Welcome to my blog! I started it when I was a new Girl Scout leader and needed some kind of organized "to-do" list. I decided the best way to keep things organized was to start a blog. So here it is! My oldest troop has since bridged up to Juniors, and I've taken on a Daisy troop as well, so I will continue updating with new Juniors information and additional Daisy stuff too. My hope is to continue to update with every level as my troops advance. But we'll see.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope it's helpful!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting Started with Brownies, Part Five -- Bridging and First Meeting Prep


Some troops like to do their Bridging ceremony at the end of their second year in Daisies. We opted not to do this because we didn't want to spend cookie money on patches, pins, etc., when we didn't know yet which girls would be returning. Maybe that makes me cheap. I'd like to think of it more as practical. ;) Save money where you can!

Anyway, we already had an end-of-the-year party for Daisies. The girls loved it and had a blast! So this year we started off with a Bridging ceremony at our first troop meeting. Who doesn't love an excuse for a party?

Now, if you're like me, you're scouring Pinterest for Bridging ideas and coming across these incredible cake creations that, well, I for one wouldn't even try to attempt. Sorry, but again. I'm being realistic; if you're a cake decorator, GO FOR IT! Play up to your strengths! Unfortunately, my attempts at decorating cakes are so completely not Pinterest-worthy, that we opted for buying cupcakes with rainbows painted on top, instead.

Anyway. . . .

So, why rainbows? Why not trefoils or Brownie elves or whatever other Girl-Scout-themed-thing?

Because rainbows are easy. You can go into pretty much any store that contains a bakery and ask for cupcakes with rainbows on top. "I need two dozen cupcakes with rainbows on top. Can you do that?" "Well, yeah. That's easy." See? Told you! Order some cupcakes. It's totally easy. Less messy than cake too. Oh, and the Bridging to Brownies patch is . . . you guessed it: a rainbow!

Here's a yummy image of what you might want to do (thanks Cake Central for the image!):

So the food part was solved. We just needed something special for the "Bridging" part.

Turns out we're really lucky because our service unit has a small, portable, wooden bridge that's painted blue and has a single rail, so I was able to borrow it and bring it to the meeting. It fit in my minivan just fine.

We put it outside by the school, with a brick background for nice pictures, and carted all the supplies in. I even wore my official leader shirt with insignia tab and pins (fancy, I tell you! I was excited!).

But you can use pretty much anything. Take them somewhere with a small bridge or hill they can climb up and down. Let them choose their own spot. Be creative! :)

Preparing for the meeting and Bridging. 

Here's what I brought to my first meeting:

- Prepared take-home sheets for the girls, detailing what we did, what upcoming events we have, which forms are still due and when, money stuff, etc.
- Registration and health forms for those who've not yet filled them out/turned them in (names on a sticky note to make it easier for my paper-stuffing-volunteer; "ADULT" and "CHILD" circled in highlighter because those health forms are confusing)
- Carry-case of craft supplies (which the art teacher is generously allowing me to store in her cabinet! That helps my back so much. Thank you, Kind Art Teacher!), including markers, crayons, pencils, scissors, glue sticks, etc. (NOTE: These supplies weren't for today's meeting unless we needed them due to weather)
- Small flag
- Clipboard with Attendance sheet on it (I altered the sheet slightly so there's a spot for parents/guardians to initial next to it each meeting when they pick up their Scout), and some backup coloring pages and word searches in case it rained and we couldn't play on the playground
- Pencil (for Attendance)
- Cell phone with all contact info for parents, etc.
- List of parents who still owe me paperwork, etc.
- First Aid Bag! (See this post for details. Also, I added a whistle! Which is great for rounding them up when we're outside, etc., too)
- New Kaper Chart (see this post), with names on clothespins
- Brownie Story (from Brownie Book)
- Camera!
- Bridge (again, you don't have to have one. Find a playground with a bridge. Find a small hill to climb up and down. Stack up some cinder blocks. Whatever works for you!)
- Certificates, rolled up like diplomas, tied with brown ribbon (names in pencil on outside so I could call them up one-by-one)
- Rainbow badges and stickers from our Council
- Daisy discs for returning ones
- Cupcakes! (This week's snack mom brought plates and napkins and drinks)
- New Promise/Law poster (see below, because I changed it slightly):

"BUT WHY DID YOU CHANGE IT?" you might ask. Well, I'm picky. And I wasn't 100% sold on the previous template I posted here (you can use whichever, or neither); I am very detail-oriented. I wanted something that would tie in the colors of Daisy petals (especially since our first two big crafts for Brownies will tie in the colors of the Law as we learned in Daisies, to help refresh their memories).

And why is it there's stroke (outline) around some of the lines but not others? Because for my not-so-great inkjet printer, printing on cardstock, light blue/light yellow simply didn't stand out enough on white paper. But when I outlined ALL the aspects of the Law, it didn't look right. Too busy. So I resisted my OCD tendencies and left it imbalanced. The girls didn't even notice.

But what they did notice immediately, was that the colors were different! "HEY WOW! THEY ARE LIKE OUR DAISY PETALS!" They were excited about that part. I was glad. :)

Note: When we say the Promise and Law here's how I do it. I stand in front of them, facing towards the poster, with my back to the girls. I raise my right arm up high and wave it. 

"Raise your right arm!" I say, then I peek over my shoulder to help any who might've inadvertently lifted the wrong arm. 

"Now, make a THREE (stick three fingers up, thumb over pinky), and squish 'em together!" (They do this and ta-da! Girl Scout salute.) 

"Pull elbows down" (they do). And then we say the Promise.

Repeat steps above for Law, BUT when we get to the break, right before "and to" I turn around, look at them and say in a different voice, "Now take a deep breath," and they do. Then we face forward once more, and resume reciting the Law. This helps them take a mental and physical moment to regroup, but stay focused on the words.

Here's what it looks like (take pictures! Take lots of pictures! The girls -- and parents -- love seeing their little leaders in action):

Our first troop meeting was all about fun. It was basically a party. I did walk around the table and ask each child her name, and was fun/silly about it ("oh wait, your name is Rumpelstiltskin!" or whatever). I introduced all the volunteers. We did our Pledge, etc. All the proper start-up stuff.

Then we talked about our rules....

Rules for Our Troop (in addition to GS Law, etc.):

1. When I raise my hand, it means everyone goes quiet. As soon as you see my hand raised, you raise yours and you become quiet.

2. If you need to leave the room or group for any reason, you must take a Buddy with you. Tell an adult where you are going.

3. We cannot use any of the supplies in the Art Room. We bring all our own supplies. If you need something, ask an adult for help.

4. Every Brownie must have an adult sign her out before she can leave.

5. No leaning back on stools/chairs, or you will end up having to stand. This is for safety! (And an Art Room rule.) Basically your bottom on your seat, your seat on its bottom.

We had a review of things like Kaper Chart, and did the Pledge, Promise, Law, and attendance (the girls like to shout out silly things like, "Girl Scouts ROCK!" instead of saying, "Here." I love it!).

I explained today would be different. Because it was our first day as Brownies! So we were celebrating today! Next meeting we would have crafts and play games, etc., and today was for fun, but we still had to follow the rules.

The Whistle. Not Just an Emergency Thing:

At one point the girls were really excited and loud, and my hand-raising trick wasn't working. So I went over to my First Aid bag and grabbed my whistle. And blew it. LOUDLY. Everyone shushed. I said, "Oh yay! Look! I got a new thing. New things are fun! Except this one kind of hurts my ears. I'm guessing we don't want to have to use this much, huh?" and they pretty much agreed. Also, they settled down fast, which was good. Ha! I kind of love this whistle. I think I might get a second one for home with my own kids....

What We Did:

While we were helping clean up and get the room ready, our Games Volunteer taught the girls the Brownie Smile Song:

We had potty break, etc., then cupcakes. I read them the Brownie story and we cleaned up, put recycling in our own take-away recycle bin, and lined up by Buddies with our backpacks on, and headed outside.

Everyone lined up neatly. "Buddies! Line up! Out the door, nice and quiet! Line up here please. Take two steps back until you're in the sun. Take one step forward into the shade. Have a seat, please!" and they did. :) They were just so cooperative! I'm so proud of them for how well they listened.

I called out each, one at a time, and she came to the bridge, stood there, had her picture taken (beaming, all of them! Thank you, Volunteers, for helping with things like pictures so I could hand them their certificates), then walked off the other side to me, where I gave them their "diploma" and rainbow patch, and a hug for those who wanted it. "WELCOME TO BROWNIES!"

Everyone clapped for their sisters.

See how great it was? (Yes, that's me. And my daughter. She's so happy and proud. And so was I!)

It was wonderful. And hot. And I was sweating. And the kids were beyond excited, and pumped up on sugar. So after we finished, we just walked them over to the playground. The volunteer adults went to the playground to chaperone them (remember your ratios!) and I went with another mom to help clean up the Art Room, while our wonderful Games Volunteer stuffed backpacks with paperwork and take-home sheets.

Parents arrived, signed out their kids, seemed pleased with the sign-out system, and then it was time to walk our Aftercare kids to their room.

Whew! It was long, and hot, and exhausting, and more chaotic than usual, but the girls all seemed to have a really good time. And so did I!

You may choose an entirely different set-up for your first meeting/Bridging ceremony, and that's okay. The basic things were to welcome everyone, and have fun. I didn't go through the whole spiel about how GS was founded. I did mention Juliette Low to them, and will again as we get closer to her birthday. But for now, it was more about having a good time than getting back into the routine. And it worked for us.

Here are some templates if you'd like one for Bridging:

EDIT: I've had some folks ask about Bridging Requirements. The bridging rainbow badge isn't just randomly given for moving up a level. All the girls have to fulfill bridging requirements listed here.

However, once they move from Brownies to Juniors, they can earn yet another bridging badge, but they will be given their wings patch ("fly up" to Juniors) just for moving up a level. So rainbows = effort; wings = no effort.

Next up: Girl Scout Way, Part One. :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Getting Started with Brownies, Part Four -- Things to Do Before Your First Meeting

Even after you've created an introduction and agenda, and sent out uniform information, you'll still need to do some things to prepare for your first troop meeting.

There are some (hopefully) helpful notes in the Daisy post here that can carry over (I reference this post a lot down below, because I'm reusing a lot of the same ideas. Whatever works!).

But I am changing up a few things from last year. Here's my list, in no particular order:

- The template I created and used for our Girl Scout Promise and Law was Daisy-themed. I've made a new one that's Brownie-themed (plus last year's was on a half poster board and while it worked well, it's kind of beat up looking now. I need a new one). I'm still on the fence about it, but for now, it'll work.

Same thing as last year. Print it out on regular white paper, glue to long construction paper if you'd like, then glue that to a poster board cut in half. 

The correct codes for Girl Scout green are: PMS 355, Hex #00ae58, c94 m0 y100 k0, r0 g174 b88. You're welcome. ;) (While "official" guidelines say to use Arial font, this is not for publication. This is for the troop. So I want it to be clear, legible, and fun. There are a variety of SansSerif fonts that work well for that. It's entirely up to you.)

The template for the Girl Scout Promise is here

EDIT: I've had a request for the Pledge in a printable graphic (so you can print it out, mount to construction paper if desired, and glue to a half-poster like the Promise and Law I've posted). So here it is! 

- The Kaper chart from last year ended up being too complicated. I initially assumed I'd need a job for every girl. Not so. We ended up not referring to the Kaper chart as regularly as we probably should've. So this year I've pared it down a bit. And am putting more focus on Buddies -- so each job has two girls instead of one. By centering the jobs on the page I can use a clothespin on the left and right to indicate buddies. That way we cut down on unnecessary Kaper roles, and reinforce the Buddy System. 

Also, while we have a big troop, it isn't necessary to always have someone doing a job. Plus, there will always be someone who may be out of town or out sick, etc., so be sure to bring along the other clothespins just in case.

Here's the new Kaper chart template:

Super easy. :)

- Double check your First Aid bag! Make sure nothing's expired. Check out this post here for details. Contact your parents ASAP to get health forms in. Look over the contact info on them beforehand to make sure everything's legible. 

- Enter all parents' phone numbers into your cell phone. 

- Start folders for all the girls (be sure to re-use ones from last year -- just flip them inside out and write a new name on the tab, or use the same for returning Girl Scouts). 

- You may choose to do a manilla envelope for each girl to hold her take-home information, etc. I did this last year but it ended up being wasteful, I think, because our school has plastic take-home folders that everyone brings home each day. Since it was difficult for parents to remember to send in the manilla envelopes on troop meeting days, we ended up putting take-home info in the school folders. This year we're not doing manilla ones. Save a tree, etc.

- Make Welcome! certificates for your girls. You can incorporate this into your Bridging ceremony too, if you wish.

Here's a sample of ours:

Here's a blank template you can use:

I used hobo font for "Welcome" and troop info, ActionIs font for name and Date/Leader, and BoyzRGross for the "we are so glad" part. All these fonts are free from fontspace and approved for commercial-free use. I printed each on heavy cardstock, centered, and shrunk to fit. HEX code for green is #00ae58 and I used #663300 for brown (I couldn't find the official Brownie color, and that one matched the hats pretty well).

- Print out an Attendance sheet (create your own or use the one on the Girl Scout leader disc you should've received in your training packet).

- Get a portable file carrier if you don't already have one. Again, this post has more info in it.

I'll be posting a list of everything to bring for your first troop meeting, soon!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Getting Started with Brownies Part Three -- Agenda

For our first year of Brownies, I've got the (loose) dates set up for meetings .

The plan is to meet the first and third Friday of each month, for an hour and 15 minutes right after school. Having meetings last this long allows us to have time for two activities/games, a snack, and includes time for the Pledge, Promise, Law, etc. We often have time left over, even, to go out and play (which all the girls love, of course!).

The first year we will be focusing on Legacy and Cookie-related badges. For those of you who are looking for information on Brownie Journey badges, you'll have to head on over to Google and Pinterest. We're not planning on incorporating Journeys this year. That's next year's agenda. Maybe. However, I will be posting details on each badge we're working on here as we go, and you may find some activities that you could use towards a Journey (I hope!).

Given our meeting days (based upon our school year, and taking into account vacation/holiday time) here's our agenda plan:

Meeting 1 - Welcome and Intro to Brownies
Meeting 2 - Brownie GS Way
Meeting 3 - Brownie GS Way contd.
Meeting 4 - Painting
Meeting 5 - Brownie First Aid
Meeting 6 - Celebrating Community (for us, this hits in December, a great time to focus on community)
Meeting 7 - Snacks
Meeting 8 - Intro to Cookie Sales
Meeting 9 - Cookies Meet My Customer
Meeting 10 - Fair Play
Meeting 11 - Cookies Financial Literacy
Meeting 12 - Bugs
Meeting 13 - Catch Up/Bonus Day for whatever we need to catch up on
Meeting 14 - Last meeting of the year - Review and Fun!

Non-Meeting - End-of-the-Year Party/Ceremony

You are allowed to earn one Financial Literacy and one Cookie Business badge per year.

EDIT: Some leaders prefer to have the girls create the agenda from the get-go, first year of Brownies. I did talk to the girls about which badges they wanted to work on (they really wanted to do Painting -- so much so that it would've required at least two meetings, and we had too many snow days to include it, so we're saving it for year two), but there were some badges I felt were important, foundational ones that we really needed to include (GS Way, First Aid, Community, etc.). Plus, I had to schedule visitors far in advance, so the badges that had an outside expert come in had to be pretty well set in stone.

We ended up booting Fair Play in favor of camp-themed activities instead. This was the girls' choice.

As always, you do what works best for your troop. This is just basically a sample of how to set up a rough itinerary for the school year. In year two, the girls will be determining the agenda and which badges/patches we work on. Give them as much opportunity for leadership/input as possible, while keeping it age- and troop-appropriate. You know your girls better than some other leader would. So you do what's best for your troop. :)