First and foremost, I think WTD could be improved by condensing the information and standardizing the display boards. In the past I have always printed up index cards with facts about the country and passed them out encouraging each girl to memorize their own fact. I thought that if each girl was able to present one fact, then visiting troops would learn a variety of facts while visiting our table. However, the only problem with this system is that the the girls would invest all their time in learning their fact and close their mind off to learning general facts about the country. I typically provide the girls with a thorough study of the country on our first meeting day. I find it helpful to use the National Geographic for Kids website: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/ . This site has condensed the information about countries into a kid friendly version and provides a wonderful selection of photos and maps in a slideshow. Using this site cuts my work in half because I no longer have to sift through website after website finding age appropriate information. About ninety percent of my troops' knowledge base learned from WTD comes from the troop's research of their specific country.
I think it would be great if our service unit would provide 4-5 topics of interest to present at our tables. Karen Jolley recommended we learn how to say Hello and Thank You in our country's language. I thought this was brilliant and the girls really enjoyed talking in another language. We could review this each meeting and all the girls had it memorized. I encouraged the girls to greet each group with Hello and send the visiting troops off with a Thank You in our country's language. I believe troops get most bogged down by the overall amount of knowledge that can be learned. Giving troops several bullets to cover would ensure that the information from each country is consistent and concise. I would rather the girls learn a little from each table than be inundated with a massive amount of information. Also let's face it, Daisies have the capacity to learn at best 3 quick facts. Even if your group is a Cadette, they can memorize a large amount of information, but will only have about 30 seconds to make an impact on a small troop of visiting Daisies. Ultimately my young troop was more about the experience than the facts anyways. They wanted to see the costumes, dress up, enjoy the sample foods and socialize. I would be curious to know how many other leaders felt very little is actually learned at the event. Not that the experience is not well worth it and certainly the girls take in so much including an overall appreciation of different cultures and customs, colors, a recognition of the flags, and participation in a large scale, multi-level Girl Scout event. However, I think providing an outline of information to cover would be very useful to leaders. My suggestion would be to recommend troops include on their display boards the following: the capitol of the country, basic geographic information, outstanding cultural difference (if any), language, money standard, the country's leading industry or crops and form of government. Standardizing the display boards might also help the girls identify information. One older troop of girls was asking basic questions to my girls about our countries. I thought this was great but, I noticed my girls struggled to find the answers on our display board because it was a hodgepodge of info. A standardized board would help the girls a great deal and help them to assimilate the information. I know some troops might be opposed to a well-defined board and that is perfectly understandable. I am not trying to undercut your creativity. I just think for the majority of leaders a basic board set-up would help condense information and make this event a bit easier to tackle.
Speaking of table placement, I think the overall event could be improved by spreading out the tables a bit more. Last night the building was hot and my troops felt a bit claustrophobic. Often times the troops bunched up and tables got crowded. I believe the tables are set close in an effort to help the troops move from table to table quickly, but I actually think spreading the tables out more and giving more walking room might improve the flow of the event.
Kudos to Karen and her troop for organizing the event. They did a great job and it is a daunting task.
So what improvements do you think can be made that would really help improve the WTD experience? What is the average amount of time you as a leader spend on preparing for Thinking Day? Lake Trails Service Unit holds WTD at a local high school in the cafeteria. We do the usual GS business, separate our troops into 2 groups and rotate around to the tables. One part of the troop mans the table while the other is circulating and then we use a gong to signal the changing of the guards and the groups alternate. Are you from a different Service Unit, how does your unit tackle WTD? Please let me know your thoughts.