Take the Lead

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Fostering Cooperative Learning with Girls

There are many things leaders can do to encourage cooperative learning and to help each girl realize that she can make a difference in her own way.  My Girl Scout Cadette troop knows that I love the Girl Scout organization and that I also love my job as an inner city Catholic School teacher.  My daily classroom experiences allow me to see all the challenges that children of low socioeconomic status face each day.  In the summerof 2011, at Girl Scout camp we were hanging out in our lodge at Camp Stonybrook, I told the troop all about the girls at my school and pointed out that they live only 15 minutes away from our neighborhoods, but that their lives are very different.  Then I simply asked, “Would you be willing to help the girls at my school?”  My troop immediately started coming up with ideas, suggestions and possibilities.  Out of that excitement came the desire to work together to recreate a Girl Scout experience for girls who didn’t have the same opportunity. 

If we want our girls to do a job, we must give them the tools to do it!  I provided the initial “Program Aide (PA)” training to my troop in August.  We met at my school and took a tour.  I showed them the classrooms and other spaces where we could hold meetings.  In return, they rattled off more ideas and asked great questions.  They began to envision how we could work together to pull off a registration night and monthly meetings.  The girls also received ongoing training with the aMAZE! Journey, enabling them to critically evaluate their strengths and weaknesses when forming relationships.  This Journey is packed with small group activities to practice leadership and group skills.

By mid-September, my troop had sent out recruitment fliers and there were many young girls at my school enthusiastically asking me “What is Girl Scouts?”  As the recruitment night approached, we were thrilled to hear that a Girl Scout staff member and a representative from the service unit would attend our meeting to speak about Girl Scouts and to assist with registration.  Their participation spoke volumes to my troop.  The girls knew that we were doing something worthwhile and that we would have support.  My troop planned to wear their orange Camp Stonybrook T-shirts, get up and introduce themselves to the large group, and then lead a breakout session for brand new Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies.  A week before at our troop meeting, the girls went to work prepping all the materials for the meeting.  They also practiced leading three of their favorite Girl Scout songs.

With the girls functioning as PAs, they looked unified and confident as they came up to introduce themselves for the first time.  When it came time to lead the songs, the young PAs delivered them just like older girls at camp and the new Girl Scouts loved it.  Their efforts were met with much applause.  While I was clapping, my mind was spinning with all the ways I could tap their initiative and potential all year!

Communication among leaders and families is critical.  Before each Girl Scout Daisy/Brownie meeting, I emailed each Girl Scout Cadette family a “Game Plan,” complete with our order of events and activities and the PAs assigned to each part.  Developing the plan before each meeting was an exercise in cooperative learning.  I sat back and listened and typed up our plan as decisions were made by the girls.  I got to witness my girls taking charge and listening to each other, as well as compromising.  By evaluating the wonderful moments and the unsuccessful times of our last meeting, the girls focused on things to change and things to fine-tune.  They discussed their preference for grade levels and divided themselves into teams.  In addition, the PAs also worked together to divide up all the prep work so we could get it done during our hour and a half meeting.  

My PAs referred to their Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies as their sisters.  When it came time for our last Girl Scout Daisyand Brownie meeting in May, my young PAs had grown so much.  I saw confident girls who had become leaders and were able to work together on a project that was meaningful to them and families in their community. 



It’s important to start the year off right by building a good team.  This includes building your girls as a team and building a great team of support for the activities girls are interested in through partnering with community members  and  building parent support. 
Tips for Engaging Parents and Families


  • Create a monthly newsletter. This keeps parents informed of what your troop is doing and what you need from them. This is a great place to ask for chaperones or even remind parents to turn in permission slips. The newsletter could even be created by a parent helper!
  • Make the ask! Often times parents don’t know that  you need help or how they can get involved. Talk to each parent individually and give specific ways they can assist the troop.   Include or modify the “How Adults Can Help” Form to suggest roles for parents.
  • Invite parents and families to become Girl Scout members! This is especially helpful if they attend meetings regularly or if they want to drive or chaperone outings.
Building Your Girl Team
  • Start with helping the girls to develop troop rules and consequences.  This allows girls to give input to their own rules and set good expectations. For older girls, you may want to develop a troop agreement instead. 
  • Involve girls in planning.  This ensures that the plan for the year isn’t just based on what the adult leadership wants to see happen for girls.
  • Play team building and “get to know you” games during the first few meetings or every time a new member joins the group.  Invite girls to share games that they know.  You’ll be surprised by what they can teach you! 

Beyond the Troop

Creating great Girl Scout teams goes beyond the parents and girls in your troop. It means involving schools, service units and the community!

  • Connect with other troops at your school! Having an older girl troop assist with the Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie troops is a great way to build a school wide team and allow for girl-led activities.  It even helps Girl Scout Cadettes earn their Leader in Action (LiA) award!
  • Get involved with your service unit.  Ask how your troop can contribute to a service unit event. Invite other troops in your service unit to participate in a Take Action project.  Invite girls to attend service unit meetings to share what they are doing and help plan service unit events.
  • Engage your community. Invite community leaders to participate in Girl Scout events and celebrations.  Participate in community-wide service.  Spread the Girl Scout name by wearing your uniform on field trips.

Journey Leader Guides
Did you know that every Journey Facilitator Guide has ideas and tips for engaging family, friends and the community?  Use your “People Power” to create a network of Journey resources.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Give yourself a break and expand girls’ awareness of community by asking family members, friends and friends of friends to visit and enhance troop gatherings.  So go ahead and hand off activities and prep steps to a Family and Friends Network.
  • Host a parent meeting at the beginning of the year to share information and get help from families.
  • Find out who likes to do what, identify assistants for various activities and see who has time for behind-the-scenes preparations, gathering supplies or snack duty.
  • Invite parents back, too!  A parent meeting at the beginning of the year is great, but involving parents year round is better!  Ask the girls to think ahead to the end of the year and plan a celebratory event that lets family and friends share their Journey accomplishments.
  • Keep in mind that in some families, an aunt, older sibling, cousin or other adult may be the most able to participate.
  • Visit the Journeys section of girlscouts.org for sample letters and forms to start your Family and Friends Network and keep its members informed and motivated to join in the fun!
  • Check out the team building games found in the Journey Facilitator Guides.  Check out the example below!


Overlapping Worlds
From the It’s Your Story Tell—It! for Girl Scout Brownies:
A World of Girls

To start, have a few double-dutch jump ropes on hand and make large overlapping circles on the floor.  (Yarn or sidewalk chalk outside would work too.)  Then:

  • Invite the girls to stand in the circles, based on groups they are a part of, as you identify each circle by saying things like:  If you play a sport, stand in this circle.  If you sing or play an instrument, stand in this circle.  If you take an art class, stand in this circle.  (The circles will overlap on the floor or ground because the girls are a part of more than one group, so girls may find themselves in multi-circles at once.)
  • After every girl is in at least one circle, create a final large circle around all of the girls with one remaining rope.  Ask: What does this circle stand for?  Give girls a few moments to answer. The answer is: Girl Scouts of course! 
  • When the girls are finished, give them time to take turns turning the ropes and jumping.  Challenge them to name other groups that they are a part of with each jump. 


Girl Scouts is a non-formal education program that promotes girls’ personal growth and leadership development.  One of the keys to this happening is having girl-led activities.  Encourage girls to lead the planning, decision making, learning and fun as much as possible.  This ensures that the girls are engaged in their learning and experience leadership opportunities as they prepare to become active participants in their local and global communities.
Let Girls Lead the Meeting
Here are some easy tips to let the girls take the lead:
  • Have girls sign up for roles to lead each part of the meeting including taking attendance, bringing snacks, leading the Girl Scout Promise and Law and more!
  • Let the girls lead songs and games.  You may have to teach them the first time around,  but they will get the hang of it very quickly.  Also, girls who attend summer camp and other opportunities may have games and songs to teach you!
  • Keep an eye out for girls who have not expressed their opinion during the meeting.  Initiate a voting system to vote on new ideas so every girl is heard. 
  • Don’t feel like you have to stick to every word of the Journey Facilitator Guide.  Know when to let the girls discussion drive what you do next. 
Journeys Make it Easy!

Having trouble implementing girl-led into your meetings? No problem! Have the girls choose one of the Journeys to do throughout the year, then dive into the Journey Facilitator Guide!

  • Journeys were created to include all the Girl Scout essentials! That means that girl-led activities are built directly into the sample sessions.
  • Girl-led looks different for every Girl Scout grade level. Girl Scout Daisies lead in very different ways than Girl Scout Cadettes.  The Journeys provide age appropriate ways for girls to take the lead.
  • Helpful conversation bubbles are placed in the side margins of the sample sessions to further explain how an activity provides girl-led components and relates to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience
  • Journeys are customizable!  Before you start your Journey, ask the girls about their interest and brainstorm ways to incorporate them into the Journey.  Perhaps you can add a field trip, a guest speaker or a badge to help pursue their interests!
  • Journeys are meant to work with The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting.  Have girls look through the resources and choose badges that they want to earn and complete them along with your Journey.
Progression in Girl-Led


It is essential in Girl Scouting that as girls grow, so does their involvement in planning and leading their experiences.  As girls get older, their abilities become more expansive, allowing them to take on a greater role in driving their own experiences.  Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies need more help and girl-led is more about making choices between options.  Once girls become Girl Scout Juniors, they can begin planning meetings and trips. By the time girls are Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors, adults become advisors rather than leaders and girls lead the way!
Girl-led Success Indicators


  • Girls are engaged in their activities
  • Girls are excited about what they are doing in Girl Scouts
  • Leaders are learning with the girls
  • Leaders see the girls working cooperatively to make things happen
  • Girls gain confidence through sharing and group decision making
  • Leaders know what the girls want to do because they get the girls involved by asking them
  • Girls stay in Girl Scouts
  • Girls tell their parents about their experiences because they are excited
  • Girls invite their friends to join the troop or group

TAKE ACTION unsing the Program Processes

In the last Take the Lead you read how the Girl Scout outcomes of Discover, Connect and Take Action align with the five steps of Service Learning and how using existing resources like the Girl Scout Journeys, highest awards (Girl Scout Gold, Silver and Bronze) and Forever Green build in the outcomes/steps to service learning.  Some have asked, how is this different than doing community service?  Let’s compare:


Community Service:
Community service is volunteer action to meet the needs of others and better the community as a whole. In schools, community service typically involves a one-time activity like canned food drives, coat drives or penny collections.  These projects are intended to develop the habits and skills of volunteerism and are often capped off with a party to celebrate success.
Taking Action/Service Learning: 
Taking Action/Service learning expands community service with education to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.
Service learning:
  • Promotes learning through active participation in service experiences.
  • Provides structured time for girls to reflect by thinking, discussing and or writing about their service experiences.
  • Provides an opportunity for students to use skills and knowledge in real-life situations.
  • Extends learning beyond-the-troop experience and into the community.
  • Fosters a sense of caring for others.
Incorporating the Program Process:


The Girl Scout Leadership Experience provides three processes for adults to incorporate in activities when partnering with girls: girl-led, cooperative learning and learning by doing. When girls lead, when they learn by doing and when they engage in cooperative learning, the outcomes of Discover, Connect and Take Action will happen. Girls will finish their project understanding the issues in their community and how their project helped to meet that need.



Girls of every grade level take an active role in determining what, where, when, why and how they’ll structure activities.  As part of the adult-girl partnership fostered by Girl Scouts, this process is used to strengthen and support girls’ empowerment and decision making roles in activities.  This non-formal education technique enables the learner to actively participate in directing her own learning.  A leader’s role is to provide grade level, appropriate guidance while ensuring that girls lead as much as possible in the planning, organization, set-up and evaluation of their activities.
Cooperative learning happens when girls share knowledge, skills and experiences in an atmosphere of respect and cooperation, working together on a common goal that engages each individual girl’s diverse talents.  In cooperative learning environments, people learn faster, process information more efficiently and are better able to retain the information learned.  As a volunteer leader, structure cooperative-learning activities that will nurture healthy, diverse relationships and also give continuous feedback to girls on those learning experiences.
Learning by doing, also known as experiential learning, happens when girls use hands-on learning to engage in an ongoing cycle of action and reflection, deepening their understanding of concepts and mastering practical skills.  As girls take part in meaningful activities, instead of simply watching them, and then later evaluating what they have learned, learning is far more meaningful, memorable and long lasting.  Leaders assist girls in this process by facilitating grade level, appropriate experiences through which girls can learn and by leading discussions that reflect on those experiences.
Want to learn more about Service Learning/Taking Action in Girl Scouts?  Each Girl Scout Center is offering a workshop to help you and your girls:
Identify issues in your community
Brainstorm ways to address those issues
Learn ways to connect to community partners
Service Learning—Take Action Workshops:
October 27, 2012, 1–4 p.m.—Camp Libbey
November 3, 2012, 1–4 p.m.—Camp Butterworth
November 10, 2012, 1–4 p.m.—Dayton Girl Scout Center
November 17, 2012, 1–4 p.m.—Woodhaven