Starting from Scratch

By Kat Rourke

Many volunteers become leaders because they have a daughter interested in Girl Scouts. Or maybe they value the lifelong friendships and life skills that girls gain as Girl Scouts. New leaders can feel overwhelmed and under-prepared as they start their troops, but they want to do it right!

We want to guide new leaders through the steps of starting a troop and provide some helpful hints for a successful start to the Girl Scout year.  First, all adult volunteers with the troop must complete an application and pass a background check, which council provides at no cost to the volunteers.  Second, attend new leader orientation. This training covers the basic paperwork and policies and can give you some good insight on where to start. Third, recruit a co-leader.  Ask parents of other interested girls; talk with co-workers or professional organizations in which you belong. Church groups, retirees and recent graduates, as well as under or unemployed adults can be great troop helpers.

Once you have squared away troop leadership, you’ll receive a Girl Scout troop number, start the troop bank account (with three signers) and plan where and when you will have your troop meetings. Common places to meet are the school library or cafeteria, community rooms, meeting rooms at colleges, local businesses, or the local library.  Connect with other troop leaders in your local service unit as they are great resources and support. Make sure you are engaged and do your best to attend the monthly service unit meetings. You’ll meet other new and experienced leaders as well as gain knowledge and learn about important updates and information that is vital to your troop.

Ask the school if you can distribute flyers so girls and their parents can come to an informational meeting to join the troop. Many schools allow this, but for the ones that don’t, there are other options. Submit information to the school or district newsletter, a teacher blog, or school Facebook page. Attend PTA/PTO meetings and promote your troop and have your daughter tell her friends! Girls recruiting girls is a wonderful tool.  At your informational meeting you will want to lay down expectations of the parent support you need. Be Specific! Most parents don’t know how they can help and will be happy to help if they know how they can help.

Plan out a structure for your meetings, and you can always make adjustments if things don’t quite pan out how you thought it would. Having a packet of extra activities that you can fall back on if you have extra time can be life lines, so always have a backup! At your new leader orientation you will be provided with some sample sessions for meetings, but you can also pick other leader’s brains or be creative and come up with something totally different. Customize your Girl Scout meetings to best suit your Girl Scout troop.  As a new leader, you will have a learning curve figuring out what works best for your girls. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your troop parent’s, your service unit, your Membership Marketing Specialist, and other council staff are all great resources. We are here to support you and answer any questions you may have. Have a wonderful Girl Scout year!

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GSMH Goes to Washington

By Stefanie McCall

Sixteen Girl Scouts plus 10 adults, times five days in Washington, D.C., equal lots of great memories!  On July 6, Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland traveled to our nation’s capital for the annual summer trip. Girls and adults from across the council met at the St. Louis airport to begin their adventure. Group-for-VC

The days were packed full of sight-seeing and jam packed with activities including a night sail down the Potomac River, dinner at Nando’s Peri  Peri (favorite restaurant of the band One Direction), and an impromptu jam session with a street musician playing drums on buckets.

 

IMG_6036We explored the Smithsonian museums where girls were able to climb aboard a space shuttle, touch a moon rock, view the Hope Diamond, dinosaurs, mummies, animal skeletons, and an entire zoo worth of taxidermy animals.  The highlight of the American History museum was seeing the actual Star Spangled Banner that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become American’s National Anthem.  What an inspirational piece of history to see first-hand!  We also got to see fun things like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from the Wizard of Oz; Kermit, the frog; Julia Child’s actual kitchen, and the Girl Scout display! IMG_6172

We immersed ourselves in many of the iconic activities of Washington, D.C. with visits to the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, which is easily one of the most ornate and beautiful buildings in Washington, D.C. After grabbing lunch from local food trucks we experienced our first rain shower in D.C., but were luckily headed to the National Archives where it was nice and dry!  Girls saw the Declaration of Independence and Constitution as well as many historical documents pertaining to the founding of our country.  To our surprise the National Archives was full of hands-on-activities that made history come alive.  We were able to listen to actual phone conversations of past presidents, view an address by President Eisenhower after the ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education, and edit video clips to make our own news cast.   Next on the agenda was walking to see the many monuments commemorating our presidents and nation’s heroes.  That evening, many girls attended a free concert at the Kennedy Center while some opted to go back to the hotel for some rest.  We had a late dinner that night at Founding Farmers where girls discovered candied bacon!

A trip to Washington, D.C. wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the National Zoo.  The IMG_6271National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Museums and is one of only four zoos in the US with giant pandas.  The male was taking a nap, but was thoughtful enough to be right near the glass wall so we could get an up close view of him while the female munched on some bamboo and tried to get her keepers to let her inside. After visiting with the pandas and seeing many other animals we went to Arlington National Cemetery.  We took a guided bus tour through the cemetery, viewing the grave of President Kennedy, and watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Another great adventure was the International Spy Museum.  As soon as you arrive, you assume your “cover” (mine was Greta Schmidt) and throughout the museum you have to answer questions to see if you can maintain your cover.  There were interactive games to test your observation skill, and girls crawled through an air duct to spy on people below, and got to test their James Bond skills by hanging on to a moving bar (our girls longest time was 59 seconds). On display were actual spy tools – everything from a lipstick gun to a trench coat with a camera in a button.  And best of all, because we were a Girl Scout group, we all got patches! We had a great dinner at the Hard Rock Café (another special Girl Scout Patch!) and then walked by the White House to see it lit up at night on our way back to the hotel.

On our final day, we toured The Capitol Building.  Per the request of the girls, we added a visit to the Holocaust Museum to our itinerary. The Holocaust Museum was a very intense experience and the girls felt strongly about going. I was very proud of them for wanting to honor such a sad time in the history of the world.

IMG_6396Our trip was full of many amazing experiences.  The girls not only got to see our country’s history, and the institutions that make our country great, but they got to experience the hustle and bustle of a big city.  They learned to navigate the metro system like pros and we walked miles and miles in exploration!  I know that many of them have made long lasting friendships.  And best of all, our girls were able to expand their world view as only travel can do.  It was a privilege to be able to provide this opportunity for our girls and I look forward to my next batch of travelers!

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Where Oh Where Could My Co-Leader Be?

If your troop needs a co-leader, here are some tips to help you find the right one!

 Who to Ask

  • Ask parents! Begin by asking parents of girls who want to join if they are interested in volunteering with the troop.
  • Think outside the box! Just because someone doesn’t have a school-aged girl doesn’t mean they can’t volunteer.  Retirees and young professionals are another great place to start.
  • Role models! Think about people you know who are courageous, confident, and exemplify good character.  Let them know you admire these traits and ask them to help you pass them on to girls!
  • The more the merrier! If you cannot find someone to commit to being a full-time co-leader, ask two or more adults to share the responsibility. This will make it easier for them to say yes and will prevent burnout.
  • Ask a guy! Don’t forget that men can volunteer with a troop. Girls benefit from both male and female role models.

How to Ask

  • Don’t ask them to do it as a favor to you. Tell them that you want to include them in on this wonderful opportunity!
  • Highlight some of the benefits to volunteering: it’s a resume builder and will help them gain networking, event planning, and problem solving skills.
  • Assure them that they will be provided with the right information, training, and support.
  • If you’ve been a leader before, share your positive experiences with them.
  • Once they commit, don’t forget to say thank you!
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Train now so you don’t cry later!

By: Kat Rourke

Marathon runners must train and condition themselves to prepare before the day of the race if they hope to cross the finish line. Summer is the perfect time for Girl Scout Volunteers to prepare themselves through training to effectively lead their troop and make it to the finish line intact. There are many options for training depending on your troop’s need and interests, and it is helpful to get those under your belt before the back to school rush.

IMG_3847On August 24th in the Central and Southwest Regions and on October 12th in the Southeast Region, we are having our enrichment training day known as Learn to Lead. This fun filled day of learning covers everything from age level training to games and crafts to troop management. It also provides you with an excellent opportunity to connect with council staff, as well as other leaders in your region. Networking with other leaders allows you to share your experiences, as well as tips and tricks and can offer opportunities for troops to work on projects together. The deadlines for registration for these great events are August 1st and September 25th, respectively.

Equally important are training’s designed to prepare you for troop activities and teach you the skills you’ll teach the girls.  CPR/First Aid is an important one for everyone’s safety during any kind of Girl Scout gathering, and it is helpful to have more than one adult with the troop trained. Other important training that you will need for troop outings or camping are:  BOS (basic outdoor skills), BTC (basic troop camping), Wilderness First Aid, and small craft and water safety. Additional opportunities for training such as Archery and NPP (National Program Portfolio/Journeys) are also available to leaders and troop volunteers.

Some of you may be saying, “Well that is all well and good, but if I were preparing for a marathon I could run outside for free and these training’s cost money.”

Good Point! The costs of the training’s vary due to type, intensity and supplies, but there are some options in helping making them affordable. As for the training you want to take, you may pay for it out of pocket, apply to council for Financial Assistance, or if the troop chooses,  it could be paid with troop funds. The skills needed for basic events and outings are like supplies for the troop to function so it is not impossible to go this last route, but I caution leaders to use it as a last resort since there are other options that won’t dip into the girls’ funds.

IMG_1434After you have completed your necessary training, you are ready for troop meetings to begin, but remember, pace yourself and drink plenty of fluids!

The schedules and registration forms for the Learn to Lead event can be found here.

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Junior First Lego League Series

By Stefanie McCall, Leadership & Learning Specialist -GSLE

Who knew that playing with Legos would teach girls engineering and problem solving skills and help them travel the world?  This was something that 16 first and second grade Girl Scouts discovered this past spring as members of a Junior First Lego League team (Jr. FLL).  Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland received a grant from Girl Scouts of the USA to start two Jr. FLL teams.  We partnered with the staff of John Thomas School of Discovery in Nixa to deliver the program.  The response was so overwhelming that we actually formed four teams!

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The girls spent six weeks with teachers of the Thomas School of Discovery and GSMH staff, discovering the world of Jr. FLL.  First, the girls learned about problems that senior citizen encounter as they age.  The girls did some problem solving and invented tools to help combat these obstacles.  Using Legos, girls created models of their inventions.  The inventions included tools to make using the phone easier and tricked-out wheelchairs that solved a multitude of mobility problems.

 

DSCN6841At the end of the program, girls took a one-day road trip to the First Lego League/Jr. First Lego League World Expo Festival in St. Louis, Missouri.  At this event girls saw FLL & Jr. FLL exhibits and models from teams all over the world.  Girls met other Girl Scout teams from Kansas, Colorado and Minnesota.

 

They met people from Hong Kong, Switzerland, Great Brittan, Japan and Germany to name just a few.  It was truly a life-changing opportunity for these first and second grade girls.

DSCN6886I am confident that out of the 16 girls on our teams that at least one of them will be inspired to become an engineer or a scientist.  Thanks to the field trip the girls had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and discover that while we all look different and speak different languages, everyone worked on creating a solution to the same problem.  Sharing the excitement of discovery with these girls has been a life changer for me as well.

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Meet Your New Camp Directors!

Girl Scout Summer Camp is almost here! Registrations are piling in, sessions are filling up, and confirmations are being mailed. Very soon girls will start packing their duffel bags and making the journey to the Girl Scout camp of their choice. This year our Girl Scouts will be welcomed by new resident camp directors at each of our program centers.

 
Mouse” is the southeast region camp director (Cherokee Ridge & Latonka). Camp Director-Rachel_MouseMouse is from Cape Girardeau, MO and is a lifetime Girl Scout. She earned her Girl Scout Silver Award and her Girl Scout Gold Award. Mouse enjoyed camping as a Girl Scout, worked at summer camp and loves being at camp as a director. Her goals for this summer include, “Teaching girls basic outdoor skills, helping the girls to become more independent and grow into leaders. I want the girls to get the most out of camp that they can. Most of all have fun!”

Mouse’s faves:
Color: Yellow
Animal: Hippo
Camp activity: Making new friends
Camp song: “Tarzan”
Place at camp: By the lake watching the reflection of the moon and stars

 

Camp Director-Kalie_BearBear” is the southwest region camp director (Finbrooke & Mintahama). She is originally from Redding, CA and currently lives in Jonesboro, AR. Bear was a Girl Scout as a girl and has worked at both Girl Scout and Boy Scout camps through college. Bear is passionate about Girl Scout camp and says becoming camp director is a dream come true. “Every girl can expect to get an all-around Girl Scout camp experience: outdoor education, songs, games, pool time, learn new skills, and forge everlasting bonds with new friends and counselors. Our campers will be able to challenge themselves in a safe, secure environment. We have an amazing staff dedicated to Girl Scouts.”

 

Bear’s faves:
Color: Purple
Animal: Panda Bear
Camp Activity: Singing songs around a campfire
Camp Song: “On the Loose”
Place at Camp: The dining hall overlooking Lake Mintahama, the porch overlooking main camp at Finbrooke

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New GSMH website to go live on May 21, 2013!

We are excited to announce our new and updated website will go live on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. In order to make the transfer happen, our website will be unavailable on Monday, May 20, 2013. Our website address will remain girlscoutsmoheartland.org. If you need access to any forms or other information normally found on the website while the site is down, please call 877-312-4764 and we will be happy to assist you. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by our site being down on May 20, 2013.

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Bridging

Bridging happens when a Girl Scout is ready to transition from one leadership level to the next.  Bridging consists of two parts:  earning the bridging award and participating in a bridging ceremony.

 The Bridging Award

The Handbook section of the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting contains information about the bridging award for each level.  Each level has two bridging award steps, Pass It On and Look Ahead.  In step 1, Pass It On, girls share their talent and skills with younger girls.  In step 2, Look Ahead, girls learn about the next level by meeting with older girls and asking them to share their experiences.  When Ambassadors complete the Look Ahead step, they get together with Girl Scout adults.

The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting contains three suggested activities for each step that are age-level appropriate.  The guide states that only one of these activities, or something similar, needs to be done to complete the step.

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The Bridging Ceremony

Once girls have completed their bridging award requirements, have a ceremony to celebrate this special transition to the next level.  Bridging ceremonies differ, so you can customize one for your troop however you would like!  Some service units even do bridging ceremonies for several troops together as a group.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Some troops have girls cross a footbridge at a local park to symbolize their crossing into the next level.  Others use a symbolic bridge made of poster board or other materials.
  • You can give bridging favors to the girls.  For example, for a Bridging to Junior ceremony, you could give each girl a packet of daisy seeds to remind them of where they’ve been, a brownie to remind them of where they are, and a box of Junior Mints to symbolize what lies ahead.
  • In addition to the bridging awards, bridging certificates are available at all GSMH retail shops.
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Event Recap: Leader’s Weekend Windows to the Past

Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland held the annual Leader’s Weekend event  April 12th – 14th at Finbrooke Program Center in Rogersville, MO.  This event is planned, organized and held by a committee of volunteers for volunteers. Many thanks to the dedicated committee members who planned the 2013 Leader’s Weekend: Trina Keeler, Kris Kessler, Kim Kneeter, Debra Kroll, Stephanie Lodes, Barbara Lowery, Melinda McGee, Goldie Prine, Karin Poppe, Jan Rorrer, Ginger Schneider, Mary Sheppard, Annette Thomas, Jamie Turner, and Stacy Weinstein.  Without these volunteers, Leader’s Weekend wouldn’t have been so successful! IMG_4317

About 125 Girl Scout adult volunteers from across the council gathered for a weekend filled with fun, friendship and learning! The Windows to the Past theme was reflected in the workshops, food,  and souvenirs offered. Workshops included beeswax candle making, crocheting, outdoor cooking, archery, games great-great grandma would have played and more.

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If that wasn’t enough, participants were able to experience zip lining at night, s’mores around the campfire, and explore camp by taking a morning and night hike.  There was even a make and take craft station to make t-shirt scarves.

Leader’s Weekend is an annual event for all Girl Scout adult volunteers across the council.  If you would like to join in the planning for the 2014 Leader’s Weekend and have fun ideas please join the committee. New committee members are always welcome!  If you have any questions or want to join the committee contact Melody Hutchison, leadership and learning specialist-volunteerism or 877-312-4764 x 1122.

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