Navigating Through the Girl Scout Junior Years
Working with your preteen Girl Scout Juniors will start to look and feel different as the girls grow older. The zillion activities they’re involved in make it virtually impossible to meet every week. You may begin meeting every other week or even less. Leaders run less and less of the meeting facilitation and girls’ interests have a wider scope. Before fun songs and crafts made a great meeting. Now the old familiar activities don’t seem to hold the girls’ interest. Some decide to leave. Yet this is a time when girls benefit greatly from a secure, friendly, all-girl atmosphere. Here they can test different ways to be and act as they develop into competent and caring young women.
Customize your approach to fit the group’s needs and it will offer a great place where girls can enjoy themselves and grow together.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
- Ask girls to brainstorm ideas for activities they want to accomplish and vote on group activities. The girls may decide to do two service projects during the troop year. They may meet two or three times during the fall to plan the fall service project and then again in the spring to plan the spring project.
- Subgroups within the group may meet separately to accomplish goals in which the larger group may not be interested, such as the Girl Scout Bronze Award, Girl Scout Junior Badges, camping, events, etc.
- Identify parents/co-leaders that enjoy different aspects of Girl Scouting. Ask them to lead a subgroup. The mother who is committed to helping her daughter earn the Bronze Award may be the perfect co-leader to lead the Bronze Award subgroup. The aunt with the minivan and free time on weekends could be the co-leader for a field trip. Other times, she could drive girls to council-sponsored events.
- Delegation skills become very critical at this time. The preteen leader can’t be expected to be all things to all people. Being in charge at every meeting is not only tiring, but it is not effective with this age group. Leaders can easily get used to their role with younger girls and not adjust to the shifting partnership as girls get older. In fact, many adults feel it’s easier to continue to lead troop discussions and take on tasks rather than give these responsibilities to the girls. However, sharing responsibility with the girls is an essential element of the Girl Scout program.
Follow these steps when delegating:
- Make sure the task is do-able. Does the girl have the resources necessary to accomplish the job?
- Make sure she understands the task by having her repeat it back to you.
- Discuss and agree on a deadline for completing the task.
- A few days after assigning the task, follow-up with the girl to see how she’s doing and offer appropriate assistance.
- When she successfully completes the task, praise her.
- If the task isn’t completed, talk privately with her about the impact on the rest of the project. Discuss whether it’s possible to complete the task at this point. If it is, repeat the delegation process.
- Hold meetings anywhere and anytime to accommodate busy schedules.
- Small groups can be effective and very meaningful for the girls. If you are accustomed to leading 25 Girl Scout Brownies, you may feel like a preteen group of five or six isn’t worth it. The reality is that many preteen groups are made up of 10 girls or less. In many ways, this can actually give you more opportunities to stay connected and be creative.
- Two elements that need to stay constant are the concepts of girl planning/decision making and the girl/adult partnership. As girls grow older, the leader continues to shift so girls take responsibility for their meeting activities and actions. In Girl Scouts, the adult serves as the mentor and friend. Opportunities for girls to meet and share confidences in the presence of caring and supportive adults will provide the best type of Girl Scout experience.
- Why stay together? Preteens benefit greatly from access to activities offered by the council. Girls receive invitations to attend activities where they can meet girls from across the street, across town, across the state and across the nation. Most important, girls benefit from knowing caring adult women who can help them navigate some difficult years- the preteens.
Girl Scouting offers girls the opportunity to be empowered, to be change agents and to connect with other girls. When girls are partnered with adults who understand their growing and changing needs, wonderful things happen.