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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? 

It’s Your Community-Serve It!

Since 1912 the Girl Scout slogan has been “do a good turn daily” and if you totaled up the acts of service inspired by those words we are confident the final count would be in the millions. As Mahatma Gandhi says “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” and to encourage the servant’s heart in every girl we are hosting a council-wide weekend of service. Join us on October 10-12, 2014 for the first The Girl Scout Way: Take Action Weekend and help make a difference in your community! For younger troops this can be a great first step toward exploring their community and really learning about all of its needs and the organizations and individuals that work hard to meet those needs. Utilize the Take Action Planning List to ensure the girls are engaging in high-quality planning and really getting the most out of the experience. Talk to them about who they think needs help or what kind of service they would like to give that weekend and brainstorm places that might need volunteers such as the local parks department, a food bank, community garden, soup kitchen, or the animal shelter. Then, let the girls actually contact that organization, too, so that they really own that volunteering opportunity. Projects can be as simple or as elaborate as your troop has time and energy for; just don’t forget to Register Your Project and order your t-shirt by Friday September 19th, 2014 so that we can really measure the impact of this weekend as a council.GS Construction Picture

Community service is heavily integrated into the Girl Scout Leadership Experience but there are different types of service. Every Girl Scout Journey culminates in a Take Action project and the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards projects combines leadership with Take Action to create a community resource that showcases the leadership skills of the girls who earn the awards. What’s the difference between community service and a Take Action project? We’re so glad you asked. We’re devoting the next few blog posts to exploring this important topic. If your troop plans to work on a Journey Take Action project or one of our highest awards in the near future, stay tuned so you can help guide your girls through that process and they can come out on the other side with a quality project.

Planning Your Year the Girl Scout Way

Through Girl Scouts, girls can do anything. And with so many options, planning your year can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry, if you follow these simple steps and use our resources to help you and the girls it will take some of the stress out of this process.

1. Assemble Your Team: The first step to anything in Girl Scouts is putting together a team and exploring options. So make your first troop meeting a planning meeting, bring your Program Event Guide, badge books, and the important dates from page 4 of your Program Event Guide, spread them out and start flipping through and discussing with the girls what Girl Scout Journeys and Badges they would like to earn and what events/activities/trips they want to do. Need a basic outline before your troop customizes their year? Here are some great outlines complete with activities for earning badges and Journeys awards for the DaisyBrownie, and Junior levels. Don’t forget that troop parents have great connections and are great resources for guest speakers, badge workshop helpers and much more. Check out this post about Simple Ways to Transform Parent Engagement and start using those parental connections!

2. Prioritize: It is really important to teach the girls how to differentiate between things they “really want” to do and things that “would be fun if possible”. Make a list of all the things the girls want to do, then take a vote for the most popular, and choose the top 10 things to accomplish for the year from that list. Then tally up the next 10 most popular and those can be extra activities for the troop if one of their “really wants” doesn’t work out. Don’t forget to add trips into your badge and Journey activities. Need trip ideas? Here are some Popular Troop Trip Destinations.

3. Create a Budget: One of life’s great lessons is learning to live within a budget so after the girls make their plan have them start creating a budget to match that plan. Be sure to include proceeds from things like the Fall Sale and Cookie Program. Help the girls make the connection between their “plan” and the work that will go into obtaining the funds needed to make that plan a reality.

4.  Expect Change: Just as great novels go through many drafts before publishing, great troop plans will go through lots of edits before the year is done. Be ready, and prepare the girls too, for things to interfere or for unanticipated road blocks to occur. This is where that list of “would be fun if possible” comes in handy. If the trip to Savannah needs another year of fundraising to accomplish, maybe that shorter day trip to Cedar Point can happen this year. Having plans that span multi-years is a great way to build excitement and reinforce important life skills.

As Karen, a Girl Scout volunteer and alumna, says in this video: there are no limits when you’re a Girl Scout. What can’t you wait to do with your troop this year?


How to Build Leadership in Young Girls

Just a few weeks ago we discussed the importance of Growing Mentors the Girl Scout Way and how the Teen Mentoring Awards, specifically the Counselor in Training program at camp, helped a girl grow into a leadership role. And while camp and the CIT program are both awesome, not everyone can go to camp for that program and younger girls also make great mentors. So where else can we give girls opportunities to guide and teach others besides camp and Teen Mentoring Awards? And the answer is anywhere. As long as older girls are involved in the planning and the leading of the activities (from Brownies teaching daisies to make their first SWAP to ambassadors giving Cadettes tips on dutch oven cooking) and younger girls are actively participating mentoring is occurring.

Where does my troop start? Start by inviting others to mentor you! Younger girls need to see it, before they can do it. Brownies can invite a Cadette troop to help them with a Journey. The cadettes can earn their Leader In Action (LiA) award and the Brownies get a chance to learn and spend time with teenagers-a win-win for both groups.  Each of the Brownie Journeys Brownie QuestA World of GirlsWOW Wonders of Water contains a detailed description of the steps and also activity ideas that are needed to complete the award. Check out this link for an example of the steps from Brownie Quest LiA. Then pay it forward by helping a daisy troop Bridge to Brownie and start honing those mentoring skills.Brownie Quest LiA


When the troop bridges up to Juniors, remind them how much fun they had learning from the Cadettes and helping the Brownies bridge. Ask if they’d like to take the lead again as Junior Aides and help a younger troop. Girls will be excited when they realize they’re now the experts and can share their skills with younger scouts. You can even have the girls pick their favorite activities or badges from when they were Brownies and recycle those activities to use with the younger troop. Plus what Daisy and Brownie leader wouldn’t love having another troop help them plan activities for at least three meetings?

Junior Aide patch

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Help your girls take their first step toward becoming amazing mentors. Don’t forget to include guiding younger girls in your troop plans this year!

Fall program events are finally opening!

Fall is nearly here and we’re kicking off another year of adventure and we want YOU to join us! Fall program events open on Ebiz to all members registered for the 2014-2015 membership year on August 13th and early bird registrants received access to fall events on August 6th. While there are too many programs at too many council properties to mention them all, here are 10 upcoming programs we’re excited to offer this year:

1. Toledo Chef Program: Daisies through Juniors can jump into the world of healthy cooking with volunteers from Toledo GROWs at the Toledo Girl Scout Center; with Daisy Snack Attack, Know Bake Brownies, and Top Chef Junior there’s something for every level. CSA’s can be volunteers at program events and show off their skills. Check the program event guide for dates and times as there are multiple sessions for each program event.

2. Daisy Nature Day: a special day for a Daisy and her favorite adult that’s all about the outdoors! Games, hikes, crafts, songs and snack pack this day of adventure. With events planned for Woodhaven Program Center (Lima) and Camp Libbey (Defiance) this fall, then at the Dayton Girl Scout Center, and Pearson Metropark (Oregon) in spring there are plenty of chances for your daisy to explore the outdoors. Choose your favorite or register for them all!

3. aMAZE! Journey Retreat: Cadettes join us for this fun filled weekend (11/7/14-11/9/14) at Camp Butterworth (Maineville) that explores the maze of friendship and discover how to create peace together while earning your Peacemaker and Interact Journey Awards. Seniors can look forward to a Sow What? Journey Weekend at Camp Libbey in February.

4. Father/Daughter Adventure Day: an old favorite with new locations. Girls of all ages can join the fun as they explore the woods, create nature projects, hone your slingshot skills and more with your favorite male role model. We have a fall event at Camp Whip Poor Will (Morrow) in October and a spring session at Camp Libbey in April.

5. Rockets at the Museum: Brownies through Ambassadors can try their hand at building and launching their own rocket with the staff at Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta. With 2 events (11/8/14) scheduled we know your troop will have a blast.

6. Putting the “M” in STEM: Juniors join the Dayton staff as they focus on fun and exciting ways to use math to create things and solve problems. Need more STEM? Set your calendar for our November open date and sign up for Creative ContraptionsMake It Green, Math Puzzler, or Toledo’s Design It, Build It-Go STEM events.

7. View 360: CSA girls in the Finneytown area can earn their Girl Scout Community Service bar and learn about living with disabilities as they assist the Miracle Bowling League through this 6 session program series. The first training is in September and the league begins in October. If you miss out, sign up for their winter series beginning with a January training.

8. From Zen to Zumba: Seniors and Ambassadors will explore healthy living and stress release through Latin Zumba, yoga and meditation, as well as making delicious and healthy snacks and beverages at the Toledo Girl Scout Center (12/6/14). Stay tuned for more life skills events in 2015 on Woodworking and Carpentry.

9.  Robots, Robots, Robots: Juniors through Ambassadors can try their hand at building, programming and running a LEGO robot. Events are scheduled in all four regions throughout the year. If you miss one, register for the next!

10. Eco-Overnight: Juniors join us at Camp Libbey (10/18/14-10/19/14) for an amazing adventure out in the wilds of camp stalking critters, going color crazy, and creating the ultimate spider web. If you miss out on this overnight don’t despair, we have two more coming up at Woodhaven Program Center in February and at Camp Libbey again in April.

These are just a small taste of the many wonderful and sometimes wacky program events that are available this year. Further information about all of the program events we offer can be found in the Program Event Guide available at fall Kick-Off events and at fall Service Unit meetings. Start the fun, register for fall events now! Then don’t forget to mark your calendar for November 19th, 2014 when registration opens for winter and spring program events.



Growing mentors the Girl Scout Way

Can you recall someone who made you believe in yourself? Who took the time to really get to know your skills and values and then helped you accomplish a goal? Ask most successful adults how they got where they are today and they’ll tell stories of skill and determination, but almost always there will be someone who supported them and encouraged them to reach for that goal. This is mentoring at its best and it is what you as Girl Scout volunteers do every day for girls.

Sometimes as adults we forget that girls can be mentors too and that finding them opportunities to teach and guide the younger Girl Scouts is an essential part of building great leaders. How does a girl grow into a leader? The same way she gets to Carnegie Hall: practice. Where does she get a chance to practice? Girl Scouts. The Teen Mentoring Awards found in the CadetteSenior, and Ambassador Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting are all about practicing and honing your leadership skills in a safe and low pressure environment through teaching and guiding younger girls.

One of the great assets of the Teen Mentoring program is its insistence on meeting the girls where they are, with opportunities that interest them and take their readiness to lead into account. A great example is the Junior Counselor and CIT programs at camp. The camp staff recently revitalized and restructured the CIT program for 2014 summer camp to better coach the girls to become leaders at camp and not just attendees. One particular camper who trained to be a Junior Counselor found that she was not ready for the duties and expectations of that position. Rather than give up on the girl or send her home with a poor camp experience, the counselors met with her one on one and discussed what interested her, where her particular strengths lay, and what she was ready for as a leader. Through that process the girl concluded she was better suited for a CIT II position and with some coaching, she became a great asset, volunteering to lead songs and games and thoroughly enjoying her camp experience. By evaluating her as an individual and not just trying to fit her into the expectations of one program, the camp staff gained an invested leader for the younger campers and the girl learned that she can succeed at something and provide guidance to those younger than her. Camp prides itself on growing its campers into counselors and it is through success stories like this one that this metamorphosis happens. Girls who are mentored grow up to be great mentors and they do so by practicing those skills from a young age.

Think you have some troop members who are ready to start their mentoring journey? Watch this amazing video about the impact Girl Scouting had on some of its alumnae and then look in your 2014-2015 program event guide to find out how your troop can get started earning their Teen Mentoring Awards.




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