We talk a lot about why it’s so important for girls to take the lead in troop life, and for good reason! But for many new troop leaders, the idea of letting their girls take charge might sound, well, wild. How do you let little girls who can barely sit through snack time plan a year of activities? What does girl-led planning actually look like?
Of course, depending on their grade level, you’ll do more of the planning and organizing as your girls learn to lead their Girl Scout experience; what’s most important is that they always feel empowered to direct where they want their year to go. And making sure their voices are front and center in everything the troop does isn’t just helpful for the girls—activities will go smoother when your girls are eager and invested in troop life.
Need ideas for how to make it all work? Our Volunteer Experts shared their best tips for approaching a new troop year while infusing that girl-led magic into every step!
Girl-Led Planning for Younger Girls
If you’ll be planning activities for your younger girls, get a clear picture of what they’re most excited about. "My Daisies filled out a form [in which I asked] about their favorite activities last year, what ideas they have for this coming year, and a list of badge themes we could pursue this year, like animals, space, coding, and outdoor adventures,” says Kat Schukneckt, a troop leader from Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland. “I’ll use their answers to help guide me in planning this year to ensure there is something for each of them.”
“I have my girls talk to a partner or small group about what they might like to do for badges, trips, or activities, and then each group will share with the entire troop,” says Jen Quaranta, a Brownie troop leader from Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. “Sharing with a partner helps all girls feel like they had a chance to talk. We record the ideas so we can continue to visit them throughout the year.”
Many Daisy and Brownie leaders find that asking girls to vote on two or three options keeps the girls engaged and keeps the meeting moving. But don’t be reluctant to see where brainstorming takes them, and offer suggestions and guidance along the way. “When we were thinking about activities for the Considerate and Caring petal, I asked our Daisies how they could do that,” explains Khadijah Pinckney of Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey. “One girl suggested doing something nice for someone, so I suggested get well cards for my patients, to which they all agreed. At the next meeting, I returned with a few handwritten thank-you notes from those who received the cards. The girls were so happy to receive them!”
As your girls bridge to Juniors, they’ll be ready to take on more responsibilities in charting their troop year. “One thing I did was assign ‘homework’ during the first few weeks of the school year,” explains Becca Briggs, a Junior troop leader from Girl Scouts of Citrus. “Each girl could present two large activities, like an overnight, and three small activities, like participating in a council workshop. They had to present the location, the activity, the cost per girl, and how they would get there. From those lists, the girls voted on their top ten activities. As the year progressed and we finished fall product and cookie sales, we’d revisit the list and vote on which activity to do next.”
Girl-Led Planning for Older Girls
Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors have the skills they need to develop realistic plans and make them a reality! Though they won’t need the same level of support as younger girls, be ready with guiding questions or key information that will help them make informed decisions about the year ahead. “We’ll provide information on the Gold Award and the help we can offer along the way as their leader,” explains Beth Brow, a Senior troop leader from Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. “[We also share] the resources they need to be successful within our time limitations, the volunteer/Girl Scout ratio, certifications, and transportation availability.”
“[When starting conversations about] trips, don’t ask where, but ask what they want to do: something outdoors? A museum? Then ask them how far they’d travel,” says Sheila Morris, also from Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
As your girls grow, you might need to try different planning strategies. “My Cadette troop did not seem interested in working on the New Cuisines badge, but they were all on board for doing a cooking class,” says Julie Fuqua, a troop leader from Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. "When I present something as an activity, they get excited.”
The most supportive thing you can do for older girls? Listen to them and be open to the dreams they share with you—they might just make them a reality. “Our troop, a dozen eighth-grade girls, went on a four-day, three-night trip, and what made it so memorable was the fact that they all planned it, worked for it, and were able to enjoy it together,” says Dylan Newton, a Cadette troop leader from Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. “I always share that story with new troops, especially older girls, to prove they can do anything through Girl Scouting!”