Girl Scouts World Thinking Day Event Planning
A Note to Scout Organizations
I deeply appreciate the positive feedback I've received over the years on this article, and I hope that troops and Service Units continue to organize Thinking Day events. I would appreciate it if your Service Unit would link back to this article, rather than cutting and pasting the information onto your webpages. Thanks for your cooperation!
How To Plan a Thinking Day Event For Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts World Thinking Day occurs on February 22nd of each year. On this day, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts worldwide gather together to participate in activities that help them develop awareness about their sister scouts around the globe, and to appreciate the differences about each other's lives.
A Girl Scout troop, a Service Unit or Council organization may plan and execute a Thinking Day community or Council-wide event. The Thinking Day plan detailed here is a straightforward one that an older girl troop could execute for a Service Unit.
Flyer and Registration Form
https://www.wagggs.org/en/ - World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
http://www.worldthinkingday.org/ - Thinking Day website
http://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/global/world_thinking_day/ - Girl Scouts, about Thinking Day
This Thinking Day plan is suitable for 200-300 participants, or around 20 participating troops. Each participating troop decides upon a country to represent. They plan a table-top exhibit about their country - a posterboard or stand-up display, cold food item, and a small activity. Some troops may decide to dress like scouts from their country, or to wear a particular representative style of dress. On event day, participants "travel" from country to country, to read the exhibits, sample cold-food items, and perhaps make a craft or get a SWAP. Travelers also carry "passports" which are stamped at each table as proof that they visited.
The organizers (host troop) of the event provide sign-up coordination so that countries are not duplicated by troops. The organizers provide for the venue, tables, chairs, and other logistics, and decide where each "country" will be located on the venue floor. They open and close the event with a flag ceremony. They also make the passports that the participants carry when they "travel."
If there are enough girls in the host troup, they could also plan and execute a "global village" exhibit or activity area, where traveling troops can learn something related to the Thinking Day theme. For example, in 2009, the theme of "stop the spread of diseases," will be illustrated in our "global village" through displays about how measles and malaria spread. The girls will also have a storyteller's stage where they will act out two short skits about health and good hygiene.
Three to Four Months Prior to Event
Estimate number of participants: Participants include girls and adults. You want to determine about how many people to expect, because this will help determine the size of your budget and the size venue you will need. If your Service Unit has done a Thinking Day event before, you can use the previous years' headcounts as your estimate. Otherwise, ask for a show of hands at an early-in-the-year Service Unit meeting to get a feel for how many troops will likely participate in Thinking Day.
Select and confirm venue date: Once you know about how many people to expect, use this number to determine the venue you will need. Even though our elementary school had a 200 person capacity cafeteria, we knew in advance that the room was small, and that 200 people would be very crowded in the space. For Thinking Day, you will want a space where people can move freely. Think about traffic flow. We used a middle school multi-purpose room that held 500 students for our expected crowd of 250. It was a little bit too large, but not by much. Remember that very large spaces can be made to appear smaller by not using the entire floor space, or by moving tables to the center of the space, instead of lining tables up against the walls. Also remember that girls like to have a place to sit on the floor, or to twirl around.
Plan budget: The items that will go into budget determination may include:
- Janitorial service
- Stickers or give-aways
- Passport photocopies
- First aider fees
- Service project
- Decorations (placards, banners, tape, etc)
Determine where the budget dollars will come from. Will the Service Unit pay for the entire event? Will you charge a per-person fee to cover costs? For a previous Thinking Day event, our costs broke down as follows:
- Venue: $236 (includes 4 hrs janitorial)
- Patches:$305 (300 stock patches)
- Passport Photocopies: $20
- Decorations and supplies: $25
- Pencils, bags, first-aider, service project items: donated
- Total: $586
Our Service Unit decided to charge girls and leaders a nominal $3 per person to defray the costs.
Conduct a site visit: Visit the site and take pictures. Note locations of doors, and decide which doors will be your entrance/exit. Note locations of electrical outlets. We specified cold-food only for our Thinking Day event, but if you are allowing hot food, you will need to know where electrical outlets are so that you can locate troops appropriately close to needed electrical.
Draw/sketch a floor plan of the venue: Draw the birds-eye view of the venue floor, so that you can sketch in where you want tables to be located. Also put in where you want chairs to go (usually 2 chairs per table.) Don't forget a sign-in table. If you create a "parent's area," it's a good idea to put in a table and sufficient chairs.
Fill out and file building use permits or city/school required paperwork: You usually will need to coordinate with the manager of the venue site, and with the agency that handles the permits and paperwork for the site. Make sure you are on the necessary calendars for the event date. Ensure that janatorial personnel will be available. Write on the form how many tables and chairs you will require and their configuration, if requested on the form. If you need a microphone, make sure you state it on the form. Be sure to reserve sufficient time to set-up and to break-down the event - at least an hour before and after the event. Get at least one phone number for the person who will be your event-day contact. That's usually the person with the keys.
Coordinate with Service Unit as necessary:(Secure your First Aider) Fill out and file any Event Safety Management Plans or other paperwork required by your Council. Line up a first-aider for your event, or decide if each troop will bring their own first aider. (That's usually the easiest solution.) Resist the urge to change dates because of school, Service Unit, or community events that "pop up" after you have specified your event date. We found out two weeks before our event that the girls' soccer tournament opening day would be held on our Thinking Day, but we resisted the pressure to change our date. We fielded several angry phone calls from parents who told us that "nobody will come" to Thinking Day. As it turned out, we had over 200 participants. Girls who were in the soccer tournament simply came to Thinking Day dressed for soccer and left when it was game time. Or, they just didn't come.
Two to Three Months Prior to Event
Research annual Thinking Day Theme: Check the WAGGGS website to find out the year's Thinking Day Theme. Brainstorm on what aspects of the theme you might want to explore for your Thinking Day event. For example, when the theme related to clean water, each troop researched water for their country. How do people get water? Does the government help its citizens obtain clean water? Are their organizations that help? What is the difference between a first, second and third world country when it comes to clean water? How does clean water affect the country's children? Provide these types of cues to troop leaders so that they can help their girls research and prepare for Thinking Day.
Select and plan a Service Project: It is nice to arrange a Service Project related to the annual theme of Thinking Day. Sometimes, it's a stretch, but it is nice to be able to tie it in and explain it to the children. For "World Friendship" for example, we collected new or gently used shoes that were donated to an organization that supplied shoes to school children who were former child soldiers in Darfur. For 2009's theme of "stop the spread of diseases," we are collecting food to promote healthy children. Troops representing emerging world countries are asked to donate rice or canned vegetables. Developed countries are asked to donate canned meat or soup.
Develop resource packet or information list for troops: Make a list of all the websites you find that might be helpful for troops. Websites related to clothes, food, children, children's health and education, customs, basic country information are needed by troops. Put all the links together into a resource packet that can be distributed to the troops along with the event flyer.
Develop event flyer/registration sheet: Make a flyer with the event specifics:
- Event description: Explain what Thinking Day is about
- Event Date and Place
- Troop set-up time: A lot about 30 minutes for troops to check-in and set-up.
- Welcome and Flag ceremony: : A lot about 15 minutes
- Traveling : A lot about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
- Closing Flag Ceremony: A lot about 15 minutes
- Clean-up: A lot about 15 minutes (the organizing troop will stay longer than that, about an hour)
- Theme - tell them what the theme is, give leaders some cues about how to develop the theme for their troops.
- Service Project description: If troops need to bring something, tell them what to bring.
- Event instructions: Be sure to describe what each troop is expected to do, and about how many girls will be expected to attend. For example, if you will ask each troop to provide stickers to hand out to travelers, say "We expect about 250 girls to attend. Please supply sufficient stickers for the total number of expected attendees." Tell troops that they will need a rubber stamp and ink pad to stamp travelers' passports.
- Email address for the adult coordinator, along with the instruction to reserve, by email, their country choice. Once they confirm their country reservation, then they can send in the paper registration and money. That way, you don't get 20 paper registrations in the mail, all requesting Italy for their country.
- A registration form, so that troop leaders can provide you, in writing with the country they want to represent, how many girls and leaders will attend, how much money they are enclosing, if they will need electrical, if they have any special needs. Be sure to include your return address!
Pitch event to troop leaders at Service Unit meeting: Typically, event flyers are handed out at a Service Unit meeting. Have one or two girls give the pitch for Thinking Day, and open the floor to questions. It is a good idea to tell leaders verbally to email you (the adult coordinator) in advance of sending in the paper registration in order to "reserve" their country of choice. Follow up by emailing the event flyer and registration form to all troop leaders.
Plan and coordinate donated goods, if necessary: We had girls write letters requesting donated goods such as pencils, paper bags, and stickers. We were fortunate in that the companies donating goods have donated to previous Thinking Day events and were already expecting the requests. When writing to a perspective donor, make sure the request is specific, such as asking "We are requesting a donation of 250 pencils from your company. The pencils will be used by Girl Scouts on Thinking Day..." Hand carry the girl-written letters to the company and hand them to the appropriate adult at the company. Explain why you are there and what you are asking for. Try to get confirmation then and there that the donation will be made. Arrange for a pick-up day.
Coordinate with Service Unit, as necessary: Keep the Service Unit in the loop. Alert them to any problems, needs.
Simple Thinking Day Passport, CoverClick thumbnail to view full-size
One to Two Months Prior to Event
Order Thinking Day Patches: As early as possible, order the patches that you will need. We almost took a calculated risk in ordering 300 custom patches one year. We got a price break at 300, so it seemed worth the risk. However, the girls discussed the cost and weighed the risk, and decided instead to order 300 stock patches that could be returned, minus a nominal restocking fee. As it turned out, Thinking Day went off without a hitch with well over 200 participants, and we could have risked the custom order after all. But, the girls discussed the results and decided that they were very happy with the stock patches and that they were happy that they didn't have the worry of a big custom order hanging over their heads.
Order any give-away items: As early as possible, order give-away items. But, resist "gift bag syndrome." Thinking Day isn't about the girls getting stuff. It's about reflection and thinking about girls all over the world, some of whom are not as fortunate as we are. Really, the only necessity might be a pencil.
Acquire donated goods, if necessary: Pick up any donated items and store them safely.
Develop event floorplan (assign troops to tables): Go over your floorplan and assign troops to tables. One year, a girl in our troop divided up the venue like a "world map" and placed countries accordingly. You may have requests to put certain troops close together, especially if a mom is troop leader to multiple troops. Make sure troops that need electrical are near electrical outlets.
Issue "last call" for troop sign-ups, finalize participant list: Know in advance when your Service Unit meeting days will be held. Your "last call" to the troops for sign-ups should be at least 4 weeks prior to the event. Announce at the appropriate Service Unit meeting that the event is closed to sign-ups. You may find that some troops wait until the last minute to sign up, so you'll have to decide in advance how you want to handle that. Perhaps you will take them if they have an unusual country to represent. Perhaps you will take late additions only if you have sufficient patches and passports. Or perhaps you will take them with the caveat that they may not get patches or passports, and can only visit as "travelers," (and not have a table and a country.)
Design Event Passport: The WAGGGS website has logos and other clipart that can be used to help create a passport. You can also have a girl design an original passport "cover" to use. Inside the passport are blank pages, with individual spaces for country stamps, similar to a real passport. As the girl "travels", she gets a country stamp for each place she visits.
Write a Welcome Speech: The girl who gives the welcome speech should have sufficient time to both write the speech and to rehearse the speech. Ideally, it should cover what Thinking Day is about, the annual Theme, how this Service Unit is embodying the theme, and a bit about the Service Project and why it was chosen. Younger girls especially enjoy hearing the older girls speak. They get a lot out of the event, and will have great memories about the welcoming experience. A speech, by the way, need only be a minute or two in length. Short and sweet is more memorable to young girls than an epic.
Write a Closing Speech: The girl who gives the closing speech should try to hit an emotional tone or moment, if possible. Neither the welcome or the closing speech need be long, but it should be heart-felt. The closing speech could be as simple as saying "I'm proud of all of you for participating." It should try to encourage girls to continue to think about their sister Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the globe. Again, short and sweet is the key.
Make Decorations, Banners: Set aside meeting time so that your troop can make a banner or sign for Thinking Day. You may want a big sign to show people where the Service Project is located at the venue.
No Less Than Two Weeks Prior to Event
Make copies of passports: Photocopy passports. Sometimes Councils will allow you to use their photocopy machines, or sometimes local businesses will donate photocopy services. Check with your Service Unit to get specifics, or be prepared to pay prevailing rates to copy passports. Make sufficient copies for the number of participants you expect.
Assemble packets for each troop: Set aside an evening to assemble packets. We use large 9x12 envelopes and put sufficent numbers of passports, pencils, stickers, and bags into each envelope. The troop number goes on the outside of the large envelope in big black ink.
Make table placards, mapped to the event floorplan: For each table, make a placard with the troop number and country name. You will put this placard onto each table on the event day, so that each troop can more easily find their location.
Practice the flag ceremony: Even if your troop is sufficiently experienced, it doesn't hurt to run-through the flag ceremony. Make sure each girl understands what she is supposed to do.
Make copies of speeches: Girls are usually pretty responsible, but it helps to keep copies of everything on your person on the day of the event.
Make kaper chart : This is your list of tasks that you'll bring with you on the day of the event. Each task will have a girl assigned to it. Ideally, you, as the adult in charge, should really do very little on the day of the event, presuming an older girl troop is running the event. Adults are there to manage the safety of the event, and to assist girls when necessary.
Week Prior to Event
Verify venue: (janitor, keys, etc): Contact the venue manager and ensure everything is in place.
Gather all items for transport: Put everything you will need to bring in one place. Things you will need include:
- Troop packets
- Table placards
- Copies of speeches, flag ceremony (what the caller says)
- Flag ceremony supplies
- Service project supplies
- First aid kit
- Copy of building use permit
- Copy of event safety management plan
- Map of venue floor, with troop numbers, table locations written on it
- Decorations, banners, tape, scissors, marker
- Task list (kaper chart) - which girl is assigned to what task(s).
Verify troops: Send out a reminder email to attending troops.
Ensure all funds deposited: Make sure you've deposited all checks. If you are owed money, be sure to request your check from your Service Unit.
Make sure each girl on your team knows their task. On the day of the event, each girl should know what they are supposed to do. If they are in charge of check-in, they should be at the check-in table, not backstage with the flag ceremony girls. Remind everyone of their tasks a week before the event.
Day of Event
You've remembered to tell your girls what time to be at the venue, and they've arrived on time. You are there one hour before troops may check-in. The floor map of the venue drawn previously is out and ready. You will keep the floor map on your check-in table. Tape it down if you have to, along with the kaper chart. Keep a pen or marker on the check-in table. Your first-aid kit is by the check-in table. Meet with the girls very briefly just to remind them of their tasks and to make sure they know where everything is.
Do a sound check, make sure you have your microphone, podium, and stage lights.
Check the actual floor lay-out. Move any tables or chairs as necessary.
Set out table placards to match your map.
Put out each troop's packet of passports, bags, pencils onto their respective tables.
Put your flag ceremony supplies in the appropriate location, so that your ceremony is ready to go. Run the girls through the opening flag ceremony so they know where they enter from, where the flag is to be set up, and where the color guard should go when they are done. Run the girls through the closing flag ceremony as well!
Keep copies of all speeches, flag ceremony instructions on your person. Hand them to the appropriate girl just before she needs them.
Check-off each troop when they arrive, using your big venue map to do so. Make an X or other mark to indicate on your map when troops have arrived. The big visual will help you see when everyone has checked-in.
Remind the girls to have fun: Even if there are glitches, it's not the end of the world. It's important to keep a light attitude. Remind the girls that younger girls will be watching them. If they show a good attitude, it will make a big impression.