Variety—it’s the spice of life. Did you know that troops who participate in a wide array of activities report a better Girl Scouting experience than those who don’t? This should come as no surprise—imagine if you went to school and your class schedule just read: 8 am–3 pm: History. That would become dull pretty quickly, no matter how much you enjoyed Hamilton.
When troop meetings and outings look like a rich smorgasbord of the four program pillars (STEM, Outdoors, Life Skills, and Entrepreneurship), you show girls the world of possibilities that exist for them. You’re fully on board with this idea….but, what if you’re not too sure how to lead activities that are outside your personal field of expertise? For me, I can talk about animal habitats and public policy all day, but when it comes to primitive camping, I’m out (Sorry!). A lack of absolute competence shouldn’t stop you from trying new things with your troop—part of the fun of being a troop leader is learning and growing together with your girls. Read on for four ways to lead activities like a pro—even when you don’t feel like one.
Use Girl Scouts River Valleys’ Activity Plans
If your girls are keen on earning a specific badge or Journey, but you don’t know where to start, head over to our planning guides. We’ve done the research for you and developed these step-by-step activity plans to guide you in leading a meeting. There’s a planning guide for each program grade level and activity plans for many of the badges and Journey awards that girls can earn.
When you’re trying something new with your troop, now isn’t the time to “fake it till you make it.” Instead, be honest with your girls and let them know that this activity or topic is unfamiliar for you too. They’ll not only appreciate your candor, but they’ll also see you as a role model for how to navigate uncharted territory—and that we’re all lifelong students.
Prepare with Your Girls
Your Junior troop decides they want to go snowshoeing this winter, but you’ve never been. What to do? Remember, girl-led! Enlist the help of your girls during the planning and preparation process. Here’s how it could play out: You refer to the Safety Activity Checkpoint (PDF) for snowshoeing and print out a copy for your troop as a guide. Together with your girls, you draft a list of equipment you’ll need, map out a few trails in the area that you could explore, and practice some skills before you head out (putting on snowshoes, widening your stance, using poles). Then, you go out and have fun!
While you should always plan for safety, you don’t need to have every single thing figured out before you embark on an adventure. Including your girls in the preliminary steps gives them a framework for how to build new skills.
Call in the Experts
For some badges and activities, you can probably muddle through and be just fine. You lead your girls on a night sky viewing and mislabel a few constellations—whoops—but when something is really out your purview, that’s when it’s time to call in the experts. Tap into your community connections (your service unit, parents and guardians in your troop, local businesses, and nonprofits) to see if there’s someone who would be willing to team up with you. You’ll be surprised at how many people jump at the chance to share their skills with others. Check out our activity vendor directory for more ideas for field trips and community service projects. And always be sure to double-check Safety Activity Checkpoints (PDF) for a full list of activities that require additional skilled personnel.
As a troop leader, you bring so many unique skills to the table. There will be times where you feel like you fall short in some categories, but don’t be discouraged. No one is an expert in everything—and that’s okay! Your willingness to learn and make mistakes alongside your girls also nurtures their curiosity and perseverance—what’s more important than that?
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (and rescue dog, Neil!).