A few years ago, when my troop was in 8th grade, I wrote a post about how to keep your troop going through middle and high school. Today, they’re 11th grade Girl Scout Ambassadors and still going strong—nine troop members, two leaders, one cookie manager and all. With a few more of those exciting teenage years under our belts, I still stand by those tips.
The lives of high schoolers are busier than ever. Their days are filled with mid-terms and finals, sports and performing arts, college-prep and part-time jobs. And yet they still find time for Girl Scouts. I often pause and think about the why. What is it about our troop that keeps the girls coming back (and preventing us adults from throwing in the towel)? It’s often the little tricks that make activities engaging and the troop running smoothly (mostly 😊).
I come to you now with a few more tips that I’ve found helpful, ones I’ve gathered as the girls have gotten older and as I continue to learn as a volunteer. (I always believe in life-long learning!) A few of these suggestions are geared towards Girl Scout Cadettes and older, while others could apply to any troop, regardless of age. Perhaps you’ll find one or two that help you and your girls come back year after year.
Scheduling Troop Meetings
This tip comes in two parts. First, as your troop gets older, have them help plan the troop schedule. Ask them to bring their calendars (most are on their phones anyway) to a planning meeting and have them coordinate which meeting dates work best. Not only is it a great way for them to practice real-life skills, but it keeps the planning girl-led!
One thing I’ve often struggled with is getting our troop up and running at the start of each school year. There was one year where we didn’t start meeting until January because I never got a schedule out. Can you relate?
The second part of my scheduling tip is to consider having a meeting in the summer where the troop plans the first few dates for the fall. Our troop did that for the first time this year and it was so helpful! We scheduled meetings and overnights through October. When school started, it was much easier to plan out the rest of the year because we were already up-and-running. Funny that it only took eleven years to figure that one out.
Change up your expectations for the troop. How might you think differently about meeting frequency, activity structure, and attendance? You may meet less often. As meetings become more girl-led, they may feel less organized. A girl may decide not to attend a meeting. This is all okay. It’s also important not to take it personally when a girl chooses something else over a troop meeting. Maybe she has a homework assignment to complete for school or doesn’t want to miss a family event. Learning to make choices and prioritize tasks and activities is an important skill for them to learn too. Pay attention to what girls get out of the meeting when they are there—if they’re having a good time, then you’re still doing it right.
This one is so simple, yet so effective. Set up a group chat via text with the leaders and girls in the troop. A quick text the day of a meeting to see who will attend can be very helpful. Plus, it’s an easy way to send that last-minute reminder to bring _____ (fill in the blank). To kick off our troop’s group chat, everyone shared their name and favorite emoji to ensure everyone would know who’s who.
You Define Adventure
What does adventure mean to your troop? It could be snowshoeing on a local trail or taking a backpacking trip on the North Shore. Maybe it’s spending a weekend out at camp or planning a trip far, far, away. Have your troop plan experiences that are new to them or ones that push them further. You get to define what adventure means to you. When girls get outdoors and face new challenges, they’re more likely to stay engaged in Girl Scouts. You can even earn your Adventure Club patch along the way!
Be Patient with Yourself
Every troop meeting does not have to be picture-perfect and Pinterest-worthy. Ask for help when you need it. Be kind to yourself when you need to cancel a meeting or rearrange an activity—whether you come down with a cold, a winter storm is approaching, or just need a day off. I often send out troop update emails later than intended, but they eventually get sent. Sometimes that’s how it goes, and I’ve learned to give myself a pass on that one. Finally, find ways you can be patient with yourself—you may pull a few ideas from this post on being good enough.
Emily Schmall – Emily is the Senior Manager of Program Resources at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She graduated from the University of Minnesota and has a background in visual arts, education, curriculum development, and volunteer management. Emily was a Girl Scout growing up and now leads her daughter’s troop of spirited teenagers. She lives in the St. Paul area where she enjoys hanging with the fam and going on adventures with their rescue dog, Dory. In her (non-Girl Scout related) free time, Emily enjoys photography, playing the ukulele, and attending the Minnesota State Fair.