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Girl Scout Traditions: Juliette Gordon Low Birthday

Every year kids celebrate October 31st with candy, costumes, and pumpkins. Why not add some Girl Scout fun to your day in honor of our founder Juliette Gordon Low‘s birthday? A true visionary, Juliette brought girls of all backgrounds into the out-of-doors, encouraged them to prepare not only for traditional homemaking, but also for possible future roles as professional women—in the arts, sciences and business—and for active citizenship outside the home. Over 100 years later her vision has grown from the original 18 girls to 3.7 million today, with more than 59 million girls, women and men who have belonged to Girl Scouts over the years.

Juliette started a movement that changed the world and that is the legacy we celebrate on her birthday. Not sure how to celebrate? Here are some great ideas to get you started!

1. Stand on your head! We’re not kidding. One of Juliette’s special skills was standing on her head. She stood on her head every year on her birthday to prove she still could do it, and also celebrated nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays by standing on her head. Once, she even stood on her head in the board room at National Headquarters to show off the new Girl Scout shoes.

Juliette's Pearls SWAP2.Check out these birthday celebration ideas from Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. They have songs, crafts, stories, ceremonies, and many more ways to celebrate this important day.

3. Search Pinterest for Juliette Low birthday ideas.

4. Make a SWAP of Juliette’s Pearls to remind girls of the personal sacrifices she made to ensure Girl Scouts continued to grow.

5. Follow her lead and Do a good turn for your community.

Check out our national website or the Girl Scout Way badges in your age level’s Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting for more history and traditions.  What are you waiting for? Let’s get this party started!Brownie Girl Scout Way Badge

Imagine a World Where No One Is Worried About the Way They Look!

Can you imagine a world where girls grow up with the confidence to be themselves? We can!  Help us start a World Wide Beauty RevolutionThis is the vision that drove Girl Scouts of Western Ohio and nine other Girl Scout councils to partner with Dove and Girl Scouts of the USA to launch Free Being Me, a leadership initiative focused on helping girls ages 7-14 better understand global definitions of beauty, define beauty for themselves and boost their self-confidence in the process.

Free Being Me has been co-created by GSUSA and the Dove Self Esteem Project for Girl Scouts and is designed to improve girls’ body confidence in a fun and interactive way. The activities have been informed by world-leading research in body confidence and are a direct extension of the It’s Your Story-Tell It! Journey. Troops can choose to participate in Free Being Me activities on their own or as a part of completing the Journey.  All girls who participate can receive the Free Being Me patch – at no cost, just by completing the online program evaluation and turning in the troop participation form to their regional office before December 15, 2014. The evaluation form, full curriculum packets, and more information can be found on our website under Free Being Me.

Free Being Me

After our council launched the program last winter we recognized that the large curriculum packets, while full of wonderful activities and ideas for inspiring body confidence in girls, were cumbersome to print and wade through for our troop leaders. To help with that we created two shortened activity packets (only 6-8 pages), one for 7-10 year olds and one for 11-14 year olds, that fulfill the patch requirements. Already completed the patch activities? Share your story with the world in the Free Being Me Stories Archive.

So what are you waiting for? Start a beauty revolution with your troop today! 

Free Being Me Cartwheel


The End of Bullying Begins with Me!

Any woman who can remember the exact words someone said years ago that made her feel small and weak knows the old adage “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is wrong. Words can hurt forever and “relational aggression” or hurting one another emotionally rather than physically through things like manipulation, exclusion, taunting, gossiping, cliques, cyber bullying, and toxic friendships can spread deep roots that influence our behavior decades later.

October is National Bullying Prevention month and Girl Scouts across the country are raising awareness of this issue and empowering girls to recognize when bullying occurs and to stand up for themselves and others. It doesn’t have to be like this!

So how do we help our girls navigate this maze of relationships and bully behaviors? How do we build a generation of girls who are willing to take a stand? The first step to stopping these behaviors is knowledge. Have your girls take these online quizzes: Test Your Bullying IQ and Test Your Relational Aggression IQ and then discuss with them their answers, reactions to the statistics, and what they think will make a difference in their school. Challenge them to be open, honest, and supportive with one another during the discussion.

Then seek out resources to help give girls (and parents) the tools that they need to take that stand. The Cadette Journey aMAZE: The Twists and Turns of Getting Along is a great resource for helping girls navigate friendships, social circles, and other bullying behaviors they may encounter. It has tips, tools, and resources for both girls and adults to help them become strong advocates for themselves and others. GSUSA has also created an additional resource for aMAZE called BFF: Be a Friend First that has been used very successfully in schools across our council and the nation. Check out these videos below to see what girls and school administrators are saying about BFF and its impact in their community.

For more information contact your regional Girl Scout office or attend our upcoming aMAZE! Journey Retreat November 7-9th, 2014 (see Ebiz for more details). Also PBS Parents has a great list of recommendations for Helping Middle Schoolers Navigate their Social Lives that can also be modified for younger girls because while these bullying behaviors are more prevalent in middle school, the beginnings of the “mean girl” behaviors can be seen in younger girls. Let’s help our girls be the generation that stands up to bullying!

After the Take Action: What Comes Next?

It’s Service September here at the GSWO blog and we’re rounding out our 5 steps to the ultimate Take Action project with tips for wrapping up your project through reflection and demonstration.

Step 4: Reflection

The purpose of this step is to help girls think deeply about the issues, attitudes, and connections they encountered during their project. This can be done during and directly after steps 1 (Inventory and Investigation), 2 (Preparation and Planning), and 3 (Action) of the project. How? There are so many ways! Reflection can be more formal through surveying the organization or community that your project impacted or it can be very informal such as leading a discussion with the girls, community volunteers, and anyone else involved in the project.  The purpose of this discussion is to encourage them to provide feedback on the project, its impact, and the Take Action/Service Learning process itself. This can also be done more individually by encouraging the girls to keep a journal during the project, create a piece of art that illustrates their feelings about the process. You could also ask members of the community who were helped for their feedback and share it with the girls. Make sure that you’re evaluating the entire process and not just the effectiveness of the project itself. Take Action projects generate a lot of growth and confidence in young girls and you want them to be able to articulate and internalize the personal gains they made in their leadership skills as a result of the actual project.

Step 5: Demonstration

This is the step that we often call “celebration” because it’s the fun and final step. This is where the girls get to tell others what they’ve done: all the skills they used and learned during their service experience, describe what happened, examine the difference it made, and demonstrate their success to others using research, collected data, or first person stories. If they’re earning an award for their project, a final ceremony or court of awards makes a great official ending celebration. Not sure how to plan those? A web search for Girl Scout ceremonies will give you ideas or check out Girl Scouts” Heart of New Jersey’s collection for inspiration. Many local papers and news stations are constantly searching for positive human interest stories so don’t be afraid to contact your local news to see if they’d be interested in interviewing the girls about their project. Your community deserves to know what its youth are up to and the girls will adore being local “celebrities” when their story airs. Check out this Dallas troop’s Take Action project interview and see how they combined their demonstration with a call to action to inspire others in their community to give blood and make an impact. Then start planning your own Take Action project!


Preparing to serve the Girl Scout Way!

Now that you’ve identified your community problem and its root cause through Community Mapping and investigation it’s time to brainstorm ways to help with that problem, find community members to collaborate, and put together a plan of action. This is step 2 of service learning and its the step where the girls’ innovation, creativity, and community contacts come into play.

Discuss with the girls possible ideas for making an impact on your chosen community need. Remind them that making an impact doesn’t necessarily mean they have to completely fix the problem, but that through their efforts the need has been lessened and their project will have a sustainable impact. Not sure what that means? Check out our post Service or Take Action for a more detailed explanation.

Your project could make a global impact:

Or it could be a simple public education piece to increase community awareness:

No problem is too big if the girls are passionate about it and committed to finding people to help them make a difference. Adults should help the girls choose the idea that is most feasible given their budget (for money-earning tips and guidelines check out Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts’ Money-Earning 101), time frame, and the girls’ abilities but be sure not to limit them. It’s amazing what girls can do when they’re determined! This is where all of the interviews, research on how other communities have tackled this problem, and their list of community resources from stage 1 will come in very handy. This step may also include developing a common vision, timelines for success, a project budget , or whatever method makes the most sense to your troop for keeping them on track to complete the project in the time available. Once the planning is done, you’ve hit step 3:Take Action! Stay tuned for our September of service blog arc wrap up next week for tips on steps 4 and 5: reflection and demonstration.

Stepping Up Your Take Action Project with Community Mapping!

There are 5 important steps in any Take Action project. Not sure what they are? They’re actually the Five Stages of Service Learning: inventory and investigation, preparation and planning, action, reflection and demonstration! Like every great journey (and project), that first step is frequently the hardest part. After all, there are so many needs in the community that narrowing it down to one community issue can be daunting. So how do you start investigating? Try making a community map with your troop.

What’s a community map? A community map is a drawing or a list that shows the community’s needs and resources, including contacts that might help the girls when working on a Take Action project. Here’s how to make one: have girls draw a picture of their community. Include resources such as the library, animal shelters, parks department, and more. Don’t forget to include parents, friends, and the girls themselves under resources. If your group is having a hard time visualizing their community take a walk around your neighborhood to get ideas.

Next have the girls think about issues or problems in their community. You can have girls ask their parents, check the local newspaper, and watch the news for ideas and bring them to the next meeting.The problems girls find may be small or large. Some examples may include: an old unsafe playground at the local park, many stray cats that don’t have a home, nothing for teens to do on the weekend, bullies at school, etc.

Use the map to choose a project issue based on the girls’ interests and abilities. Research the issue using a variety of sources like interviewing people, reading books and articles, finding professional and community organizations online and in the community involved in this issue. Create an in-depth profile of the issue, underlying factors that contribute to it, and how the organizations/individuals in the community are currently working to impact the problem. You can even create a community asset map just for that issue. Check out this example of a map created by the Early Childhood Research & Practice Journal showing possible assets to address early literacy and school readiness:

Example Community Map-early Literary and School Readiness

Feeling ready for step 2? Tune in next week for tips on the next step: preparation and planning.


Is this Service or Take Action: The Basic 411.

Is our project a Take Action project or a service project? What’s the difference? These questions come up frequently from both volunteers and girls who are delving into the Journeys and highest awards and exploring how they can make a difference in their community. Service has a very simple definition “a helpful act” [Merriam-Webster's dictionary]. Community service projects are frequently organized for the community to help them with a specific and short-term need.  Coordinating a food drive for the local food pantry is a great example of a community service project. It addresses the very specific need that food pantry has for goods and it’s impact is short term as the shelves will likely be empty again in a few weeks and another food drive will be needed to refill them.  This project in partnership with the food pantry would be a great way for CSA girls to earn their Community Service Bars but it’s not a Take Action project.

A Take Action project picks up where that short-term fix of the service project leaves off with these three essential elements; it identifies the root cause of that community need, it has long term benefits, and sustainable community support. Check out this Take Action Workshop outline created by Girl Scouts Heart of the South for a really in-depth look at the definition of Take Action and how to move from a service project to a Take Action project. Remember the most essential difference is that Take Action projects do something WITH the community to meet a need while service projects do something FOR a community.  So for our example community need from above (hungry people) a solution could be to approach community organizations about establishing a community garden for the food pantry and creating a “simple tips to growing your own food” pamphlet with seeds to distribute to food pantry customers to enable them to grow their own food in the future. This project directly involves those who will benefit from it in meeting the need, has a long term-plan, and the community organization sponsoring it will ensure that it continues past when the Girl Scouts who began it have moved on. So does the difference between Service and Take Action make sense now? We hope so. Now that you understand the basics, stay tuned for our next blog entry where we delve deeper into the essential steps (hint: there are 5) to an effective Take Action project. So what will your next Take Action project be? 


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