Welcoming new girls into Girl Scouts is very exciting – for leaders, girls, and parents. I’ve welcomed a lot of new girls into my troop over the last six years and I always have to contain my enthusiasm when we meet for the first time for fear of scaring them off! 😉
There are a lot of things for new Girl Scouts to learn and absorb and information coming from an amped-up Girl Scout leader can be… overwhelming. While I sit back and hope that the new girl will stay in our troop for a long time, I let the girls take over and introduce her to how we do things regarding our special troop traditions and structure, as well as the more iconic Girl Scout traditions.
From the Promise and Law to favorite songs, here are some important things to teach your new Girl Scout. Make sure the returning girls in your troop take turns leading each one of these activities at your meetings, as it might take more than one meeting for your new girl(s) to feel comfortable with the routine.
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1. Making New Friends, The Girl Scout Way
The girls need to get to know one another before diving head-first into Girl Scout traditions. Start your first meeting with an icebreaker so everyone has a chance to get to know one another on a deeper level. Heck, do two icebreakers if time allows. And while you’re at it…have the parents do one if they stay at the meeting. The better the parents know one another, the more comfortable they’ll be, which in turn will improve your entire troop dynamic (and will likely help you recruit more parent volunteers).
2. The Promise and Law
Repetition is key with the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Start every meeting reciting both. It’s a great chance for all the girls (and leaders) to get a refresher because they probably don’t recite it every night before they go to bed (wink, wink). There are a lot of great craft ideas on the internet (and the Girl Scouts NorCal Pinterest page) for those troops who like to be hands on. I used iron-on material to put the Law on a t-shirt that I wear to every meeting. The girls read it right off my shirt. It’s not only funny, but it works. Needless to say, after just a couple of meetings, they had it down!
Kapers are key to the way we run meetings, stay organized, and stay on-task. Girl Scouts love being responsible for something and kapers help the meeting remain their meeting. Leaders should assign tasks before every meeting and make sure that everyone gets a chance to play a different role. Girls can be in charge of collecting dues, saying the Promise and Law, setting up the craft or activity, leading the friendship circle…all of it! There are great ways to display kapers so you have a visual for the girls. Mine have gone from elaborate to simple – you decide what works best for your troop.
This is one of the best parts of the meetings. Let the girls choose the songs and sing and sing and sing until everyone knows the songs. Print them out so the girls can take them home to practice and share with their family members. My troop loves the Brownie Smile Song and especially Hermie the Wormie. It won’t be long before they are singing their new favorite Girl Scout songs around the house!
5. Friendship Circle and Squeeze
I have rarely participated in the friendship circle and squeeze since our troop’s first meeting. The girls have always been in charge of leading it, being responsible during it, and teaching it to new Girl Scouts. This is where you see true leadership and teamwork come into play. It’s a very fun and interesting dynamic to watch. Every troop has a slight tweak in their friendship squeeze so however you decide to end your meeting is fine. In order to make sure the girls are focused and to reduce the amount of fidgeting that takes place during the friendship circle, I tell the girls that they have to be quiet so the Girl Scout fairies will hear their wishes. Works like a charm!
6. Cookie/Fall Product Expectations and Responsibilities
We hold a special meeting where we role play booth sales and door-to-door sales so the girls can discuss safety with one another. It’s important for the new girls to hear this from their peers because selling face-to-face can seem a little intimidating at first. When they hear the creative ideas the girls come up with on how to make it fun, they get more excited about it.
This year, I am welcoming three Brownies into my troop. While all three are veteran Girl Scouts and know these traditions well, they are coming from other troops where the structure was different. Though I would love to dive right into working on badges at our first meeting, I know it’s important for our new members to understand how our troop dynamic works and to get comfortable with their new troopmates.
If you’re in a similar position, remember that there will be plenty of time to work on badges and Journeys throughout the year, but you only get chance to make a new member feel super welcome. So make sure to set aside some time early on for the new Girl Scouts to understand all the timeless traditions that are involved in the global sisterhood they’ve joined!
- If you’re hoping to welcome new girls to your troop this year, be sure to opt-in to the GSNorCal Troop Catalog to let new members know you’re troop has open spots (and earn your free patch when you opt-in by 11/31/2017).
- New members = new opportunities for parent volunteers! Check out this post all about how to recruit parent volunteers for your troop.
- Need a refresher on how to engage your girls, both new and returning? Check out the Girls & Adults chapter of Volunteer Essentials for additional reading.
Angela Borchert—Angela is entering her seventh year as a Girl Scout leader in Vacaville/TAFB Service Unit and loves every minute of it. Her Girl Scouts have helped her embrace glue guns and dirt while taking her on her first kayaking and backpacking outings. She’s been camping more times in the last four years than she has her entire life thanks to Girl Scouts!