1. Talk to the parents about Girl Scouts and how it is "girl-led," so that we want to allow the girls at this age to have a say in what they want, but because they are so young it's good to frame it as a choice between two things (or perhaps three) rather than open-ended. Otherwise I think we'd be baking cookies and coloring every meeting. ;)
Early on, we're providing activities, but as we go, we're branching out to give our girls more and more choices. The goal is to increase their role as leaders substantially throughout the year, and subsequent years to come.
2. Include something of the history of Girl Scouts and how it can relate to Daisies now (see First Meeting prep post, with Juliette Low's story, for example).
3. Be sure to be clear to parents about meetings versus events. If your troop's Service Unit offers separate events (many of which are ways to earn "fun" patches that will go on the back of their vests), those are usually not the same as an actual troop meeting.
For us, we are focusing on earning our Daisy Petals (and Journey badges if time) in our troop meetings (and with take home fun activities as well, from time to time). Our Service Unit events are for fun only. That way no one loses a chance to earn an official badge, if she can't come to an event. And by having take home activities, that allows any girl who misses a troop meeting to still complete the assignments for earning her official badge.
Edit: We had some girls join mid-way through the year, and I created do-at-home projects for them so they could catch up over the winter holiday break. I was very glad I'd kept all my paperwork and craft stuff!
1. Make sure you have all your Volunteer slots filled (see this post for suggestions, and be sure to include Volunteer slots for any Service Unit events), and have contact information (email, phone numbers, addresses) for your parents/volunteers. If you are relying on email but don't hear back from parents before the first meeting, call them! Some people don't check email often, or prefer texts, etc.
All Volunteers should have their official Volunteer forms submitted, so background checks can be run (there is no cost for this at my Council; please check with yours for details).
2. DELEGATE! Instead of having Snack Mom be responsible for bringing a snack to every meeting, have her be in charge of the sign-up sheet for which mom is bringing snacks to which meeting. That helps spread the costs out a bit as well, and can cut down on dues. Same with Craft Mom, etc.
3. Make sure you have the proper ratio of adults/children for both meetings and events. In my experience thus far, you need more than the recommended ratio for events than for meetings, mainly because events tend to be more open, and meetings more contained.
4. Have a one-stop-shop (so to speak) of information for all your parents. We've set up a Shutterfly site, which is private and by invitation only. I sent out invitations to the parents, via email. They have to register with their email addresses, and log in each time with those accounts. No one else can view the site. This way I can have pictures of the girls, and meeting times, etc., without worrying about privacy issues.
Shutterfly is free to use, offers picture uploading/sharing, calendar/events, and sign-up page (great for events and snacks/crafts for meetings), message board, and is easy to navigate.
Disclaimer: Shutterfly doesn't pay me to endorse their site. And honestly I'd not used them much before starting all this, but found it's a GREAT resource for keeping information easily available for parents and for me!
Remember, before setting up any website, especially if you're considering creating a public one, to check with your Council/Service Unit for approval.
Here's an example of a Shutterfly site:
5. Set up a calendar of events for your school year (or calendar year, if your troop plans to meet year-round). Because we meet every other week at our daughters' school, I downloaded a copy of the school's calendar, to ensure all our troop meeting dates were accurate. We do not meet on days when school is not in session.
6. Decide how to you want to approach it, roughly. Do you want to organize your meeting calendar by patches/badges to be earned? Or by activities? Or a combination of the two/something else entirely? Whatever works best for you and your girls!
I decided we would have a tentative schedule based on patches to earn. I laid it out so each meeting covered a petal badge and there were some initially including Journey ones as well, with a handful leftover for finishing up additional badges and an end-of-the-year party (Edit: we didn't end up with time for Journeys this year, but that's okay. We finished up all the petals!). That is just one way to approach it. But it helps me to have a plan in place and know far in advance what we're hoping to do, and when. I know this isn't set in stone, and things come up, but I have a rough idea of how it'll be laid out for the school year.
1. There are 4 books for Daisies: the blue Daisy notebook, and three Journey books. Here's a link to the books. Girl Scouts recommends each child has a copy of the notebook, and whatever Journey book your troop will be using. And even though there's financial aid available, cost may be an issue for some parents. Edit: Unless you know for certain you'll be starting with Journeys, I'd recommend considering waiting on buying the Journey books. This could be a Cookie Money purchase, even, if necessary.
You have several options in handling this: see if your Council/SU has a lending library, photocopy excerpts for your girls (check with your Council for copyright okay first), use dues or prior cookie sale money to fund book purchases, and/or have a set number of copies you bring to each meeting and the girls share.
Blue Daisy notebook:
2. Create a First Aid Kit and BRING IT TO EVERY GIRL SCOUT MEETING AND EVENT.
I cannot stress this enough. It is vital you bring it with you. If you're going to camp, don't leave it in the cabin. Bring it to the lake, cafeteria, etc. Keep it with you always. Mine is a backpack, for easy transport. Don't leave it in your car at meetings. Bring it inside. Bring it to the playground if you go outside for a few minutes. Make it your third arm. ;)
Here's mine. I drew a red cross and wrote FIRST AID KIT GIRL SCOUTS on a sticky-note and stuck it to the back of a contact/business card for me, then laminated them (with cheap wallet photo laminating sheets I bought on clearance), poked a hole through it and attached to a keyring on the backpack:
UPDATED: In this First Aid bag you should consider having:
- instant ice pack
- whistle (attached to keyring on zipper)
- chewable "baby" aspirin (this is for adults, in case of heart attack)
- hydrogen peroxide
- sunscreen/bug repellant (you MUST have parental consent before applying either of these to a child, however, because of allergies)
- any emergency allergy kits/medication for individuals (again, with parental consent -- double check about administering ANYTHING to a child beforehand!) EDIT: You may also need to be First Aid certified to administer it. Check with your council for specifics.
- children's ibuprofen and antihistamine chewables (see above disclaimer)
- bandanas/hair ties (in case someone forgets hers for a campfire event)
- toilet paper
- baby wipes/wet wipes
- extra Ziploc-style bag(s)
- wetbag/plastic shopping bag
- latex-free gloves
- safety scissors
- sports-style wrap
- poisonous plant identification cards (see this post for details)
- Polysporin (better than Neosporin, according to my nurse friend)
- instant glucose
- calamine lotion
- a small notebook to document any time you needed to use first aid on anyone, and/or administer medication
- MOST IMPORTANTLY! Make sure your kit contains completed child and adult volunteer health forms. Keep these in an envelope (follow HIPAA guidelines for confidentiality) and in the first aid bag at all times. Make sure there is health history and contact information for the parents as well as the kids! Put them in alphabetical order. Put parent and child forms together. Keep them in an envelope inside the bag.
You can purchase pre-assembled kits for around $10. They tend to be very basic. But that's only the first step. Put that kit inside a bag/backpack and add your other items. Be sure to label the bag with your name, your contact information, and mark it clearly on the outside that it's a FIRST AID bag.
Here's a quick glance at what's inside mine:
EDIT: It's since changed. I only include bandanas for events. I added quite a few things from when I first posted this list and image.
At the Troop Meeting I showed the backback to the girls (I didn't open it -- just showed them the backpack), and explained how important it was for me to always have it with me. I told them if they ever saw me at a Girl Scout event without the backpack they were to ask me "WHERE IS OUR FIRST AID KIT?" That gives them a sense of ownership with it as well. And I pretended, "What if Miss Renee fell down and couldn't reach the first aid kit?" and told them one should grab the kit and take it to another mom to use.
They know we have it. They know it's important. They know it's there in case of an emergency. This helps with encouraging their leadership feelings as well!
3. Consider getting a portable file carrier for keeping your paperwork organized. Initially I used a big over-the-shoulder bag, but quickly realized that wasn't going to work for keeping things as organized as I'd like. So now I have one like this:
I have a file folder for every girl (to hold things like patches they've earned/are working on, notes for parents, etc.), and for meeting plans, coloring pages, photocopies, attendance sheet, etc. My Kaper chart even fits inside! I've got one of my business cards taped to the inside. I don't keep health forms in it, however. They stay in the First Aid bag.
EDIT: I went out and bought something like this, because I realized halfway through my first year of Brownies that I needed something that could roll. You can find this at most big box stores and online. Mine has a lid, too. I love it. :)
Except I don't have mine full of files. It's full of all my GS gear, including crafts.
I leave my craft box in a cabinet in the room where we meet. Ditto with flag
4. Make sure your schedule/calendar includes events, and each badge you'll be working on for the length of time between meetings. We keep ours on the Shutterfly site. As you go, be sure to add any activities that will enable the girls to earn each patch. Keep it updated.
EDIT: This isn't a necessity by any means. It was tough to have the girls/parents remember to send in information or paperwork to meetings, so keep that in mind when making forms like this. It may work great for you, or not at all. As with everything else, adjust as needed.
For example, to earn the blue center of the Daisy patch, the girls must memorize the Promise. So at the first meeting, we made Trefoils/nametags with the Promise on the back. The girls took these home with a checkoff sheet so parents could initial once their Girl Scout had memorized the promise, and go ahead and iron on the blue center patch. (See First Meeting post for details.)
After each meeting, I update our site with details on anything that needs to be accomplished to earn the next petal. This is a duplicate of the information sent home physically in envelopes (see below), but if a girl misses a meeting, she won't have that sheet I sent home, so this is an easy option for parents.
Here is a copy of the petal badge (etc.) sheet I have for each girl:
5. Consider using manilla envelopes for each child, if you're not using blue Daisy notebooks, so you can send home the sheet for parents updating them on what we did at the meeting, and any take-home assignments. Have parents send the envelope in with her child at every meeting. Keep extra copies of forms on hand in your files in case a folder's lost. You can use the blue notebooks otherwise, or folders, or whatever you have on hand. Check your local dollar-type store for discounts!
EDIT: Or have a volunteer put take-home papers in each child's backpack, if you're meeting at school.
If you choose to do take-home activities some, this allows the meetings to be more group-based, and foundations for each badge. It lets you read the blue Daisy notebook stories to the girls, and have crafts (etc.) in the meetings that all the girls participate in, which is learning about the badge. Then once they're home, they earn the badge by completing an easy task.
This, again, allows any child who might have been ill or unable to attend a meeting, to still earn her badge before the next meeting, and not fall behind.
More to come, but that's a good start!
EDIT: Here's a sample of how to keep things organized at home:
EDIT: Check your volunteer manual for how long you are to keep paperwork (permission slips, receipts, etc.). Create a file or box just for those things and put it somewhere safe. Also make sure you read your manual carefully, so you understand your council's regulations regarding transactions, banking, and other paperwork. Be prepared to fill out and turn in a financial report at the end of the year (or whenever your council says). Parents should, in most councils, be allowed to view those reports upon request. This helps with transparency. Keeping permission slips and other paperwork can help protect YOU in case any issues ever arise. When in doubt, call your council and ask, if the info isn't already in your leader book.