As Girl Scout leaders, we all know that it’s critical for our girls to take a leap and make decisions in age appropriate ways. This is challenging to many of us, and there are great blog entries already written on the topic here and here. Sometimes, having girls or leaders generate ideas and taking a vote is a great solution. However, in our troop we’ve noticed a degree of “group think” that precludes some of the quieter girls from truly expressing themselves in this format. You know these girls: the one who realizes no one else wants to do her idea, so she quiets down; the one who needs a bit more time to think and can’t keep up with the conversation; the girl who is willing to try anything, and therefore doesn’t say that she’d really really really really like to try the pottery badge above all else. That girl. How do we reach her?
It’s not simple, but one of my troop parents had a great idea: the Interest Gauge. I created a sheet with each of the badges, listed with a scale (1-2-3-4-5). Then the girls write their names and we go through the badges. For each, we give a brief description and answer questions. Girls are invited to circle how interested they are in doing that badge as a troop. This process sounds tedious, but we got it done in less than 20 minutes.
After bringing the sheets home, I quickly made a spreadsheet listing the badges in the first column, and each girls’ name and interest level in the next few columns. I totaled their scores in the final column, and sorted the sheet to determine the top few badges. If this sounds super complicated, it isn’t. See the example below, in order to get help if you need it.
Now here’s where it got really cool. Our top five badges turned out to be: Inventor, Dancer, Pets, Outdoor Adventurer, and Money Manager. Almost all the scores in each of those badges were 4 or 5, with an occasional 3. I could immediately see that each girl had at least one badge that sounds pretty fun and she’d really LOVE to do!
Did you notice something though? There’s that one girl, Girl 3, that really does not want to do Pets. What’s that about? After mulling it over for a while, I called her up and asked. It turned out she’s afraid of dogs and won’t go near them. Easy peasy. We’ll visit an adoption center that has tons of animals besides dogs, and offer her the choice to skip the dog area. To me, this was a super exciting moment in the girl-led approach to Girl Scouting. This young lady has a really strong fear, and would’ve felt completely overruled if we’d only voted. Instead, we helped her voice her concerns and problem-solved them. After talking it through with her, she lit up and is now excitedly planning the badge with us.
Our troop still votes on stuff: Do we want to work with a box or circles in our Inventor badge? Do we want to go to an animal adoption center or a Vet’s office? And most importantly: Are we ready for a running game? (the answer is always yes!) But in the meantime, I hope we’re capturing the voices of some of our quieter girls and ensuring that the badges we do are at least of some degree of interest to each girl in our troop.