Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rolling Pretzels and Cutting Diamonds

Our Junior Girl Scouts decided they would like to earn the Simple Meals badge this year.  When a few of the younger sisters joined our troop this fall as Brownies, we encouraged them to work on their Snacks badge at the same time.  The steps for each badge conveniently complement each other. 

Simple Meals Step 1 is "Step Up Your Skills With a Pro."  The activities suggested for this step include visiting a restaurant, inviting a cook to our meeting, or touring a kitchen.  

Snacks Step 2 is "Make a Savory Snack."  The girls are asked to make their own restaurant snack, make a savory snack from a different country, or make a veggie face.

As I was flipping through the badge activity sets in the Junior and Brownies Girl's Guide to Girl Scouts, I remembered hearing positive feedback from another troop that had visited Auntie Anne's at the mall.  I quickly realized that scheduling an Auntie Anne's field trip would satisfy both of these steps!  While Auntie Anne's kitchen is arguably not the same as a typical restaurant kitchen, our girls did have a Cookie Exchange at Christmas.  They were asked to bake a holiday treat with an adult at home.  The girls became familiar with gadgets and equipment in their home kitchens through that experience.  

We scheduled the field trip during our typical meeting time.  (I would like to mention that I received an email from the company confirming the date of our field trip shortly after scheduling.  I was also contacted by phone the day before our trip to confirm.  A+ for their customer service!)  The program was set up at tables in the Food Court at the mall.  An Auntie Anne's representative began by presenting fun facts about pretzels.  We learned how pretzels were used by different people in different places at different times.  We also learned about Anne Beiler, the founder of Auntie Anne's.  Our girls enjoyed hearing about this successful female entrepreneur.  

After being shown two pretzel-twisting techniques, we were each given a piece of dough and allowed to try our hand at it.  It is much more difficult than it looks!  

When the girls had each successfully formed a pretzel, the practice dough was pitched in the trash.  Hands were washed.  Buttery, salty pretzels and sweet lemonade were passed out to each participant.  

Before we left, we were invited to tour the back room and kitchen area of the store.  That was a treat we were not expecting (probably because we have a relatively small group).  A great value for just $4 per person!

Our Juniors are also working on their Jeweler badge.  Step 1 is to "Get to Know the Tools of the Trade."  Visiting a jewelry store is listed as a suggested activity.  Since we were already going to be at the mall, I contacted Osterman Jewelers to see if one of their associates would be willing to talk with our troop.  They were excited to help.  The girls learned about the 4 C's of diamonds:  color, cut, clarity, and carat weight.  They were permitted to look in a light-directing viewer to see hearts and arrows in a diamond.  They were also shown a tool that allows jewelers to test a diamond's authenticity.  Our girls enjoyed looking at the birthstone jewelry the most. 

Mid-January proved to be the perfect time of year to schedule this field trip.  Mall traffic is low, and we are all suffering from a little cabin fever.  Thank you for reading!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Investiture and Rededication Ceremony

During our first meeting of 2015, we held an Investiture and Rededication Ceremony to welcome a new member into our troop.  "Investiture welcomes new members, girls or adults, into the Girl Scout family for the first time. Girls receive their Girl Scout, Girl Scout Brownie, or Girl Scout Daisy pin at this time."  "Rededication Ceremonies are an opportunity for girls and adults to renew their commitment to the Girl Scout Promise and Law."  It is suggested by Council that these ceremonies be held each year, and I read that many troops hold a joint Investiture and Rededication Ceremony in October, when the Girl Scout year begins.  I will admit that our older girls are in their fifth year as Girl Scouts, and this was only our second ceremony.  When our girls began their first year as Daisy Girl Scouts in kindergarten, we held an Investiture Ceremony.  You can read all about that sweet ceremony here.  

To begin our Investiture and Rededication Ceremony, I described the difference between the two types of ceremonies to the girls.  I explained the importance of the Girl Scout membership pin.  We welcomed the newest member into our troop.  I continued by reading the story of Juliette Gordon Low and her magnificent strand of pearls:

"In the early years of Girl Scouting Juliette Gordon Low, or Daisy as she was affectionately known, dedicated almost all of her personal assets to pay for the expenses of the movement. Her vision and passion for helping girls became self-sufficent, strong leaders was the moving force in her life; no sacrifice was too great for her girls.
Daisy owned a magnificent strand of pearls - one of her most cherished possessions. She loved her pearls; they were beautiful and quite valuable, and Daisy reserved them for special occasions.
By 1915, if the organization was to continue to grow, funds were desperately needed. To support the movement for another year, Daisy sold her exquisite pearls, once again putting the needs of the girls over her personal desires."

Each girl then had the opportunity to share what they would do to help others if they suddenly had a great deal of money.  (Side note:  At the suggestion of one of our co-leaders, I emailed our families a few days before the meeting and requested they ask the girls the following question:  "If you were given a lot of money, or if you sold something really valuable, or if you won the lottery, what would you do with that money to bless or help others?"  Asking this question in advance was brilliant (Thank you, Mandy!).  The girls had their answers prepared for the ceremony, and more importantly, it gave them an opportunity to talk about serious issues with their families.  We knew if we didn't give them time to consider their answers, we would have had blank stares and shrugging shoulders during the meeting).  As I mentioned in a previous post, children are natural helpers.  They have good hearts.  A few of the girls said they would use their money to help homeless people.  A couple of the girls mentioned giving the money to an animal protection organization.  One girl wanted to help children battling life-threatening illnesses by providing these children and their families a free Disney vacation through Give the Kids the World.  Another girl wanted to give her money to Friends of Bethany.

We gathered around the island in my kitchen for a candle ceremony:

ALL:  (Recite the Girl Scout Promise)  "On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country (leader lights one of three candles), to help people at all times (leader lights second of three candles), and to live by the Girl Scout Law."  (leader lights third of three candles).
ALL:  "I will do my best to be..." 
GIRL 1:  honest and fair
GIRL 2:  friendly and helpful
GIRL 3:  considerate and caring
GIRL 4:  courageous and strong
GIRL 5:  responsible for what I say and do, and to
GIRL 6:  respect myself and others
GIRL 7:  respect authority
GIRL 8:  use resources wisely
GIRL 9:  make the world a better place
GIRL 10:  and be a sister to every Girl Scout.
*Prior to the ceremony, we stuck one birthday candle in each cupcake.  When the girl read her Law component, she held her cupcake and tipped the candle into the flame of one of the candles lit by a leader.  (Thank you for that suggestion, Amy!) 
Once the candles were all lit, we sang the Girl Scout Law song.   

This ceremony lasted about 30 minutes because I first wanted to explain what was going to happen, what they needed to do, and the girls got in position.  Of course there are always a few giggles and sweet shenanigans... 

We spent the first half hour of our meeting reviewing for the Cookie Sale that starts January 9th in our area.  Check out this link to see how we prepared for the Cookie Sale when our girls were Daisies.  We spent the remaining half hour of the meeting completing the Energy Expert Patch Workbook from Consumers Energy.  We requested the free patches for our Brownies and Juniors last spring.  As of June 1, 2014, the free patch program is only available for Michigan residents.  The Brownie and Junior Workbooks are slightly different, but they were similar enough to complete together.  As we worked through the packet, we skipped a few activities and asked that they finish them at home.  When we began talking about conductors and insulators, the 4th graders got really excited.  They had been studying that unit in science class, and their test was scheduled for the following morning!  Overall, I think they enjoyed earning the Energy Expert patch.  Thank you for reading!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Service Project: Pillowcases

For Christmas this year, my parents registered our nine-year-old daughter for a kids' sewing class at our local Jo-ann Fabric and Craft Store.  The three-hour-long class was called Headtime StoryThe price of the class was originally $35, but my parents made the purchase during a sale when classes were half-price.  They also included a small gift card in the present to cover the expenses of the supplies required for the class.  I was pleased to see Headtime Story had a relatively short supply list:  
3/4 yard of a 44-45" wide fabric (or 1 1/4 yard of a 42-43" wide fabric)
1/3 yard of another fabric
1 spool of all-purpose thread (to match)

My daughter was also asked to provide the following supplies that we happened to already have at home:  sewing shears, seam ripper, straight pins with pearl heads, pin cushion, cloth tape measure, and a sewing machine.  We were told that class participants may reserve a sewing machine at the store's Guest Services if needed.  We received a 40% off coupon with the class registration, and she used this coupon to buy licensed M&M fabric.  The total cost of her supplies was $8.

On the day of the class, I returned to the store a little early so I could see my daughter in action.  She really enjoyed the class and immediately asked when she could make another pillowcase to give as a gift to a friend.

As we were leaving the store, I learned about the Tube Method for making pillowcases.  Apparently it is preferred by some sewers over using a traditional pillowcase pattern.  A woman in the store strongly suggested I watch this Tube Method Tutorial by the Missouri Star Quilt Company.  While watching the video, it immediately became clear that using the Tube Method to make a pillowcase is much quicker and easier than creating a pillowcase with a pattern as the kids did in the class.  That being said, I'm glad the the kids were taught to use a pattern in the class because that is a skill I wanted my daughter to learn.

As I learned more about making pillowcases, I discovered the American Patchwork and Quilting 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge

"American Patchwork & Quilting is challenging quilters, sewers and crafters to help (them) reach (their) goal of donating one million pillowcases to local charities.  Many charities can benefit from the donation of a pillowcase and the challenge gives you the opportunity to donate and make a difference in your community."
Of course, I naturally started thinking about how we could do this with our Girl Scout troop.  It would be a great service project, and it could satisfy a number of badge steps (For example, you could make it work for the Brownie Philanthropist badge or for Step 2 of the Junior Independence badge ).  American Patchwork and Quilting provides teaching tools and a list of suggested charities who accept donations of pillowcases like hospitals, shelters, and nursing homes.  I scrolled down the list to find Pillows of Hope here in Cincinnati.  They deliver donated pillowcases to children and teens at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. It is suggested that you "contact charities in your local area before donating to make sure they are accepting pillowcase donations and to understand any restrictions on care, laundering, etc."  I know this is a project our girls will be excited to try.  Once we figure out the logistics and have the girls make some pillowcases, I will post all about it.

In the meantime, I returned to Jo-Ann's and purchased enough fabric to make two pillowcases.  My total was $9.  I decided to make a pillowcase myself, using the Tube Method, to see how long it would take me.  While I have made a few pillowcase dresses like this one for my daughters, I do not consider myself to be a sewer.  It took me 30 minutes to make this pillowcase.  Keep in mind I was starting and stopping frequently to take pictures.  I know it's unnecessary to reinvent the wheel, but I thought it might be helpful to outline the steps from the Missouri Star Quilt Company tutorial here:

1.  Purchase the following fabric:
    27" (3/4 yard) of main fabric (hearts)
    9" for cuff fabric (zebra)
    2" for piping fabric (pink dots)
2.  Make sure to cut edges straight.  Cut off selvages.

3.  Fold the 9" fabric (zebra) and the 2" fabric (pink dots) in half.  Use an iron to press the crease.

4. Unfold the 9" fabric (zebra) and place it face up on a flat surface.  Place the 27" fabric (hearts) face up and on top of the 9" fabric (zebra). Line up the top edges.  Keep the 2" fabric (pink dots) folded in half.  Place it on top of the 27" fabric (hearts).  The cut edges of the 2" fabric (pink dots) should be lined up with the edges of the other two pieces of fabric (hearts and zebra).

5.  Roll up the 27" fabric (hearts) to expose the 9" fabric (zebra) beneath.  Gently bring the bottom edge of the 9" fabric (zebra) up to the top edges you carefully lined up in step 4.  Pin the fabric together to hold all the edges in place.  I put the pins every 4 to 5 inches.  Seemed to work well for me.

6.  Sew a straight stitch about 1/4" along the long edge of the fabric to make a tube.  Do not sew the ends!  (I left the painter's tape on my machine after my daughter's sewing class.  Made a great guide for me).
             7.  Reach inside the tube and pull out the rolled up fabric inside.

 8.  Lay fabric right-side up with the border at the top.  Fold it in half and line up the left and right edges.  Line up the piping pieces and the cuff fabric.  Pin to hold in place.  Sew a zig zag stitch across the top and down the side, leaving the cuff edge open.

Here is the finished pillowcase.  If you make a pillowcase and donate it, remember to update the pillowcase counter.  At the time this post was written, there have been 602,517 pillowcases donated!  Thank you for reading.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Service Project: Giving Families

While driving home from the grocery store a couple weeks ago, I happened to catch part of a radio interview with Beth Nowak, the founder of Giving Families"Giving Families is an educational resource providing parents and teachers with online opportunities and offline experiences designed to educate, engage, and empower children through shared moments of giving."  Their vision and mission is to help children realize they can make the world a better place.

For those of us who are involved with Girl Scouts, this sounds familiar.  In addition to earning badges and selling cookies, Girl Scouts are expected to complete service projects throughout the year.  Researchers have found that adults who volunteer 100 hours annually (one or two hours per week) experience positive physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.  The Corporation for National and Community Service found "a youth from a family where at least one parent volunteers is almost twice as likely to volunteer as a youth with no family members who volunteer – and nearly three times as likely to volunteer on a regular basis."

Before I go on, I must mention that I do not know Beth Nowak, nor do I have any affiliation with Giving Families.  I am not receiving compensation for my thoughts I am sharing here.  After hearing Beth's radio interview, I continued to think about the organization and how I wanted to share the Giving Families story on this blog.  

While bumping around the Giving Families website, I came across a link to Beth's TEDx talk titled "Helping Our Littlest Helpers."  If there is a special child in your life, it is worth your time to listen to her seventeen minute message.  I think it is also worth mentioning that Beth received the Girl Scouts Alumnae of Excellence Award as a Leader of Promise in November of 2013!  Here are some of the key points I heard during her TEDx talk:
  • Research shows that people who donate time or money regularly reported lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.  These individuals also reported higher levels of self-esteem and self-worth.  
  • Allan Luks introduced the term "Helper's High," referring to the feeling we get when we do something good. 
  • Children are natural helpers.  Consider that many children say they wish to be helpers when they grow up ("I want to be a fireman, police officer, doctor, or teacher," for example).  When influential adults (like parents, teachers, coaches...and I would like to add Girl Scout troop leaders to this list) provide instant gratification and constant recognition for every behavior, we are teaching the child that the reward is more important than the behavior they did to receive it.
Beth shared this story during her TEDx talk.
As a teacher and parent, Beth recognized her students' desire to be helpers.  She wanted to help them help others, and Giving Families was created.  The website offers a free newsletter.  There are also monthly and annual subscriptions available for purchase.  Subscribers receive Good Mail Challenges via Snail Mail.  For each subscription purchased, Giving Families helps children in foster care receive the challenges as well.  During her radio interview and TEDx talk, Beth described a couple of these challenges.  One was to decorate Valentines and distribute them to residents at a local nursing home.  The other suggested children visit a park and clean up before playing.  The challenges can be completed anytime, anywhere.  This is enticing, especially for families running back and forth from Scout meetings, church activities, band practice, and sporting events.

Sports have always been a big part of my life--as a youth, in the years I worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer, and now as a parent of young athletes.  Somewhere along the line I heard the poem "Little Eyes Upon You" (Author Unknown).  I love the end of the poem,
"There's a wide-eyed little fellow
who believes you're always right;
and his eyes are always opened,
and he watches day and night.

You are setting an example
every day in all you do;

For the little boy who's waiting
to grow up to be just like you."
Coach John Wooden said, "The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching."  As we begin a new year, many of us will adopt a healthier diet and set fitness goals.  We know there are little eyes upon us.  I encourage you to exercise your giving heart in 2015.  Your actions may inspire others to do good when no one is watching.  We'll be on our way to making the world a better place.  Thanks for reading!