How I Make My Multi-Level Troop Work for Everyone
Some leaders find that a multi-level troop is a great fit for them and their girls—even if they originally started as a single grade level! Chrissy Schaeffer, a troop leader in Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, shares how her multi-level troop came together and what makes it shine.
When my daughter was in kindergarten, three other leaders and I started a troop of kindergarten and first grade Daisies. After third grade, when my daughter and several of her classmates transferred to other schools, one of my co-leaders and I decided to start a new troop.
While attending a community picnic organized by my daughter’s school, I was approached by a Cadette who shared that her troop was folding because they no longer had a leader. She was upset and asked if she could join my daughter’s troop. My co-leader and I were hesitant because we really wanted to stick with Juniors. But I just couldn’t say no ... so I started a second troop.
My daughter’s troop met two weeks out of the month, and the Cadette and the remainder of her troop met the other two weeks of the month. Eventually, the girls just started coming every week. The next summer, two other volunteers approached me and asked if they could bring Daisies and Brownies into our troop and offered to be leaders for those levels. And that was the official start of our troops!
Now we work with 40 girls across two troops: one troop is multi-level and the second is our travel troop. The travel troop plans large trips—our next big trip is to Orlando in 2020 for the Girl Scout National Convention—and we’ve found it’s easier to keep this troop’s finances separate from the multi-level. All the girls in the travel troop participate in all the traditional troop’s activities, like badge-earning, camping, and field trips.
We may be two troops, but we act as one. Here’s how we make it all work:
1. We currently have eight troop leaders: two for our Brownies, two for our Juniors, one for our Cadettes, one for our Seniors and Ambassadors, and two that focus on overall troop operations, fundraising and product sales, and communication. By having leaders focus on specific levels—and therefore smaller groups of girls—we can easily help our girls explore their individual interests. (Not to mention making it easier on the troop leaders!)
2. We begin our meetings together with an opening circle, then we break into our levels for badgework. We try to take the girls on one field trip during our meeting time each month. Typically, when we do that, we take the Brownies and Juniors together and take the Cadettes and higher somewhere else.
3. We’ve learned that almost any activity can be successful with a multi-level troop, as long as the activity is age appropriate. We’ve also discovered that multi-level success isn’t necessarily about the activity at hand; it’s about encouraging your girls to work together.
4. My co-leaders and I are also strong believers that sometimes the older girls just need to be by themselves and our younger girls just need to be by themselves. Naturally, when the full group is together, our older girls tend to take on more leadership roles. When we separate by level, our younger girls have more opportunities to fill those leadership roles.
It’s really awesome, however, to see our younger girls mimicking the behaviors and actions of our older girls. The younger girls really look up to the older ones, who take that role seriously. When we are all together, the older girls will work one-on-one or in small groups with our younger girls. Last year, two of our Cadettes helped our Brownies earn a Journey award. This year, our Seniors are taking turns working with our Brownies on badges.
5. As girls get older, they get busier, and often, that means less time dedicated to Girl Scouts. But within our two troops, we see an extremely high retention rate. We believe this is due in part to our younger girls looking up to older girls, seeing the opportunities they have, and wanting those opportunities for themselves.
6. I like to talk to parents and girls before they join our troop so they understand our size (or as I like to say, how loud we can get!), our philosophy, and how we operate. Although some girls and families find a troop of our size a bit overwhelming, most find our large, multi-level troop a perfect fit!
The most important thing is that our girls are happy and thriving—and I think with so many chances for the girls to mingle and try new things, we’ve achieved that goal.