I love how one focus of Girl Scouts is being girl-led. But I think this term means different things to different people. To some, it means focusing on leadership skills, and encouraging the girls to be leaders as often as possible. To others, it means guiding them in making business decisions. Or it may simply mean letting the girls take on more responsibility as they grow. Or a combination, etc. And on and on. There are lots of ways to interpret it, obviously.
While I think leadership skills are very important, and I'm fine with incorporating money management (especially during cookie season), I don't think everyone is a natural leader. Nor do I think leadership should be forced, at this age, if they are extremely uncomfortable with it. I have several girls who are painfully shy, and while it's good for all of us (myself included!) to go outside our comfort levels, I try to keep it age-appropriate and be respectful of each girl as an individual. Because the last thing I want is to push an eight-year-old into being the center of attention when that is obviously going to freak her out (and perhaps make her reticent to continue in GS).
Yeah, it can be a tough balance at times. I had one mom who told me she was grateful I paid attention to the fact that her daughter didn't like being the center of attention. I had another who told me she thought the girls should already be planning and leading the meetings, completely on their own.
Somewhere in there is a happy medium, I think. Encouraging those who aren't natural leaders to step up, and giving those who are more Type A personalities the opportunity to shine. Treating each girl with equal respect, while acknowledging their need to be true to themselves isn't easy at this age (does it get easier?).
Regardless, I think it's vital that as the girls advance through each year of GS, their opportunities for sharing opinions, making decisions, and handling responsibilities also increase, without asking them to compromise who they are. To me, that's what being "girl-led" is all about.
In Daisies, I think being girl-led is more about giving the girls options: letting them choose between two (or perhaps three) things at a time. But with each year they grow, their ability to handle more responsibility increases, as should their investment (time/energy) in the troop.
A handy chart via Google that illustrates leadership progression
So I guess it's not just that I like the term (in my understanding of it), but I really appreciate that GSUSA allows leaders the freedom to interpret that term, especially with younger troops, and tailor the program to fit individual troop needs.
In the past, the girls have given me input regarding badges/patches and activities. And that's great! I love it. But rather than determine our itinerary for this year based upon piecemeal suggestions and/or what I think the girls would have fun doing, I'm giving them the opportunity to decide our meeting agenda for themselves. Some leaders do this from the get-go in Brownies, and that's fine. Whatever works for you. But last year I had several core Legacy badges I wanted us to do, because I felt they were important foundations for Girl Scouts (GS Way, First Aid, etc.), and many of these required outside speakers/visitors, which had to be scheduled far in advance. So while I listened to what the girls wanted to do, in the end I planned a rough agenda and thankfully it worked out really well. I never received any complaints from the girls regarding which badges and fun patches (or other activities) we did.
EDIT: Today I was following an online conversation about having second-year Brownies team up with a buddy (in the troop) to plan and lead meetings. All on their own. I think that's a GREAT idea! I also think it would be utter chaos in our troop for a couple of reasons: The maturity levels vary wildly, and I think the only ones who could really handle the work aspect as the aforementioned painfully shy girls. So they could do the prep work, but when it came time to actually lead, they would be in agony.
So there's that. But logistics also come into play here. We meet on a Friday, right after school. Planning a meeting would coincide (conflict) with homework that week. Third grade is a big transition in terms of homework for our school. They have a LOT more in third grade than they did in second. Also, the main parent volunteers I have are the ones who come to every meeting. There are too many girls and too many of the parents (unfortunately) who would simply balk at the notion of having to do take-home work/preparation for Brownies. And I can't say I blame them, honestly. Not at this age.
So while I'm not at all opposed to the notion of having the girls lead the meetings, I think for our troop, it's okay that our big steps this year are letting the girls determine what they want to do as a troop, and what our long-terms goal is. If we had a smaller troop, and met on the weekend, or had less homework, or more gung-ho parents, maybe it could work.
And it still might. You never know! But I talked it over with my co-leader and she completely agreed that it would be utter chaos, at least initially. So we're moving a little slower on that end than some troops, and that's okay.
If your girls can handle the added responsibility of planning and leading meetings, GO FOR IT! Be there as their support, but let them lead the way. It's all part of what being "girl-led" is all about: knowing your girls, giving them opportunities to shine, to participate, valuing their input, and supporting them along the way.
But doing it in a realistic manner, based upon your individual troop.
Next year we will definitely be giving the girls more responsibilities. But for now, I'm okay with the plan below.
Yeah, Yeah. So, Where Are the Journeys?
I know, I keep putting these off. Yes, they are doable. Yes, if your troop wants to do them, GO FOR IT! And yes, I know, I can alter them to fit my troop. But because of how often our troop meets, and where we meet, Journeys are a serious challenge for us. And I admit, every time I read through the books, I come away overwhelmed and a little discouraged; I would simply have to do too much to tailor them to meet our troop's needs, so I put it back in my To Do Later box. (Don't get me wrong. I work really hard, and put a ton of time and effort into our troop meetings. But that's probably why I'm disinclined to attempt a Journey. I know me. I'd spend weeks preparing for it, so I'm not attempting it unless they say WE WANT TO DO THIS! In which case I'll gladly do it. Because that's what girl-led is all about. It's my job to support them in their goals.
We go from leading the girls, to guiding the girls, to supporting the girls. And a big mish-mash of all three in between. :)
But in years past, the girls don't even like to listen to me explain what a Journey is, much less as to do one. Thankfully, Journeys are still optional for Brownies and Daisies (Juniors and up are required [at this point] to complete at least one per level, when working on Bronze, Silver, Gold Awards [two for Gold, if they didn't earn their Silver]). But for now, eh. I'm not stressing over it.
If they choose to work on any Journeys, it would have to be a Journey-in-a-Day event on the weekend, not a regular troop meeting.
So the list down below is for regular troop meetings only. It doesn't include all the service unit fun events, nor Journeys, because those are all outside of our regular meetings. It's primarily Skill-Building (which are related to Journeys, but can be earned and purchased separately) and Legacy badges, and fun patches.
I would love to do the old Try-Its, because I think they're great (and the books are fun too), and a great fit for our troop, except for one things: given that the badges are retired and in some cases hard to find individually, much less in bulk, we haven't been able to attempt the same one in troop meetings, because I cannot find enough of them! The troop is too big. So I encourage the girls to work on any badges/patches they like, independently, and have had quite a few work on Try-Its (if you're interested, check out this link or Google Brownie Try-Its, and search eBay for the badges and books to purchase).
Some Try-Its (there are tons!):
Troop Badges and Patches
I hope everyone had a great summer! There are many things we can work on this year, and I want you to choose some of the things you'd like to do. Let's make it a great year!
Please pick FOUR badges/patches that you would like to work on from the list below. Just put a checkmark by the ones that appeal to you the most. If you have a question about something, ask me.
We will work on the top choices, as selected by the troop. But don't worry, if you want to work on something but it isn't chosen by the troop, you can still do it on your own, at home. Just ask me about it. And if you have something you'd like to work on and it's not on the list, tell me about it. I will see if I can find a badge or patch to fit what you're wanting to do, because there are LOTS to choose from!
_____ Act of Kindness/Make a Difference
_____ Fair Play
_____ Harry Potter (Scientific Sorcery)
_____ Home Scientist
_____ Household Elf
_____ Letterboxing and/or Scavenger Hunt
_____ Make Your Own Badge
_____ Making Friends
_____ Making Games
_____ Magical Fairy Adventure
_____ My Family Story
_____ My Great Day
_____ Safety Award Pin
From this sheet, the girls will pick their top four and then we will work on anywhere between 6-8 of the top picks overall (plus cookie badges and pin, and service unit activities). My hope is there will be a good mix of Legacy and Skill-Building, with some fun patches thrown in for, well, FUN! :) And if they want to take charge of something along the way, yes! If not, no biggie.
That's it for first meeting plan, right now (more to come on first meeting prep for second-year Brownies as it gets closer to fall). Next up? Troop Crests!