Monday, September 23, 2013

Brownie Badge: Letterboxer

I had never heard of letterboxing until our Brownie troop voted to work on the letterboxer badge this year.  While the Brownie Girl's Guide to Girl Scouts provided some information about letterboxing, I decided to do a quick online search to learn about it in more detail.  These two websites were incredibly helpful: and  Wikipedia defines letterboxing as "an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art, and puzzle solving. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places (like parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, on one of several web sites, or by word of mouth. Individual letterboxes usually contain a notebook and a rubber stamp. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox's stamp, either on their personal notebook or on a postcard, and leave an impression of their personal stamp on the letterbox's 'visitors' book' or 'logbook' — as proof of having found the box and letting other letterboxers know who has visited. "  In this post, I will describe how our troop chose to complete the five steps required to earn the Brownie letterboxer badge.  We finished Steps 1, 2, and 3 during our first meeting.  Steps 4 and 5 were completed during the following meeting.

Step 1:   To get started, I described letterboxing to the girls.  We reviewed some basic letterboxing terminology because this game has a special language of its own.  We discussed how they could search for letterbox clues by bumping around the websites (mentioned above) with parental supervision.  We reviewed what supplies they would need before setting out to find a letterbox.  The girls then worked together to brainstorm 10 different hiding places for a letterbox.  Two of my favorite suggestions included hiding a letterbox in an empty bird's nest or burying the letterbox in a sandbox.  

Step 2:  The girls had the opportunity to make their own stamp.  There is a fantastic tutorial on that shows how to carve a stamp out of an art gum eraser.  We decided to make our stamps by using the lids from orange juice containers and adhesive foam squares.  The girls were each given two 2.5" foam squares that had been cut prior to the meeting.  They were instructed to peel the backing off one of the squares and to adhere that square to the top of the second square to give the stamp some thickness.  We asked the girls to flip the foam square over and draw a shape on the paper backing.  Some of the shapes included a heart, a star, and a Mickey Mouse head.  They cut out their foam stamp.  After peeling off the paper backing, they pressed the adhesive side onto the orange juice lid.  Once the stamps were assembled, the girls each decorated a personal record book that was constructed prior to the meeting.  I cut white cardstock into a 4.5"x9" rectangle that I folded in half vertically to make a 4.5" square cover.  I then cut white cardstock into 4" squares, adding three squares of paper to each cover.  I punched two holes along the folded edge of the cover through all of the sheets of paper.  I used yarn to tie the book together.  The girls used Brownie stickers, markers, and crayons to decorate their books.
Step 3:  The Brownie Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting provides several different ways to practice solving clues for the letterboxer badge.  The girls loved creating a number code clue.  For example, letter A corresponds to 1, B to 2, C to 3, and so on.  The girls are given the numbers, and they have to figure out what the word is.  For example, "16, 1, 18, 11" is "park."  There is an activity on page 5 of this badge outline that the girls worked on individually.  They really enjoyed completing this step. 

Step 4:  This step was by far the troop favorite.  We leaders went online and searched for some letterboxes in our area.  We decided on two letterboxes that were not far from each other.  We went out a couple of days prior to the meeting to make sure the boxes were active.  I typed out the clues to find these letterboxes so that each girl in the troop would have a chance to read a clue and lead the troop closer to the hidden letterbox.  
At both locations, each girl took a turn leaving an impression of her own stamp in the letterbox logbook and then pressing the letterbox stamp into her personal record book.

Step 5:  Once the girls returned the letterboxes to the spot exactly as they had found them, we headed to a nearby park to hide our troop letterbox.  The letterbox included a logbook, a store-bought stamp, and a pen.  Here are photos of the items we hid.  Each girl took a turn writing one clue that others could follow to find the hidden letterbox.  We posted the clue on 

The girls asked if we could go on another hunt again sometime.  As they left the meeting, we provided a clue to an additional letterbox in our area, hoping they would continue searching for letterboxes with their families.  This is a fun hobby for people of all ages and groups of all sizes.  I would love to hear about your adventures.  Thank you for reading!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Team Banner: I Can't Wait to...

While on our first camping overnight last year, our troop worked on the Girl Scout Way badge.  To fulfill one of the badge requirements, the girls made a team banner.  The girls each traced their hand print, cut it out, and decorated it with crayons.  We glued these colorful hand prints to a piece of white poster board.  The team banner has been displayed during many of our meetings.

In early August, I attended a Fall Kick-Off Meeting at our Council Office.  I learned the theme for the Girl Scout membership campaign this year is "I Can't Wait to be a Girl Scout."  I came up with an idea that would not only tie this campaign in with our team banner, but it would serve as a good ice breaker during our first meeting.  At this point, I must provide some context:

Last spring, we asked the girls in our troop to vote on the badges they would like to work on during their second year as Brownies.  We gave the girls a handout to take home to review the badge names and a brief description of the requirements for each badge.  They were asked to mark down the badges that interested them and to indicate their top three favorites with a "1," "2," and "3" in the margin of the paper.  The girls turned in their papers before the end of the school year, giving us (the leaders) a good deal of time to prepare for this school year.  Please note that these girls have been together in the same troop for the past three years.  When a new girl joins the troop, we provide many opportunities for her to voice her opinions and vote when our troop needs to make decisions throughout the year.

To begin the first meeting of this school year, we had the girls read a list of all the badges, service projects, and events they had voted upon last spring.  Each girl was given a small slip of paper that read "I can't wait to..." across the top.  They were instructed to write something they are excited to do this year.  It had to be related to Girl Scouts, but they were allowed to write down an idea that was not listed on the paper.  We glued the papers to the hand prints. We are pleased with the result.  (Please excuse the white spots on the photo.  I wanted to respect the privacy of those in our troop). 

Whether or not your girls are Brownies working on the Girl Scout Way badge, making a team banner can be a great way to get your troop working together right from the start.  Maybe you have the girls share what they can't wait to do this year as a Girl Scout?  Maybe you choose a different question to break the ice?  The team banner can serve as a visual reminder that the girls don't have to be best friends outside of troop activities, but they are Girl Scout sisters.  They must respect and encourage each other.  They are there to support each other when and if someone needs a helping hand.   Thank you for reading!