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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? 

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!

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