Guest Blogger: Melissa Moody—Melissa is a 4th year Girl Scout leader (and was a Girl Scout herself back in the day). She took over her daughter’s troop when they bridged to Juniors; prior to that, she was “just” the troop Cookie Mom.
We’ve all been there: You’re ready to start your meeting, but the girls are running in a dozen different directions and seem to have no interest in getting on-task. What’s a Girl Scout leader to do?! How do you corral all that energy to get them focused on what needs to be accomplished in your time together?
I’ve been co-leading my troop for 4 years now and I clearly remember attending their meetings when they were energetic Brownies. Fortunately, in my time working with these amazing girls, I’ve learned a thing or two and have found quite a few tactics that help us sail through our meetings with ease. Today, I’m sharing my top tips for keeping younger girls focused during Girl Scout meetings, so you too can accomplish awesome things with your troop!
1. Start your meetings with a consistent routine.
We always start our meetings at the same time every month in the exact the same way. By practicing a regular routine, all of our girls know what to expect and know what to do once we’re ready to get started!
Most girls arrive to our meeting location a few minutes early to play and talk until meeting time, so when we’re ready to start, we cue them by saying “Hey, hey Girl Scouts.” When they hear us call out to them, our girls know to respond with, “Hey, hey Miss Melissa,” and then settle into their seats. Once everyone’s seated, we pick 3 girls to start the meeting and lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance, Girl Scout Promise, and Girl Scout Law before we get started with the main activity. It may seem simple, but these two routine activities—getting their attention and having the girls start the meeting the same way every time—help everyone settle down and get on track fast.
2. Use a guided meditation to create relaxation and focus.
When our girls were Juniors, they attended a yoga class as part of their Staying Fit badge. We found an instructor who specialized in yoga for kids and she came to a meeting to teach them some basic moves/positions. At the end of the session, the instructor took the girls through a guided meditation and the result was incredible – the girls were zen, relaxed, and super focused on the rest of our meeting. It worked so well, in fact, that we now use this technique any time we have trouble getting the girls through a meeting! Here’s how it works:
- Have the girls each find a spot on the floor where they can lay down.
- The girls then close their eyes, and we take them through a guided meditation. It goes something like this (note: we do this in a very quiet, calm voice): “OK – close your eyes, and feel yourself breathe. Breathe in…..and out….in….out…Now, picture yourself at a beach. <long pause> You can feel the sun beating on your skin, warming you up. <long pause> As you walk across the beach, you can feel the sand squish between your toes. <long pause> When you look towards the ocean, you can see the waves rolling in. In the distance, you see a dolphin jumping. <long pause> You can smell the salty water in the air.”
- We continue this for as long as our imaginations allow us to – we try to create a vivid picture in their minds, so that they feel like they have been at the beach for a day. When we finish, we slowly bring them out of the meditation by taking them back to “breathe in….and out…” a few times, then we tell them they can slowly open their eyes, and to sit up when they are ready. (Note: If they rush to get up, their bodies and minds have become so relaxed that they can actually get dizzy, so make sure they move slowly.)
When the girls are all “back” from their trip, it’s amazing the difference in their personalities – they are calm, focused, and ready to pay attention!
We also change up the meditation, depending on the circumstances. We’ve done a holiday one where they are exploring the North Pole, and a “bedtime” one for camp where they solely focus on breathing and relaxing each part of their body, starting at their toes, all the way up to their heads. By the time they get to their heads, they are asleep (or close to it). The girls have also learned to do this themselves, and help each other when they are at camp.
3. When in doubt, sing!
Nothing soothes the soul like a sing-a-long! Gather your girls for a quick round of Princess Pat or Boom Chicka Boom to mellow everyone out. If you don’t know the words to their favorite camp songs, do a search on YouTube for “Girl Scout Songs” and you’ll find a ton of options you can teach yourself. But you’ve been warned – don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming them as you walk through the grocery store though!
4. Have a Plan B just in case Plan A doesn’t work out.
Let’s face it, sometimes you just won’t be able to contain your troop’s energy, but don’t despair—when this happens, you have options! You can try to fight it and stress yourself out (which really doesn’t accomplish much, if you think about it), or you can change your meeting plan and do a physical activity that will help them release some of that extra energy. In our troop, we typically plan our meetings 2-4 months in advance, which is great for me because it allows us to swap out one meeting activity for another when the girls have a little too much energy for what I had planned. Keep calm, you’re a Girl Scout – you’ve got this!
There are many options and resources for helping your girls settle down, but it’s important to know that there’s no universal formula that will work week after week after week. With my troop, I’ve found that each meeting is different, and sometimes I have to think on my feet in order to accommodate the girls and keep them engaged. And every troop is unique, so keep trying until you find what works for you!