My Journey as a Troop Leader

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Make a Sit-Upon


The weather is turning and we are now starting to make outdoor plans for our troops. One of the traditional crafts of Girl Scouts is making a sit-upon. I remember doing it as a Brownie myself. This February I took an Outdoor 2 class and experienced the real benefit of using one myself sitting outside on a cold wooden bench all day. It really does make sitting more comfortable, cleaner, and warmer.

There are a variety of ways to make sit-upons, but last year my daughters' leader had the girls make them with this fun and easy technique. All you need is a vinyl shopping bag with handles, duct tape, and recycled newspaper. These vinyl shopping bags are available everywhere these days and the handles provide a perfect way to tote your sit-upon.

First, put the folded newspaper inside the shopping bag. You don't want the bag to be too heavy, so a good Sunday paper should be enough for insulation. Then, fold the sides and bottom of the bag in toward the center of the bag. Use the duct tape to seal each side and top of the bag.


You can use fun designer bags and colorful duct tape or if you use simple bags, the girls can decorate their sit-upons with permanent markers. If this essential is on your camping list, be sure to try this technique with your girls.


Have fun,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Share a Paper Garden

 IMG_1833     Now that spring has sprung, it might be fun to make some flowers with your troop. These bright and beautiful tissue paper flowers are easy, inexpensive and they never die! The girls really have fun making them, but the best part is sharing them.

Cut a large rectangle sheet of tissue paper into eight equal rectangles. Place these in a stack and fold the short side in at 1/2 inch. Accordion fold the sheet all the way to the end. Wrap a piece of floral wire around the center of the strip and twist it closed. Clip the tips of the folded strip into a point or rounded shape. Then, slowly and carefully, pull each layer of the tissue away from the wire ends to separate each layer. This creates a beautiful flower. More detailed instructions can be found below.

Take a bouquet of these lovely flowers to a retirement home to give one to each resident, or ask if your girls can make centerpieces for tables at the local senior center. These flowers would make excellent gifts to leave on a door knob for May Day, too, and moms would love a bouquet for Mother's Day!

You can even alter the pattern and make them in any size. They'll be beautiful anywhere. Encourage the girls to give their flowers away to brighten someone's day and they'll be making the world a better place -- one flower at a time.

Have fun,


These flowers are beautiful, inexpensive, and easy to
make. The would be excellent for giving away as a spring
or May Day gift or as decorations for a party or ceremony.


You’ll Need
• 1 piece of tissue paper for each flower 10” flower
about 20 x 26 inches
• Green floral wire or chenille stems
• Scissors
There is not a lot of preparation needed for this craft. If
the girls are young, you may want to fold and cut the
tissue paper for them. Older girls can do that step

1. Take the full sheet of tissue paper and fold it in half length-wise. Then
fold it half the other direction twice to create a 6 1/2 inch by 10 inch
rectangle. This will give you eight layers. Cut the folds or cut a small slice
off each edge that has folds to make eight separate pieces. You can also
stack eight full sheets of tissue paper and cut that stack into the smaller
rectangles if you wish to make more flowers at once.

2. Begin by folding the short edge of the stack in a half inch. Continue
accordion folding the sheets until it is all folded.


3. Fold to find the middle of the folded strip where you’ll wrap a piece of
floral wire. Twist the wire closed. Leave the floral wire long as a stem.


4. Snip the tips of the folded strip into a triangle (or rounded if desired) to
create the petal look.


5. Slowly and carefully pull each individual layer of the flower up and away
from the stem until the paper creates a full flower shape. If you want a
rounder ball you can pull some of the layers back toward the stem as


Monday, March 15, 2010

My Favorite Meeting (so far)

Many of my girls really love to earn badges. Our troop has been working hard through a “Journey” and several badges so far this year. However, it seems that my favorite meetings are the ones that don’t necessarily involve badges at all. I personally love earning badges myself, so I know they are fun and important to the girls, but doing something different is also fun and sometimes easier.

So far this year, our “Girl Scout Birthday Party” meeting was the best. It was easiest for me to prepare and tons of fun for the girls.  Plus, we even incorporated a service project in all the fun.

The Theme

I think that having a theme made the day. It doesn’t have to be a “Girl Scout Birthday” theme to be a winner. The theme just guided the meeting for us.

The Activities

We still started our meeting with a snack and the promise and the law. We just added a round of “Happy Birthday” singing to the mix.

Then we played a fun game. I picked up some bags at the dollar store that are just the right size to hold the girls Journey books and vests. I bought one for every girl and put it in a box, then wrapped the box in several layers wrapping paper. (I ran out of paper before I had enough layers for each girl to open one, but that didn’t seem to matter.) For the game, we played music while the girls passed the package around a circle. When the music stopped, the girl holding the box got to open a layer. They just LOVED this game. I was surprised at what a hit it was.


Our service unit was creating a gift basket to present to the local hospital that was to be given to the first baby girl born on March 12th, Girl Scouts Birthday. Each troop contributed something. So, at this meeting we decorated squares of fabric that would be sewn into little burp rags. I had purchased "fabric pastels” that I let the girls use to draw on the flannel squares. They created cute baby pictures.

After the meeting, I heat set the squares and sewed them together with seams out so they could be clipped. This is called a “flannel rag quilt” and is very easy to do. It turns out so cute. When washed, the clipped edges fray and are soft and fluffy. I was disappointed that the pictures washed out quite a bit. These pastels must work better on regular cotton than on flannel. (They worked great on t-shirts). Perhaps a different medium would work better on flannel.


One of my co-leaders made cupcakes and brought frosting, so the girls got to decorate a cupcake too as part of the “party”. We made these at the end and had them take them home to eat since it was close to supper time by then. They loved decorating!


The Preparation

The reason this was a better meeting was that preparation was easier. Perhaps it was because I’ve planned so many birthday parties in my lifetime. Perhaps it was because just having a theme helped us along.

Because we had the theme, it was far easier for me to delegate parts of the prep work to my co-leaders. So often that is hard for me to do. They are willing, but if I don’t plan far enough ahead, I can’t ask them to do anything.

Once you have activities planned, purchasing and preparing the supplies is the next challenge. This blanket idea really didn’t take too many supplies. I had to buy the flannel and cut it. Then I just brought the pastels.

Finding a gift for the “pass the package” game was a little more challenging, but you got to love the dollar store! The bags I found had clear pockets on the front for the girls to place pictures or decorated papers. I put a picture of our troop in one and our troop number in another. Then, the girls had two spots to decorate themselves. We did this as an added activity at that meeting. I just had to bring paper that had been cut to fit the spots.

Prep for meetings is time consuming, but if you have a plan, it goes by much quicker.

Any other ideas?

I’d love to hear your comments on any ideas you’ve used for themed meetings. Please comment by clicking the comment link below.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Make an "'Ugly" Doll

IMG_1713 It seems we can find monsters everywhere these days. Some of the most popular are simple, flat, stuffed creatures made of felt. Because the fabric is soft and comforting, comes in bright, fun colors, is easy to find and inexpensive, felt is the perfect material for crafting these home-spun buddies. Whether you are working on a sewing or toy badge or just teaching your troop some sewing techniques, try having them make themselves a little felt "monster".

Have the girls draw a simple shape to create their pattern or you could create several patterns in advance for them to choose from. Trace the pattern right on a 9x12 inch piece of felt. Layer two pieces of felt together and have them cut out the pieces two at a time.

If the girls are older, they can learn and use a few embroidery techniques to add a face. Cut white felt circles for eyes, which can be stitched on with a blanket stitch. Mouths and noses can be added using a back-stitch with embroidery floss. Younger girls can cut out their face pieces and glue them on with fabric glue or simply draw them on. Monsters often have one eye or silly faces, so let them be crazy. The beauty of this project is that imperfection can be embraced as it gives their monster more character.

You can have the girls hand-sew the layers together with a blanket stitch or bring a sewing machine and quickly sew them. If you use a machine, you can sew them with right sides together so they can be turned right-side out to hide the stitching. Either way, be sure to leave an opening so they can add stuffing to their dolls, then sew the hole closed.

While they may not be exactly the same as the fashionable (and expensive) Uglydoll, the girls are sure to treasure the crazy creation they made themselves.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Make and Trade Artist Trading Cards


Sometimes large pieces of blank white paper can be intimidating to a little artist. Did you know that some artists and crafters enjoy creating and trading miniature works of art called Artist Trading Cards? These small canvases are inspired by the old collectable baseball cards. At just 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches in size, they fit in a standard trading card protector sheet. Artists can paint, draw, color, collage, or use any kind of mixed media to create their cards. Give this unique form of artwork a try with your troop.

Cut some white cardstock down to the correct size. Give each girl nine blank cards, enough to fill a whole protector sheet, or less if you have less than nine girls in the troop. Explain the Artist Trading Card (ATC) concept to the girls and show them some card examples.

To start, encourage the girls to decorate one card using lots of color and filling the whole piece. It can be a concrete or abstract design, but have them make something simple enough to reproduce fairly quickly. Then, have them make eight more of the same design. They should sign and date the back of each card. When everyone is complete, allow the girls to trade them with each other. Make sure that every girl keeps one of her own cards and trades the rest. Provide the girls with a trading card sheet protector to store their masterpieces.

This "collecting" hobby helps the girls appreciate their creative uniqueness. The cards could also work in nicely with several badges including the Junior Journey "Agent of Change". Have the girls choose a design that represents a woman in history that had an impact on the world to help them earn their Power of One award. You could also create Artist Trading Cards to swap with other troops at an event or camp, a sister troop from outside of your area, or from a foreign country. The fun of this artistic trend is the sharing a little of yourself. Help the girls appreciate that they each have something wonderful to offer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Make planning easy

Now that I’ve been a  troop leader for four months, I’m beginning to get the hang of this thing. In the beginning I had so much I wanted to accomplish at the meeting, that I left overwhelmed and disappointed that we didn’t finish everything. I’ve had to simplify my expectations, learn how to estimate the time an activity will take, and become more flexible in the moment.

There are a few things I have begun doing to make our meetings run smoothly and reduce the amount of time I spend planning.

1. Find a system for making meeting plans

When I first decided I was going to be a troop leader, I was invited to the local Service Unit meeting. One kind and thoughtful leader offered to give me a packet of papers that she used for planning her meetings.

What a blessing it was for her to share her tips and hints with me. I took those sheets and when it was time to start planning, I gave them a try. Once I tweaked them a bit for my own use, they were great!

At first I put them in my Girl Scout binder (along with all the odds and ends of my Girl Scout career), but I found that I needed them to be more readily available. Because I use a day planner that holds 8.5 x 5.5 inch sheets of paper, I printed them out in a half-sheet sized version to keep in there. Now I can jot down my troop plans any time an idea strikes.

imageFull Sheet PDF

Half Sheet PDF








2. Plan for multiple meetings at one time

I have two wonderful assistant leaders. We get together and plan out meetings for the next couple months.

With Girl Scouts, the girls are supposed to have an input in their meetings and activities, so be sure your plans are general enough to give them a say in how their troop works.

3. Learn how to estimate activity time

The only real way to estimate times for your activities is by experience. Once you get to know your girls, you’ll discover how much they like to spend on different types of activities.

Remember, the younger ones have shorter attention spans for instructional type activities. However, they seem to have endless amounts of energy for playing active games.

Determine if you want to rush the girls to get lots done or if you want to let them set the pace. At the meeting, you can help them along by letting them know what you’d like to accomplish during the meeting so they can self-regulate their time somewhat.

Some girls will finish early and some will want to take their time. Try to give the fast ones a secondary, related project to keep them from the temptation of  running around. Encourage your slow girls to finish up quickly and allow them to work on it home if they can’t get done.

3. Bring only what you need

If your meeting is somewhere besides your home, you’ll need to be prepared, but also not lugging around a ton of stuff you don’t need. By planning ahead, you can make a good list of what items you’ll need for a particular meeting.

4. Always have a few simple activities to fill any extra time

Learn yourself a couple games and/or song activities for which you’ll always bring supplies along. This way, if you ever have down time or you finish early with a project, you’ll have something you can do easily.

You can always bring along crayons and blank paper or notebooks for each girl. If you have special troop journals, you can use these to document different badge work or activities and use them for down time as well.

At a recent parent meeting, I used our troop journals to occupy the girls while their parents learned more about selling cookies.

5. Be flexible

The girls do not have to be going non-stop for the entire meeting. Take your time and see what they enjoy doing. Spend more time on projects that they like. Zip through parts that they don’t seem to appreciate. Let them run around for a game in between two sit-down activities.

While you won’t be able to please everybody all the time, you’ll get to know your girls and eventually be able to plan ahead easier and more accurately to suit them best.

At our last meeting, my girls were so enjoying making and decorating paper cell phones and pretending to call each other, that we didn’t get much of anything else done. They all seemed to have a great time, and learned how to use their phones to sell cookies!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Starting a Troop Leader Blog

My journey as a troop leader started in October of this year. As I plan, organize, teach, and serve these girls, I am already seeing the rewards. Not only do I get to pour myself into a bunch of little girls, but it has impacted my relationship with my own girls as I involve myself more specifically in their lives. I’m able to see their gifts and talents, impress them with my fancy craft ideas, spend more time with them and their friends, and teach them the values of courage, confidence, and character.

There are so many girls that want to be a part of Girl Scouts and so few adults willing or able to serve as leaders. I am sure that this is the case with other types of scouting as well. I want to share any helpful tools I learn along the way, so that others might be inspired to give this a try.

It isn’t always easy and there are good practices and bad practices, but with some planning and care, I believe anyone can have a positive experience as a troop leader.  If you can come at it with good boundaries for the health and balance of your family, It is worth the sacrifices you make to have a positive impact on children. Making a difference in the life of a child is a huge step to changing our world.