Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Let the Girl Lead!

I was thinking about the last Silver Award Training I was a part of, and it was a great session!  Great conversation and really good questions for the training team.

Karin and Lesley handed out a page that talked about the Volunteer Silver Award Advisor's Role, and I thought I'd share some of that here.  As you all know, with the Journey requirements, the Silver Award Take Action Project is limited to not more than 3 or 4 girls working together.  That is part of the "raising of the bar" to give each girl the opportunity to have a leadership role in her project.  So how do you help the girls do this?

Be open to change and present the changes positively. "Oh no, we HAVE to do it this way," is not the same as,  "what a great opportunity to look at the issue this way."  We're the models for these girls on how they're going to move through not only this project, but life itself!

Let the girl lead.  Easier said than done, I know!!!  As we say in training, how do you know you're letting it be girl led?  It's sloooow in the beginning!  But be patient, both you and the girls will reap the rewards in the end. Be sure that each girl is clear on what her responsibilities are, and when she is due to have them done.

Share the girls' stories; teach girls to be proud of their successes.  Absolutely!  The pride in your voice as you tell others about how well the girls are doing is palpable.  And in seeing how you share their trials, tribulations and successes, the girls will each learn to step up and talk with pride about their Silver Award Projects.

Stay up-to-date with resources.   These are middle school girls, and they are really learning how to look for information.  You can help them with potential resources, but they need to be the ones to follow up on the lead.  They need to use the skills they've developed in Scouting and on the Journeys to interview resources, ask questions, and then synthesize the information together.

Help girls evaluate and measure progress.  I doubt that this is the first time the girls have had to create a timeline, assign duties and work together! (Pretty much all of you have done overnight camping!)   But if you (or past leaders/adults) have not yet fully embraced the Leadership Essentials Program, now is the time to do it!  The GIRLS need to discover, connect and take action, and they need to do it in a girl led, cooperative learning, learn by doing environment.  And they can do it!  You may need to prod a bit, or haul out the timeline/goal list for them in the beginning, but once it becomes the norm, they can do it on their own.

Expect quality Take Action Projects.  Don't you OR the girls settle for ho-hum.  This should be a challenge for the girls. There needs to be a reach, achievable, but not a walk in the park.

And celebrate successes!  Attagirls and warm fuzzies go a long way to encourage girls.  Plus it shows that you recognize that they've done a good job.  And there's nothing wrong with that!  Let them figure out ways to celebrate their successes with each other.

Never forget to have fun! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dive Deep into the Issue

"Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to find it."
Niels Bohr, Danish physicist

This is where I say, START WITH THE ROOT CAUSE!  (Not the project!)

Scientists are known for looking for big things in tiny places. The cure for cancer, the cure for AIDS and HIV, the cure for Downs Syndrome - all of these cures will probably come from the tiniest gene, the most microscopic genome.  And just that one identification will lead to huge changes about how we eradicate these diseases.

For our Silver Award girls, aren't we asking them to look hard at an issue? To understand it?  To see how it impacts more than just a small audience?  Aren't we asking them to force themselves to dive deep and find a meaningful solution?  (Okay, maybe not the cure for cancer!)

But maybe a way to reduce bullying in their schools?  Or maybe a way to educate students about sports injuries? Or maybe an avenue to make social justice books more available to all students?  We have girls in the pipeline both as Silver Award AND as Gold Award girls who are diving into these issues right now.  For the Silver Award, it will be less than a Gold Project, but still robust and comprehensive!  Still Taking Action to make the world a better place.

More than just collecting pieces.  More than just getting together at a troop meeting and making a 'thing'.  More than a 'build something' project.  More than having a one-time event/party for a cause.

It's about finding a solution, or a path to a solution.  Let's get these girls to THINK BIG and WORK HARD TOGETHER to make a difference in the world.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness"
James Thurber
American author and cartoonist

Sounds like community mapping to me!  We ask the girls to look around in their community.  To be aware of what's going on around them.  To boldly go.....(sorry, wrong blog...)

And these girls can be fearless!  Ready to tackle an issue head on.  But first they need to stop and identify their issue.  THEN gather the information, and be aware of what's going on around them.  Awareness can be as simple as seeing a homeless person on the street, then seeing a dog and young child sitting at the side of the road, waiting for their parent to panhandle enough money to buy some food.
And awareness can come from watching a documentary about plastic bags and injured sea birds.  Or a YouTube video about a youth living with HIV.  Or reading a biography about Aimee Semple McPherson, Emmeline Pankhurst or Eleanor Roosevelt. It can also come from reading the daily paper - online or in newsprint.  

It's about the girl being open to what's around her.  To look at what's going on around her with fresh, open eyes.  

We did a community mapping exercise at a training, and I commented that there were no service shelters on the map (homeless, food banks, etc.)  And one girl told me, "we didn't need a shelter, because we live in a nice place, and MIssion Viejo doesn't have domestic violence."  I tried not to preach as we spent about 10 minutes talking as a group about what's in a community, but behind closed doors. Or just not talked about.  Or just brushed under the rug. Or what we see, but don't recognize as a problem/issue.

Those girls left with a new awareness.  I don't know if it led to a Take Action Project, but I can hope that it did lead them to look a bit more closely at the community they live in.  And to Take Action to make the world a better place where they live.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Silver Award - Another View

I’m still thinking about the Silver Award, but this time from the adult perspective….

What is your adult role?  What should you be doing to support your girls as they get ready for their Silver Award work?

First, take the Silver Award Training Class offered by Council.  This will provide you with some great information as well as a chance to chat with some other advisors.

Second,encourage the girl to think critically and outside the box.  Binkys for babies, neo-natal caps for preemies and Daisy Play Days are not sufficient projects on their own!  Work with the girls to start on page one of the new Silver Guidelines (in their NEW Cadette Girl Guide).  Don’t start with the end, start with identifying the issue and working from there.

Third, cheerlead!  Support her work.  Encourage her thought process.  Provide assistance as asked, but really put it back on the girl to go find the answers.  You can help locate the resources, but then back away, and let the girls do the exploring.

She might get stuck!  Answer her questions or help her find those who can provide the information.  You might suggest avenues that she might not be aware of, and you can help her to access these new pathways.

And finally, you are her troop leader, and while you can certainly take the training and act as her advisor, I would also encourage the girl to identify an advisor for her project.  Perhaps there is a troop parent who can take the training and act as the advisor?  Or perhaps this is something that your co-leader would want to take on as her job?  And truly, if only a few of your girls want to earn the Silver, having an outside advisor could work really well.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Wow!  It's too bad that everyone couldn't see how much fun those girls had over the weekend!  I watched as Cadettes girls loaded camping gear in, set up tents, lashed their dishwash station, put up the flagpole and more with the help of their advisors and some parents.  Some bellyaching, but for the most part, happy and productive, doing it on their own!  Teaching others how to do something. Helping neighboring troops.  Getting all caught up in the Musical Merriment theme of the weekend.

It was great!  These girls, some vets and some newbies, were doin' it for themselves!  They were well prepped, well trained and ready to go.  I loved it!  They came to have fun, participate, stay up late and sleep in (wishful thinking) before their events of the morning kicked in.

I saw some of the scores from the skills and fun games, and most were above average.  Most of the girls knew what they were doing and did it well.  Was it perfect?  No, but pretty darn good!  Were there hovering leaders/parents? Sure, but they were in the minority.  There were more leaders sitting in a chair in the shade, watching, taking pictures and acting as the safe place to leave "stuff" than there were leaders directing girls. And the girls did well!

Watching the all-camp contest in the afternoon was just a hoot!  Some had props, costumes, musical instruments, and scripts.  I couldn't get "It's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A...." tune out of my head.  Especially when the lyrics were "Girl Scouts is fun in troop sixteen-0-3...." 

And who put on this fabulous event?  Who was out there in their red shirts 3 days in a row?  The Seniors, who used to be Cadettes themselves, and who were now in charge of running and scoring the skills events.  Sure, we adults were on the committee too, but I have to say, Ginger and I said, "let's check with The Ashleys" more than we decided for ourselves.  And "The Ashleys" did a great job communicating with the other red hats, working with the camp staff to be sure everyone did their jobs.

What great role models for our Cadettes to see! And as Sami said with great pride, "next year I get to be a red hat."  She's had three years of Cadette-O-Rama as a Cadette, and she can hardly wait to be a Red Hat for four more years, as a Senior.  What great modeling and progression. These girls CAN DO IT ALL!!