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Quick Start 0.4: Getting Started with the National Leadership Program through Journeys

The Girl Scout program is based on the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE), in which girls discover themselves, connect with others, and take action to make the world a better place—all within the safety of an all-girl environment where girls take the lead, learn by doing, and learn cooperatively.

At the core of the GSLE are national leadership journeys, fun and challenging experiences grouped around a theme and spread over a series of sessions. Each journey has all the important components of the GSLE sewn right in. So, to guide girls on a great journey, all you need is enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. Before you dive in, try these six simple tips:

  1. Check out the journey maps at www.girlscouts.org/program/journeys/maps. These maps show you how all the fun and meaningful traditions of Girl Scouting fit right into any national leadership journey. There, you can also find information about the topics that each journey covers, which you can share with girls. And you’ll find even more fun traditions to complement your journey in the forthcoming Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting, a resource for each grade level of Girl Scouting.
  2. Choose a journey. Because Girl Scouting is girl-led, it’s important to give girls the chance to pick the journey they want to do. Talk to them about what each journey for their grade level is about and let them choose one.
  3. Get to know the journey. Pick up a girls’ book and adult guide. Read the girls’ book for the pleasure of it, just to get an overview of the journey’s theme and content.
  4. Review the sample session plans in the adult guide. These sample session plans give you ideas about how to bring the journey to life with girls, but leave plenty of room for creativity and customization.
  5. Invite the girls (and their parents/guardians) to use their imaginations to make the journey come to life in ways that excite them. Remember that you and the girls don’t have to do everything exactly as laid out in the sample sessions.
  6. Step back and watch how the girls, with your knowledge, support, and guidance, have enormous fun and a rewarding experience. Celebrate with them as they earn their national leadership journey awards—and perhaps some Girl Scout badges, too!

GSUSA has multiple program resources for every grade level that can be utilized in tandem with the journey books. These resources give girls the opportunity to earn additional awards such as Daisy Petals, Junior Badges, and Focus Awards for Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors.

Throughout your own journey—and even before—volunteer and staff members of your local Girl Scout council are there to offer support, learning opportunities, and advice. Never hesitate to contact them.

Planning in a Girl-Led Environment

To start planning your time with girls, visit www.girlscouts.org/MyCalendar. There, you’ll consider the following questions and begin to map out your Girl Scout year:

  • How many times each month will you meet? When do you plan to break for holidays?
  • How many weeks do you need to allocate for the Girl Scout Cookie Program?
  • Will you have time in your schedule for guest speakers and other visitors?
  • If you’ve worked with this group before, what are their preferences: badge work? field trips? other activities? For specific ideas on how to incorporate badges, trips, and other Girl Scout traditions into a Journey, check out the online Journey maps for the grade level of the girls you’re partnering with.

If your group will be meeting for less than a year (such as at a resident camp or during a series), you’ll be able to adjust the calendar to suit your needs. In the same way, if you’re planning a multi-year event (such as a travel excursion), add one or two more years to the framework.

After you’ve drafted a loose framework, ask the girls what they think. Or, create the online calendar together! Remember that you want girls to lead, but younger girls will need more guidance, while older girls will require much less. Seniors and Ambassadors may not even want you to draft a calendar in advance, so if they balk at what you’ve done, let them take the reins. (Journeys for older girls include planning pages specifically designed to help them customize their Journey.) Daisies and Brownies, on the other hand, may enjoy your calendar and just fill in a few ideas here and there, which will clue you in to their interests.

As your group starts its Journey, get a discussion (or debate!) going on the Journey’s theme and what it means to the girls. Probe to find out what they’re most interested in accomplishing during their time together, and then help them connect those interests to their Journey.