Leading & Teaching Girls New Skills

Recycling is a great project for Girl Scout’s to undertake and a delight to teach.  The foundation is education about the importance of being good stewards of the earth. From there leaders have a smorgasbord of activities to reinforce the learning.  The trick is to develop an attitude of fun with the necessity of recycling.   Here are some free online environmental resources to build a strong foundation and spark the imagination.

Recycle City (http://www.epa.gov/recyclecity/) was created by the EPA.  In addition to basic recycling information, it contains a game which highlights the importance of recycling.

Benefits-of-Recycling (www.benefits-of-recycling.com) provides good basic information about recycling.  It includes information about the need to recycle, directions for what to recycle, and how to get started.

Earth Buddies (http://library.thinkquest.org/06aug/00442/index1.htm ) is a website sponsored by S.E.E.K. created by students for students. In addition to educational and activity components, this group issues a challenge and provides tools to become earth friendly.

Earth Day Network (www.earthday.org) is a wealth of information.  It contains a footprint calculator which measures an individual’s impact on the earth.

One of best sites is The Imagination Factory (www.kid-at-art.com).  This site is where recycling meets art.  It is fun, educational, and inspiring.  It includes a Scout Badge Matcher which helps connect projects to particular Girl Scout Badges and a Trash Matcher which connects throw away materials with a project.

These are rich resources which will help Scout leaders find interesting and fun ways to teach and to do recycling.  Happy Recycling!!!

Girl Scouts love to create!  One fun way to tap into that creativity and work on problems solving skills at the same time is by doing a recycling craft bonanza.  It is so simple!  Just provide the girl scouts with a variety of items that are headed for the trash along with scissors, tape, glue, and string.  Let them decide what they are going to make and how to do it.

The adult role in this project is to help problem solve being very careful to let the girl scout be in charge of the creation.  When asked you will offer suggestions or show a process or technique so the girl scout can complete the creation as independently as possible.

Here are some things which might be provided for the Recycling Craft Bonanza:

From the house:

plastic lids all sizes, shapes, and colors

old greeting cards

card board rolls from toilet paper, paper towels, and aluminum foil

old puzzle pieces

parts from old games

pieces of yarn or fibers

old fabric

small boxes

empty salt and oatmeal containers

empty small plastic containers like yogurt or single serving fruit containers

packing materials like foam or cardboard

drinking straws

CD’s and DVD’s

old magazines

From outside:

pinecones

sticks

feathers

seed pods

acorns, walnuts, and  buckeyes

bird seed

Once they get the idea, girl scouts will build amazing creations with the discarded parts.  It is sometimes hard for girl scout adults not to take control of the process.  It is more helpful to everyone if the girl scout adult makes a creation alongside the girl scouts.

Now that your girls have researched some of the problems caused by air pollution, it time to get them focused on a solution.  One of the easiest places to start is their own homes.  First, have each girl test the air quality in their home by using poster board squares smeared with petroleum jelly placed in several places in the home.  Let them sit for a week, and then use a magnifying glass to count the particles that have accumulated on the square to get a good idea of the level of particulate matter.

Have the girls brainstorm ways to improve their own indoor air quality and create a checklist that they can use to implement the changes.  Some ideas are: keep floors clean; vacuum often and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter; mop after vacuuming to keep down dust and leave shoes at the front door; keep humidity at 30-50% to keep down mold and dust allergens; and make the home a no-smoking zone.  The girls can use these ideas, or ones they have come up with.

Do a re-test of the home in two weeks.  Set out the poster board squares with petroleum jelly and let sit for a week then recount the particulate matter.  Have the girls record and discuss their observations.

Another great way to teach the girls about air quality is to do an experiment which provides them a very visual snapshot of the air they breathe.  You will need white poster board, scissors, petroleum jelly, string, hole punch, magnifying glass, permanent marker and a journal.

Have the girls decide on five areas where they would like to test the air.  This can be inside a home, in a yard, or at another location outside (with permission from the property owner).  Then cut the poster board into five squares and draw a slightly smaller square inside with permanent marker.  Number each square.  Punch holes in the poster board, thread the string through and hang up the squares in the testing areas, making sure to record which number corresponds to which area.   Lastly, smear the inside of the smaller square with petroleum jelly.

In a week, collect the squares and using a magnifying glass, count the number of particles that you find in each of the petroleum jelly covered areas.  Record your observations.

Have the girls discuss their reactions to the number of particles in the air they breathe and determine what problems breathing in these particles might result in.  After they discuss their results, they are ready to move on to the next step in the journey: finding a solution.

In the Cadette journey series, the Cadettes focus on the importance of clean, breathable air and learn the science behind air quality and the impact of air pollution on all aspects of our environment.  A great experiment to teach the girls about the hazards and effects of acid rain, a byproduct of a polluted atmosphere, is to produce your own acid rain on a small scale.

Acid rain refers to a mixture of wet or dry deposited materials from the atmosphere that contain higher than normal amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel combustion.  Most acid rain in the U.S. results from electric power generation.  When mixed with rain in the atmosphere, these chemicals form a dilute solution of sulfuric and nitric acid that falls to earth.

To see how acid rain affects local plant life, have the girls purchase five pairs of fast growing plants that are indigenous to your local community.  Sprinkle one of each pair with plain water each day and the other with vinegar or lemon juice (which represents acid rain).  Observe the pairs of plants every day and record observations in a journal, then draw conclusions on the effects of acid rain based on the results.

Some pertinent questions the girls can ask are : What effect does acid rain have on the environment?  What does it do to plants and ecosystems? How does acid rain affect us?  And finally, the girls can begin working on the  most important question:  What can we do to limit or even stop it?

Ah, the dog days of summer. Along with the heat comes that dreaded phrase “There’s nothing to do!”  Keep your Girl Scouts out of the summer doldrums this year by developing a Summer Activities guide that can keep them busy and active all summer long.  The best part is that the girls themselves get to create the guide, so it will be filled with things that they absolutely love to do!

On one of your last meetings before the summer, host a sleepover, barbecue, or day at the park or pool to gather the girls together in an informal, fun atmosphere.  Break down your group in to teams of two or three girls and assign them each two to three summer activities to add to the list.  Whenever a team comes up with an activity, they can write it on a piece of paper or a dry erase board so that it is “taken”.  At the end of the party, copy down all of the ideas and make sure each girl gets a copy to take home with her over the summer.

Make sure that each girl has a list of everyone’s addresses and phone numbers and challenge the girls to “conquer” at least two activities on the list with at least one other girl in the troop.  That way, not only do the girls have a great resource for summer activities, but they are prompted to keep in touch with one another during the break.

WOW! The Final Step

The end of the Wonders of Water journey is reached when the girls earn the WOW! Award that represents the lasting change they have brought to their community.  They earn this award through discussion of their SHARE efforts — they can read some of the water promises guests made, show slides of the meeting, or create charts and other visual aids that describe how their outreach impacted the community.  Encourage the girls to discuss individual participation and how each girl contributed to the overall project.  It is important that the girls recognize the value of individual AND teamwork in the completion of their journey.

In this grand finale, the girls can take pride in the leadership they have shown throughout their journey and in how their work relates to Girl Scout Law.

One of the many benefits of taking a Brownie journey is the sense of accomplishment and confidence the girls feel after learning, growing and sharing their skills and education with others.  A great lesson to take from this is that the journey never really ends — learning and growth can continue for a lifetime and so can leadership and advocacy for change!