activities at a middle level—more challenging for the younger ones, less complex for the older ones."
"It's at these times," Cheryl continued, "that the leadership opportunities are naturally taken up by the twelve- and thirteen-year-olds."
Cheryl and Karen have been advising their multi-age troop since the youngest girls were in first grade and oldest girls were in fifth. "My Service Exec, Penny, was great," Cheryl explained. "When I first went to her with this idea, she said that she had done a similar thing years ago, and that it would be fun."
Cheryl doubted that she'd be leading this type of troop if she hadn't had Penny's support. "If she'd hesitated at all, I'm sure I would have thought that it just couldn't be done." And the council's willingness to see the troop as having unique needs has been greatly appreciated, too. "They understand the need for flexibility as we operate between two different sets."
Advising a Multi-Age Troop