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Keeping Girl Scouts in Middle School Junior High

Credit: Facebook Group: Cadette Think Tank Monica Bell

Girls want to interact with an adult who can appreciate the things in their world—the things they do, the things they think about, and the things they dream. If you are not already around middle school girls, take time to get to know their world. Ask girls which magazines or Web sites they like best and check them out.

• Avoid having girls sitting around in school-like settings. Keep them active, with plenty of choices and hands-on activities.

• Be enthusiastic—it is contagious!

• Get to know the girls. Inquire about each girl individually. Know their likes, dislikes, and so on.

• If a girl seems bored, consider asking her to "take the lead" on an activity.

• Be flexible. If an activity is not working, ask girls themselves what to change, or what other activity they would like to do.

• Overnights are key! Whether it be camping, sleepovers, or hotel nights, the bonding that happens is irreplaceable.

• GIRL LED!!! When the girls own the troop the girls stay in the troop.

• Plan a trip for the end of the following year, something that will just knock their socks off, then they will have to stay!

• Plan a summer bridging (or year kick off) event with other girls the same age. Once they see they aren't the only ones (and they are very likely to find friends who they didn't know were GS), they are more likely to stay.

• Focus on the FUN factor. Let them take a break from badges, awards, and service for a few months. Ask them what just for fun things they might want to do.

• Spending time together and building relationships is just as important as earning badges. Schedule as many as you can, maybe even doing one or two over the summer (no meetings, just a fun activity) to keep them interested.

• They need details, explanations, and hands on activities. Instead of making tray favors for meals on wheels, offer them to go and help deliver the meals or visit at meal time at a nursing home. Get them sewing, crocheting, throwing pottery, painting ceramics, making their own jewelry. Have them attend as many hands on, expert run programs as you can. Think quality, quality, quality. As Brownies, whatever you gave them was just terrific, now they need more substance to keep them interested. Call in the experts… you are not expected to know everything!

• Have an occasional alternate meeting place – like a coffee house, diner, pizza place, ice cream parlor, etc. Feels more like a club and a bit more grown up. Since they are older and in a new age level, maybe they are ready for a change of scenery.

• Find a group of Campus GS in your area. Have the girls attend an event or activity on campus with these girls. What is cooler then hanging out on a college campus?

• Create some traditions for your group. Even if they are as small as a special decorated stick for a camp names ceremony, a special song you sing at every meeting, or a photo album of past adventures. The more connections, feelings of inclusiveness, and history they feel, the more likely they will stay.

• Allow more time for socializing. In the early years, I was pretty intent on making sure that meeting time was tightly scheduled. We had activities planned out and went from one thing to another. In Cadettes, the girls want more free time. Time to get to know one another better, to catch up on what was going on in each others lives, to just talk and have fun together.

• Have fun. Earning badges, working on awards, doing community service are all fun activities when done correctly. Not to mention all the strictly for fun stuff!

• Let them plan. They need to be the decision makers while you are just their guide.

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