It was too good to be true. My first year as the leader of a multi-level Girl Scout troop was too easy. I remember thinking to myself, it can’t be this easy.
What started out as a Brownie troop quickly grew into a Daisy-Brownie-Junior troop within a year, when one of my Brownies recruited her 2 sisters—you guessed it—a Daisy and Junior. Thankfully, all the girls got along really well, so we were able to meet as one whole troop twice a month without issue. During the meetings, two or three troop parents would work with the Brownies on their badge activities while I worked on petals with the Daisy and oversaw the Junior as she worked independently on her badges.
That lasted about a year before our troop dynamic started to shift: some of the girls left our troop to become full-time swimmers, all of our Brownies bridged to Juniors, and my youngest daughter (along with four of her friends) joined Girl Scouts as a Daisies. I was now the leader of a Daisy and Junior troop.
I can do this – easy breezy! I told myself.
To make things simple, I decided that each level would meet once per month and that we would also have an all-troop meeting once a month. I thought this would be a great solution! The all-troop meetings would give the younger girls a chance to learn from and work with the older girls to learn all of the essential Girl Scout traditions. Plus the older girls got an abundance of mentoring opportunities—it was a win-win for all of us (or so I thought).
By the end of our second all-troop meeting, things were getting out of control. My younger girls were literally climbing and hanging off of the older girls, ignoring their directions, and of course, the Juniors were getting beyond frustrated. The result? I received an email from nearly every one of my Junior parents expressing how unhappy their daughters were with the situation. I was crushed.
Even though I felt terrible, I wanted my girls to enjoy their Girl Scout experience, and I had to respect the parents for coming to me. It was these emails that helped me realize that I needed to forgo the all-troop meetings and distribute my time so that I could meet with each age level individually.
Fast forward three years to today: my troop is now a Brownie, Junior, and Cadette troop and we still don’t have all-troop meetings. While I would love for all of the girls to get together at least once a month, what’s most important is for Girl Scouts to remain a positive experience for everyone, so meeting separately is truly the best option.
When I announced that we would no longer be having the all-troop meetings, we agreed that the girls would work cookie booths together as well as celebrate holidays and have end-of-the-year celebrations together. Last year, at our year-end ice skating party, several of my older girls were spotted helping the younger girls ice skate, holding their hands around the rink making sure they didn’t fall. My heart just melted at the sight. Even though many of our meetings are broken out by age level, there are still several times during the year in which we’ll come together. For example, during Girl Scout Cookie season, we’ll all work on similar financial literacy badges or, when we go camping over the summer, we’ll work on the outdoor badges as a group.
Now, since I have four Cadettes and one Junior, that group meets together once a month. Based upon the badges that the girls want to earn, we’ll work on similar activities during their meeting. There’s a ton of crossover in the Girl Scout badge programs between grade levels, since the badges are really built to help the girls progress through the topic areas as they age through the Girl Scout program (and thanks to the great resources available to me from GSNorCal, I’m rarely struggling to find activities for the girls to do).
As for my Brownies, we have a twice monthly Brownies-only meeting, where we work on their badges and other age-specific program. Next year, they’ll start a Journey so the Cadettes, who want to earn their Leader in Action award, will have the opportunity lead them through that programming.
All in all, running a multi-level troop has simultaneously been the biggest challenge and learning experience in my six years as a leader, but being a leader with so many different age groups allows me to do a wide variety of activities, challenges my creativity, and brings out varying sides of my personality. While I’ve been a working mom my entire parenting life, Girl Scouts has provided me unique opportunities to grow that I am extremely grateful for!
Angela Borchert—Angela Borchert is finishing her sixth 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 outing. She’s been camping more times in the last four years than she has her entire life thanks to Girl Scouts!