Friday, October 30, 2015

Disney World: Preparing Kiddos for EPCOT

Oh, Winter, with your gray skies, frigid temperatures, and slushy streets...our family always seems to need a little pick-me-up once we've made it through the holidays.  For several years, we have escaped to Orlando, Florida, spending a few days in warmer weather with Mickey Mouse.  Earlier this fall, I spent hours researching other vacation destinations, but it's difficult to try something new.  With Disney's Magical Express and complimentary resort transportation,  traveling is so easy.  I am thankful we never had to worry about lugging car seats and boosters through the airport when our girls were younger.  

I frequently refer to these wonderful blogs, forums, podcasts, and websites when planning a trip to Disney World (listed in alphabetical order):

There is an abundance of Disney-related information at your fingertips.  Why, then, am I writing about Disney World on a blog that was created to serve as an additional resource for Girl Scout leaders?  Two reasons:
  1. To share with others how I prepared my young daughters for their first trip to EPCOT. 
  2. To provide ideas that Girl Scout troops could possibly use for a Thinking Day celebration.
In our Service Unit's Thinking Day celebration, troops select a region to represent.  One year, a country is chosen.  The following year, a state is selected.  To educate other Scouts and their families about the respective area, troops create a booth and include games, crafts, and/or snacks that relate to the country or state they selected.  In this post, I will share what my daughters and I did as we prepared to "visit" different countries at EPCOTDepending on the ages of the Girl Scouts, the following ideas could easily be incorporated in plans for a troop's Thinking Day booth.  These ideas could also serve as a springboard for something more sophisticated for the older crew.

I chose four countries:  Norway, Mexico, Canada, and China.  My girls were 3 and 4-years-old at this time, so our lessons were short and sweet.  Each lesson began by finding Ohio and the EPCOT country on a globe.  We then became familiar with the country's flag.  With my girls sitting next to me, I did a quick online search for facts about the countries.  I shared fun tidbits I thought would peak their interest.  We made a craft that related to our discussion and ended with a themed but super-simple snack.

The girls glued cotton balls to a polar bear coloring sheet like this one before enjoying "antique snowshoe pretzels" (Snyder's of Hanover Butter Snaps Pretzels).  

After learning about Canadian wildlife, the girls made moose antlers.  They traced their hands on construction paper, cut them out, and taped them to the headband I measured for them.  Looks like we learned about Norway and Canada on the same day!  Since I already had an open bag of those "snowshoe" pretzels, I didn't have to come up with another snack.

Panda masks!  We used white cardstock and black construction paper to make these adorable masks.  I had them look at a picture of a panda bear before cutting out the black eye patches and nose.  We used a circle cutter to make the eye openings and ears.  Their favorite part of this lesson was watching a live feeding on Panda Cam.  While they enjoyed the live telecast, I quickly heated some store-bought egg rolls in the oven for our snack.

This was my favorite lesson!  The girls made ponchos by painting brown paper grocery bags.  I cut a hole in the bottom of the bag for their heads.  I made slits down both sides of the bag for their arms.  They painted the bags using bright colors.  When they were finishing the project, it was almost time for lunch.  I decided to make them black bean quesadillas to celebrate the end of our Mexican lesson.

While I will admit EPCOT proved to be a complete bore for these little ones that year, my husband and I were glad they were familiar with a few of the countries we visited during our trip.  In any case, we had fun learning!  It's important to point out that our girls (now ages 10 and 9) absolutely love EPCOT thanks to Agent P's World Showcase Adventure.  Thank you for reading, and have a magical day!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Glass Blowing

As our girls have gotten older, they have become involved in other extracurricular activities that demand a greater amount of their time than has been required in past years.  As we prepared for this year, we discovered some changes needed to be made to our schedule to retain the membership of our co-leaders and girls.  Instead of meeting twice a month as we have in previous years, we decided to schedule one activity a month this year.  These events will generally occur outside our typical meeting space.  Our sights were set on glassblowing in October.
Last week, our troop spent some time at Neusole Glassworks in Cincinnati.  We were scheduled for a two-hour hands-on demonstration.  Various classes and events are offered at the studio each month, and participants are required to be at least five years old.  Private hands-on demonstrations may be scheduled for groups of five or more participants.  We decided on the $15 (+ tax) hands-on demonstration that allowed each participant to make a flower.

It was quite easy to schedule a date and time with Neusole Glassworks, but it should be noted that I contacted them more than a month in advance.  I was able to speak with someone over the phone each time I called, and they corresponded via email rather quickly regarding questions I had about our appointment. I was given the option to pay in advance or upon our arrival.  They sent me an email with a link to their medical liability waivers so the families could sign the waiver prior to our event.  They also included a list of instructions to consider before the event:
  • wear 100% cotton and jeans (no spandex, polyester)
  • since it is really hot in the studio, a t-shirt is recommended
  • shorts or capris must be at least knee-length
  • wear gym shoes
  • long hair must be pulled back

When we arrived at Neusole Glassworks, we were greeted by Josh, one of the studio artists.  After collecting the liability waivers, we headed to the back of the studio where we met another artist named Josh.  As they described the process and tools they were using, they demonstrated the art of glassblowing by making a pumpkin.

We were given specific instructions to prevent being burned during the process.  I will refrain from describing the steps in the process--this is an art that simply need to be experienced.  These pictures have been included so readers can gain an appreciation of the experience and can formulate expectations of the visit.  

We were amazed to learn the temperature of the glass reaches 2000 degrees.  They are not kidding when they tell you the back room is hot!  Finished pieces are put in a "cool" oven that sits around 900 degrees.  This allows the temperature of the glass to decrease slowly, about 80 degrees every hour, to avoid cracking.  For this reason, finished pieces are available a week after they are made.  

While our event was scheduled for two hours, we were finished in about an hour.  Eleven participants had the opportunity to make a flower.  Since we had extra time before the girls were expected to be dropped off at home, we treated them to some ice cream.  What a sweet end to a great evening!

When I arrived at the studio to pick up our art, the flowers were labeled and individually wrapped in newspaper.  I didn't have to wait long at all as someone retrieved the flowers for me.  They even included the flower made during the demonstration!  These flowers are so beautiful.  So unique.  Just like the girls who made them!  

Many of our girls had enjoyed the evening so much, they grabbed handouts listing class descriptions and pricing in the hopes they could return with their families.  I would definitely return to the studio for another hands-on demonstration, and I would even be interested in registering for a class.  The hands-on demonstration makes for the perfect team-building event, an interesting activity for a birthday party, and a fun holiday party for coworkers, family, and friends.

Next month we are heading to Drake Planetarium where our Brownies will earn the Inventor and Home Scientist badges.  Hope you will check back soon!  Thank you for reading.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Craft: Holiday Pillows for Teachers and Leaders

As I've mentioned in previous posts, our daughters prefer to make gifts for their teachers for Christmas.  While visiting family friends for a long weekend, the kids learned to use a sewing machine to make pillows.  On the drive home, they announced that they wanted to make pillows to give as gifts this year.

Our local fabric store was having a huge sale that week, and we were also able to use a coupon for an additional 20% off any purchase.  My girls selected four different fabrics, and we asked for four yards of each.  We also purchased some soft Poly-Fil and a fabric pencil.  I provided supervision and a little assistance to my daughters (ages 10 and 9).  They were successful and had fun, so I thought I'd outline the process here.

1.  The girls used a measuring tape and the fabric pencil to mark 12"x12" squares on the fabric.

2. Placing right sides of the fabric together, they placed straight pins around the edges.

3.  Using a straight stitch on the sewing machine, they sewed three of the four sides together, about 1/4" from the side.  They sewed the fourth side, leaving about 3 inches open so they could stuff the pillow.

4.  They stuffed the pillows with Poly-Fil.  I didn't monitor the amount used, but the girls kept adding stuffing until the pillow felt "just right."

5.  They folded the edge of fabric along the open seam and pinned it before hand stitching the seam with clear thread.  They did need some help with this step.

6.  They used hemp twine to tie as a ribbon around the pillows, adding a homemade tag that reads, "Handmade for (Teacher's Name).  From (Child's Name).

The girls worked for three or four hours one afternoon and made 11 pillows.  There is enough fabric and Poly-Fil for about 5 more pillows.  Please note I already had thread, twine, and supplies to make the gift tags, so we only needed to purchase the fabric (4 yards) and Poly-Fil (2, 24 oz bags).  As I mentioned, we took advantage of a sale and a coupon, but when all was said and done, these pillows only cost $2.50 a piece to make.  The girls had fun using the sewing machine, and I think the teachers are going to love these pillows!  Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bake Sale and S'mores Fest

To kick off the school year, our principal allowed our troop to host a Bake Sale during Open House.  By holding the event prior to the the first day of school, we did not have to get permission from the School Board.  I did make sure to get permission from Council.  I was told they generally approve fundraisers if the girls are offering a product or service to the customers.  Our Council provided paperwork for us to distribute throughout the evening to girls interested in joining Girl Scouts.

Prior to the Bake Sale, we made some signs.  We also displayed photos from past troop events and activities on a large piece of poster board.  This allowed potential Girl Scouts to discover some opportunities they could have if they joined a troop. 

I asked the girls to each bake something to be sold at the Bake Sale (with an adult's supervision, of course).  If Brownies are working on the Snack badge, a Bake Sale easily satisfies Step 3: Try a Sweet Snack.  If Juniors are earning the Simple Meals badge, they can complete Step 4: Create a Delicious Dessert.  We had quite an array of sweet treats: Brookies, lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, rice krispie treats, and M&M cookies.  My favorite baked good might have been the cupcake that was inspired by the school's mascot.  The "Cougar Cupcake" was a vanilla cupcake topped with buttercream, filled with strawberry jam, and baked in a red cupcake liner to match the school colors.  The cougar paw was made with a mini Oreo cookie and four chocolate chips.  Super cute!

The girls earned over $130 in two hours!  This money will be combined with a portion of the profits from the 2016 Cookie Sale, and the girls will plant a garden this spring for veterans and their families staying at the Fisher House in Cincinnati.  


In early September, a neighboring Service Unit hosted a FREE S'mores Fest event at a nearby state park.  Several years ago, our Daisy troop attended a Council-sponsored S'mores Fest Recruitment Event at one of the Girl Scout campgrounds.  We had fun, so I registered our girls for this event.

Upon our arrival, the girls gathered in a circle to play an ice breaker.  Each girl was asked to say her name and tell the group what she brought to the picnic.  The item had to begin with the first letter of her name:  "My name is Laurie, and I brought lemonade."  Because there were some younger girls in attendance, each girl was only asked to say her own name, what she brought, the name of the person to her right, and what she brought.  If older girls are playing, it's fun to try to repeat the name and item for each person in the circle.

The girls were divided into three groups by troop, and they rotated through three different stations:  s'mores, songs, and games.  The older girls hosting the event had lists of games and songs, and our girls were asked to choose between two games or songs, depending on the station.  They had enough time to play a couple of games and sing a few of songs at these stations.  There were enough ingredients available to allow each girl to make two s'mores.

Getting Girl Scouts together from across the community was the goal of this S'mores Fest, but what a fun way to recruit and register girls!  If you are hosting your own S'mores Fest, you may consider having a registration table and paperwork available for girls interested in joining a troop.  Based on my observations, the success of this event is highly dependent on the weather, available shelter, the number of girls in attendance, and the number of volunteers willing to help.  Looking forward, if enough help is available, it might be fun to include a craft station.  Years ago, our girls made God's Eyes with lollipop sticks and yarn.  This could be relatively inexpensive to try at S'mores Fest, especially if the event is held outdoors.  Two small sticks can replace the lollipop sticks, and the host only has to provide the yarn.   

When the weather doesn't cooperate, the event could be held at a local civic center or church.  While roasting marshmallows over an open fire would not be possible in this situation, you can still provide a s'mores-inspired treat.  I invite you to check out this post for s'more mini cupcakes that would be perfect for an indoor event.  

This month our troop will be learning all about the art of glassblowing.  Please check back soon to read about the experience!