Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brownies and Books

The Brownies finished most of their Brownie Quest this past Sunday. The girls had made posters for the town library’s book give away tables. Four of the six girls were there, and they each brought books to donate to the cause. The girls had made posters to display on the tables. The first two girls helped the librarian bring out the table and the first books. When the second two girls arrived they brought out a second table and tablecloth. The girls managed to fit of the library’s books on the tables. They were exceedingly cute in their sashes/vests and uniform pieces. Apparently they discussed some of the books with the customers.

The farmer who was running the vegetable stall allowed some of the girls to try some raw corn. That was my youngest dd’s favorite part of the whole day!

After they had staffed the table for two hours, they cleaned up the tables, boxes, and signs and put them away for the librarian. The librarian spoke with me after and said that if any other troops need service opportunities, have them contact her, and there would plenty of times she could use their help.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

13 Girl Scouts + 3 Take Action Projects = Exhausted Adults!

Last night was week 5 of Join the Journey. The focus was on actually doing the Take Action Project. I was told by my Junior that I could come to their project but all I was allowed to do was take pictures. We all started out together, but then split up; therefore, I can only report what was reported to me from the Daisy and Brownie groups.

My primary thought from this week... besides exhaustion... is about the Cadette Leadership in Action award. I think in theory it's a good thing. However, I'm finding that unless the cooperating leader truly understands how to teach another person how to lead or mentor them, the real meaning of the experience is lost on the girl. This is supposed to be a girl-led set of activities, including the planning of the activity.,. there is supposed to be consulting with the Brownie group leader, but it isn't necessarily supposed to be a case of the Brownie group leader dictating to the Cadette exactly how she is to fulfill a requirement. For example, if the LIA requirement is to lead the girls in an activity that is not one of the activities in the Journey book, the Cadette should have the freedom to choose what type of activity she is comfortable leading and exactly what song, game, craft, etc., she teaches... it defeats the authenticity of the experience when the Brownie group leader dictates to the Cadette what song, game, craft, etc., she wants the Cadette to teach. I am not saying this is what has happened in our case, but I have witnessed this set up multiple times over the past three years as I've watched girls earning their Junior Aide and other leadership awards. Maybe this is an enrichment training that all leaders need: How to Mentor Girls in Leadership Skills. It seems that through this whole Journey experience, getting the adults to understand and remember to let the GIRLS take the lead has been the hardest part.

1. Gathering and Welcome.
It figures that after I celebrate the punctuality of the entire group, most people would be late this week. The three of us that were there early and on-time were beginning to get worried that no one was coming. However, most of the girls arrived by 7:10 p.m. In the meantime, the Cadette had mentioned that she was disappointed she had not gotten to teach the game she had prepared for last week (apparently, at last week's session, she was asked to teach a different song). This issue was easily solved: she taught it to the girls who had gathered.

Our opening was very much the same as in the past:
  • The girls chose the order of what we did.
  • We said the GS Promise. This week, however, we all said it together rather than in an echoing style. I am proud to say that even our two new girls said the entire Promise without stumbling.
  • We sang a "get moving" song: "Alive, Awake, Alert, Enthusiastic." After teaching the movements and the words separately, I led the group in singing the song; we sang it three times, getting faster every time. Ironically, the girls kept up pretty well (some focused only on doing the actions at the right times)... it was the adults who had issues matching actions and words and keeping the words in the right order. BUT we all ended in laughter, so it was good.
  • I previewed what each group was doing tonight, explained why we wouldn't have a formal closing ceremony (we'd all be ending at different times and places), and the girls went to their group leaders.
2. Daisy Flower Garden.
Last week, the girls had decided to help Clover and the rest of the grass by cleaning up the trash that surely was hurting them. They were supposed to try to get family members to join them. Unfortunately, one Daisy didn't come, and no family members came for the other two girls outside of their mothers (who are group leaders). The Junior group leader and I decided that she'd stay with her Daisy daughter and not be allowed to feel guilty for not going with the Juniors (we already had 4 adults going with them).
  • The girls did an activity where they reached into an opaque bag and tried to determine what natural objects were in there solely by their shapes and textures. Apparently they really had fun with this activity even though by the third object, they were pros and there was very little challenge left to it.
  • Then they started their project. Each girl received gloves and a bag. They then started picking up trash. According to the group leader, they picked up trash... they picked up trash... they picked up trash... and then they picked up more trash (about 45 minutes' worth). And they had a blast the entire time! The two girls were able to amuse themselves and make it fun. They didn't want to stop, and they wanted to pick up garbage outside the fence surrounding the park. For safety's sake, they were restricted to the parts of the park INSIDE the fence.
  • They filled their bags with room to spare, but it was agreed that they had made a noticeable difference. The number of plastic straw wrappers and other small lunch wrappings that were littered around was astounding, and cleaning them up made the clover and grass colors more... clean (for lack of a better word).
A side note from last week's learning: the Daisy group leader found out that there are special composting worms. There is a farm in the next town over that does a great deal of composting, and she's going to see if the Daisy troop can take a trip over there this coming year. She also spoke with the school principal about the possibility of a GS-led composting project at the elementary school. Ironically, within the first month of school, the first grades learn about worms and have meal worm guests in their classrooms. I volunteered to help the Daisy girls figure out how to propose the project to their teachers (and the principal and school board if necessary).

3. Brownie Quest.
This report is from my Brownie daughter.
  • The Brownie group leader explained to the girls that the librarian has asked the Brownies to help her with a book table that she has at the village's farmer's market every other Sunday (instead of shelving the books as the girls thought they might be able to do).
  • The girls are now going to go to the farmer's market on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and staff the book table. They're going to encourage customers at the market to find a book that looks interesting and take it home to read and keep (or pass on). They are going to be in official Girl Scout uniform, so this should make for some good photo opportunities.
  • The girls split into teams of 2 and made posters advertising the table (the group leader and Cadette teamed up on a poster, too). The posters included words, pictures, and stickers that illustrated book themes/topics and why reading is fun.
  • Then the girls made a healthy snack from the Brownie Quest book. As the girls finished their posters, they each added an ingredient to the vegetable dip. There was cream cheese, yogurt ("non-fat, though"), non-fat ranch dressing, something that "started with a 'b' and ended with 'wheat' and it was in a cup and sort of grainy" (not having the book with me, I don't know if it was buckwheat or bulgarwheat or what), and a spice. It was all mixed together and then the girls dipped vegetables in it. There was broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, and celery. According to my dear Brownie, "It did not smell good. It did not look good. But it tasted goooood."
  • The Brownies shared their healthy treat with the Daisy girls, then they all went to play for a little bit.
  • The girls all helped clean up the supplies that I bring each week for all the groups to use and made sure they got into my mother's car (since she was my transportation for the night).
3. Junior Agent of Change.
This was an extremely busy group of young ladies! What was supposed to be 1.5 hours of work turned into 3.5 hours by the end (with all of the parents' agreement and participation). When we arrived at the town's Girl Scout room, there were 5 Junior Girl Scouts, 3 Moms (who are also Service Unit Team members), 1 Dad (who was made an honorary GS for the night... the girls said he'd have to wear a skirt if he registered), and 2 young male guests who had to tag along at the last minute. We had a computer and printer, colored paper galore, about 6 colors of tempera and acrylic paint (and 1 color of wall paint), a drill and screws, and a roll of cork board that was found in the closet.
  • We started by voting on a few issues. They decided to make the frames around the boxes for each troop's display space out of handprints... shortly later, the decision was made to have the horizontal lines made of multi-colored handprints and the vertical lines made of multi-colored footprints. They also voted to give the adults a section of wall where we can put a multiple-dimension version of Dez I. Ner Spider (complete with real shoes and hiking boot and real gloves and real beret), the Brownie Elf & girls, and Amazing Daisy and her friends. They also voted to use two framed posters donated from my mother's GS memorabilia.
  • I got everybody's attention and clarified for all of us that the girls were in charge and needed to use the adults for help. That meant that if a decision needed to be made, it was up to the girls (for the most part). I also stated that the adults wouldn't be making any decisions or movements without the girls' permission.
  • The girls attempted to get to work... they all tried to work on everything at the same time. Of course, chaos ensued.
  • I suggested to the girls that they each take charge of one of the tasks and accompanying adult(s). They needed to place complete trust in each other and the decisions made about the various tasks. They all agreed, and they all decided who would take each section.
  • Two girls took charge of two of the moms and the task of dividing the wall into sections for each troop's display space. They found yarn and masking tape, and the moms taught the girls how to make straight guide lines without drawing on the wall. The girls used their math skills to figure out how big each section would end up being. We ended up with 18 sections, each about 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet (I think). The frames start at the baseboard heaters and go up three rows on the wall, leaving a large section at the top for a room-wide border.
  • My Junior daughter took charge of the Dad and finding a space that could be dedicated to Leader Development. They thought they had the perfect wall space to put up the corkboard. They centered it, and the Dad was going to start the screws and let my daughter finish them. However, we found out that the wall was pure concrete; therefore, plans had to change (had he - or any of us - known that before, he could have brought the proper drill & bits to be able to do it... oh, well, now we all know). They decided to use the inside of the storage closet door. That way, during Service Unit meetings and trainings, I can have the door open during my Leader Development times, and it can be closed and out of sight when troops are using the room (thereby not taking up girl space on the walls). They worked together to screw the corkboard into the wood, and my daughter is going to work on a label for the area.
  • A third Junior was in charge of posting the GS Promise and the GS Law on the two boards that had been moved to the focal point of the room. She had printed the GS Promise out and mounted each word on a frame of construction paper. Then she worked on putting the Promise up on the smaller of the two boards. As girls finished their tasks, they went to help her - talk about teamwork! The GS Law had been printed in the colors of the Daisy Petals, and a different font was used for each line (with a central font used for the clauses that aren't values in the Law, e.g., "and to").
  • The last Junior was put in charge of me and deciding what important GS words were going to be posted around the room and how we would do it. She decided that printing the words in color and fun fonts on the computer would be more efficient than stenciling with paint. She also decided to have "Courage," "Confidence," and "Character" printed out multiple times each and used as a continuous border around the room (I'm not sure we'll get back to making a full border - but we have one set centered and posted on the wall above the troop display area). She also chose the Juliette Low quote, "What do the GIRLS want to do?" to be posted above the archway that is partway through the room... in a place that is very visible to the leaders when we're having our meetings. Finally, she chose to put "[Service Unit's Name] Girl Scouts" over the chalkboard that is flanked with the GS Promise and GS Law boards.
  • Once each group was well underway, and the adults had our marching orders, the girls joined the wall team for a while. By 8:30 p.m., they had the three lines handprints up on the wall. They even recruited the two boys to add their little handprints where small spaces needed to be filled in. Right about this time, a Daisy and 2 Brownies showed up (siblings of some of the Juniors and daughters to the other 2 group leaders who were checking in with me and letting me know how their sessions went).
  • The girls recruited the two adults who had just arrived to help cut out words for the GS Law and the words that the Junior had chosen and designed for posting around the room. They also recruited the younger girls to put their footprints on the wall for the vertical lines. We had little people in chairs with rainbow feet being pushed around by adults so that the lines were multicolored. Then, for the upper two rows, we used the featherweight girls, and their moms held them while another adult stamped their feet onto the wall. Everyone was in giggle fits by the time it was done.
  • One of the Juniors took charge of washing off the feet of the foot-stampers and making sure that just about every bit of paint was removed from their feet.
  • Another couple of Juniors and one of the Brownies took charge of cleaning up the room. A large amount of garbage was removed from the room and from the storage areas.
  • Our GS Promise and Law girl got help as people finished, and both pieces were completely posted by the end of the night.
  • The girls allowed the tallest adult and me to post the words, quote, and Service Unit name in their designated places.
  • The three remaining Juniors at the end of the night (2 left before the others, but well after getting most of the work done) found two places for the framed posters and made sure that the wife of the Dad knew where they were to go so she could tell him (he had left earlier) and they could return with the proper drill, bits, and screws.
  • We moved the primary tables around to refocus the room and make the GS Promise and Law fully visible when any group is meeting. We swept the floor until it was spotless, and the tops of the file cabinets were cleaned off. We're going to get the Juniors together over the next two weeks so that we can get pictures of the pristine room and them (the cameras that were brought last night died before many pictures could be taken).
Once I have the pictures of the girls' work, I'll post them for all to see.

We have next Wednesday off, and the week after that is the celebration week. I'm going to send each girl a paper for her to evaluate her project on so that they can reflect with a little bit of distance before we totally celebrate. We're still hoping to get some town officials to attend, and we're going to invite the librarian. I'm pretty sure we've now outgrown our originally planned celebration space, so I'm on the hunt for a new place that can accomodate us and our timing. I'd say that's a good problem to have!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Agents of Change! - Day 1 Progress

The GS Juniors have plowed right ahead with their project plans. Tonight I received the following letter in my e-mail (it was sent to the SU Team). Please keep in mind, when reading it, that it was composed by two girls who begin fourth grade in two weeks and typed and e-mailed by one of those girls - except for replacing the name of the Service Unit for privacy, I have left it exactly as it was typed for integrity's sake.

Dear [Name Removed for Privacy] Service Unit,

As troops 51088 and 51060 we would like to redecorate the GS room. In our Journey, we need to accomplish a take action project. We would like to add more color by sponging the wall different colors.

We are writing to you so we can get permission to add more color and paint donations. The colors we would like are bright green,light blue,red and, yellow. We will greatly accept any other colors.

Along with the paint we could use donations of
paint brushes
paint tape
or money to shop with

$50 would be great, if we did not use it all we would return the balance. We also want to put the GS Promise and GS Law on boards in the room for all to see.

We want to bcome agents of change!!

Thank you for your time.

troops 51088 and 51060

On another front, my Junior went with me to the laundromat this morning, and while we were waiting for the dryers to be done, she had her book open to the GS Promise and GS Law. She told me the letters and punctuation needed, and I made tally marks for her. Finding out that they would need 50+ "o"s and 30+ "e"s was enough to make her and one of the other girls rethink their plan. They agreed to ask the other girl's parents if they could borrow their stencil set. My daughter and I are supposed to go over to their house next week with some paper and tape. They'll trace the stencils and then color in the letters for the Promise and Law.

For labeling the troop areas on the wall, they'll use pre-sticky letters and numbers from the store. They're now polling the other 3 girls to decide whether each box will be labeled with "Troop #####," "Tr. #####," or simply "#####."

The other update I was given today was that the 3 C words (Courage, Confidence, Character) and the troop area frames/lines are going to be stenciled using sponge brushes so there's a "bubbly look" to them (I think they mean "stippled").

Color me impressed!

Tomorrow my daughter is spending the afternoon and evening with my mother who has offered her group two framed posters for the room. One is purple with a gray-scale photo of Girl Scout memorabilia; I don't remember what it says. The other is from GS of Philadelphia (or a council name like that) and is titled "Words of Well-Being." It also has a GS trefoil shape made using quotes from a variety of women. It will be interesting to see if my daughter believes they have value for the redecoration process.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Third Session - Project Planning

Tonight's session was busy for all of the groups! As the program co-coordinator, I learned tonight that we should have given the group leaders posterboards with project planning on them. I have a knack for project planning and seeing it in my head - I have to remember that not everybody can do that, and not everybody understands that when learning or teaching project planning to girls, things have to be spelled out. For example, I think it would have been beneficial for each group to have a simple chart with the Project Goal at the top, and a chart below with Task, What Is Needed, and Who Is Doing It as column labels. With that blatant set up, I think some of the planning might have been easier for the girls to understand. Without that physical structure, I found that groups were planning one step and trying to act on it right away instead of looking at the big picture first (an example of this is in the GS Junior description below).

Here is how tonight went. I wasn't in every group, but the descriptions are from what I saw and heard and what my GS Brownie and GS Junior reported to me.

1. Welcome and Gathering.
  • The families are getting really good at arriving shortly before 6:30 or right at 6:30. Our last girl arrived just as we were forming our Opening Circle. We had every girl in attendance tonight: 3 GS Daisies, 6 GS Brownies, 5 GS Juniors, and 1 GS Cadette.
  • The GS Cadette made me smile and laugh in a good way tonight. She was so excited when she arrived that she was dancing and jumping around. She wanted to show me her GS Journey backpack with her GS books and her Journey notebook in it. She had written down the song/game she was going to play with/teach to the girls tonight along with some service project ideas to help them get started in their brainstorming. She was just as excited when the Brownie group leader arrived and was ready to talk with her. The notebook is an important piece for this Cadette. She needs the organization of having a written reminder. It is serving as a communication tool between her and the Brownie group leader - the group leader wrote in the notebook tonight what she would like the Cadette to lead next week. This way the Cadette can work on what she needs to do and how she needs to present it during this week.
  • Our Opening Circle was a practice in using the Quiet Sign and reminding the girls that it's an open hand, not the GS sign that is used. After that, the Cadette led the group in the GS Promise. Then we sang "The Button Factory" about Joe who has to press buttons with all parts of their bodies - the favorite song of a few girls in my own troop, and what the girls decided was a good song to sing. This got the girls moving and active, but also got a lot of their wiggles out.
  • We have established that an opening ceremony is important, but we don't plan a full ceremony as leaders or organizers - this might sound strange, but it has a purpose. The girls learn best by experiencing (Leadership Essentials: Learn By Doing)... rather than telling them what we're doing at each opening ceremony, we let them decide step by step. It's already been decided that next week, the opening ceremony song is going to be "Alive, Awake, Alert, Enthusiastic."
  • After that I revved up the program by telling the Daisies that I heard they have new friends to meet tonight, the Brownies were going to have an awesome time because that's what Brownies do, and the Juniors have some challenges tonight. Everybody was cheering, and when I told them to go to their group leaders, they practically ran to them.

2. GS Daisy Flower Garden.
  • Well, the bad news was that the real estate agent for a building in town that has flower boxes that could use some gardening said we can't help him. Apparently the building is a foreclosure and they don't want people working on the property for liability reasons. That's too bad, but the group leader noticed a nearby dentist office that might allow the girls to at least plant flower boxes in front of part of the office building.
  • On the good side, the group leader brought worms tonight. She had a tub with dirt in it, and the girls got to put the worms in along with some newspaper they'd ripped up and some tomato skins. They are hoping the worms work on composting the pile.
  • I had the chance to talk with the girls about their project. They really hadn't come up with something solid for next week. I said to them that the grass and clover in the park looked like it was hurting in places. Could they figure out why? One of the girls said it was because of the trash. So next week they're going to organize a group to clean up that park (it had been used for the town's summer recreation program). I tried to get them to draw a shopping list for me. They listed garbage bags, gloves, something to clean hands with, and sticks with a "sharp pointy thing" on the end to grab the garbage. One unfortunate step here was that the group leader wrote down the list instead of letting the girls draw/write it themselves. I asked the girls what they thought about getting adults or other people to help them clean up - what it would be like if the three of them were in charge and telling the adults what needed to be done. There was a maniacal laugh from the cutest, quietest 5-/6-year old, followed by "Yessss." They each started making a list of who they could ask to help them... sounding out the words as they went.
  • Next week they'll be Taking Action in our community by organizing their group of helpers to clean up the park. They believe that Clover (we actually have some blooming) is hurting, and they need to help the Earth.
  • I mentioned to them that maybe if they do the Journey as a troop during the school year, it could be fun to talk to the cafeteria director and the elementary school principal about putting a composting pail in the rear of the school. The girls could take care of it weekly and make sure the worms were okay... including figuring out how to insulate the container during the winter months. The leader looked at me like I had three heads, but I really think that if the girls worked at finding out what it takes, they could really do it. They could suggest to the two adults that it would decrease some of the food waste going to landfills and provide compost for the bushes and flowers on the school grounds. Well... at least I can see it happening, even if it doesn't.

3. GS Brownie Quest.
  • The Brownies started off by identifying community helpers like veteranarians, doctors, ambulance workers, police, teachers, and phone line workers (we have an eccentric Brownie!). The girls each made a paper bag puppet of a community helper and then talked with/about their puppets. In the discussion, or just after it, the group leader showed them the concentric circles with themselves in the middle and community helpers eminating out from them - the helpers they are directly connected to, I believe.
  • They looked at the pages in the Brownie Quest book where things need to be fixed in the community. Since they had been sitting for awhile, this activity was discussed quickly - each girl announced one thing they saw in the picture that needed fixing.
  • The girls then moved over to another area where they could sit on the ground and played "La Quaka Dilly Oh Ma" which the GS Cadette taught to them. They sang other songs or played other games as well I think.
  • When they came back to their work area, they brainstormed Take Action Project ideas. My Brownie reported that every girl stated one idea. They then voted on the projects. Apparently the winning project is collecting book donations to give to the local library and shelving kids books at the library for one night. Our librarian has a system where once a book in the kids section is taken off the shelf, the kid puts it into a white basket to be reshelved by the librarian or her assistant. This makes for a lot of books to be reshelved.
  • Each Brownie is supposed to come up with some books to be donated. I think these are going into the library's book give-away program. One girl is going to speak with the librarian tomorrow to get permission for this project. I'm not sure what we'll do if the librarian declines the help. We'll probably have to schedule an "emergency" meeting for the Brownies so they can come up with another project.

4. GS Junior Agent of Change.
Well, we have 5 Agents of Change for sure... the challenge for them is that they are 5 strong leaders and 5 weak followers. This made tonight's planning very difficult for them. They ended up needing lots of direction and structure as girls were breaking down in frustration and zoning out because they didn't know their particular role in the conversation.

  • They have decided to decorate the Girl Scout room that our village has given us. A few years ago, one troop's Silver Award project was painting, fixing up, and putting curtains and bulletin boards up in the room. It's a beautiful job, but we've had leaders mention that it would be nice to have some variation on the wall, like GS quotes or the key words like "Courage, Confidence, and Character."
  • Without looking at the room, going on their knowledge of it (some of the girls have had meetings in it), they decided that they needed paint, stencils, and paintbrushes. They spoke with the SU Manager and the SU Outdoor Program Consultant to find out what they as adults would like to see in the room. The Outdoor Program Consultant mentioned that a craft store nearby had a number of the things they had mentioned on clearance. We talked about a budget... and if they would need money. It was decided that they needed to write a letter to ask the SU for a small donation for the project (it was hinted to me by the SU Manager to do it).
  • This was a breakdown point because two girls ran with the write-a-letter task and left the others doing nothing. I suggested that maybe one of the three girls might want to ask one of the adults if they would take them to the GS room so they could look at it and really get an idea of what they could do.
  • They came back with a list of tasks and tools - and very excited. Apparently they are going to take down some of the bulletin boards and put them up in more visible areas. One will have the GS Promise on it while the other will have the GS Law. I thought it might be neat for them to consider putting the GS Law in the colors of the Daisy Petals or in the shape of a daisy... but it will be up to them. They want to put up words using decorative border or decorative letters that already have the adhesive on the back. They also want to designate an area of wall space for each of our troops. This way each troop can hang up pictures or things they've made for everyone to look at when we have SU meetings or when other troops meet. My own Junior wants to get painter's tape and use that to mark out the lines for the troops boxes so that she can paint straight lines... she's been watching those Extreme Makeover and Hometime shows lately.
  • I saw the letter they wrote to the SU team. It's very polite and explains why they would like to do this project, what they would like to do, and what they would like from the SU. They asked for paint rather than money. However, a few of us spoke to three of them after, and they decided that it was best to add in a line requesting $50 - that way they had a little wiggle room if things weren't on clearance, they could give back what they don't use, and if the SU says that $50 is too much and gives a lesser amount it's still reasonable. The funny part of this was that rather than mailing the letter, one of the girls rationalized that the SU team is online a lot, so she is typing the letter tomorrow and e-mailing it with her mother's supervision and help. She was warned that some of us might ask her questions about the project just for clarification, and she seemed ready to explain anything.
  • Two of the girls are going to figure out how many of each letter and number they'll need for the project. Right now they say they need cut-out letters for the GS Promise, the GS Law, and "Troop #####" for 13-15 troops. They envisioned having a Crickut or Sizzix machine there for their use, but no body could think of someone who might have one to help them. My mother scrapbooks, so I suggested to my Junior that when she's with her grandmother this week, she ask if she would have any resources and be willing to help them next week.
  • I'm excited to see what the girls create. I believe they're recruiting parents to help them physically next week.
  • After they had utilized their individual strengths ("Powers") to work as a team, they had the opportunity to find their Power of One badge. I had taken 5 of their Val U. Spiders off the web and hidden them on the playground set; each spider was guarding a Power of One badge. They were to find the spiders and badges... and when they found one for themselves, they had to help the others since they were all a team.
  • The Power of Team badge was a little more challenging to finally earn. I used yarn to build a spider web at the backstop at the park; it was similar to the Spider Web on a ropes course. We hung the 5 Power of Team badges in 5 different sections of the web. The girls had to work as a team to get through the web - each space could only be used once. Once on the far side of the web, they had to figure out how to get their badges off the web... and help each other if needed. To get back, they had to cross through the web again - this time they couldn't use any of the lower level spaces. They were supposed to go one by one, but with 5 leaders and no followers, that didn't really happen. They did help each other as feet, flip-flops, and sandals got caught in the web.
  • After they all made it, we had a short discussion about having 5 strong leaders in their group and that in their own troops and patrols, they have the potential to be awesome leaders. However, the challenge for next week will be for them to figure out how to work together to get the project done - how to trust each other to take care of their parts.

5. Dismissal.
  • It was made clear last week that an official closing was important to the girls. Therefore, I put the girl who spoke up about it in charge of tonight's closing. She decided we were going to "spell out" of the circle again. Since this week's theme was working as a team, the Junior decided the word was "teamwork." Just as in the first session, the Junior started spelling the word, and whoever ended up with "k" said, "Good night, Girl Scouts" and left the circle. By the time everyone had spelled out, the area was cleaned up. Most of the girls were gone before the official ending time, and even those of us who stayed to talk left within 15 minutes of the official end time.

Next week will be interesting. We'll have three projects occurring at three locations. I hope to be able to see part of each one, but I might be recruited to help on a project. The girls all seem excited to work on their projects.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Decompression from the Second Session

Well, the kicker of today was when I was mid-conversation with the Brownie group leader and realized that for the past 3 days while talking with her and the Daisy group leader I'd been shorting us all a week in our planning. I've been reassuring them that they'd have enough time to work through a plan and do the project with one scheduled meeting and a week to meet on their own time with their group. Mid-conversation, I realized that we have TWO scheduled meetings and a week to meet on their own if needed. Talk about relief (for me and the group leaders)!

Tonight brought more girls to Join the Journey! We're now up to 3 GS Daisies, 6 GS Brownies, 5 GS Juniors, and 1 GS Cadette. The Cadette was a surprise, so for tonight she worked to motivate the Brownies and learn their names. The Cadette has her own special challenges, so getting her to interact with the girls and calling them by name was a step forward. Of the 6 Brownies, one didn't show (disappointing), and one joined Girl Scouts tonight in order to do this program and will be joining my troop in the fall. The other score of the night was convincing one of the mothers who is stepping up as a Daisy leader in the fall that she could stretch herself and work with the Juniors on their Journey.

Being less in charge of the individual parts tonight, I'm less positive of what each activity was. However, I can relay what I know.

1. Welcome and Gathering. As the girls arrived, they joined their friends on the playground. Forms were given to parents (or collected from them), and I asked four girls who were playing near by to gather the rest of the girls into a circle. The three group leaders, the co-organizer, and I all joined the circle. We went around the circle introducing ourselves and telling what level we are in Girl Scouts. The co-organizer tapped into her inner cheerleader and led the group in a chorus of, "Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii, [name]!" We said the Girl Scout Promise in echo fashion since we had two new Girl Scouts with us. Then one girl taught the Quiet Sign. We followed that with practicing the Girl Scout Handshake. Then I reminded everyone of what we had done last week, how values are in the Girl Scout Law, and built up this week's session since every group had a craft to do. We then split into the groups.

2. GS Daisy Flower Garden.
  • The Daisy group leader had taken the poster that came in the adult guide and temporarily mounted it on a piece of posterboard. She introduced the girls to all of Amazing Daisy's friends (after giving them each their own Journey book). The two who were already Daisies noticed that the flower colors were Petal colors... so the natural path to the parts of the GS Law was set out.
  • I had set out a treasure hunt for the girls. They were given a note that was addressed to the girls by name and said, "Three Girl Scout Daisies I see, a surprise waits for you underneath a tree." They looked near all of the trees and finally found a small, antique music box (no longer working, unfortunately - and it was from the 1950s or so, but found in an antique store). They turned it all around and finally figured out they had to open it up; that was ensued by a race back for their group leader to read the new note that accompanied a package of Coriander (Cilantro) seeds and a package of Lemon Balm seeds. The second clue read something like, "Seeds can grow right before your eyes. Beneath a fun ride, you'll find your next prize." Under a slide, the girls found six small terra cotta flower pots with a third clue: "Growing plants need water to flow. Where the water shoots to the sky is where you must go." We have a water fountain/wading pool area that is off 98% of the year; in that dry pool was a plastic bag full of wooden beads to act as spacers beneath the potting soil. The final clue in that bag was "Return to the start, and you'll find the earth's heart." When they returned to their workspace with all of the pieces, they found a bag of organic potting soil.
  • Everything I'd purchased for the treasure hunt had a significance. The music box went along with the box the 3 girls dug up in the Journey story. The herbs were chosen because the Cilantro can be used as a cooking herb while the Lemon Balm is a medicinal herb - according to the package, placing a fresh leaf over an insect bite will help soothe the itch. The terra cotta pots and wooden beads were chosen for their natural materials (instead of plastic pots and marbles). The organic potting soil was chosen for the organic nature of it.
  • After planting their seeds, they decorated the outside of the pots with some of the Crayola Paint Brush Pens (child-sized brushes with paint in the handles). The terra cotta soaked up the paint pretty quickly, so they were dry by the time the girls went home.
  • The group leader then read the first chapter of the story to the girls... and they realized what they had in common with Campbell and her two pals. For those who haven't noticed, I don't think it's coincidence that the names of the three girls all start with "C" - after all, the next logical connection will be to "Courage, Confidence, and Character."
  • She encouraged them all to read the story with their families and gave them a couple of worksheets made from the pages of the book. The worksheets are home-session connections that may be completed if the girl and her family wish.
3. Brownie Quest.
  • The Brownies began with their craft activity. They had plastic suncatchers in the shape of a trio of flowers. In the center of each flower I had written "E," "L," or "F." Apparently the girls noticed the letters and figured out what it spelled. At least one girl (my Brownie) knew that a Brownie Elf was important to their Journey story. The girls painted the suncatchers using the appropriate paints/glazes.
  • While the suncatchers dried, the group leader took them out to a grassy area where the girls shared their family stars. I know our new Brownie had decorated hers with stickers (she lives in our neighborhood, so I was able to get the papers to her before tonight); my daughter made hers out of craft foam. I don't know what other girls did to theirs.
  • They then read part of the story. The group leader was going to gauge them to decide whether they wanted to read or be read to. I know they sat with her for quite awhile - from my point, they looked pretty attentive throughout. I haven't debriefed my Brownie yet, but I'm confident they were as observant as the Daisies when it came to their story. The girls' bracelets should have made a connection with the suncatchers our Brownies had painted.
  • They were then sent out on their own scavenger hunt. Scattered throughout the park were blue stars with the chant typed on them. Each star had the Discover/Explore award safety-pinned to it.
4. Junior Agent of Change.
  • These girls started out by taking the beads with values written on them and turning them into spiders using pipecleaners and smaller beads. They worked quite diligently and completed all the spiders with humor and socializing. Since the three girls who were present are from two troops but one of the girls from the same troop is new to Juniors, this socialization time was important. After they got cleaned up, one of the moms folded spider legs around the yarn of the web where the girls had placed them. Now all of our Val U. (short for Ursula) Spiders (Dez I. Ner Spider's cousins) are firmly attached to the web.
  • I was grabbing the papers for the rest of the evening with the Juniors (I had agreed with their group leader to guide them tonight and turn it all over to her tonight since she just agreed this week) when I heard my own Junior begin the conversation to review the "Her" Stories they had researched. Foolish me was put in my place by my daughter (and rightfully so): I had been asking guiding questions rather than having the girls read directly from their papers - after I'd finished with the first one, my daughter said, "Now will you let her read her paper, I want to hear the story." The take-home piece was written in complete sentences with blanks to be filled in, so reading it aloud made a cohesive paragraph. It really wasn't mouthy - it was a clear indication that I was leading too much. One girl researched Abby Wambaugh (soccer player from our area) and my daughter chose Harriet Tubman. The third girl didn't prepare anybody, so I let her pick from the four women listed in the adult guide. She chose the woman who was/is a chef and who helped start a program in schools where the students grow vegetables for the school to use.
  • We then chatted about leaders in their real lives. They each chose their mothers; two because we're helpful and one because she's caring. I shared that I probably would choose my high school music teacher because she gave me confidence in my theatre skills and confidence to be on stage which has led to my creation of a youth theatre program in another town and the creation of one in our town this year. They had trouble thinking of a non-Mom choice, but that's okay at their age... it's nice to know we're still so important to them (especially as puberty is hitting hard!).
  • I asked them why it was important for a leader to be a good listener, and they all agreed that we had to listen to make sure that the followers' ideas were being used and being heard. They unanimously voted for a troop that was run with the girls' ideas and interests rather than the leader's desires. I know, big surprise.
  • They went off across the park to figure out examples of how people embody the various parts of the GS Law. When they came back, they didn't have too much time to share with the adults, but they were quite proud of the work they'd done. I prepped them for working with the group leader next time and told them to start thinking of projects. I spouted out a couple of ideas: building bat boxes for our rural flying rodents; decorating the town Girl Scout room because a number of leaders have been commenting on it. I couldn't spout off any more because all three jumped on that idea.
  • Over the week, they're reading the graphic novel, coming up with project ideas, and completing their Power Logs. They know that they will receive their Power of One award if they get their Power Logs completed.
5. Dismissal. Each group dismissed on its own tonight. I figured it would be better that way because the groups ended at different times (all within about 20 minutes of each other). However, I now know better because one of the Juniors was disappointed that we weren't going to do a closing circle like last time. I'll have to see if she wants to lead the closing at the next session.

SO, once again, it was a successful session (IMO). Next week is "offical" team forming symbolized by the team agreements and brainstorming/planning. We have one Brownie and 2 Juniors to catch up from this week, too. I know the model in the books includes writing letters to officials, but since this is the first Journey for all of us, I'm choosing to use progression. We're going to work within systems that won't require months of town/official meetings... a huge accomplishment on a small stage is a better thing in my book than a flop or an incomplete accomplishment on a huge stage.

Additionally, the Juniors have requested that their Power of One awards be given with something fun to equal the hunts the other groups have been on.

Co-operative Learning? Check!
Learning By Doing? Yup... especially as we work through the planning process next week.
Girl led? We're getting there! The Juniors are going to bring me leaps and bounds forward (even though I thought I was there).

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Little Bit of Feedback

This past weekend found my daughters and me with my co-organizer and her daughter, my SU Manager and her daughter, and the SU Outdoor Program Consultant (OPC) and her daughter at the OPC's family cabin for an overnight camping trip. Unfortunately my co-leader and her daughter had a prior commitment, so we missed them.

While we were there, the OPC said that one of the Sorta Juniors who she brought tends to be difficult to please/entertain. However, after the first session, she is extremely enthused and excited about the Journey program. Unfortunately, she and the SUM's daughter will be missing this coming session due to the opportunity to see a professional soccer game in a local city.

The second piece of feedback came from the OPC again. This time it was about the take-home piece for the Juniors. One part was to find out a little bit about a famous woman who could be a role model. Apparently within three days' time, her daughter had done a bunch of research on Abby Wambaugh (US Women's Soccer player) - and even learned that Abby isn't her true first name. My own Junior had finished her sheets by Friday. On Sunday I asked her if she would share them with me or if I had to wait until the next Journey session. She has a special affinity for Harriet Tubman. We are a very Caucasian, Irish-Italian family, so there's not the ethnic identification thing going on. For my daughter, the fact that Harriet Tubman died on March 10, 1913, is doubly important: first because it's the same day as she was born (obviously in a different year); second because it was the year after Girl Scouts started. She has visited Tubman's home in Auburn, NY, so when she was given the opportunity to write about a famous woman, it was a no-brainer to her.

The third piece of feedback came today. The SU Manager watched my daughters while I ran a number of errands today, one of which was to the GS shop to pick up the Journey books. I handed an Agent of Change book to the SU Manager's daughter, and she immediately started reading through it with a big smile on her face.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Session

WHEW! The first session of Join the Journey is over, and I am exhausted and happy.

We had the following girls show up:

1 GS Daisy (actually, she registered tonight so she could take part)
4 GS Brownies
3 Sorta GS Juniors (they Fly Up over the summer)
1 GS Junior

Plus, we know that there is another GS Daisy, Brownie, and Sorta Junior joining in next week. Two group leaders couldn't be there this week due to prior obligations, so we did the whole meeting together. In chronological order, here's what we did in our first Journey session:

1. Greet parents and girls. We meet in a park, so the girls got to play on the playground for a few minutes while parents received their welcome letters and permission slip & health form to complete before they left.

2. Gather girls. I asked who thought they knew why we were gathered, and one girl gave a good general answer that I could then tell everyone was a "Journey" in Girl Scout words. We figured out who was in each GS level and then I gave them one copy of the Journey book from their level to go explore as small groups for a few minutes. The Daisy had a few cute questions for me - she wore her tunic and wanted to know how to earn badges to put on it. I heard the Juniors discussing the word search, graphic novel, and Dez I Ner Spider. I also heard the Brownies noticing the Elf, some of the graphics, and "vlalues" as my own Brownie tried to explain. The Daisy asked as we transitioned, "Where are we going on a journey to?" Perfect? Absolutely!

3. Welcome circle. For this activity, the co-organizer and I gathered the girls again and formed a circle - then we had them rearrange so there was no girl from their own troop next to them. I had a ball of yarn that we tossed around for two rounds. The first round's task was to say, "hi," and introduce themselves. They had to keep a hold of part of the string when they tossed the ball of yarn. The second round was to tell the group one of your favorites... favorite dinner, favorite animal, favorite color, whatever - and they had to toss the ball to someone different. After two rounds, we looked at the yarn in the middle of the circle and described it. The answers were precious... a spider web, a bunch of stars, and a crazy flower. I had them hold up their hands in turns if their Journey had a spider or web... stars... and flowers... I couldn't have asked for a better connection moment! Then I explained the cool part of spider web creation where the web is built from the inside to the outside... just like the Journeys they were starting where we'd explore from inside themselves out and into the community. We set the web-star-flower down where we were as a visual reminder throughout the evening.

4. Values scavenger hunt/Values spiders. This part was done as Daisy/Brownies and Juniors. While we had been working on our web-star-flower, two parents who had stayed cut apart some values words I had printed out and spread them throughout the park. Before we split up, we figured out what "values" were. The Daisy/Brownies were sent on a scavenger hunt to find the 33 values words around the park. The Juniors started on some spiders made out of wooden beads. Tonight they wrote values words on at about 20 wooden beads with permanent markers (I emphasized that spelling was important, but not to stumble over it) - next week we'll add the head beads and chenaille-stem (pipe-cleaner) legs. They had to make sure that they were talking with each other to come up with some words and to make sure we didn't end up with duplicates. They worked steadily. At one point I heard the Daisy/Brownies come back to the pavilion and count up the 29 they had... then they ran off to find the other 4 (oh, they were in a buddy and a truddy [3-person buddy] and had been told it wasn't a race or a competition, they were 2 parts of one team). The two moms helped give a little directional guidance to the girls. One was hung on the lowest tree branch that was just out of the girls' reach. The mom's point was to see how they would solve the problem - she expected, "MOM! Can you get this?" but hoped for different - she witnessed the buddy of girls find it, each take a turn jumping to get it, and then the stoutest (my own little butterball) got down on her hands and knees and made sure she was under the paper . Then her extremely light-weight buddy climbed up on her back, and stood up to grab the paper - the mom/leader was watching to make sure there were no injuries - the other 3 stood nearby, cheering them on. The team work and creative problem solving made for a VERY proud moment for all of us moms. For the record, they found 32 of 33 words.

We gathered back together as a big group and went through some of the words they had found and written. The girls tried to define the words (often by using similar concepts), and when they couldn't, they gave examples or non-examples, showing they knew the concepts. Funny moment: when one Sorta Junior (the SU Manager's daughter; apparently she likes to ask for reasons a lot) defined "obedience" as "when you're told to do something, you do it without saying, 'I don't want to.'" Her leader said, "I'm telling your mom that you KNOW what that word means!"... and we did.

5. Ethical dilemmas. For our last active part, the girls voted that the moms had to take part. We took our web and made it into one thick line on the ground. All the girls and moms stood on the line. I stood slightly in front and off to the side where they could all see and hear me. I read them some short, adapted ethical dilemma scenarios that all ended with, "If you would [action A], take a step forward; if you would [action B, opposite of A], take a step backward." I made it clear that there were no "right or wrong answers," that they needed to step honestly, and they HAD to step (they couldn't stay where they were). We started with: "When you grow up you have to pay taxes, especially when you work. That tax money helps the government run, builds roads and schools, and helps poorer people. Imagine that you are the richest ladies in the world." At which point, a darling little one pops out of the line and shouts, "Hey, I'm a boy!" - it was a boy who had been playing in the park and decided to join our activity - so I adjusted to "Okay, I'm sorry! Imagine that you are the richest ladies and YOUNG MAN in the world. If you think that you should pay more taxes to help poorer people, take a step forward. If you don't think that you should have to pay more just because you have more money, take a step backward." I'm pretty sure everyone stepped forward (one adult hesitated I think). The other dilemmas were:

  • You're walking down the street and find President Obama's wallet. It has $1000.00 in cash in it. If you take it directly to the nearest police station without taking anything out, step forward. If you take it to the police station but take out a little bit because he probably won't notice, step backward. All but one girl moved forward
  • You're on a jury for a trial where someone stole something - the person was a thief. She stole a loaf of bread to feed her family. If you punish her because she stole, step forward. If you don't punish her because she was trying to feed her family, step backward. One mom and daughter took a step forward, all others stepped back.
  • Imagine you're a teenager (adults, remember your teens). It's nearly 11:00 p.m., and that's your curfew - your mom had told you to make sure you were not late, not even by a second. But you've been playing the most awesome video game at your friend's house, and you just noticed that it's a few minutes before 11:00 p.m., and you know there is no way you'll make it home in time. If you call your mom, apologize, and leave immediately, step forward. If you try to sneak in so your mom doesn't catch you, step back. All went forward except one parent who then stated that even a phone call wouldn't have woken her mother if she was asleep.
  • Your fairy godmother has made you an offer. She make it so you'll live forever! However, in order to do that, you need to choose a type of animal and wipe it off the face of the Earth - make it extinct. If you take up your fairy godmother on her offer and choose an animal, step backward. If you decide to live a long life and keep the animals on the planet, step forward. They split about in half, and two of the parents took about 4 steps backward with (joking?) comments about rodents and flying rodents of which they are extremely afraid.
Then they turned around and looked at the point where they'd all started and where they'd come... mostly with some forward and backward movements. We expressed how it's sometimes hard to stick to your values or to figure out how you feel about something, but that it's important to figure out what is high on your values list.

6. Optional (but encouraged) family activities. We went back to the pavilion where I handed out some papers (My Family Star for the Brownies, Power of One and Tell "Her"Story for the Juniors, and All About Me and Me and My Family for the Daisy). I emphasized that it was not homework, but if they bring it back to the next session they attend, they'll have finished the first award on their Journeys (for the record, with the activities between both 1st and 2nd sessions, they'll have definitely earned it).

7. Closing circle. Rather than singing "Taps" and doing the friendship squeeze, we spelled our way out of the meeting. We went around the circle (starting with the Daisy) and spelled "journey" letter by letter. The girl who had "y," said, "Good night, Girl Scouts," and went to clean up and then play on the playground as their parents allowed. The next girl in the circle started the word over again with "j." I was out on the third round, and by the last one out, everything was cleaned up.

Like I said, WHEW! But I'm encouraged and excited about next week. We'll give the girls their individual books next week (parents handed in the money tonight, hence worksheets for the family activities). They are all excited to get their own book that they can write in and draw in. I can definitely tell the two group leaders that I think they'll have fun with their groups... and since it's a small group overall, I think my co-organizer and I will really be able to stand back, observe, take pictures, and troubleshoot as needed.