Goal Setting

As the year draws to a close, we are greeted with many things, such as holidays, snow, relaxation and much more! We are also greeted with the promise of brand-new year, a fresh start and a time to prepare for the upcoming year.   

While it can be easy to create a list of all the things we hope to change and do different, but we want to encourage you to take it a step further. It can be very hard to stick to our New Year’s Resolutions throughout the year. So, I think it is important to try by reflecting on the previous year first! When I start considering the things I want to change I first think about the past year and create a list of all the things I have learned. Traditionally, I will title my lists something like: “20 Things I Learned in 2020” because having a concrete number can be helpful to get your mind going! One thing to keep in mind is that not everything on your list needs to be serious, they can be fun too! An example from my list includes: “never underestimate the power of an adorable lunchbox”. Once you have reflected on the past year and created your list it makes setting goals easier and more meaningful.  

Once you have a few goals in mind it is important to look at them critically. Ask yourself: is this a realistic long-term goal I can stick to throughout the year? It is important to set attainable goals that can be accomplished over time rather than a long list of goals to start at the beginning of the New Year. If they are not, it is harder to stick to them and you may lose steam after the first few weeks into January.  

So, what are your goals? Are you interested in learning a new skill, reading more books, or getting active? Whatever it may be we wanted to share a list of tips & tricks to help you set your goals moving into the New Year! All of these can be applied to goals you may have professionally, personally or with your Girl Scout Troops!  

  • Reflection 
  • As we mentioned, start by thinking about all the things you learned over the past year and how that can help you in the New Year!  
  • Setting Realistic & Measurable Goals 
  • When setting a goal, it can be very easy to keep it vague, but often times getting more specific can really help you attain those goals! So, if your goal is to read more, instead maybe your goal should be: “Read 21 Books in 2021”. Now you have a concrete goal that you can track throughout the year!  
  • Create Your Action Plan 
  • Once you have chosen your goal it is important to determine how you will get there! Try starting by determining your starting point and where to go from there. You can do this in a variety of different ways, including creating smaller steps to complete along the way or adding something to your daily/weekly routine.  
  • Identify Obstacles 
  • It is important to keep in mind that after you have set a goal, things might get in the way. So, one thing you can do is brainstorm things that might impact your goal and how to overcome them along the way.  
  • Reevaluate Along the Way 
  • When setting goals, it is easy to write a list of all things you want to accomplish, but they can be easily forgotten along the way as other things come up. So, it is important to not only set goals, but to continue to check in throughout the year. And don’t be afraid to change them along the way, make your goals work for you!  
  • Be Kind to Yourself 
  • While setting goals can be useful and helpful, it is important to keep in mind that sometimes we don’t meet our goals and that is totally okay! You can reflect on the progress you’ve made and try again next year!  

We can’t wait to hear all about your goals, so be sure to share them in the comments!  


Post by Rebekah Stefl 

GSHPA Holiday Traditions

We love to CELEBRATE! We hope it won’t be too surprising to know that the staff here at GSHPA like to have fun in creative and unique ways with our friends and families!  

Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA has an amazing staff and we are so grateful to work alongside so many wonderful Girl Scout volunteers and girls! We are a fun and diverse group of people, who come from very different backgrounds, but when we come together, we are a family!  

We have asked our staff to share some of their favorite holiday traditions to celebrate this time of year! We hope as you read these traditions you will find entertainment, joy and a better understanding of what makes Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA so special!  

So grab a hot chocolate and enjoy! You may even want to grab a pen and paper to take notes so you can try out some of our traditions as well!  

And don’t forget to share some of your traditions in the comments! We would love to hear them!  

Favorite Holiday Tradition Growing Up 

My family has always been very into the holiday season, so we have many traditions! One of my absolute favorites is baking Christmas Cookies with my mom. We would make dozens and dozens of cookies to give to our friends and family. While my mom and I spent the evening baking cookies my dad would spend his time wrapping presents, so we would ring a little bell after each batch so he knew our official “Christmas Cookie Taste Tester” should make an appearance!  -Rebekah Stefl (Sr. Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

My mother hand knit my Christmas stocking and we’d hang them by the fireplace, I still have that stocking. My daughter’s stocking was knit by my late mother in law so we hang them on the mantle each year. I love the history and care taken with each one. Love was knitted into these heirlooms. –Diane Bateman (Member Services Specialist) 

There are so many. Every Christmas Eve, my mom would get my sister and I matching pajamas. That was the only gift that we could open early. I have continued the tradition with my kids.  –Janelle Brewer (Volunteer Training Manager)  

My mom loved holidays. My favorite memories with her are from holidays, particularly Christmas. My favorite thing about Christmas morning was opening my stocking. I still love stockings (although I do not get them very often as an adult). My mom would also get me and my sister a chocolate advent calendar every year. This year I got a dog treat advent calendar for Libby! On Christmas morning I would eat my last chocolate, open my stocking and then my presents! Santa’s gifts were always unwrapped right under the tree. Family’s gifts were wrapped. There were always magical snowy Santa boot prints by our fireplace. (My mom would use my stepdad’s boots and sprinkle flour around them).  – Jess Delp (Director of Product Program and Retail)  

Grateful for Parents 

My parents would always take off work and spend time with me through my holiday break. There were many movie marathons when I was younger and it is something we still do today.  –Erica Hildabridle (Member Registration Specialist)  

My mom always made homemade sticky buns, and still does even though we’re out of the house!  -Olivia Novak (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Mom was diligent about keeping traditions solid year to year. Now that she’s gone, things are kept the same even more in our effort to hand on to her presence.  –Jenny Boyles (Member Registration Specialist)  

I am grateful for so many things my parents did around the holidays! I think the thing I’m most grateful for is that over the years my dad would make these adorable holiday home movies and take a million photos. And it has been wonderful to have them to look back on!  -Rebekah Stefl (Sr. Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

They always decorated the house to the nines to make things festive, and made sure that we had special family time all day.  –Colleen Sypien (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Favorite Holiday Food 

I love them all!!!! One that I particularly like is collard greens – my husband’s grandmother showed me how to make them and they are sooooo good!  -Adia Walker (Regional Director)  

My favorite is an apple pie that I’ve been making for 28 years…so I guess I make it best so people tell me. Even after all the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, they make room for this pie.  –Diane Bateman (Member Services Specialist)  

Pfauenaugen, don’t use google translate directly, since it translates as Peacock eyes. It is a type of cookie, essentially two shortbreads with jam in the middle. –Lisa Schweier (Member Services Manager)  

All of our Christmas cookie recipes are my favorites. They’ve come down through the generations and have been made into a book for each of the kids in the new generation.  –Jenny Boyles (Member Registration Specialist)  

Sweet Potato Casserole. My husband makes it best!  -Sheri Kline (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Holiday Heirlooms Passed Down 

There is a menorah that my grandfather used every Hanukkah from the time my mom and uncle were little that passed on to me when I had my daughter 28 years ago. I still have it and we still light it, every year in memory of my grandfather.  –Sheri Kline (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Each year, my grandmother would buy all of us grandkids shiny metal Christmas ornaments with our names and the year engraved. I still decorate my tree with these every year and they always bring back the magic of my Grandma’s presence over the holidays.  –Adia Walker (Regional Director)  

Our family traditionally passes down ornaments from generation to generation. We love to display them, but we usually put them in a special place rather than on the tree so they are not accidentally broken. Our oldest ornament to date is from the 1700s!  -Rebekah Stefl (Sr. Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Those Christmas Stockings….Also, my grandmother gave me a Raggedy Anne doll for my first Christmas and I’ve been collecting dolls ever since. That poor thing has been chewed on by the dog, lost tug of war with my little brother(her arms and legs have been sewed back on so many times)…I even temporarily lost her at Karns and mom had to go back for her….trauma happened without her with me. She came to college with me and yes, I still have her.  –Diane Bateman (Member Services Specialist)  

We have a melted snowman candle that is so ugly but was the first Christmas decoration my parents bought together when they were a young married couple. He’s a treasure.  –Jenny Boyles (Member Registration Specialist)  

At my Dad’s house I have a stocking that my grandma knit for me. She used stretchy fabric so it is HUGE and is never quite full because it just keeps stretching the more items are put in it.  –Jess Delp (Director of Product Program and Retail)  

5 years ago my family and I started getting live trees for our Christmas tree. They are a bit smaller than traditional Christmas trees but we plant them after the holiday and watch them grow long after! It is so fun watch the trees grow and have a living memory from that holiday. – Gabby Dietrich (Community Initiatives Coordinator)

Favorite Gift Given or Received 

A journal/book to my mother that asks her about her childhood, life experiences, and so much more. It will be great to have and show future generations.  –Olivia Novak (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

I bought my mom a birthstone bracelet. It was the first “real” gift I ever bought after I started working and it was a bracelet that she wanted but would never buy for herself. She wore it every day until she died.  –Sheri Kline (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Boxing gloves and punching bag – it really helps me get through the tough times.  –Adia Walker (Regional Director)  

I really enjoy giving presents to people, but I think my favorite is a present from last year. I had just taught myself to crochet and I spent countless hours crocheting a large fluffy blanket to gift my parents for Christmas!  -Rebekah Stefl (Sr. Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

A science kit/set that I made for my cousin that had instructions and materials for DIY science experiments. I went all out for it and included test tubes and fun experiments that played off of the things he liked at the time.  –Colleen Sypien (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

For me, I love giving gifts, not gift cards, a real, wrapped up in paper, bows the whole package. If I can get a smile from someone when they open that and they go, aw wow, I love it! That to me means the world. Not so much the gift itself, but the fact that they liked it…if that makes sense? This gets harder to do as they get older.  –Diane Bateman (Member Services Specialist)  

I made my brother 4 Game of Throne glasses. It was a challenge to make them but also a lot of fun and he definitely loved them as he asked for 8 more. –Lisa Schweier (Member Services Manager)  

I love giving gifts. I have so many favorites that I have given but the ultimate was probably a ceramic Christmas tree that lights up. I painted it for my aunt. She was so pleased with it despite the fact that I couldn’t wrap it properly because it was so big, I gave it to her in a reusable shopping bag. But she puts it up every year right inside her house. It is the first thing you see.  –Erica Hildabridle (Member Registration Specialist)  

Every gift that I have ever given to my son, Justice, because he was always so grateful and his face lit up no matter what it was, haha. He would literally say to everything – it’s just what I wanted.  –Nicole Negron (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Last year I gave my daughters a trip to Vermont. They love the movie “White Christmas” so this was an exciting first for them. And just like in the movie, when we got to Vermont, there was no snow!  -Jenny Boyles (Member Registration Specialist)  

We gave invitations to my daughter’s adoption day in court to our families! –Janelle Brewer (Volunteer Training Manager)  

We hope you enjoyed getting to know us a little better! Please share your traditions so we can get to know you!  May your celebrations be filled with hope, joy, and good food! 

Cookies- Staff Story

I remember when I was in high school and I took my cookie order card with me to school. None of the other girls in my troop wanted to take theirs, but I loved being a Girl Scout and I loved getting sales! So many people bought cookies from me that I was always the top seller in my troop. I did not mind asking friends, teachers, or anyone I came across if they wanted to help me reach my goals. One year, the cookie mascot was a moose, which is one of my favorite animals, so I was determined to win as many moose themed rewards as possible! Spoiler Alert: I did! And today, I am 33 years old, but I still love cookie rewards and stuffed animals!   

After graduation I moved onto college and while there I wanted to get a job on campus. I saw that the alumni department was looking for students to work on their phonathon, or call donation, team. I had never called people to ask for donations before, but I wanted a job and the hours worked with my schedule. So, I joined the alumni phonathon team!  Surprise, surprise… I was not afraid to pick up the phone, talk to strangers and ask for money to reach our goals. I had been doing this for years! In fact, I was one of the top performers for the alumni phonathon! As a college student, this was very exciting!  

After college I started a job in retail. One of the features of my company was a rewards program, if customers opened a credit card, they would get discounts and special promotions. Since asking customers to sign up for the credit card would intimidate a lot of employees, the company offered bonuses for those who brought in the most sign ups in a week! And again, I flourished! As you may have guessed I had no problem asking customers to open a credit card and I even noticed that my confidence and “pitch” was improving along the way.  

So where did my self-confidence in sales come from? The Girl Scout Cookie Program! I never took business courses in school, but I learned so much by setting goals and building my business as a Girl Scout. And I can see how my hard work and passion has made me successful throughout my life since.  

The GSHPA Girl Scout Cookie Program begins on January 15th, 2021. What will YOU learn this year?  


Post by Jess Delp

STEAM Snack: Let it Snow!

Hello and welcome to our brand-new monthly series!  Each month we will share a post focused on STEAM activities and snacks you can do at home with your family or with your troop! If you are interested, don’t forget to subscribe to the GSHPA Blog to be sure you don’t miss a single post!  

So, let’s jump into this month’s STEAM Snack! Today’s post is inspired by December, my favorite month! I love that it is officially cold enough for snow, not to mention December is also my birthday month! So to get in the spirit of winter today I have snow themed projects and snacks for you! If you have a favorite that is not included below, please let us know in the comments!  

Today’s Topic: Engineering 

An engineer is someone who solves problems with creative solutions, usually through design and building.  Engineers use their imaginations to invite new things, develop new and improved designs and much more! Incorporating engineering into your activities can be a great way to assist young girls learn problem-solving skills that help make the world a better place!  

Engineers use the “engineering design process” to work through solutions and designs, which also embodies skills that Girl Scouts can adapt to any situation.  

The engineering design process is: 

  • Define the Problem  
  • Identify the constraints on your solution (time, money, materials) and criteria for success 
  • Brainstorm multiple solutions for the problem 
  • Select the most promising solution 
  • Prototype your solution 
  • Test and evaluate your prototype 
  • Iterate to improve your prototype
  • Communicate your solution

What if I’m not an expert in engineering? 

We are not all engineers, and it is common to feel like we may not know enough to lead girls through an engineering activity. As long as you have the ambition and enthusiasm to try you will do great! Just focus on the steps of the engineering design process, let the girls lead their own their own projects, and see where it goes. The group will develop many different designs as the girls use their imagination to solve the challenge!  

If you are feeling like you would like additional knowledge from an engineering expert that is okay too! You can reach out to your troop parents, friends, relatives or other GSHPA troop leaders on the GSHPA Facebook page to see if there is an engineer you can invite to talk to your girls.   

How do I get started? 

Start by taking some time to look over the engineering design process. If you would like more information take a look at this video from KQED Quest that explains this process by using tacos!   

Once you have an understanding of the process you will want to gather supplies for your activity. We recommend trying out the activity on your own before introducing it to your girls. It is always easier to guide girls through an activity when you have tried it yourself. Just start at the beginning and work your way through each step. As you go, make notes (mental or written) on how each step works for you along with any modifications you might make for your Girl Scouts! When you are done you will even have a prototype to show off and share with the group!  

The Badges: 

  • Daisy: Journey Think like an Engineer 
  • Brownie: Journey Think like an Engineer
  • Junior: Journey Think like an Engineer
  • Cadette: Journey Think like an Engineer 
  • Senior: Journey Think like an Engineer 
  • Ambassador: Journey Think like an Engineer

The activity below will complete the first step of the Journey: Think like an Engineer for each program level! In this activity girls will talk about the design process, build their very own catapult and have a great time too!  

If you have Brownie Girl Scouts, please note that the catapult can count as one of their build challenges for this Journey, they will need to complete three builds in total. 

The Activity! 

Materials: Cotton balls, construction paper, popsicle/craft sticks, straws, toothpicks, pipe cleaners, plastic spoons, tape, string, glue, rubber bands, and any other building/decorating supplies you’d like to add!  

Introduction:  Start by talking to the group about the basics of engineering, how to be an engineer and the engineering design process. We recommend sharing that video we included above, who doesn’t love talking about tacos! If you have a large group or girls who work better as a team, feel free to have them pair up at this point.  

  • Problem to Solve: The goal is to build a device/catapult that can throw a “snowball” (use a cotton ball or piece of paper)  
  • Identify Requirements and Limitations: Build a device that is accurate and precise using only the materials provided.  

Brainstorming Ideas for Solutions (5 min): Have the girls make a list of all possible devices that can throw a “snowball” across the room.  If you are working with younger girls who need help writing, have them draw their ideas instead! 

Select (5-10 min.): Once their lists (or drawings) are complete, have the girls weight their options and decide which one to build. After selecting their project they should draw their design, it is important to make it as detailed as possible. When working with older girls feel free to have them add additional details, such as the materials needed, etc.  

Creation: (25-30 min.): Next the girls should create their snowball thrower/catapult! Just keep in mind they may need to change their design several times as they try it out!  

  • Prototype: During the “Creation” phase girls will begin building using the materials they have been given. Traditionally this can feel chaotic, but try to embrace it! Since each girl will work at their own pace, you will want to move around the group to guide them when they feel stuck. When troubleshooting you can create your own questions or use some of these:  
  • We know this design isn’t working, but what IS working?  
  • How can you support it?  
  • Is there something you can do to make it easier to use? 
  • What ideas do you have to add?  
  • Test and Evaluate: Remind the girls that as they are testing their prototypes to continue to ask themselves questions about how it is working and what changes they can make.  
  • Iterate: As the girls make improvements based on tests be available to give feedback! It is important to let them know what is working well and help guide them if they feel stuck about how to get them to work.   

Activity Tip: We recommend setting up a “testing zone” that the girls can visit to test their catapults/throwers. If you have a designated area it will help limit the spread of “snowballs” and make clean up easier. You should also give the girls targets to hit (such as a paper, box, etc.) to help them evaluate their designs.  

Communicate Your Solution (10-15 min.): Once the girls have finished have them share their ideas with the group! When sharing ask the girls to talk about their designs, their process and why they made the choices they did. We recommend talking about engineering with the group as well. Do they think professional engineers get it right the first time? No! And that is why they do the process and prototype, just like the girls did in this activity.  

If you need inspiration, check out these videos! While these videos offer a few designs you can find many more on YouTube by searching: “popsicle stick catapult easy”.  

Congratulations, you did it! You deserve a snack, try building your own snowman!  

Ingredients: graham crackers, peanut butter or Nutella like spread, banana slices, raisins, pretzel sticks, and some sprinkles for fun.  

  1. Spread some peanut butter/Nutella on your graham cracker 
  2. Place your banana slices in place to build your snowman
  3. Add pretzel stick arms, and raisin eyes and buttons 
  4. Add the sprinkles wherever your heart desires

Post by Liz Bleacher

Juliette Spotlight

Can girls join Girl Scouts without becoming part of a troop? I hope you answered, yes! While participating in a troop is one way to join Girl Scouts, there are many other ways to be involved! One way is by becoming a Juliette! A Juliette is in an independent Girl Scout who can participate in Girl Scouting on an individual basis. Traditionally, girls opt to become Juliettes for a variety of reasons, such as she becomes too busy with extracurricular activities, there are no troop options in her area, etc. The Juliette program is a great way for girls in grades K-12 to participate in Girl Scouts on their own time!  

Mariska Robinson, first year Cadette Juliette

Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA has a wide variety of resources and staff support to ensure Juliettes and their caregivers have a great Girl Scout experience! Today we would like to spotlight one of our current Juliettes, Mariska R.! Mariska is an amazing first year Cadette Girl Scout from Laurel Run, PA. As you can see from the story before Mariska is striving to be a true example of a Girl Scout who embodies courage, confidence and character who makes the world a better place! We connected with Mariska and her family to talk about their experience.  

When and why did you become a Juliette? 

Mariska: “I became a Juliette in 1st grade because it was easier on me due to a health condition and I wanted to work at my pace doing what I love to do. I am changing the world in my own way! I am also a martial artist and Pennsylvania Student State Representative and I wanted to have time for those activities as well.” 

Mariska helped twin brothers with Down Syndrome collect law enforcement patches from around the nation.

What are some of your favorite experiences as a Juliette? 

Mariska: “I have done some many extraordinary things as a Juliette and led the way through it all. My favorite things I have done so far, out of the many, are collecting law enforcement patches for two twin brothers who have Down Syndrome...as I get more patches, I make sure they receive them. Laying wreaths on fallen soldiers’ graves for Wreaths Across America was very meaningful. Making new friends, challenging myself to things I’ve never done and facing my fears have also been part of my Girl Scout Journey. 

Heather (Mom): “Some of my favorite experiences as a Juliette Mom are getting to attend our Service Unit camporees every year with Mariska and being on the Camporee committee. Another experience is getting to be a part of Mariska’s Girl Scout experience.” 

Mariska led a service project where she collected stuffed animals for the Luzerne County Child Advocacy Center.

Tell us about some of the Journeys or badges you have earned as a Juliette?   

Mariska: “I have earned all of the Girl Scout Journey’s and badges to date for each level I am in so far. One of the badges I earned is my Junior Aide award. I helped a Daisy troop earn a petal and learn about being courageous and being strong.  

For my Bronze award I did a presentation on the Ronald McDonald House and why it is important to me for what they did to help my family when I was born and I collected soda tabs that they use in machines and to cash in for money to help keep their facilities up and running. 

Right now, as a Cadette I have completed my Journey’s and I am guiding a Brownie Juliette through her Journey’s so I can earn my LIA awards. I will also be earning my Council award. Some of the fun patches I have earned are Helping Hands, Cookie Captain, a special Studebaker patch from cars shows my Gram and Pop attend.” 

Mariska led a service project collecting eye glasses for local Lions Club.

What is your favorite part of being a Juliette?  

Mariska: “I love to help change the world. Being a Juliette gives me the independence and self-confidence I need to get through life and all obstacles that come my way.” 

“My favorite part of being a Juliette Mom and leader is watching Mariska grow and learn new things all the time. Girl Scouts has helped build on Mariska’s confidence and self-esteem. Being a part of her Girl Scout Journey makes it all worthwhile because I get to experience her accomplishments and watch her overcome any obstacle that tries to get in her way.” 

Heather (mom)

Do you have any advice for girls who are thinking about becoming a Juliette?  

Mariska: “If I can change the world as Juliette you can too. Come join the fun, and help make a difference in the world around us.” 

Heather (Mom): “My advice is BE YOU and show what you can do.” If Mariska can be a part of changing the world so can you.” 

Mariska and Heather Robinson

If you would like to read more about Mariska’s accomplishments, please follow the links below!  

https://www.citizensvoice.com/lifestyles/community/junior-girl-scout-project-helps-twins-collect-law-enforcement-badges/article_929c7413-ad45-51e2-81d2-62398340ea13.html

https://www.citizensvoice.com/lifestyles/community/mariska-robinson-receives-bronze-award-the-highest-honor-for-a-junior-girl-scout/article_a4996d36-9274-5ef2-84da-b9570900ae9e.html

https://www.citizensvoice.com/lifestyles/one-little-girl-scout-makes-a-big-difference-one-plush-animal-at-a-time/article_9161461b-a30c-5365-8267-5c1dddbeeb6d.html

https://www.timesleader.com/features/746117/mariska-robinson-receives-girl-scout-bronze-award/amp.

https://www.citizensvoice.com/lifestyles/community/wyoming-valley/article_58c768d8-269a-5fdf-ada8-e656ef1d639b.html

If you or anyone else you know would like to be featured on the GSHPA Blog, please complete this form!

Post by Gabby Dietrich

Connecting Through Service

As Girl Scouts it is part of our mission to make the world a better place. So we are always looking for meaningful ways to impact our community. As a troop leader or volunteer you can help girls find ways to live out the Girl Scout mission by participating in community service and “Take Action” projects. It may seem like an overwhelming task, but there are plenty of fun ways to get your troop involved in making the world a better place!  

Getting involved in your local community not only makes the world a better place, but it can also positively impact your Girl Scouts! It is the perfect way for girls to learn about important issues, help them work towards their Highest Award, bring the troop closer together and so much more! We have put together a few tips and tricks to help you get started!  

Tip: Understand what type of project is right for your troop. In Girl Scouts, we have broken up our philanthropy into “Community Service” projects and “Take Action” projects. Check out the descriptions below to decide which type of project would be best for your troop!  

Community Service Projects can make the world a better place right now. They can be short-term projects, such as collecting hygiene products for local shelters. They can also be long-term or reoccurring projects, like volunteering every week at a local food bank. Overall these projects address an immediate need in the community.  

Take Action Projects bring addressing a need in the community to the next level and can often be called “service learning” as well. While the girls still identify the needs and issues they would like to tackle in their communities, a Take Action project really addresses the root cause to create a lasting effect. So girls may still collect hygiene products for a local shelter, but they will need to take it one step further to make it a Take Action project. An example of this could be to develop a program to educate the community about this need followed by creating an easily accessible pantry to be filled with hygiene products to offer continued support.  

Tip: Assess your community’s needs and connect to local organizations. What social service organizations exist within your community? Often times, we may not realize what community services exist until we need them. When looking to get involved start by researching what is available in your specific community. Does it have a “Meals on Wheels” program, homeless shelter, crisis center, or food bank? If not, another way to get started is to call local nursing homes or schools to ask how your troop can help. An easy way to connect to community organizations is through your local United WayYWCA, or community coalition.  

Tip: Keep the project girl-led. An important part of Girl Scouting is that everything is girl-led, meaning the girls should choose projects and activities based on their interests. Ask the girls what they think about volunteering in the community, and be ready to take notes! Then discuss what changes they would like to see in their community and what issues they want to learn more about. The more girl-led the project, the higher the chances that the girls will gain the most from the experience! 

Check out the guide of PA organizations below for ideas to help you get started!  

Poverty 

  • Healthy Steps Diaper Bank: Learn about the importance of diapers and the barriers that exist in affording them. If this topic interest your girls then learn how to lead a diaper drive or volunteer here
  • Dress for Success: This organization empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive in work and life. Host a clothing drive or find other ways to volunteer here.  
  • Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness: This organization mobilizes its resources to help the region’s families and friends who are homeless, or are dangerously close to becoming homeless. Check out ways to advocate and volunteer here.  

Veterans 

  • Pennsylvania Department of Veteran Affairs: Find ways to give back to veterans by volunteering. The DVA is always looking for volunteers to help to organize outings and activities, or to spend an afternoon hanging out with our residents. Find out more here
  • Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors: PAWW provides support to Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors, Veterans in Crisis, and their families. They are always looking for volunteers and help, learn more here

Food Insecurity  

  • Central PA Food Bank: Find ways to advocate against hunger and volunteer for this food bank. Individuals and groups are welcome to sign up here.  
  • Department of Human Services, Hunger-free PA: Find ways to help fight hunger and locate contact information for your local food pantry here 

Animals 

  • Pennsylvania SPCA: Offers programming and support to organizations interested in service learning opportunities for their youth groups. You can also find other ways to get involved and volunteer to help animals on their website.  
  • Central Pennsylvania’s Humane Society: Volunteers are needed to assist with the shelter animals and everyday responsibilities of shelter life. There is no age requirement to become a CPHS volunteer and Girl Scout troops are welcomed! Find out more here.  

Environment 

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service Pennsylvania: NRCSP offers many opportunities for anyone over the age of 14 who are interested in volunteering to improve the nation’s natural resources. Volunteers interested in conserving natural resources can join the “Earth Team” today! You can volunteer part-time or full-time and as an individual or form or join a group. Find out more here.   
  • PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: There are many ways to get involved with DCNR to help support, maintain, and care for our natural resources. Check out ways to connect to conservation efforts in your state parks and forests here.  

We would love to hear about a Community Service project or Take Action project that your troop participated in. Send us your story or ideas here!  

Post by Gabby Dietrich

National Brownie Day

Did you know December 8th is National Brownie Day? Well, now you know! Every year, the delicious desserts we recognize as brownies are celebrated on December 8th. As Girl Scouts, we know this tasty dessert is not the only “brownie” that deserves to be celebrated! Brownies, the second program level in Girl Scouts, is open to girls in grades 2-3. So why not take National Brownie Day to celebrate both the scrumptious and the scouting?   

Check out these 5 easy ways to celebrate National Brownie Day with your favorite Brownies this year!  

  1. Bake and eat brownies with a Girl Scout twist! Enjoy some warm, chocolatey brownies with your favorite Girl Scout cookie added to the mix!  
  1. Explore the history behind brownies! Have you ever wondered how brownies came to be? National Brownie Day is the perfect day to explore the history of each one! We recommend starting with the chocolatey dessert! You can take this time to research who invented them and how they became such a classic dessert! Can you guess the 5 ingredients that make up the classic brownie recipe?  

Additionally, you can have fun learning about how Girl Scouts became known as “Brownies”. Did you know that Girl Scout Brownies were originally called “Rosebuds,” but the name was later changed? The term “Brownies” was suggested by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, a close friend of Juliette Gordon Low. The term was originally used in folktales to describe small individuals who were both helpful and magical, also known as fairies! Various versions of these classic stories have been included in the Brownie handbooks over the years, and they are the basis for the traditional Brownie investiture ceremony. Check out the Brownie Story here.   

  1. Learn a Girl Scout brownie song and make a new one! As Girl Scouts, we love to get together with our friends and sing. Learn the “Brownie Smile” song below and then try creating your very own song! Maybe you can even include lyrics about your favorite brownie desserts! 
  1. Make brownie inspired SWAPS! SWAPS stands for “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere”. Traditionally, these are made by Girl Scouts to exchange with others as tokens of friendship! So to celebrate National Brownie Day try making brownie inspired SWAPS. If you would like to recreate the one pictured you will just need a sponge, construction paper, brown paint, writing tool, and glue!  
  1. Recognize a special brownie in your life! It’s National Brownie Day? What better day to thank a Girl Scout Brownie with a nice treat! Make a card or write a letter for a helper making your life sweeter!  

Post by Gabby Dietrich

Happy Holidays Around the World

Happy Holidays! We hear that a lot this time of year and usually think about the holiday we personally celebrate, but what about all the others?  There are so many people in the world, 7.8 billion people, give or take. Do we all think and celebrate the same things with the same traditions? No way!   

Let’s take a look at some of the holidays celebrated around the world.   

Lunar New Year 

The Lunar New Year holiday is based on the lunar calendar, so it is celebrated at different times through the year depending on that year’s calendar. It is a time to make all things fresh and celebrate good luck and happiness.   

Traditions: Connect with family and friends, add scarlet red decorations (red represents prosperity), share wealth with others (usually given in red envelopes), participate in traditional dances or fireworks shows, declutter, and eat tasty treats. Some examples of these traditional tasty treats are: Dumplings from China, Tsagaan Sar from Mongolia, and Tteokguk from Korea.  Other foods like mandarin oranges, candied fruits and fish are eaten, displayed and gifted across all the cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year.  

Kwanzaa 

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday that celebrates culture and heritage. It begins on December 26, and lasts for 7 days, each day is dedicated to an important community principle. The seven core principles include: Umoji (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). 

Traditions: It is traditional to light the Kinara, which includes seven candles, to represent the seven principles. In addition to lighting these candles there are traditional practices as well. On the sixth day it is traditional to enjoy a large feast together with friends and family. And on the seventh day handmade gifts are exchanged. The seventh day is also a Day of Meditation or Assessment, it is traditional to use this day to reflect and set new goals.  

Resources: Kwanzaa video PBS Kids 

Books:  

Kwanzaa by M.C. Johnston  

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Pinkney 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa by Carolyn Otto 

Activities:  

Kwanzaa Wreath Craft 

Kwanzaa Unity Cup 

Diwali 

Diwali is considered India’s largest and most important holiday of the year.  The festival gets its name from the row of traditional clay lamps in India used light outside each family’s homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.    

Traditions: Diwali is comprised of a five day festival and each day has special and specific meaning.  

The Five Days 

  • Day One: People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.  
  • Day Two: People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.  
  • Day Three: On the main day of the festival, family gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.  
  • Day Four: This is the first day of the New Year, when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.  
  • Day Five: Brothers visit their married sisters, who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.  

Resources: Diwali video from Culture Groove Kids 

Books: 

Let’s celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! By Ajanta Chakraborty 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Diwali: With Sweets, Lights, and Fireworks by Deborah Heiligman 

Activities:  

Diwali Rangoli Craft 

Diwali Flower Lantern 

Hanukkah 

Hanukkah/Chanukah, or the Festival of Rededication, celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE.  The eight-day festival, usually held in December, is celebrated by Jewish people around the world, and is also known as the Festival of Lights.  

Traditions:  Celebrations include the lighting of the menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum, special prayers, singing songs, playing traditional games like dreidel and giving Hanukkah gelt and gifts of money.  In addition people enjoy traditional food with family and friends such as potato latke with applesauce or sour cream, or sufganya, a jelly-filled doughnut.  

Resources: 

Hanukkah videos for Kids from PBS Kids 

Books:  

The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah: With Lights, Latkes, and Dreidels by Deborah Heiligman 

Activities:  

Play dreidel 

Make a Duct Tape Purse 

Christmas 

Christmas Day is December 25th and is celebrated by people within the Christian faith around the world and symbolizes the birth of Jesus Christ.  Many Christmas traditions are celebrated outside of the church as well and they include illuminating family homes with lights, decorating evergreen trees, and gathering together for parties and feasts with friends and family.  

Traditions: Many celebrate Christmas with traditional music and carols, exchanging presents, attending church services, watching holiday movies, and baking and eating traditional cookies.  Christmas decorations can include festive trees covered in ornaments and lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, holly, and Santa Claus with his elves.   

Resources:  

Video about Christmas from PBS Kids 

Books: 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents and Peace by Deborah Heiligman 

Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki 

Activities:  

String Christmas Tree 

Popsicle Stick Ornaments 

Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr 

Throughout the month of Ramadan people fast from sun up to sun down, it is a time to give and share with others. Eid al-Fitr is the Festival of Breaking the Fast and is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan.  

Traditions: After the sunset prayer, people gather with family and friends in their homes or mosques to break their daily fast with dates.  Some communities sound drums or ring bells before sunrise to remind others that it is time for the morning meal. Celebrating Eid al-Fitr – children wear new clothes, women dress in white, special food is prepared, gifts are exchanged, and people gather with family and friends.  

Resources:  

Video about Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr 

Books:  

Ramadan by M.C. Hall 

Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi 

Activities:  

12 Ramadan Activities for all ages 

Throughout the holiday season we hope you have a chance to experience some of these activities and take time to learn about the traditions of others.  Below is a list of Girl Scout Badges that will allow girls to learn and experience new traditions and cultures through these activities. If you think of another let us know in the comments.   

Here are some badge step ideas: 

  • Brownie Celebrating Community Badge  
  • Brownie Snacks Badge 
  • Junior Simple Meals Badge  
  • Junior Musician Badge 

Post by Liz Bleacher

National Letter Writing Month

Staying connected with friends and family today can be as easy as pulling out of your cell phone. Many of our relationships are only a click and a Wi-Fi connection away. As the holiday season is approaching in a year as uncertain as 2020, these conveniences are appreciated even more and allow us to connect with our loved ones safely. With so many new and virtual ways to communicate, have you ever stopped to think of other ways to connect? As a fun example, did you know that you can actually mail a single potato with a message written on it to someone? While that’s a pretty silly example, think of all the other options! What about sending messages in a bottle? Morse code? Carrier Pigeons? Yodeling? All of these, at one time or another, were commonly used ways to communicate!  

At Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA we wanted to look for ways to keep troops connected outside of their computer screens and app-based communications. In Girl Scouts, we have a well-loved tradition of exchanging SWAPS to stay connected with new friends. GSHPA embraced this tradition and thought this fall was the perfect time to hold a council wide SWAPS event! The tradition of exchanging SWAPS, or “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere”, first became popular in the 1950s and 1960s at Girl Scout events. SWAPS can be a great way to share contact information to stay connected with new friends after largescale events and activities, like Girl Scout Camp! GSHPA’s council wide SWAPS exchange connected over 75 troops throughout our 30-county footprint who may not have otherwise met! In an age where much of our daily communication can be done virtually, it was such a nice change of pace to get crafty and connect in a different way by mail!  

Speaking of mail, did you know that December is “National Letter Writing” Month? While it might be easier to send a quick text, snapchat, or direct message, we want to challenge you to try writing three letters this month! Many readers may remember a time when the only way to connect with friends and family was by sending letters or using the landline phone to call and chat. While we have much faster ways of communicating now, there is something special about taking the time to hand write a letter to a loved one or friend. Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances, many people are unable to visit their loved ones, but there are many ways that you can help! You may consider writing letters to those in nursing homes, overseas or try making cards to send to friends and family over the holiday season.  

If you are looking for inspiration, we have included a few ways to get involved by sending letters and cards below. Some of these organizations may have quickly approaching deadlines to ensure everything arrives in time for the holidays, but keep in mind that sending cards and letters is definitely not limited to this time of year!  

A Million Thanks: send a letter of appreciation and support for our military (active, reserve and veterans). 

Love for Our Elders: send fun and creative cards to those who are in nursing homes away from loved ones. 

Stay Gold Society, Happy Mail Program: send handmade cards to seniors in long-term care homes.  

Braid Mission, Cards of Hope: send cards to be distributed to foster youth who never receive birthday or “just because” cards.