As a troop leader, it can be hard to know when to step back and when to step in as girls plan activities, make decisions, and navigate sticky situations. You wholeheartedly agree that Girl Scouting is all about being girl-led—that is, girls have a big say in everything they do as Girl Scouts. But…you also don’t want your troop to struggle, flail, or get hurt. Should you correct course if you sense they’re headed in the wrong direction or would it better to bite your tongue and see how things play out?
These questions can be especially tricky if you’re leading a troop of Daisies (Girl Scouts in grades K–1). The girl-led model will look different for our youngest Girl Scouts, but it’s more than possible to encourage and nurture. Read on for three ways you can help your Daisies start their path to leadership.
Develop a Girl-Led Mindset
The best advice I like to give troop leaders is “imperfect is perfect enough.” Activities that are girl-led won’t always be perfect, but that’s not the point of girl-led! Girl-led is all about centering your girls’ voices and opinions and letting them shape their own unique Girl Scouting experience. Those imperfect experiences will have a much greater impact when girls can say, “I did that.” So, in short, do nothing for your girls that they can do for themselves—even if it takes them a little bit (Or much!) longer. For girls to achieve the end goal of becoming leaders, we need to set aside the short-term goal of getting X, Y, or Z done right away if it comes to the expense of girls developing those skills themselves.
Encourage your Girl Scout Daisies to provide input about and choose what they’d like to do as a troop. For example, they can choose which petal or badge to work on during their meeting. As the troop leader, you might have to do more of the planning and organizing in the beginning. This might mean limiting the available options to two items. Say you know that your troop likes designing things and you also think that they’d enjoy completing a STEM badge. Present your choices to the troop—do they want to design a car or a board game? Then have them vote with a show of hands.
Let Them Decide
In addition to voting on which activities to do, your Daisies can also make decisions throughout an activity. For example, if you’re reading a story, allow the girls to be part of the story by having them repeat an action that represents each character as you read the story. Once they get the hang of this, you can also have them decide on the actions for the characters in the next story.
Where Can She Take the Lead?
Even the youngest Daisy can lead different parts of a troop meeting. Determine where your Daisy can take the helm, either on her own or with adult assistance. For example, girls can lead the recitation of the Girl Scout Promise and Law, lead a game or song, or lead the opening or closing activity. There are many roles (like attendance taker or official greeter) and tasks (kaper charts are a great way to assign these) that Daisies can perform. Begin by making a list of all the things you lead during a troop meeting, then decide which ones your Daisies can begin to take on.
While girl-led can be messy and time-consuming, it’s in the mistakes and the setbacks where true learning and growing happens. It won’t always be a straight line from A to B, but remember: girl-led begins when we as adults begin to believe girls can do it.
Pam Wurster – Pam is the senior program advisor and serves as the lead girl program expert and resource for the council, supporting and guiding the successful implementation of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience through multiple program pathways, including volunteer and council-led programs. She has a BA in education and has taken master courses in youth development leadership. She developed her leadership skills, love of the outdoors, and grit through her many years as a Girl Scout, troop leader, and council staff. Pam loves working in her garden, playing the guitar, and hanging out with friends around the campfire.