Show. No. Fear.

A few years ago, my mom and I saw a toddler having a tantrum about leaving an outdoor tourist attraction at closing time. She wanted to walk–NO she wanted to be carried–NO she wanted to ride in the wagon–NO she wanted to shriek and thrash in the gravel!!! This went on and on and on while her parents hovered over her, saying tentatively, “Honey? Wouldn’t you like to maybe ride in the wagon?” As we passed, my mom said to them, cheerfully but firmly, “Show. No. Fear.” She told me she knew it wouldn’t be helpful to get more involved than that, but she hoped that that phrase, which had been her mantra in dealing with toddlers, would help them take charge.

Now that I have a young child myself, I’m understanding better what she meant: Read more…

Menu Selection System

Here is one way for Girl Scouts (or any other group) to agree on what meals to have at camp or some other occasion.  I’ve used it twice, with great success.

First, have the girls brainstorm menu ideas.  Then, between meetings, leaders sort out the ideas that are affordable and feasible for the cooking equipment, budget, and time available, narrowing it down to two options for each meal.  (If you have been with the same troop for a while and have a good sense of what they like to eat and what kinds of cooking they like to do, you can skip the brainstorming part.)

Write the two possible menus for each meal on a sheet of scrap paper: one option on the left, one on the right.  Tape these sheets on the wall in a stack such that one meal at a time is visible.

Present the choices for one meal.  Call on girls for “discussion”, which means statements based on something other than their personal tastes, for example, “Cereal would be easier to clean up than eggs.”  Girls need to raise their hands and listen to the one who has the floor.

After discussion, girls vote.  Tear the paper in half, put the winning choice in your binder, and put the losing choice in the trash.  If girls are evenly split, leaders cast the deciding votes.

Thirty Reasons Why Women Should Have the Vote

In the late 1970s, my mother was advocating ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and one of her organizations decided to make the editorial below part of the program they presented to other women’s groups.  It is adapted from an editorial in a suffragist newspaper published in Garnett, Kansas, in the era when women were fighting for the right to vote.  I guess the idea was to remind women of how far they’d come in the past century, commemorate the struggles of our foremothers, and be amusingly quaint.

They chose me to read this aloud because, at four years old, I was able to read these words (after some coaching on pronunciation and meaning) but still little enough to be cute and to fit into the old-fashioned dress and sunbonnet another woman in the group had made for her daughter several years earlier, and I wasn’t in full-day school so was available for these weekday events.  I don’t know how many times I presented it, but it must have been at least a dozen.  It was good practice in public speaking, and I learned a lot of history and vocabulary from my mother’s explanations of this text. Read more…

More about shyness

My mother just read my article on shyness and suggested a couple of additions.

One is an anecdote I’d never heard before:

At the last parent/teacher meeting of each elementary school year, your teachers confided how pleased they were that “Rebecca has finally started to come out of her shell.” Every year. They were so proud of their good influence. Knowing how calmly you could address a mass audience, I tried not to let my amazement show; and in later years as I kept hearing the same brag, I tried not to snort or contradict them. I knew you were okay, and blending into the wallpaper is a useful skill too. Read more…

Organizing Girl Scout Troop Information

This is by no means the only way to organize the paperwork for a Girl Scout troop!  It’s just the way I do it.  Apparently some people think I’m good at it, because I’ve been asked to give a presentation on the subject at an upcoming leaders’ workshop.  I hope this system is helpful to other leaders–try it out and adapt it to make it your own!  UPDATE: Six years after publishing this article and five years after ending (pausing?) my stint as a troop leader, I responded to Kim’s request (in the comments) by cleaning out my file cabinet and posting a few photos of specific forms.  Sorry I don’t have anything like complete visual documentation, but I hope the photos add some useful guidance!

The most important thing I’ve learned about organizing my records on individual girls is that putting the girls in alphabetical order by first name makes a lot of sense. Read more…

What Do You Reuse?

This question was posted on a discussion board recently.  Not only do I reuse many physical objects, but I can reuse the list I made for that discussion as an article on my own Website! 

I love reusing glass jars so much that my ravings on the subject got too long for this article and were moved to a new glass jar glorification article!  The same thing happened with scrap paper.

Glass juice bottles are wonderful, too. I snagged 7 of them during my big recycling project in 2002, and I’m still using them daily for juice to drink with my lunch at work.  Refilling them from a half-gallon pitcher mixed up from concentrate at home costs less than half as much as buying new single-serving bottles of juice.

We reuse various types of food containers to buy food from the bulk section Read more…

Some Word Games

On the way back from Fairfield to the Chicago train station, we stopped at an Iowa truckstop restaurant called Gramma’s Kitchen.  One of the puzzles on the children’s menu was this: “How many words can you make out of the letters in GRAMMA’S KITCHEN?”  I glanced idly at it and thought, gram . . . ram . . . am . . . mask . . . ask . . . skit . . . kit . . . it . . . itch . . . hen . . . and then I was hooked.  I grabbed a crayon and spent the rest of the meal covering the page with words.

Suddenly, a whole new vista of puzzling is open to me!  I can take any phrase and amuse myself for 40 minutes or so finding all the words in it.  It makes me feel so clever!  It’s probably good for my brain, too. Read more…

Calming Chaos in Girl Scout Troop Meetings

I can’t, by a long shot, claim to have solved the problem of a group of Girl Scouts (or anybody!) dissolving into chaos when everybody is excited, we’re trying to do one or more activities, there are various supplies and logistics to be coordinated, and/or there’s some type of distraction!  However, over my five years as a leader, I’ve learned a few tactics that sometimes help to stop the troop from spinning out of control: Read more…

Supermarket Field Trip

My Girl Scout troop did this activity with Brownies earning the Penny Power Try-It and Daisies earning the Make the World a Better Place petal.  It also would apply to several Junior badges that have an activity about caring for the needy, about nutrition, or about comparison shopping.

Divide into teams of 3-5 girls and 1 leader/parent.  Assign each team a general category of nonperishable food: canned vegetables, soup, boxed meals (mac&cheese, etc.), fruit juice.  Give each team $5 of troop money to spend.  Go to the supermarket.

Each team tries to get the best value for the money, considering both price and nutrition. Read more…

Consumer Taste Test

This educational activity is suitable for school or any type of youth (or even adult) group; I did it with Girl Scouts.  It is a great way to teach the principle that brand-name products aren’t necessarily any different from less expensive store brands.

Sometimes I add an activity to a Girl Scout badge, something that isn’t spelled out in the badge book but is thematically consistent and interesting.  I count it as one activity, along with the “official” ones, toward the total of four activities needed to complete a Brownie Try-It or six activities needed to complete a Junior badge.  I usually plan to do extra activities so that girls who miss a meeting still earn the badge.  We did this one as an added activity for the Penny Power Try-It:

Choose two kinds of food that are available in several brands and require minimal preparation. We picked O’s cereal and applesauce. Read more…

Girl Scout Troop Budgeting Process

This is one method for deciding how the troop will spend its money. I used it very successfully a few years ago with a Daisy/Brownie troop of 18 girls ages 5-9. Deciding how to spend the cookie sale profits is an activity for the Penny Power Try-It or Cookies Count badge.

First, in a troop meeting, brainstorm some things the girls would like to do that cost money and some things they’d like the troop to own (new crayons, a flag for ceremonies, etc.).

Between meetings, leaders research these things and determine what it would cost for the whole troop to do/own each one.

Take a bunch of sheets of paper that are blank on one side and fold each one in thirds. On the middle third of each sheet, write one activity and the cost.

Bring these to the next meeting, along with a set of play money from a Monopoly game or similar. Read more…