By Catherine Amoriello
Being a troop leader is a rewarding, but busy, experience. Between planning meetings/activities and keeping a group of girls (and their parents/caregivers) engaged in Girl Scouts, the role is a big hands-on commitment. Starting your troop leader journey, especially if you’re volunteering with no former Girl Scout experience, will come with its challenges.
To help provide some extra guidance for new troop leaders or leaders who feel they are struggling leading their troop, we rallied some of Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania’s (GSHPA) most effective troop leaders to weigh in on their best practices for leading a troop. Here’s a quick snapshot of how we gathered our research for this blog series.
- We narrowed our search to identify troops with 12 or more registered Girl Scouts during the 2021 membership year.
- We asked our in-house experts (Volunteer Support Coordinators [VSCs]) for their input on historical success for selected troops.
- With those parameters, we identified 66 troop leaders for outreach.
- Our outreach began in August 2022 and wrapped in October 2022.
- We distributed a 20-question survey and collected feedback via email responses and phone interviews.
- We finished with about 45 pages of collected feedback from over 30 troop leaders.
The troop leaders featured in this blog series represent 15 of the 30 counties in GSHPA’s footprint. As a group they offer a combined 369 years of troop leader experience working with girls from Daisy to Ambassador levels. They all initially started out as new troop leaders with a lot to learn. They have overcome challenges to deliver quality Girl Scout experiences, and their combined expertise has revealed common insights that may help you unlock your own troop’s success.
Read on to get the scoop on how hands-on and girl-led activities will help your troop thrive; why you need to take the school-feel out of badge work; and how a camping trip just might give your troop the energy boost it needs.
Meet our Experts
Tip #1: Whatever you plan for your troop, keep it hands-on.
A large component of Girl Scouting is having girls learn by doing. Hands-on activities help girls make connections to the real world in a fun and engaging way. From crafting, to culinary challenges, to outdoor excursions, there are countless ways to keep your girls active while learning.
From the Source
Tip #2: Avoid making badge work or listening-based activities feel like school.
Badge work is a part of the traditional Girl Scout experience, but let’s be honest – girls aren’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to follow an itemized list to learn something new. Use your creativity when working through badge requirements and find ways to make badge work feel like a fun activity rather than a school assignment.
From the Source
Tip #3: Beat burnout by keeping it girl-led as much as possible.
The “official” Girl Scout year is nearly eight months long – that’s a long time to keep girls active and engaged as a troop leader! With sports and other extracurricular activities being offered, it can be difficult to keep girls interested in and excited about Girl Scouts. Allowing them to shape their own experience and have a say in troop decisions is a great way to not only foster independence, but keep them excited for all the Girl Scout plans they have for the year (and future years!).
From the Source
Tip #4: Encourage and create opportunities for girls to step outside their comfort zones.
Girl Scouting isn’t all fun and games – it’s a program that provides girls opportunities they might not have had otherwise, and sometimes that can be intimidating. Whether that’s learning to talk to customers during Cookie Season, taking a leap off the Big Swing at camp, or throwing an axe for the first time, seeing your girls overcome their fears will be a victory moment for both you and them.
From the Source
Tip #5: Looking for a way to refresh your troop? Try camping!
There’s a reason camping is a long-standing Girl Scout tradition – girls love it! Camping is a great opportunity to get girls outdoors, out of their comfort zones, and out of their usual routine for a bonding experience with their troop. GSHPA offers camp and program experiences at all four of its camp properties at Camp Archbald, Camp Furnace Hills, Camp Happy Valley, and Camp Small Valley.
We have even more successful troop leader insight to share in part two of our Keys to Leading a Successful Troop series. Check back on the GSHPA Blog Jan. 25 to learn how our featured troop leaders recruit girls to their troop, where they find support as leaders, how they keep parents/caregivers engaged, and so much more.
Troop Leader Resources Mentioned
Do you have a troop leader tip of your own to share? Drop a comment below and share your expertise with others!