Friday, October 28, 2011

Be the Best

 The roots of true achievement
lie in the will to become
the best that you can become.
- Harold Taylor, Politician, Manitoba, Canada

I like teaching the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) classes for council.  Because one of the things I get to talk about is having every girl be a leader in her own life.  We all want our girls to stand up on their own two feet and make healthy and informed decisions for themselves. To be their BEST!

And one way the GSLE program encourage them to develop leadership skills is by giving them different things to work at and goals to achieve. To start, the badges do that! They present the opportunity for the girl to achieve a goal and develop skills.  The Journey path gives them a menu of opportunity to use these skills as they move forward:  setting goals and selling cookies, planning camping trips, earning the LIA working with Brownies, etc.  Each piece of the Journey gives the girls the opportunity to achieve some success.

So, as they move through Cadettes, they are building their skills, experiencing new things, working together to achieve goals, and taking a Journey to use these developing leadership skills.  As the girls earn badges and complete tasks, we hope that they understand that these are the building blocks of who they are going to be!  And we hope that they understand and embrace the opportunity to do their best, and be the best they can be.

I think that's what Mr. Taylor is saying: achieve small things, build confidence, garner success and create the will within to always do your best. That way, no matter the task or obstacle, there's a will to achieve, and the knowledge that it can be done.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scouts Own

I was reading the NEW Cadette Girl Guide, and there's a section about a Scout's Own.  And I got to thinking, I haven't seen one of these at the Cadette level in a long time!  When we talked about it at our Breathe Journey this past summer, the adults said they used a Roses and Thorns theme to talk about the highs and lows of the just completed event/camping trip/program.  While I think that kind of recap is great, it doesn't quite fit in with my perception or the Girl Guide's perception of a Scout's Own.

"...a special ceremony created around a theme." is how it's described in the Girl Guide.  So, using my resources wisely, I pull out the Ceremonies in Girl Scouting book c. 1990 I borrowed from Theresa Green a while ago.  And sure enough, back on pages 59-63 there was info about a Scout's Own.  

"A Girl Scouts' Own should be all that its name implies.  The main to elaborate on a theme...  It allows girls to express their thoughts and feelings in a truly meaningful way."  This can mean a GS theme, something from nature, badge experience, Silver Award experiences, etc. It can happen anywhere!  Outside under the trees at twilight.  After a campfire has burned down to embers, sending the girls off in the quiet glow to their tents or home.  Or at Camp Scherman where the girls can send their wishes out on the lake with a candle. OR in the Anaheim Service Center!  Outside in the middle of the day on the grass!

It can be inspirational, about the promise and law, or reaffirming.  But above all, it's girl led!  2 or 3 girls could get together ahead of time and talk about what the theme would be.  And they could get help from adults on any pieces they might need. At this age, they could also be given the ceremonies book and use that as a reference.  And then come up with what to say, who to involve and how it's all going to come together.
Breathe Journey Series 2011

That's what we did at the Breathe Journey Series Closing Ceremony. We had three 7th grade girls who barely knew each other put it together.  And they did it!  A first for some, but old hat for others.  Was it perfect?  No, but it was GREAT to view.  The theme was the promise and law, and they used my Twiggy log and candles from Jim and Ginger Kleerup as the basis for the ceremony. The candles never got lit, but everyone expressed themselves and participated.  

It was great!  And I bet those newbie 6th grade Cadette girls want to have a chance to lead it themselves in the future.  They saw the older girl-led leadership, and they had a chance to work cooperatively with that team to say their pieces in turn. There was little pressure, no right/wrong.  Just 25 girls coming together for the last time before they went their separate ways.

What a great thing for these Cadettes to know how to do!  Plus, a great skill that they can provide/teach to younger girls.  I'd love to see what other Scout's Own ideas your girls come up with!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Creative Solutions for Silver Award Planning

"Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right or better."
John Updike, American writer.

We know our Cadette girls want to do a quality Silver Award Project!  And we know that they want to do it right!  These impassioned girls want to make a difference in the world.

Our job as Advisors is to support them as much as we can.  This age doesn't "know it all" yet, or at least not as much as the senior high girls do!  And they are still exploring who they are and who they want to be.  As they move through the process of putting their Silver Award Project together, they may need your help to really delve deep into their issues.

Not to do it for them!  But to help them think beyond what they know, to DISCOVER creative options that the girl doesn't even know exists.  For example, the girls with the passion for the environment need to look beyond picking up papers at the beach. A great service project, but not a Silver Award Project in and of itself.  It's time for them to think beyond trash pick up and figure out how to connect using their leadership to make MORE of a difference.  Education, teamwork, measurable outcomes, sustainable practices, etc.

They need to look at creative ways to address the issue.  They need to be exposed to new and bigger ideas.  And they need to find a way to use all that passion to gather a team together to make the project a reality. 

We're here to guide!  Let's do it well for the girls.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sometimes, you don't have to look for it!

I posted this week about the great Silver Award Training we had on Saturday, and I mentioned that one of the interests was FASHION.  And the result, after conversations was that maybe that interest topic didn't have a fit for a Silver or Gold Award Project.

Well, I was WRONG! 

I just had a meeting with a good friend, Amy Larson (a GS alum), who is now Director of Development for Working Wardrobes. I went over to see the facility and hear about the new programs that they are offering.  For those of you not familiar with Working Wardrobes, it's a multi faceted non profit whose mission is: "(to) empower(s) men, women and young adults in life crises to confidently enter the workforce with career development and wardrobe services."

When Jerri Rosen first started the program, it was all about a collection of clothes from friends to donate to those in need of professional, interviewing clothing. That nugget of an idea has morphed into 9 full time staff people and 3000 volunteers every year providing not only personal shopping and clothing, but resume building classes, personal care classes, computer access, skill building and more! 

So, my question to Marlo Kirkham, manager, Community Resources (and a GS alum) was, "how can girls in Orange County partner with Working Wardrobes to create a Silver or Gold Award Project with girl leadership to make a difference in the community?"

Just from brainstorming with Amy and Marlo, we came up with some ideas. 
Start a high school club - advocate for helping this community, put on clothing drives, raise awareness, have a fashion show, visit a shelter, adopt high schools and provide prom dresses.

Work with emancipated minors to help build their skills in order to get a job and/or get more education, dress for interviews and the work world, learn office etiquette, find services that can help on an ongoing basis.

Resale Boutique - create a marketing plan and community awareness days, staff those days with volunteers to help serve the men and women who come in.  Solicti donations of appropriate apparel.

Work with the Cinderella Guild and take unsuitable/old fashioned prom gowns and re-make them for girls to wear now.

Create a blog about fashion and what is appropriate to wear when.  Determine how this germ of an idea could grow and become a Silver or Gold Award Project.

The lessons learned?  Never say never!  We adults need to use our resources wisely to reach out to our friends and colleagues as potential partners for our girls' projects. We can present the opportunity, and the girl can use her skills to investigate it and determine whether there's a fit for her.

If you think Working Wardrobes could be of interest to your girls, please ask them to contact Marlo Kirkham 714-210-2460, 3030 Pullman St. Suite A, Costa Mesa 92626

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Great Silver Award Training Class Today!

What a GREAT group of Cadette Advisors in the room this morning for the Silver Award Training.  Karin Carlson and Lesley Finch were aided by Barb Christenson and me as we went through the essentials of the highest award a girl can earn as a Cadette:  the Silver Award.

We hit hard on the concept of "raising the bar", and how a Silver Award Project should not look like a regular "collection service project".  All the leaders in the room were able to shout out service projects that they'd done with their girls, and everyone was really clear on what that was.  The newer part was to talk about how a Silver Award Project is a couple steps up the ladder.

There was great discussion about how a Silver Award Project needs to benefit the community, not Girl Scouts. So while it's nice to want to put on a Brownie Playday, that's not Silver quality, any longer!  And to make it more personal, after the break, Barb asked for topics or issues that the advisors thought the girls might like to pursue.  We posted these around the room, and each advisor went to one and worked with their group to first, write down resources that they might consider pursuing for information and/or partnership on their project.

We came back together and reported back. Then broke into groups to have the group pick JUST ONE resource and choose JUST ONE possible project that could be addressed, and how that might look. 
There was engaged and energetic discussion about the root issue could be addressed.  Several groups reported back, one with a really good task list, another with a really good division of labor among the team members.  And finally, the last one to share had a topic that really didn't have an issue to address; it was just a fun thing to do!  But it didn't benefit anyone, or fill a need in the community. What a great exercise for the girls to go through as well!  It could be that their first idea won't work, so they'll need to re-group and come up with another idea.

We talked about how to use the NEW Cadette Girl Guide as the reference for the Silver Award.  It's much better than the downloads off GSUSA, and it's IN the handbook that the girl will have for 3 years!  Both the girl and the advisor can refer back to it on a regular basis to keep on track.

Lesley ended the training with a reminder to reflect and celebrate!  When the girl(s) finish their project, let them enjoy the success, talk about what they could do better, and relish the fact that they took on a project that was tough, and they accomplished it!  They discovered a need, connected with others to make a change, and took action to make the change a reality.

That's mighty heady stuff, Maynard!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Get Started

 “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”
Samuel Jackson, actor and activist

“That’s too hard!” 
“I can’t do it!”icon
“So-and-so said that’ll never work!”
“I don’t know anyone there!”
“It’s raining!”
Many middle school girls are a combination of knowing things with dead certainty, and finding excuses to not apply themselves and start a project.  Many times, road blocks will be thrown up to put off starting something.  And that often works!  The girl might never start. Someone might do it for her….I hope it’s not you!

I think Mr. Jackson has it right, even if the girl can’t figure it all out ahead of time, she still needs to work with what she knows to start.  This is a great age to try new things and attempt leadership/projects/badges that might seem challenging.  Girl Scouts provides a place for these girls to experience safe failures.

I first heard that term a while ago, and not in conjunction with Girl Scouts.  But I think it fits really well into how we provide a safe space for girls.  We give them the opportunity to lead, work well with others and learn cooperatively.  If the girl(s) fail, they have friends/troop members/GS community to console them, prop them up and encourage them to start again.  It’s about learning. And it’s about growing.  Safely.

It’s about starting, failing and starting over.  And it’s about our supporting their efforts, encouraging their beginnings and celebrating their successes.  It’s also about our guiding them through a process, acting as resources, and offering them the chance to succeed. 

These girls can do it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Silver Award

The Silver Award is a BIG DEAL!  And it’s great preparation for The Gold Award Project, if it’s done well!  Truly, this is a perfect time for the adult to guide the girls to take action!  The new Leadership Model emphasizes raising the bar for all Silver Award Projects.

This is a BIG SHIFT.  The Silver Award Project is not just a community service project, making the world a better place for some people in the short-term.  It’s about making the world a better place for measurably more people and for a sustained period of time.

Taking Action involves identifying an issue, understanding the root cause and creating a project that is sustainable with an impact that is measurable. And there must be a global element:  talk about how the project could keep growing bigger in the future.

What is a Silver Award quality project?
Creating a Daisy Day Camp is not one.   The girl needs to look outside her troop/council.

Collecting blankets for the homeless. That’s a service project. What could make it a Silver quality Project?  Have the girl identify the root cause of the issue. (Lack of blankets is a result, not an issue.)  Map her community to see what organizations serve the homeless population and ask what the need is.  Perhaps there’s an education piece that can go along with collecting blankets?  Participation in a social services fair? Create a binder with instructions so that the organization can duplicate efforts in the future. Creating flyers of information. 

Collecting/making hats for neo-natal babies at CHOC.  A nice service project, but what’s the root issue? Poor pre-natal care?  Homeless/underserved women without information about how to carry full-term babies?  Have the conversation with the girl to create a project that’s sustainable. Perhaps training other girls how to sew the hats would be a piece.  The girl needs to talk with CHOC to identify the need and fill it, using her leadership!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's All About the Quality

“The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important.“
              - Martin Luther King,Jr.
I am a self-acknowledged fan of Dr. King, and I really like this quote as it may relate to the Gold and Silver Award Take Action Projects.  At Training, you've heard Karin, Lesley and me talk about how GSUSA is "raising the bar" on the standards for these two Awards.  Each award is supposed to be the hardest thing the girl will do at her level.

We advisors/project advisors/trainers need to help the girls look at the issue they want to address, and to critically think about what the need is in our community.  We need to help them identify a true need and create a plan to address that need.  This needs to be more than a collection project or something simple.  It needs to be bigger and more encompassing.

The quality of the work, the time the girl puts in and the leadership skills she uses and develops during the process are really critical here. This is a 
girl led process where the burden is directly on her shoulders!  We need to encourage her to find the Take Action Project that is meaningful, has quality and is within her scope to achieve.  It should  be difficult, and it should be a challenge!

For the Silver Award, this could be a single girl, or a small group of two or three girls who have come together around the same issue.  For the Gold, it's one girl alone.  You, her advisor, are there to support, cheerlead, provide resources and help her raise the bar and create a quality Take Action Project.  And NOT let her take the easy way out!

And when that bar is raised, good things happen: there is some longevity, but not necessarily something with a timeline attached to it!  Both the Gold and Silver Awards ask that the projects be sustainable.  There's no time attached to that, but it should certainly be beyond the immediate future.  At the Silver level, the girls also need to talk about and understand that global implications of their issue and their project.  At the Gold level, there might even be a way to provide for the project to global.  Or continue the talk about global implications, and talk about "what if" and other scenarios.

Dr. King believed that everyone has a voice, and that everyone can make a difference in the world. So do I. And so do your girls, I bet.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Who says Moms don't know best?

"My doctor told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother."
--Wilma Rudolph
American track and field athlete

You parents and leaders have enormous power over these Cadette girls. And I mean that in the best possible way.

You are their role models, among other things(!), and you are who these girls look to for advice, information and approval, whether they want to admit it or not.  You are the one that wants to keep them safe, and still encourage them to Discover the world around them.

If Wilma Rudolph's mom hadn't been so encouraging, so positive and so sure that her daughter could succeed, would Wilma have just accepted the doctor's decree, and sat in a wheelchair for the rest of her life?  It sounds like her Mom made certain that Wilma knew that SHE COULD DO IT!  The Mom couldn't do it for her, Wilma had to do it for herself.

Isn't that the role that we leaders/advisors/guides play in our girls' lives?  We are here to let them learn how to do it for themselves, how to work together and how to take a leadership role to make the world a better place. The more we let them, support them, the more they can do!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Self Esteem and Bullying

I was reading “Ask Amy” in the LA Times because the title was “Adults need to help bullied girl”.  She gave a great answer about how the 11 year old girl’s parents should jump right on the issue, and talk with her school.  And the school should get the bully’s parents involved as well.  She went on to say that the parents should “get her involved in activities to build and bolster her self-esteem…Girl Scouts, music and theatre will help her to feel more confident.”

She also said that “…friendship is an ideal antidote to bullying.  Help to foster friendships at and outside of school.”

She was right,  Girl Scouts would be perfect for this girl!  We say that one of the key things about having troop meetings and troop events is that we create a safe environment for our girls.  And this girl definitely needs to feel safe.  And she needs to build up her self-esteem.  Have confidence in herself and who she is.  A couple years of Girl Scouting, making new friends and establishing new relationships, earning some badges, taking a Journey like Amaze that talks about this subject, etc. and she will have a great chance to move forward with who she is going to become.

And maybe she’ll earn the Silver Award.  What an accomplishment!  To go from being a bullied 11 year old to a girl who will learn how to discover, connect and take action to make the world a better place.  Maybe her root issue to address will be bullying and how much it hurts.  Maybe she will search her community for what support is available for kids who are bullied.  And maybe she will find a way to share her story with others, teaching them the signs of bullying, and showing other girls where they can go for help.  And offering her Girl Scout experience as a pathway for others.

How would she make this sustainable?  Maybe she creates an interactive play that can go on the road to different schools?  And maybe she can script it so that others can perform it as well.  And she can use her leadership to make a difference. 

I hope the girl in the article found her way through this tough time, and that Girl Scouting helped play a positive role in her life.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Troop Meetings

I’ve heard some really great ideas at a Cadette Training class this year, and thought I’d start passing them on.  If they can work for you and your girls, GREAT!  And if not for now, maybe for later.

There was great discussion about how social these 6th and 7th graders are.  They want to be with their friends in the troop and they want to have fun.  These girls want to chat and compare notes.  But with only two troop meetings a month that are 2 hours long, they weren’t getting enough time to do it AND getting the work of the troop done.

The leader of one troop told us about how the girls voted to have their troop meetings on  Friday nights, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., I think.  (No Friday football games, yet!)  And once a month, they would add a dinner from 5:00-6:00, then have the meeting from 6 to 8, and THEN have an overnight. She said the girls knew this was the plan, and it motivated them to get their troop work done, so that they could have fun time.

It sounded like some Fridays everyone was asleep by 10, and others went into the midnight hours.  Regardless, all girls were picked up at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, so there was plenty of time for their soccer/baseball/swimming/you name it activities on the Saturday.

When I told this to one training class, they were stunned that someone would have a sleepover at their house every month.  Then someone said, but what if it was scheduled per year, and every/most parents knew they had it one time?  What if meetings in May were at one house, June in another, etc.?  That would loop the parents into participating with snack/food/meetings AND not put the burden on just the troop leader and her family.

Another said, maybe once a quarter?  Maybe not once a month?  Whatever works for your girls, I say!!!  Use the idea or don’t!  See what the girls want, and how it can work.

Change it up!  Keep it fresh! Ask the girls for their ideas, and go from there….