Monday, January 14, 2019

We Planned a Pretty Great Girl Scout Cookie Rally, If I Do Say So Myself

My troop was asked to help plan our Service Unit's Girl Scout Cookie Rally this year. It's the first Service Unit event that I've helped plan, and the biggest event that I've helped plan.

Good thing that it turned out so great, then!

My troop handled the programming for the rally, and so I got to leave all the infrastructure issues, such as venue and registration and sign-in and such, to the other leader in charge. This was VERY fine by me, because while I feel pretty good about lesson planning (which is all this was, really), I feel pretty NOT good about figuring out all that other stuff.

So if you need to know how to get girls to sign up for a Cookie Rally, or how to find and reserve a venue, or the most efficient way to register them, I can't tell you that. What I CAN tell you is what we did for programming, how we organized it, and how it went.

And it went so awesome.

I wanted the Cookie Rally to be fun--I mean, of COURSE!--but I also wanted the girls who attended to come away with a standard level of knowledge and confidence so that they could enter the cookie-selling season feeling skillful and prepared. There's a lot to learn, especially if it's your first year! You have to know how to speak to strange adults, which is something that, if you're small, you likely rarely do. You have to know how to present yourself and a product that you're selling. You have facts to memorize and confidently repeat. You have to know principles of advertising and marketing. You have to do math. You have to know the rules for playing fair and staying safe.

Fortunately, Girl Scouts of the USA has broken all of this down into five skills:

  1. Goal Setting
  2. Decision Making
  3. Money Management
  4. People Skills
  5. Business Ethics
I added a sixth skill, which is to have fun, and boom! There are the six stations that attendees can rotate through at the Cookie Rally. Now all I had to do was come up with an activity for each station that related to its theme.

Since I wanted my troop to take ownership of the Cookie Rally and help plan and run it (it's a terrific experience for them, and the Juniors can use it to work toward their Junior Aide award and the Cadettes and Seniors their Service To Girl Scouting bar), we had two planning meetings for this. At the first meeting, I presented the girls with a long list of a ton of possible station activities and briefly described each one to them. I displayed a giant paper with each of the six stations listed, and the girls voted not only by choosing their favorite activities, but also assigning each of those favorites to the station that she thought most appropriate. When they were finished, all I had to do was tally the votes for each station and once again it was boom! There are our six stations all assigned.

Before our next planning meeting I roughed out the winning stations, and at our second meeting we beta tested them, made modifications, and then the girls chose which station they wanted to run. Here are our winning stations:


For the Decision Making station, our facilitators (one of my troop's Girl Scouts and one adult), led the girls through a discussion of how much profit our local troops earn from each box of cookies sold (here, it's 75 cents per $5 box), and how much money various troop expenditures might cost. They discussed how much uniforms cost, how much a fun activity might cost, how much a service or Take Action Project might cost, and how much a big trip might cost. The facilitators helped the girls calculate how much each expenditure might represent in terms of boxes sold for one girl, and then boxes sold for a troop of ten girls. 

Afterwards, the facilitators passed out green printer paper trefoils, and the girls had a chance to make their own goal for something that they might like their troop to their cookie profits for, and then they could write down or draw their goal on the trefoil and embellish it. The facilitators encouraged the girls to use the trefoils as decorations at their cookie booths or during their personal sales.


For the Decision Making station, Matt, our resident graphic designer, facilitated, with the help of one of my troop's Girl Scouts, a workshop teaching girls how to use the principles of good design to create effective and attractive signage. He showed them various examples of good and bad design using these principles, then each girl received a 1/4-sized poster board and started working on her own sign. Again, the girls were encouraged to use their sign at their own cookie booths or during their own personal sales.


For the Money Management station, our facilitators (two of my troop's Girl Scouts and one adult) organized a booth makeover activity. When girls arrived at this station, there was a "bad" cookie booth already set up, and girls got to watch as a customer attempted to shop at that booth and was treated poorly and the transaction mishandled.

The girls were encouraged to talk about what was wrong with the booth and the customer service, and then they were divided into teams and had a few minutes to create their own good cookie booth, using some miscellaneous supplies that we had on hand for them. Finally, I was justified in hoarding all those empty cookie boxes!

After the time was up, the facilitators found things to praise about each team's cookie booth and pretended to shop using pretend money, so that the girls also got to practice handling money. We have new prices this year, so it's especially important!


For the People Skills station, our facilitators (three of my troop's Girl Scouts and one adult) had the girls do role play with cookie selling scenarios. I'd previously organized the scenarios into Easy, Medium, and Hard, so that they could give Daisies and Brownies scenarios like, "A customer asks you what your favorite cookie is," or "A customer asks you to come into her house while she gets your money," and Juniors and Cadettes scenarios like, "A customer says that palm oil contributes to deforestation and destroys orangutan habitats" or "How are these cookies any different than the ones I can buy in the grocery store?"

So that girls didn't feel like they were put on the spot if they didn't know how to answer, my Girl Scouts could go first and give a TERRIBLE answer that all the girls could then pick apart, and then they could discuss what a good answer might be before the girl had to try it out herself.


For the Business Ethics station, I asked our local police department if they could provide a police officer (female, if possible) to discuss with the girls how to keep themselves safe during cookie season. And the officer who came was AMAZING!!!! The girls all warmed up to her immediately, and she gathered each group around and they all talked to each other, completely engrossed, for the entire station's rotation. It was perfect. I also didn't have to use any troop girls or adults for this station, so it was an excellent use of our limited resources!

And yes, of course I had a Plan B if she didn't show up. I'm very glad, though, that I didn't have to pull out Safety Charades, because I don't think it would have been nearly as fun as the officer's visit was.


For the Fun station, our facilitators (two of my troop's Girl Scouts and one adult) ran a game of Cookie Twister. For the game mat, I printed three full-page color images of each of our eight Girl Scout cookie types, then laminated them. The facilitators used clear packing tape and taped them into a 6x4 array right onto the floor of our venue. As you can tell, I did not take a single photo during the Cookie Rally--I was busy!--but here's a photo of the game mat set up at our second planning meeting, after the girls beta tested it, informed me that I apparently actually don't know the rules of Twister, and advised me to rotate all of the images 90 degrees. It does, indeed, look and perform much better like this:

I provided the station with a four-sided die and an eight-sided die and a sheet on which I'd keyed each roll of the four-sided die to a limb, and each roll of the eight-sided die to a cookie. To play, the facilitators divided the girls into teams, then rolled the dice to call out each move. I left it up to them to arrange turn-taking and game order so that they could make sure that all the girls had a chance to play before the station's time was up.

This station masqueraded as fun, and the girls all seemed to really enjoy it, but its true purpose was to make sure that Daisies and Brownies could identify the eight types of Girl Scout cookies by name and look and box color. Mwa-ha-ha!

At the second planning meeting, I had each of the girls sign up for some scut work to complete at home and bring to the rally, all of which was meant to be pretty quick and simple. I handed out large-format paper so that girls could make a sign for each station; printed play money to be cut out; trefoils to cut out; and pictures of good booths and a large posterboard to make an inspiration board. All the girls did just what I asked them to and brought everything back just like they were supposed to!

After we'd hashed everything out to our satisfaction at the second planning meeting and the girls had chosen the stations they wanted to run, I wrote very detailed step-by-step instructions for each station (with the proviso that the facilitators did NOT have to follow my instructions and were welcome to organize the station the way that they thought best), and then invited the adults to choose the stations that they wanted to help at. When we arrived for set-up I handed out the station supplies to the appropriate facilitators, gave them a little guidance about where their station should be located, and left them to be in charge. One adult took charge of the cookies and milk for afterward, and one adult was a floater who handled whatever needed to be handled, everything from door security to giving a facilitator a bathroom break.

As the attendees arrived at the Cookie Rally, the other leader in charge handled sign-in and payment and gave them a name tag that had already been colored with one of six colors. The groups weren't completely even, as, of course, some girls want to be together, etc., but we didn't do too badly at allocating them. Our programming lasted for one hour, so each station got ten minutes, with me playing time keeper. After all of the rotations, the other leader stepped back in and did a drawing for a few prizes that the council had sent us to use with the Cookie Rally, and then organized all of the girls lining up for milk and Girl Scout cookie samples. She got everything distributed and all the girls reseated, and then did a countdown and got them all to dunk a cookie into milk simultaneously for a Great Cookie Dunk.

Thanks to my awesome girl and adult leaders, the programming ran like absolute clockwork. Everyone knew their responsibility and handled it completely independently. I had, if you can believe this, NO fires to put out!

You guys, the Cookie Rally could not have gone better. Everyone, both facilitators and attendees, seemed happy. Everything was organized and ran exactly as it was supposed to. And somehow, I managed to find and accomplish the one thing that actually makes the beginning of cookie selling seem a lot less stressful by comparison!

At least until the initial order deadline. And booth signup. And our first big deposit. And the first Hot-Spot booth weekend...

P.S. It's time to figure out what Girl Scout cookie recipe Syd and I are going to try this year! Mini cheesecakes were amazing, but I'm kind of leaning towards the Do-Si-Do icebox pie...

P.P.S. Want to stay checked in with all my kid-friendly plans and projects? You should be following my Craft Knife Facebook page!

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