Every year, both new and experienced troop leaders ask, “What does girl-led actually mean?”
Simply put, “girl-led” describes a way girls of every age can take active roles in figuring out the “what”, “where”, “when”, “why”, and “how” of what they do as Girl Scouts. It is the basic yet complex concept that girls should be encouraged to create their own unique Girl Scout experience while developing other leadership skills.
Taking part in the leadership of the troop gives girls the opportunity to feel a sense of self-worth and pride in seeing their own skills and ideas come to life. Girl-led experiences provide girls the independence to make mistakes, and the chances to try again.
Where to Begin?
If you’re a troop leader, you may be thinking this is easy… or maybe you’re questioning how to do this without losing your mind! Stepping out of your comfort zone as a leader can be intimidating but also incredibly rewarding because of all the new opportunities you will experience as a collaborative troop.
There is no one way to implement girl-led practices, just like there is no one way to be a Girl Scout! How you facilitate these experiences will change over time as the girls grow and develop leadership skills and curate their experiences.
It is important to remember the age-level of your girls and their abilities to plan and execute a meeting. You wouldn’t ask a kindergartner what they want to do–– you would give her choices and ask leading questions.
If you need some inspiration, here are some examples of questions for Daisy Girl Scouts:
- “Do you want to sing songs or play games?”
- “Would it be better to play this game indoors or outdoors?”
- “Do you want to do this activity during a regular meeting or at a different time?”
This way, girls can vote on activities and make decisions to the best of their ability, giving them more to control a meeting. As they get older, their skills (and their confidence) will grow, and they will start to take on more responsibility!
Making it Happen, Step-By-Step
How do the girls come up with ideas and form a plan?
Traditionally, in the beginning of the new troop year, leaders assume for responsibility for planning troop activities. Girls choose from 2 to 3 activities suggested by their leaders.
While some ideas come from listening to the girls, this is a good time to introduce them to the concept of budgeting. For example, make it clear that the troop can afford to do “A” and “B” or just “C” but not all three, and let the girls decide the solution.
The next step is to start getting ideas from the girls. Girls look to their leaders for suggestions, but the girls should offer ideas for troop activities. This way, girls will begin to plan and carry out short term projects.
This is a good time to introduce girls to safety guidelines and Safety Activity Checkpoints.
For brainstorming, it helps to organize the activities into categories, like local trips, overnight trips, service projects, Take Action projects, international trips, and council programs. It helps if you set a time limit for 10 or 20 minutes. Here are some example rules for a brainstorming session:
- Everyone has to participate!
- Write every idea down.
- Do not discuss the merits of ideas–– this will take place later.
- Do not judge–– no groaning, laughing, cheering, or put downs.
- Repetition is okay.
- Spelling does not matter.
- Read aloud the completed list when finished!
Once you have finished brainstorming, it is time to start making decisions. Group decisions can be made by following these steps:
- Look over ideas and edit the list down. Have each girl mark which activities she is most interested in doing. Combine similar activities, and eliminate activities that don’t seem likely to work for the group.
- Collect information about any activities that the group doesn’t know much about.
- Discuss the negatives and positives of each activity. Consider cost, safety, requirements, seasonal restraints, time commitments, age appropriateness, needs and interests of the group, and whether the activity reflects the purpose of Girl Scouts.
- Figure out the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of the activities.
- Plan your calendar accordingly!
Don’t forget to take time to evaluate the events. How did things turn out? What would we do differently next time? Reflect and learn from what went wrong and right with the plan.
What is a Leader’s Role?
- Be a good listener and ask leading questions.
- Assess the troop’s readiness and then guide the girls to assume responsibility.
- Guide planning in small enough steps so girls can see parts of the plan working individually.
- Guide the girls in making appropriate choices.
- Make sure the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of the project are included.
- Discuss the details of how each phase will be accomplished.
- Allow each girl to learn from experience. Vary the amount of given help according to each girl’s needs, but offer to help to avoid discouragement.
- Offer practical advice about time and money involved, resources people who might help, transportation, or needed equipment.
- Build in an evaluation so girls can use this information for their next experience.
- Acknolwedge achievement, no matter how small.
- Make girl-led planning an ongoing part of your program.
Leading the Way
Now that you know more about how to help girls, give them a chance to help you!
When girls lead the way, they become empowered to curate their own experiences. This is how girls become independent women: by having the power to choose.