Key Program Components
A simple “Go-To” guide explaining the elements of Girls Only!
**Requires Login Account to Modules (Location of forms are in parentheses according to Module name)
**Permission Slips (Forms for Girls Only!): A permission slip handed out at the initial session will communicate to parents and guardians the goals and schedule for the program. Provide incentives to ensure permission slips are returned at the next session! Permission slips are also recommended, if not legally required, for field trip participation. A sample permission slip is provided in the appendix; use it as is, or modify it to fit the specificities of your program. It is recommended to provide permission slips in the language spoken by the parents or guardians in the home.
**Sign-in (Forms for Girls Only!): Sign-in sheets are recommended for each session to keep track of attendance. A generic sign-in sheet is provided in the appendix; use it as is, or modify it to fit the specificities of your program.
**Assessments (Forms for Girls Only!): Pre-Assessments measure what participants already understand or feel before they begin the program; Mid-Assessments measure what participants understand or feel after having completed half of the activities; Post-Assessments measure what participants understand or feel after having completed all of the activities. Assessments of individual participants’ needs are also essential to address how best to work with that participant and determine if referrals for outside services are needed. Sample assessments are provided in Appendix A.
**Evaluations (Forms for Girls Only!): Evaluations measure the effectiveness of the activities in the lesson plans. Are the participants learning what you want them to be learning? Are the topics you cover relevant for the participants in your program? Are the activities and strategies communicating the intended message of your lesson? Opportunities for formal and informal program evaluation, such as suggestion boxes and end-of-program questionnaires, should be offered to program participants throughout the session. Ideally, formal evaluation of all components of the program will be conducted by an outside agency to provide objective and constructive critiques. Sample evaluations are provided in the appendix.
Rules: The rules are the Girls Only! community guidelines that the girls will come up with together. Rules are important for the structure of group sessions. It’s important for the facilitator to set a few ground rules and then allow participants to collectively create rules for the group. Allowing the participants to create the rules conveys the expectation that the class will operate as a community and makes them more willing to abide by the rules. Rules can be both general (“be respectful”) and specific (“raise your hand to speak in Girls Only!”) and should be brief and positive (stay away from rules starting with “no…”). Once established, post the rules where they are visible and go over them often (Frey 15, 16). Here are some sample rules: 1) What is said in Girls Only!, stays in Girls Only!. 2) Be respectful. 3) Make eye contact when talking. 4) Clean up after yourself. 5) Keep your hands to yourself. 6) One person talks at a time.
Safe Space: It is imperative that Girls Only! facilitators create physically and emotionally safe environments where the participants feel safe to share their feeling and ideas. Maintaining confidentiality, trust, and openness between participants and facilitators through dedication, consistency, and active listening will help establish this environment. Creating rules such as “what happens in Girls Only! stays in Girls Only!” or “what is said in here stays in here” can also help establish this safe space. Posters and room decorations including encouraging quotes, student produced art, and depicting women of various colors, sizes, and ability performing a variety of jobs help create an environment of possibility.
Journals: Journals provide a space for written reflection. Allow the girls to express themselves freely in their own Girls Only! journal. Offer the girls support by giving them the option of the facilitator reading certain journal entries that they might not feel comfortable saying aloud. While the journal is very helpful in helping the girl’s reflect, journaling should more than often be a take-home assignment opportunity. With the limited amount of time in each session and efforts to keep the girls engaged and interactive, activities and crafts are more appealing during the sessions.
Motto/Mantra: A motto is a phrase or saying that is repeated as an affirmation or a reminder. A Girls Only! motto can be a guiding principle for your group, a way to get the participant’s attention during a lesson, and an empowering affirmation for participants. Some examples of mottos or mantras include:
- I am strong. I am beautiful. I am perfect just the way I am.
- I believe in myself. I believe that I can do anything I put my mind to.
- I am powerful. I can change my life. I can change the world.
- When I say girls, you say ONLY! Girls, ONLY! Girls, ONLY!
Themes: Having an overarching theme for Girls Only! sessions can be a useful addition to the lesson plans. Themes that are carried through a 12 or 16 week session can help connect seemingly unrelated topics and can help incorporate creativity into the lessons. Themes can be broad, such as “courage,” “compassion,” or “respect,” and facilitators can intentionally connect lessons to the theme, ask participants to do so, or simply introduce the theme at the outset of the session and come back to it at the end.
Interactive Lessons: Experiential education that includes hands-on, creative, exploratory learning relevant to students’ own life experiences is a holistic approach to education and can be a stimulating way to engage and excite learners. This means reading, writing, and discussing poetry and other arts, using educational videos throughout lessons, and getting participants up out of their seats and into their communities as often as possible. Though some suggestions for incorporating arts and technology are integrated into lesson plans, specific videos and online activities should be current, previously researched and included as necessary.
Sister Bucks: Sister Bucks are part of an incentive program designed to reward Girls Only! participants for positive behavior. The protocol for Sister Bucks, how participants can earn Sister Bucks and what they can be used for, should be introduced at orientation. Sister Bucks can be earned through active participation during Girls Only! sessions, for being helpful to others, earning certain grades in school, demonstrating progress in a personal goal, and for special occasions. Once participants have earned a specified number of Sister Bucks, they can be used to “purchase” items from a Girls Only! store (treats, clothes, books, movies, etc.), donated to a friend, or donated to the facilitator to be traded for actual money that will be donated to a charity that promotes women’s rights. Sister Bucks can be incorporated into lessons about financial literacy, teaching participants to save and spend money responsibly.
Secret Box: The secret box allows no concern or question to go unanswered due to a girl feeling too ashamed or afraid to ask. There are some questions or concerns that many girls may feel uncomfortable asking in front of a large group. These questions or concerns could be something that has happened to them personally, a question they might not want the group to know they have experienced or have thought about, an anonymous thought or feeling about Girls Only! and so forth. As we know, no question is a bad question, so answer and discuss them all! The secret box can be a recycled shoe box or card box that is decorated to be enticing and Girls Only! specific. It is recommended to bring the secret box to every session and locate it near the sign in sheet so that questions can be put into the box discreetly. Prepare small pieces of cut paper on which to write the questions and provide pens or pencils. Make sure that the box is wrapped or taped shut so that the facilitator is the only person who can access the questions, aligning with the “safe space” standard. After each session, gather all of the submissions and prepare to answer or discuss the questions and concerns at the following session. Keep in mind that the questions admitted into the secret box are often sensitive so be cautious in the way you are presenting or reading the question. Answer the questions during the announcement portion of the day or if the question is related to the discussion for that day, you may also consider answering the related questions then.
Guest speakers: Guest speakers and guest activity leaders can be great additions to Girls Only!. Guest speakers add expertise and new perspectives and are often engaging for students. Screen your guest speakers before they come to ensure their professionalism, age appropriateness, and relevance for your program. Find suggestions on appropriate dialogue and follow up for a potential guest speaker in the Guest Speaker module.
Field Trips: Field trips can be educational and socially engaging additions to Girls Only!; destinations and purposes should be aligned with goals of Girls Only!. Field trips must be planned ahead of time, with attention to budget, transportation needs, and other logistics. Additional permission slips may be necessary for field trips. Find suggestions for field trips in the Field Trip module.
Graduation: The purpose of a graduation celebration or ceremony is to acknowledge the completion of a Girls Only! session and the work put in by the participants throughout the session. A graduation ceremony should take place on the final day of the session and program participants should receive a graduation certificate. Graduation eligibility may be determined at your discretion; it is recommended that girls who have attended a majority of the Girls Only! classes during that session should receive a certificate. A lesson plan for graduation and a template for a graduation certificate and agenda are included in the Graduation module.
Participant’s Roles: The participants are the girls who attend Girls Only!. The activities in this toolkit are participant centered and should be representative of and tailored to the needs of the participants. It is the participant’s role to attend Girls Only! sessions, participate in sessions, follow rules, and have fun! This toolkit is designed to serve groups of approximately 5 to 30 participants per group.
Facilitator’s Roles: It is the facilitator’s role to prepare, lead, participate and plan Girls Only! sessions. The facilitator should also commit to being a part of the program consistently, creating a safe space, and acting as a role model and mentor to the participants. Furthermore, the facilitator should maintain records, maintain relationships with parents/guardians, and make referrals to community organizations when necessary. Aligning with the goals of Girls Only!, it is recommended that the majority of facilitators be women who can act as positive role models. It is at your discretion whether or not to have men as facilitators; male facilitators can act as much needed positive male role models in the lives of the participants. It is recommended that facilitators be passionate about social justice, trained to work with youth, and committed to continuing their own relevant education and training.
Planning/ Steering Committee: The lessons in this toolkit are designed to be operated and facilitated by staff members/volunteers at an existing program facility or host agency. It may be useful to create a planning committee who will oversee prepping for lessons and organizing Girls Only! logistics, such as field trips. This planning committee can include the Girls Only! facilitator(s), host agency staff members, volunteers, and parents/guardians. The original Girls Only! program was operated by a unique collaborative of representatives from government agencies, including the San Diego County District Attorney’s office, the City of San Diego’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, San Diego Police Department, the Boys and Girls Club in Encanto, and representatives from community based organizations. It will be at your discretion how often to meet, how to best communicate, and how roles and responsibilities will be divided.
Mentorship: If Girls Only! participants vary in age, it is beneficial for older participants to act as peer mentors for younger participants. Positive peer-to-peer mentorship helps build social and communication skills, empathy, and motivation in both mentor and mentee. Mentors and mentees should be paired based on assessments of each participant, noting compatibility and shared interests. Mentors should be volunteers who are trained and given clear expectations. Mentors can work with mentees for portions of lessons, on special projects, or outside of Girls Only!. It is also beneficial to recruit volunteers from local high schools or colleges to act as mentors or assist facilitators.
Parent/Guardian Involvement: Involvement of and support from parents/guardians sets the tone for Girls Only! as a holistic approach to prevention education. Having parents/guardians involved promotes healthy interaction between children and parents/guardians and the content in which they learn in Girls Only!, provides insight into the home lives of participants, and provides opportunities to refer participants and parents/guardians to outside services if necessary. Parent/Guardian involvement however should be limited to specific sessions so that the “safe space” amongst the group is maintained. A participant’s parent’s attendance in every session may hinder the willingness to share or participate from their child or other participants. Create opportunities for parents/guardians to volunteer at Girls Only! functions, but do not require participation in all sessions. A lesson plan for a parent/guardian orientation appears following the “Getting Started” lesson plan in this toolkit.
Records: Keeping a portfolio for each participant is a useful way to maintain records. Keep track of permission slips, assessments, work done during the Girls Only! program, copies of grades, evaluations, referrals, and disciplinary action. Records will be useful for getting to know your participants, measuring progress throughout the program, referring participants to outside services as necessary, and speaking with parents/guardians.
Referrals: It is beneficial to have partnerships with local organizations and service to refer Girls Only! participants and their families to services as necessary. You will be working closely with the participants and assessing their needs (emotional, social, physical, mental, academic); although you may be able to address some of their needs, it is integral for you to refer them to social services such as free or low-cost meals, health care, or mental health counseling if the need arises. If your position designates you as a mandatory reporter, you are required by law to report any abuse or neglect you become aware of. Representatives from these community organizations can be invited to Girls Only! as guest speakers.
Disciplinary Action: Before beginning a Girls Only! program, decide what will be cause for disciplinary action. How many absences will you allow? Will you tolerate participants talking out of turn? Will you tolerate fighting in the Girls Only! space? How many chances will you give? Be sure to lay out your expectations for the girls in the Introduction Session. Furthermore, as Girls Only! is a unique space, it is recommended you retain structure while being flexible based on the needs of your participants and staying true to the goals of the program. In case there is a need for serious disciplinary action, follow the procedures of the host agency and remove the participant from Girls Only! if necessary.
Money: There are no specific costs for operating a Girls Only! program. Girls Only! is operated by volunteers and in-kind services. The host agency may incur regular programming costs for general supplies and staffing. Some lessons and activities require materials that may need to be purchased. Similarly, it may be useful to have money for field trips, transportation for field trips, and unforeseen expenses for celebrations and treats. Fundraising and applying for grants is recommended.
Teaching Tips: Be encouraging and positive. Use positive reinforcement. Be someone participants can talk to. Express enthusiasm for the topics presented. Be creative. Demonstrate your care for each participant as an individual. Expect your participants to do well. Be prepared for lesson plans. Incorporate arts and technology into lesson plans. Ask open-ended questions.