Thursday, September 25, 2014


Howdy and I am BACK!  After a nice long summer and avoiding the computer as much as I can, I finally kicked off the year.  My oldest daughter is now in Middle School, quite the transition.  And our service unit thought it was a grand idea to have a camp out this 3rd weekend of school!  It was FUN, but taxing and required a great deal of planning and coordination!  All of this kept me quite BUSY!  So what do I have in store for my girls this year....

Anyone doing the Cadette MEdia Journey this year?  Well we are and I think it is going to be a lot of fun based on my girls response to the Netiquette Badge last year.  This is their world - MEdia.  They are inundated with technology and this is a time for leaders to get a grasp on their reality and possibly make a big impact on how MEdia influences their lives.  So I have created a fun calendar for the girls and you are welcome to mirror or swipe some of my ideas.

As the girls have aged crafts and meetings are less enticing to the older girls, but we still have to have meetings to educate, remind the girls about the GS values, address general business and complete our Silver Award.  In order to mix it up and maintain their interest I have scheduled a field trip every other meeting.

My first meeting of the year I introduced the MEdia Journey and we talked briefly about the Journey. I included these topics:

Definition of Media
I had a poster board and allowed the girls to write down different forms of media in marker, from TV to bus signs to billboards to facebook, all the different forms of MEdia.
Then we talked about how much they think media affects or influences them?
I asked them have they ever watched TV and wanted a product from a commercial they probably did not need?
We then viewed several "As Seen on TV" infomercials and the girls immediately wanted the Wubble Bubble and Squeezy Freezy!  Then we watched YouTube Reviews of these products to find out if they really do what they say they will do.  Finally the girls LOVED watching a segment of the Ellen Show where she talked about the crazy products she bought late at night.

Wubble Bubble:
Squeezy Freezy:
Ellen Show:

I also posed these questions:
How much does media influence your life on the weekends, Summer, at school?
How much do you surf the web, watch internet videos or TV, go to the movies, browse on your phone, listen to pandora, download music, visit Instagram

Ask yourself these questions:
How many texts did you receive in the past week?
When you take a trip on a plane or in a car, what is your 1st inclination? To talk to your family, observe people and surroundings? Watch overhead video? Grab your phone or tablet?
School is cancelled because of snow?  Do you dress warmly and run outside to enjoy the snow?  Curl up on your bed with a real book?  Watch a rented movie?  Retreat to your room for a day of online chatting with your friends?  Develop a new Pinterest Board?
How much TV do watch on the weekends?  Too busy with sports, I have certain shows I record and like to watch, I watch anything and everything, I sleep with the TV on

Pg 15 Selena Gomez
If you were a celebrity and could use your notoriety to do good, what cause or organization would you want to donate your time or money?

Can you believe black & white TV was once the cool new thing!  Imagine how quickly new things are discovered and invented.  
What things have been invented during your lifetime?
The 1st cell phone used in 1984 weighed 2lbs, measured 13in long and 3in wide and cost $4000
In 2007 the first e-reader was introduced and changed the way books are read, bought, carried and shared
Later these 2 things were combined
When it comes to media, what updates are you grateful for? What has inspired, entertained 

or has educated you?

The next meeting we went on a field trip to Design Werks here in Southlake, TX.  This is a company built from the ground up by an innovative man named, Jeff Nicodemus.  He developed the company that uses vinyl to wrap and advertise cars.  Mr. Nicodemus was fabulous with the girls.  He was inspirational and enthusiastic and showed the girls everything about his company from editing photos to designing the car wraps to choosing the vinyl, printing the vinyl and cutting the vinyl and then finally the actual application.  It was probably the most interesting field trip to date, my daughter said she LOVED it.  This was a great way to show the girls how advertising affects them and how it can be applied.  

Next we have a field trip scheduled to Day Star Radio, a newspaper office where they plan to feature our girls Silver Award in a story for the newspaper.  We will walk through the process of creating a story from photos to writing the article to publishing.  I have a patent attorney and logo graphics guy coming to talk to the girls at a meeting.

The girls will create their own infomercial, logo and product too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Girl Scout Gab

Girl Scout Gab is an active FACEBOOK leader page that encompasses all things Girl Scout.  You can learn so much about protocols, activities, ideas and virtually anything about Girl Scouting on this page! It is a wonderful resource.  It is also a good place to voice your opinions.  It is my hope that GS-USA reads this page and listens.  Often times leaders voice concerns about occasional issues in Girl Scouting. You can offer support to other leaders all over the country tackling tough situations and offer solutions to common problems.  You can identify similarities and differences amongst the various service units and councils.  My biggest complaint about Girl Scouting is that while we enjoy the freedoms of running our councils, units and troops our own way, there is very little consistency.  And even more willingness to share ideas.  I think state councils would benefit hugely from annual meetings to discuss what works in their area and what doesn't.  For instance most councils have an early pick-up cookie day(s) where girls can get their cookies prior to their initial order.  The San Jacinto Texas Council has a DRIVE-UP cookie pick up day.  This is BRILLIANT!  Girls can come to a location and the 12 cases of cookies are loaded right into their car.  Sure beats our system where we wait in long lines with dollies to transport our cookies back to our cars a 1000 ft away.  What if the council developed an app to check out cookies?  Now this would be cool!  We would save lots of trees by removing the current triplicate paper system.  I am filled with ideas, but actually implementing them is the real challenge.  However, I think with a little ingenuity we could really streamline the cookie business.

GSG is a Closed Group where ADULT Girl Scout Leaders can trade ideas, swap stories, and vent if necessary.

If you are a SCOUT and want to join a group you can swap stories with other scouts, please join Girl Scout Gab - for Girls:

Please live by the Girl Scout Law when making comments and posts...

If for some reason you are not directed properly , simply search Girl Scout Gab in the search box.
Furthermore the administrators make this caution:

I love how we all share our opinions -- and yes they are opinions. We should all respect each other, watch our language, speak appropriately, and respect others (including other volunteers). We are all Girl Scouts and should uphold the GS Law and treat others how we would like to be treated. When you get together a group of women (and this group has over 2000) we are never all going to agree or understand how each council works. Isn't that what makes this group unique? We can share ideas, what works/what doesn't work, and discuss it in a polite way without name calling.

As I tell my troop life we may not get along with everyone, we may not want to hear their opinion but we should ALWAYS treat each other with respect and speak appropriately.

It is very easy to become emotionally fueled by some of the posts & responses.  I would like to think this is only the case because we have a  passion about Girl Scouting and we only want the very best for the girls and the organization!

Recently a leader posted a photo of a hand-made shadow box she made for one of her "retiring" ambassadors.  It is so beautiful and a true gift!  The inspirational words are sure to remind this girl scout of her scouting days.  The hand-made nature of the gift makes it even more special.  All too often these days, we run out to "buy" gifts when the best ones still come from the heart!  There is no doubt her leader's kindness, enthusiasm and dedication will encourage this girl to one day become a leader too. And so the circle continues...

Special Credit given to Mary Small Vertanen the author of the beautiful poem above.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Member Retention

As my girls get older retention is a constant battle.  I work really hard to retain the girls I have in my troop and I am always open to new members, even at the Cadette Level.  I make it well known with signs and publishing information in our PTO electronic newsletter, that a girl is never too old to join!
Also I stress that the time commitment is minimal with only 4 hours a month and 2 meetings every other week that almost any busy girl can squeeze it into their schedule.

Retention begins with the following:
  • fun meetings
  • great field trips
  • a variety of activities
  • encouraging strong friendships
  • girl's sense of ownership over their troop
  • parental involvement
  • leniency on details
I strive to create a really fun calendar for the year filled with a variety of unique activities and field trips. The girls will easily want to rejoin if they are having fun while learning!  It's really that simple.  I always tell my girls if they are not crazy about this month's badge, stick around you'll probably love the next one.  Having a large group of diverse girls, it is impossible to please every girl, every meeting. However, the different topics from meeting to meeting will ensure all the girls are happy.  A great end-of-the-year bash also helps to retain girls.  You never want to end on a "sour" note like a service project that involves the girls spending countless hours sitting or educating.  This can ruin even the best of Girl Scouting years.  Girls tend to remember the most recent activity the best and base the entire year on this event.  

Designing activities and field trips that are creative and unique really helps to draw in all types of girls and certainly helps with retention.  The Girl Scouts offer some fun ideas to earn badges, but I am always striving for the "Wow" factor and thinking outside the box helps.  For example, after learning the basics of first aid at the Brownie and Junior level, I wanted to do something different for the girls at the Cadette level. We decided to visit Carter Blood Center where the girls watched me donate blood and learned a lot of great blood facts from the staff.  Then we hosted a Blood Drive at their school.  We arranged to have a donation bus at the school for a set number of hours, created a sign-up form for parents to donate and the girls participated by manning a booth during the blood drive.  They offered GS Cookies and juice after the donors completed their blood donation.  Also the girls asked each donor to write down why they wanted to donate.  We had some fabulous responses and the girls learned, hands-on, that donating is fairly simple, painless and a true act of generosity that costs virtually nothing, but can make a big impact on their community.

Recently a mom commented to me that her daughter quit Girl Scouts because the girls in her troop were petty and mean.  This broke my heart.  It is the leader's job to foster good relationships and prevent little cliques and arguments within the troop.  This is not to say the girls will not have disagreements, but it is how you deal with arguments and internal drama that makes a big difference.  I don't hesitate to bring parents into a situation when I feel 2 girls are not getting along.  9 out of 10 times this nips the behavior in the bud.  Most parents don't realize their girls are being mean or disruptive.  Other times, we talk through the disagreement and find out why the girls are really arguing, it is rarely over the event or task at hand, but something far more trivial.  Also I try and prevent disagreements by constantly grouping different sets of girl together.  I rarely let them choose a girl they want to work with because they will tend to choose the same groups over and over, inevitably leaving out a girl or two.  And many times girls will argue over one girl... "I want to be with Jessica!"  "No I do!"  Encouraging strong, life-long friendships is important.  Often I tell my girls to embrace their differences, it is what makes them each unique.  

Most importantly the girls should feel like they "own" their troop.  Encouraging them to make decisions within the troop helps them feel like an active member and participant.  So I work hard to give them as many decisions as I can.  Often times these decisions come in the form of choices because I need to have some control over the variables,  "Would you like to have a backyard camp-out, go to Steven's Ranch or a state park to camp this year?"  But on rare occasions, I give them complete and total control, "What type of breakfast would you like to have at the camp out?"  Majority always wins in our troop and some times this too can create disappointment and arguing.  I am quick to point out, the girls will not always get their way and while it might not feel fair right now, it is always equal.  They will be on the side of the majority the next go-around.  I also want the girls to know that their opinions are important to me, after all this is their troop.  Each year I hand out an anonymous survey asking unique questions appropriate to their age level.  You can view and print my Cadette Survey from this year here:  CLICK HERE
I ask them about my leadership style, what they like and don't like.  I am always striving to be the best leader and I can't possibly be the best unless they tell me what I can do to make them happy.  I ask them for ideas, activities and field trips they would like to do.  I ask them what things can be done to keep them in Girl Scouts.  What are the barriers that might prevent them from re-registering.  Sometimes there is simply nothing a leader can do to retain a girl, another activity or sport takes priority in their life. I have to chuckle at some of their responses, one girl when asked "What I can do to make Girl Scouts cooler?" She responded, "Serve ice cubes with snack!"  I may just do that next year to get a laugh!

Parents are not always actively involved in scouting and each girl's situation is unique.  Some parents might work, others may volunteer a lot or they simply don't have an interest.  I strongly encourage my parents to get involved from supplying snacks for our meetings to attending field trips.  I think it is important that the parents see first-hand the benefits of scouting.  Also I send out an annual registration e-mail to my parents reminding them how beneficial scouting can be on high school transcripts and college resumes.  I remind parents that even companies hiring today value a girl who participated in Girl Scouts through high school.  Gold Star recipients advance one rank in the military when they enlist, which includes an increase in their pay.  And most importantly the time commitment is minimal and I will work with them to squeeze it into their child's schedule.  

Furthermore, I have found my older girls, Cadettes, do not like to wear their vests.  Initially I was pretty strict about the girls not only wearing their vest, but having all the girls look congruent.  I think this was my military experience coming out in me.  I felt they should have pride in their service and wearing their vest was a way to represent the Girl Scouts.  However, as time has moved along I have learned to relax.  I only make the girls wear their vests at true council wide Girl Scout events or selling cookies. Truth be told, I hated wearing my uniform in the military too.  It was not until I left the military I realized what a true honor it was to wear the US military uniform.  I decided it was not a battle worth waging.  If the girls are truly embarrassed or are harassed by their friends due to peer pressure, I don't want the fact they are forced to wear their vests to be a reason they choose not to continue.  

Have you experienced difficulties in member retention?  Have you found a way to encourage re-registration?  Do you know how to capture new members?  Please share your experiences with us all. Through knowledge and suggestions, together we make scouting stronger.