Many councils have embedded Inquiry in the Community in their workshops for volunteers, and have found it to be engaging, effective and fun! Our curriculum teaches participants to build youth leadership and to create opportunities for experiential and cooperative learning, a.k.a. the three Girl Scout Processes girl-led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning. At the same time, it gives volunteers the tools to facilitate science inquiry with girls.
Want to check out the facilitator's guides and participant handouts? All the workshops are in our Curriculum Library, and in formats you can easily download and customize to your council's needs. There are both longer workshops and shorter "mini-sessions," so you can mix and match to get your desired results.
Engaging Facilitators and Trainers
We want to make sure that the volunteers and staff who lead these workshops feel comfortable and supported, too! When you revise your workshops to include our curriculum, you'll need to help your workshop facilitators (or trainers) make the switch. First, have a curriculum "kickoff," where you introduce your new workshops. Then, use different ways of following up with your facilitators to provide support as they need it. Whether they're staff or volunteers, these actions will ensure a successful adoption of the curriculum in your council.
Many councils have annual facilitator gatherings to promote networking, introduce curriculum changes, and create a sense of community. If you have a yearly gathering, use this day to share your new workshops and make plans for the future. Our experiences with different councils have led us to adopt this format:
- Let your facilitators first experience the curriculum as participants. "Progression in Girls' Leadership" and "Three Processes" both work well for this.
- Have facilitators discuss how the concepts they learned in these workshops can be used in their role as facilitators.
- Provide time during the event for facilitators to review the facilitator guides for your new workshops and practice leading different sections of the curriculum with each other.
- Send the facilitators on a "challenge hunt" where they create a list of all the potential challenges that could come up when they facilitate the curriculum. Tip: the challenges often deal with managing time and supplies, working with different group sizes and experience levels, and managing participants' expectations (if workshop participants expect a lecture, the facilitators will need to talk about why experiential learning is important).
- Propose solutions: split the facilitators into teams (one team per challenge). Have each team create solutions to their challenge, and share those solutions with the rest of the group.
If at all possible, involve a few facilitators in planning and delivering this kickoff session to their peers. Let them experience the curriculum first, then start planning together. And, be sure to have them help facilitate the sessions at the kickoff.
Councils have many ways of providing ongoing support to their facilitators. Here are some ideas we've seen used in different councils:
- Have facilitators fill out a post-workshop self-evaluation and return it to you. On this evaluation, ask questions about their facilitation skills related to the new curriculum: what open-ended questions did they use? How did they help participants apply what they learned? How did they lead the discussions where participants debriefed their experience with the science activity?
- Provide regular (quarterly?) meetings for facilitators to share, network, and receive further professional development. Pull out the challenges and solutions they identified at the kickoff; see if these challenges have emerged, and if their proposed solutions have worked. Or, have they identified other challenges? These meetings can be in-person or via a webinar platform that supports discussion.
- Have follow-up conversations with facilitators after they complete a workshop. This is especially important after their first time facilitating the curriculum.
- Engage facilitators in conversation electronically, either via a Facebook group, listserv, or other forum. Post open-ended, discussion-generating questions such as "How did you manage your time during ____ section of the workshop?". You'll need to actively call on people to contribute until the group can sustain itself in conversation.