Can Multi-Age Troops Work?
There are both pros and cons to having mixed age Girl Scout troops. As a Girl Scout Leader, it is up to you to decide what kind of troop you want to run and what kinds of experiences you wish to lead.
What is a Mixed Age Girl Scout Troop?
A mixed age troop can be one of two things. The first is having the girls the same level of scouting but in different grades. For example, Daisy Girl Scouts are girls in kindergarten and first grade. Your troop would consist of girls in each of these grades.
The other kind of mixed age troop is one where there is more than one level of scouts attending the meeting. For example, you have both Daisies and Brownies meeting at the same time or Brownies and Juniors.
Mixed Age Girl Scout Troops- Same Level, Different Grades- The Pros
There are pros to having a mixed Girl Scout troop with two different grade levels. When your troop are at the same level, the planning for you, the Leader, is a lot easier. You only have one level of Scouts to plan for, not multiple levels.
If most of your troop is from the same school, it makes the meeting time much easier to plan, as the girls are coming from the same place. Parents, moms in particular, know each other, so carpools are easier to arrange if it is necessary to get a girl to a meeting if a parent is working.
Another positive thing about having a mixed aged Girl Scout troop with different grade levels is that they get to spend time together and become friends, even though they are in different grades.
Sometimes there simply isn't a Leader to be found for a small group of girls. Another pro is that if there are children looking for a troop and you are willing to take them, even if they are younger or older than the girls in your troop, they still get to have a scouting experience.
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Mixed Age Girl Scout Troops- Same Level, Different
Grades- The Cons
There are cons to having Daisies, Brownies and Juniors together who are not at the same grade level. One disadvantage is that there can be huge developmental gaps when you have a mixed age Girl Scout troop with two different grade levels.
For example, my daughter just missed the cut-off date and is the oldest girl in her grade (and in our troop). There are girls in her troop who just made the cut-off date and are a full year younger than she is. There are definitely some differences in how they participate, how they use art tools, how they cut, etc. I am six years older than my co-leader, and at our age, it does not matter at all. The difference between a five year old and a six year old is huge.
If children who are a grade younger were permitted to join our troop, they could be two years younger than my daughter, widening the ability gap to work alone or do projects even more.
Another con to having a mixed Girl Scout troop is if you have a girl who is older, she leaves the troop and her friends and has to find another troop to join. She may not be able to find one at all that meets her and her parents' schedules, or one willing to take her in.
Or if you lead your Girl Scout troop and your daughter is one of the older ones, you leave a group of girls without a Leader, as you will naturally lead your daughter's next level troop.
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Multi-Age Troops-Different Levels, The Pros
The best pro to leading a mixed age scout that is different levels is that you are providing an opportunity for children of different ages to learn about scouting. You probably took on these girls because no one else would. Having girls of different ages teachers the girls about leadership and sisterhood. The older girls can help with the younger girls and complete patches by leading the troop meetings and organizing activities.
Many of the Try-Its (Brownies) and patches (Juniors) to earn are very similar, if not the same thing, only more involved. You can set up your meetings to have two separate groups work on the same activity within their own level. Or you can have younger and older children working together. You may want to decide what to do based on the activity you Try-It/patch you are trying to earn.
There are also patch programs and community service projects that multi-level troops can work on together. Field trips are another way for a mixed age Girl Scout troop to bond.
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Mixed Age Troops-Different Levels-The Cons
There are some cons to having a multi-age scout troop. First of all, if you are the Leader, you will have multiple planning to do. You will need to find more free time to plan for two or more different levels of activities.
Running the activities may require you to have more volunteers, since there will be times you are working in more than two groups. It isn't fair to have two groups with the Leaders and one group on their own, unless they are much older Scouts and can work and need to work independently. Make sure you will have back-up help if it is needed.
Your local Council has special events planned throughout the year for each level of scouting. Other levels of Scouts are not able to attend, even if they are in the same troop. With a mutli-age troop, you will have to make separate trips for each level's Council event. That means twice as much planning, twice as much paperwork and twice as much time away from home, since many of these events are held after-school and on weekends.
Making the decision to lead a mixed level Girl Scout troop requires you, as the future Leader, to weigh the pros and cons. If you feel that you are up to the task, then by all means, go for it!