Monday, February 22, 2016

Craft: Melted Crayon Art, Bridging Gifts

This spring, our Brownies will bridge to Junior Girl Scouts, and our Juniors will bridge to Cadettes.  The girls voted not to include a ceremony or skit in the celebration, and they did not want to invite their families to join us.  But we are doing something special to mark the occasion--I don't want to announce our plans just yet.  In the past, I have put together small Bridging gifts for our girls to mark our time together.  When our Daisies bridged to Brownies, I gave them a wooden plaque.  When the Brownies bridged to Juniors, I decorated and filled a Fry Box for the occasion.  With our Bridging event scheduled this month, I spent some time brainstorming and remembered a melted crayon art project I made last yearFinding this project to be quick and easy, I thought I'd share my method here.

This 3-pack of canvas panels can be found at Walmart for $2.77.  Over the years, I have accumulated many supplies and I often struggle to close my craft closet door.  This project requires crayons and a heat gun. Since these items are stored in said closet, I only had to purchase the canvas panels.  This craft cost less than $1.50 each, including the personalized gift bag.

Lightly sketch the initial in the bottom right corner of the canvas.  The use of a stencil or a Cricut may be helpful for those who may not wish to freehand.

Paint the letter.  I applied three coats to achieve the desired coverage.  Outline the letter with a black Sharpie.  Of course, a paint pen or brush and paint would work as well.  I prefer to use a permanent marker.
Choose the crayons you wish to use and arrange them as you so desire.  I found some six-inch tongue depressors in the craft closet.  Using a hot glue gun, I glued a 1/2" tip of one tongue depressor to the end of the other.  Glue the crayons to the wood.  Having this handle allowed me to hold the crayons easily while reducing the risk of burning my hand.

Cover your work area.  Apply painter's tape to protect the painted initial.  Prop the canvas up so the melted wax will drip.  Try not to allow the wax to flow onto the painter's tape by tipping the canvas horizontally.  My daughters helped with this part of the project.

NOTE:  The "e" canvas was created using the steps detailed above.  For the "B" canvas, I still covered the lower right hand corner with painter's tape, but I melted the crayons before painting the letter in the available space.  I think this latter method created a better finished product.  Please note I share two of the best panels here.

Using a black Sharpie, I wrote "Your true colors are beautiful like a rainbow" on the back of each canvas.  Below the quote I listed our troop number and the year.

I popped the canvas into a personalized gift bag.  My husband has coached our daughters' t-ball, softball, and basketball teams.  At the end of the season, he writes an encouraging note to each of his players.  Following his lead, I will write a note to each girl and slide it into the bag before heading out to our Bridging event.  I hope you'll check back with us soon.  Thank you for reading!

Brownie Badge: Home Scientist

When our older girls were first year Brownies, they earned the Home Scientist badge.  The other troop leader and I conducted the experiments during our time together in our typical meeting place.  Prior to the meeting, we selected one experiment to do for each of the five badge steps.  After reciting the Girl Scout Promise and saying the Pledge of Allegiance, we completed these experiments, finishing early.  Knowing we had extra time, the girls asked to try some of the other experiments.  Thankfully we had many of the supplies on hand, and we only had to purchase a few items for the experiments chosen.  For us, this was a relatively inexpensive and easy badge to earn.

Last week, our younger girls had the opportunity to earn this badge.  I decided to change it up since the older girls would also be in attendance.  It was a fun meeting, so I thought I would share our ideas here.  Please note that we finished all the activities listed in this post in about an hour.  We spent the remaining time decorating more cards for veterans and their families at the Fisher House.

STEP 1:  Be a kitchen chemist.   
Growing rock candy is one of the choices provided to complete this step.  Since we performed this experiment the first time around, I decided to use rock candy as a springboard for discussion.
Here is the information I presented our girls (ages 8 to 11):
  • Sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets.
  • There are many different forms of sugar:  powdered sugar, granulated sugar, sugar cubes, rock candy, liquid sugar (simple syrup).  I showed the girls samples and explained that certain recipes call for sugar in a specific form.  Substituting a different form of sugar may not produce the desired result.
  • Another name for sugar is sucrose.
  • Sucrose is made by combining glucose and fructose (simple sugars found in fruit).
  • Since sucrose is made by adding other sugars together, it is a complex sugar.
  • The simple sugar glucose is comprised of 6 carbon atoms, 6 oxygen atoms, and 12 hydrogen atoms.  
  • Because glucose contains carbon, it is an organic compound.
  • Organic compounds are necessary for life, and many of our foods are comprised of organic compounds.  
  • Cells use organic compounds to produce energy.  
After this brief lesson, our girls built sugar molecules (glucose), using gumdrops and toothpicks.  I discovered this activity in the booklet for my daughter's Candy Chemistry set.  Due to limitations on the use of copywrited works, I used a molecular model set to illustrate the steps instead of posting the picture from the booklet.  

Prior to the meeting, I sorted gumdrops by color and placed 6 of one color, 6 of a second color, and 12 of a third color in a plastic baggie for each girl.  

The letters C (carbon), O (oxygen), and H (hydrogen) were written on mini post-it notes.  The girls sorted their gumdrops into piles and labeled the piles using these post-its.  This is highly recommended since they will all be working with different colored candies.                                                                                                              

Step 1:
Begin by connecting 5 carbon atoms with one oxygen atom in a hexagonal arrangement.                                                                     

Step 2:
Starting at the red (in this case) oxygen atom, move one carbon atom to the left.  Connect the 6th carbon atom here.

NOTE:  In successive steps, I will instruct you to begin at this (red) oxygen atom.

Step 3:
Working off to the side, connect each of the five remaining oxygen atoms with one hydrogen atom to form hydroxl groups.  Please excuse this picture because I accidentally included six hydroxl groups. 

Stick a toothpick in each of the six remaining gumdrops representing hydrogen.

Step 4: 
Turn your molecule so the (red) oxygen atom is at the top (away from you).  Move one carbon atom to the left in the hexagon and attach one hydrogen atom.  Then move to the carbon atom added in Step 2 and connect one hydroxl group and two hydrogen atoms.

Step 5:
Moving to the next carbon atom in your hexagon, attach one hydroxl group and one hydrogen atom to the carbon atom.  Repeat for the next three carbon atoms, each one receiving a hydroxl group and a hydrogen.

While this lesson is quite advanced for kids this age, our girls seemed to grasp the concepts.  The younger girls needed a little assistance building their models, but the older girls managed without too much trouble.  When questions were asked during this time, we made sure the girls turned the model so the oxygen atom was at the top (Step 1 above).  Directing them from that point seemed easiest for us. 
STEP 2:  Create static electricity.
We made pepper dance and talked about how it works, using the badge booklet as a guide.

STEP 3:  Dive into density.
We made raisins dance.  Once again, we talked about what happens, using the badge booklet as a guide.

STEP 4:   Make something bubble up.


The soda geyser is always a favorite!  We've done it twice with our troop, and I know a couple of science teachers do it for the science classes at school.  

My older daughter received a volcano kit for Christmas one year.  She had fun building it, and making it erupt by combining vinegar and baking soda.  We incorporated a volcanic eruption into our Home Scientist badge steps.

STEP 5:  Play with science.
A couple years ago, a family member gave my younger daughter Snap Circuits Jr. KitShe built a circuit for this meeting.  When the circuit was closed, a light would shine brightly.  We related this concept to the Girl Scout Friendship Squeeze.  If we all hold hands, and I start the squeeze, it will be passed around the circle and return to me.  This is an example of a closed circuit.  If I start the squeeze and our coleader drops someone's hand, the squeeze will stop at her.  The circuit is not closed.  Many of the girls had learned about circuits at school, so this was a good review.  This simple demonstration helped illustrate this concept for the girls who have not yet learned about circuits.

While flipping through the Candy Chemistry handbook, I came across an idea for candy circuit boards.  Prior to the meeting, I spread green frosting over the top of graham crackers.  We provided chocolate bars, peanut butter squares, gumdrops, mini peanut butter cups, gumdrops, Necco wafers, Life Savers, and Pull 'n' Peel Twizzlers.  Our girls had so much fun constructing their boards, using the picture from the Candy Chemistry handbook as a guide. 

Whether you schedule a Home Scientist badge program through a local museum, or guide the girls through the steps in the booklet, or try something outside the box, this is a really fun badge to help your girls earn.  Thank you for reading!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Disney World: Scavenger Hunts and Special Surprises

After talking with friends about some of the special Disney moments my husband and I have created for our girls over the years, I was inspired to share the inexpensive ideas with readers here.  While this is a blog that was created for Girl Scouts Leaders, I know troop leaders plan family vacations and road trips too.  In this post, I will detail two scavenger hunts and a special surprise that will help create magical moments for the precious little ones in your life.  Not going to Disney?  That's okay.  Modify these ideas to fit your vacation or road trip destination.  I hope your kids enjoy these activities and surprises as much as our girls do!

Scavenger Hunts
1.  We visit Disney World in January, when the rates and crowds (and unfortunately the temperatures) are at their lowest.  One Christmas, we decided to create a scavenger hunt to tell the girls about our upcoming trip.
Hint #1:
The day is closer than you think
It's time to make a chain of links...
"Why?" you wonder.  "I need a clue."
Go look inside your sparkly shoe.  

Hint #2:
We'll travel by plane but not by car.
No way we'd drive, it's way too far.*   
Still need help?  Another hint?
Look on the tree--think peppermint.
(The next clue was taped to a candy cane). 
Hint #3:
Pack your bags and don't forget
Act like a princess, you'll be all set.
Your nails we'll paint, your hair we'll curl...
We're on our way to Disney World!
*My husband and I accrue Delta SkyMiles with our American Express credit card which makes flying to Florida much more affordable.  I know many, many people drive to Disney, so I wrote an additional hint that can be substituted for Hint #2 above:
Alternative Hint #2:
Get your crayons, and grab your books. 
The drive is further than it looks. 
Still need help?  Another hint?
Look on the tree--think peppermint.
2.  The year our girls were in 3rd and 1st grade, my husband and I secretly planned a trip to Disney World.  Instead of shrieking and squealing when the surprise was revealed as we had expected, the girls worried about missing school and upsetting their teachers.  My husband and I agreed surprising them was more work for us, and we wouldn't try it again.  That being said, I've heard many success stories.  I'd love for you to share yours!  My advice is to be prepared for anything.
Hint #1: 
We have something for you.
This is going to be fun.
Go look on the washer...
Please walk.  Do not run.
*My husband and I put the box of Magic Bands on the washing machine with the second clue. 

Hint #2:
You will find a sweet treat
that was made just for you.
Go look where we eat...        
SURPRISE!!! We have so much to do! 
*They saw this sign on the kitchen table next to a plate of Mickey Mouse-shaped chocolate chip pancakes (We just added two smaller circles to the larger circle of batter).
 Special Surprises
Tinker Bell visits our house before we leave for Disney World, and she happens to stop in our hotel room while we're in the parks.  Prior to the trip, I hit Walgreens and Dollar Tree to pick up a couple cute items to give the girls from Tinker Bell.   When they were younger and didn't recognize my writing, I would handwrite a little note for each gift and leave it on the table when we were on our way out the door.  As they've grown, I've started typing the notes.  When we return to the room, they discover a small surprise.  I don't do this every day. This makes it more magical because they don't know when she might stop by.  From personal experience, I will say visits from Tinker Bell are still fun even if your kids no longer believe in magic.

Examples of Special Surprises:
  • gum in a fun flavor they don't get on a regular basis
  • character sunglasses
  • sparkly headbands
  • ring pops*
  • animal crackers* 
  • Disney PEZ dispenser 
  • Princess toothbrushes
  • Princess or Mickey activity book for the airplane or car ride (Dollar Tree) 
  • glow sticks (Dollar Tree)
*I have seen Disney Princess ring pops at several stores in the past.

*This year I found the cutest boxes of animal crackers at Walgreens that would be a perfect snack for a visit to Animal Kingdom.  

Examples of Notes from Tinker Bell:
  • GUM (the morning we leave):  "I was so excited to learn you were coming to Disney World!  I thought you might enjoy this little treat, especially when you are on the airplane.  I know my ears pop when I fly to Neverland.  Travel safely.  We'll see ya real soon!  --Tink"
  • DARTH VADER PEZ DISPENSER:  "Welcome to Disney World!  I understand you went to Hollywood Studios today.  I heard you rode Star Tours for the very first time.  WOW!  I hope you enjoyed it.  Here's a little momento to help you remember the thrill of that experience.  And may the force be with you!  --Tink"
  • ANIMAL CRACKERS (pictured above):  "Enjoy these cute animal crackers if you get hungry while you're waiting in line for the Lion King show at Animal Kingdom today.  I love the safaris!  Make sure to take some pictures of the animals, and hold on tight!  --Tink"
  • GLOW STICKS:  "You’re heading to Magic Kingdom today!  Make sure to watch for me in the Electrical Parade.  I’ll see you if you’re wearing one of these glow sticks.  Have a magical day!  --Tink" 
These ideas can be modified to fit any trip whether you're traveling to Disney, going to the beach, staying in a cabin in the woods, or spending one night away from home.  Have boys?  Instead of Tinker Bell, maybe Spiderman leaves him something special.  I don't spend a lot of money on these gifts.  In fact, I often try to find something the girls can share.  Sure, it might take a few minutes to come up with the scavenger hunt hints or the gift notes, but that is fun for me.  I hope you have fun with it too.  Enjoy your time together!  Have a magical day!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Disney World: Paper Chains and Polish Parties

There is an overwhelming amount of information available to people planning a Disney vacation.  Websites, forums, and blogs are literally at your fingertips, providing important tips and suggestions to ensure visitors have a magical experience.  I have consulted many of these online resources when planning our past trips to Disney World.  While researching all the options for their first trips to The Happiest Place on Earth, several friends of ours have asked me a few questions about the planning process and preparing for the trip.  When they were receptive to my ideas, I decided to post them hereWhile this is a blog that was created for Girl Scouts Leaders, I know troop leaders plan family vacations and road trips too.  Not going to Disney?  That's okay.  Modify these ideas to fit your vacation or road trip destination.  I hope your kids enjoy these activities and surprises as much as our girls do!

Paper Chains

"How many more days?!"When are we leaving?!"  
For many parents, the days leading up to a greatly-anticipated time away from home can feel like forever.  To help manage the excitement, we make paper chains to count down the days until we leave.  When the girls were younger, we wrote numbers on the brightly colored links which was good practice for both of them--recognizing colors, writing their numbers, and using scissors.  We drew three black circles for Mickey heads all over the paper links, and I drew fun shapes like balloons and ice cream cones for them to color.  Once the construction paper was decorated, I drew lines and helped the girls cut along the strips.  We used a small piece of tape to fasten each link onto the chain.  As the girls have grown, they've been drawing characters and writing names of their favorite rides on the links.  

A link is removed every morning.  Since it's fun to take a link off the chain, the girls need to take turns.  To prevent arguments, we have a system--my older daughter was born on an even date while my younger daughter was born on an odd date.  The kids look at the calendar when they forget whose turn it is.  This system has worked for us in many different situations over the years!

Quick tips to help prepare little ones for the airport:
  • Borrow a book from the library to show kids what they might see and experience at the airport.  Richard Scarry's A Day at the Airport is a great choice.  This book will help them develop an understanding about what is going to happen at the airport and why.  You will be able to reference the book and remind them of related pages when answering questions like, "Why is this taking so long?" 
  • Practice going through airport security in the comfort of your own home.   Our girls were 3 and 4 years old when we did this the first time.  I pushed them around our kitchen in the double stroller, and we pretended we were in the airport.  When we reached the kitchen island, we were at the security check.  The girls got out of the stroller and practiced taking off their coats and shoes, helping me arrange them in a neat pile which I explained would be a bin at the airport.  After listening to me review what would happen from start to finish in airport security, they would then help grab their coats and shoes, moving swiftly with us to a bench where my husband and I could help them.  Spending just a little time practicing with them made getting to the gate so much easier for everyone involved.
NOTE:  We recently flew from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to the Orlando International Airport, and the procedures at security were different at each airport.  My husband and I don't fly regularly, so I thought I should warn readers like us to keep this in mind when traveling.
Polish Parties

The second time we took the girls to Disney World, we had a Polish Party a couple of days before our trip.  My husband and I let the girls pick out some fingernail polish, and we painted their nails.  Back then we could get away with something sparkly.  Now that I've exposed them to Pinterest...enough said, right?  I still try to steer them toward a design I know I can do--like the 101 Dalmatian-inspired nails here. (Do you see the hidden Mickey?)

Once their nails are dry, we enjoy a Princess Parfait--yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit layered in a juice glass.  Nothing too special or out of the ordinary.  It's all in the name and presentation, folks.  

I invite you to read this post I published to describe how I prepared our girls for their first trip to EPCOT.  Even if you're not planning a trip to this park, these lessons are a fun way to expose kids to other countries.  Want to surprise your kids before your vacation?  Check back soon and I'll show you how.  Thank you for reading, and have a magical day!