Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pick a Badge, Any Badge ...

We all know Girl Scouts is intended to be girl-led. And the older the girls get, the more involved we want them to be in setting the course for the year. But that's easier said than done, particularly when it comes to picking badges.

Of course it would be easy if our girls read through each badge and its requirements, and after some thought and consideration, came to to a mutual consensus on their preferred badges. (And if you have a troop like this, please let me know!)

We really do want to pick badges and activities that play into our girls' passions and interests, but we're also smart enough to realize that if we just hand over the book, they'll pick based on which badge is the "prettiest." It's not their fault - part of our job as leaders is to help them learn decision-making skills. Here are a few tactics we've tried over the years to help facilitate decision-making within our troop.

Interest Surveys - At the end of the year, we have the girls complete a survey, rating the activities we did that year. These insights can be invaluable in planning for the next year. At the beginning of the year, we've also tried having them write down a couple (or 5 or 10) things that they would like to learn or do in the coming year. This takes the focus off of picking badges and allows you, as a leader, to guide them to the badges that play to those interests.

Voting - Our most common method is to narrow down or pick a selection of the badges and have the girls vote in various ways. One idea is to list each selected badge on on a piece of paper and post them to the wall. Give each girl 5-10 stickers and allow them to allocate their stickers however they want. i.e. If she really likes a badge, she put all her stickers there, or two on one and three on another, etc. It sometimes make it easier to see clear patterns, rather than just a straight yes-no, majority rules vote.

Brackets - We tried this at the end of last year with some success. Just like a college basketball bracket, it pits two badges against each other and the girls must select one of the two. Take the winner of each pairing and then vote again until you have it narrowed down to a manageable number. It can be a good way to add variety, i.e. put badges with similar topic areas against each other (i.e. Screenwriter vs. Book Artist).

Patrols or Small Groups - Break the girls into small groups and have each group select 1 or 2 badges that they all agree on. This is a good way to help the girls learn to build consensus.

Individual Preferences - If you have a really small troop, one way might be to allow each girl to pick a badge. That ensures each girl gets a voice and helps expose the rest of the troop to interests or activities they might not have been exposed to previously.

And of course, many of these methods can be used for a variety of decisions - from which activities to do within a badge to planning meals for a cookout.

What methods work best for your troop when it comes time to make a decision?

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