5 Patches to Earn this Winter

Filling a vest or sash with colorful patches and badges is a wonderful way for Girl Scouts to remember all the adventures and skills they are experiencing.  Both badges and patches and an important part of the Girl Scout experience, many people use the words interchangeably without understanding the important difference between the two.  

What is the difference? I’m glad you asked! 

Badges 

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts said it best, 

“Every badge you earn is tied up to your motto. This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed.  Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are.  A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing that stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to be prepared to give service in it.  You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and will to be called on because you are a Girl Scout.  And Girl Scouting is not just knowing, but doing.  Not just doing, but being.”

Juliette Gordon Low

Badges are to help girls explore their interest and learn new skills.  They require specific steps and are displayed on the front of their uniforms.  

The steps for each badge are listed in the badge descriptions that are published in the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting.  Girls must complete each step to earn the badge.   

Here is a complete listing of badges for every age level.  

Patches 

Patches are similar to badges in look, but are considered “unofficial” and are worn on the back of the girls sash or vest.  Patches are handy if the girls want to do a fun activity or try something new that isn’t badge related.  

Girls can get a fun patch for any activity they participate in through Girl Scouts.  It could be a hike, museum visit, STEAM program, or a virtual event, she has no limit to the number of patches she can display on her back.  

Fun patches are the best! They give the girls the freedom to get creative and mix in activities for service, for celebrations, and for team building/bonding, or just for fun! Recently we met Vanessa, a Daisy in Troop 10581 Vanessa and her grandmother did virtual Girl Scout activities all summer, and collected so many patches her grandmother added a panel on the back of her vest!  

Vanessa showing off her patches!

Girl Scouts love to collect the patches and their vests/sashes become a scrapbook of all their adventures and accomplishments.  Here are a few more patches to add to your girls’ collections this winter and some trivia to test your badge/patch knowledge.  

Virtual Hangout Patch  

Anti-Racism Patch 

Baking at Home Patch  

Future STEM-inist Patch  

Draw The Lines PA

Clean Water Grows on Trees

Suffrage Centennial Patch

Trivia Corner 

Baking is a science and Girl scouts have plenty of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) badges to explore.  How many STEM badges does Girl Scouts offer? 

  1. 47 
  2. 20 
  3. 78 

In the 1980’s the most popular Junior Badge was: 

  1. Housekeeping 
  2. First Aid 
  3. Math Whiz 
  4. Art in the Round 

Which is NOT one of the four main categories badges are split into 

  1. STEM 
  2. Outdoors 
  3. Live Skills 
  4. Teaching 

What is one thing you can do to earn a gardening fun patch? 

  1. Research how to care for different plants.  
  2. Talk to a master gardener. 
  3. Plant your own garden.  
  4. All of the above.  

What is one thing I can do to earn a SWAPS fun patch? Let us know your answers in the comments! 


Post by Liz Bleacher

How to Respond to Hard Conversations

Growing up is hard, but growing up during a global pandemic, political unrest, climate change, and a 24-hour news cycle is unprecedented! As an adult I can often feel overwhelmed by it all, so I can only imagine what our young people might be feeling. With all that is happening around us, along with the regular challenges of life, young people are bound to have questions!  

As troop leaders, volunteers, parents, and caregivers we have an important role in the lives of our Girl Scouts. Given all our girls are facing it is inevitable for tough conversation topics to come up. In order to build girls of courage, confidence and character we need to provide them with safe spaces to process what is happening around them.  

It can be frightening when a tough subject comes up, but keep in mind that some of the hardest things to talk about are often the most important! So here are 5 tips to help you prepare to tackle tough topics and conversations: 

  1. Keep the conversation GIRL LED.  

In Girl Scouts, we know that girls are most interested and passionate about the topics THEY pick, including tough or sensitive topics. While it might be tempting to quickly change the subject when a tough topic comes up, avoiding hard things doesn’t help anyone. If a Girl Scout brings up a hard topic it is a sign, she trusts you or feels safe and hushing the topic could result in feelings of shame and confusion.  

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Instead of changing the subject, if able, give her your full attention. If the topic was brought up at a challenging time, acknowledge that and make a plan for the discussion at a time when you can give your full attention. Do not make assumptions about the girl’s feelings or understanding on a topic, have them share what they know in their own words. Practice active listening and validate what they are sharing. If a girl has disclosed a sensitive personal story, do not ask detail-oriented questions but instead reflect or repeat back what she is saying and feeling to make sure you understand. Using statements like “it sounds like you are feeling” or “I hear you saying” can be helpful in clarifying and validating feelings and statements.  

  1. Keep conversation judgment free and strength based.  

Talking about sensitive or tough topics can be a vulnerable experience so it is important create a safe space. If planning ahead for a tough topic, have the girls establish ground rules for the conversation or space (no judgement, name-calling, interrupting, etc.). When the girls are sharing and expressing their thoughts avoid sharing your judgements or speculations. If something hard is shared, remain calm and don’t add to the stress with your reaction. An intense reaction can make something feel scarier and harder, try to meet the girl where she’s at emotionally.  

Practice and role model empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings. While practicing empathy we are not trying to fix, rescue, or solve a problem, we are instead providing support by connecting through shared feelings. Empathy helps us consider the other person’s point of view. If there are disagreements between your girls, ask them to consider what the other person is feeling. When discussing tough news stories, talk about what those impacted may be feeling. One of the ultimate benefits of empathy is the ability to consider the other person’s perspective when solving conflicts or figuring out compromise. 

While affirming hard feelings or concerns, it is also important to help girls find hope and see their strengths. Recognize how brave it is to share feelings and talk about difficult topics. Empower by acknowledging their strength and ability to make positive change. Tough conversations can be a time to discuss what courage, confidence, and character mean to them in relation to what is going on in their community and world.  

  1. Breathe.  You don’t have to be the expert! 

As the adult you may feel pressure to know the answers or have solutions. Try not to be distracted by this pressure or trying to say exactly the “right” thing. Many times, just having a supportive listening ear can be what’s needed most. 

When discussing a hard topic only share what you know is true. If you aren’t sure, be honest and suggest you find the answers together. Make space for sharing knowledge and experiences but never single out a girl to answer a question or speak for her racial, ethnic, or religious group. Empower the girls to find their own answers with developmentally appropriate resources on related topics. Books on the topics of race, diversity, discrimination, grief, and important related issues can be helpful resources. 

  1. Safety is always first! 

When working with or around young people, safety is always a consideration. As adults it is our responsibility to keep the young people around us safe. If a girl discloses any form of abuse it needs to be reported to child protective services. As the adult who she disclosed to it is not your job to investigate, or find out more information, but simply provide support and report to child protective services. You do not have to be sure or have proof of abuse, if there is any suspicion it is better to be safe and report. It can feel scary to make a report but it may result in the girl and family connecting to services they need. If you are unsure if a report should be made you can call the Childline hotline and discuss concerns.  

The toll-free hotline, 1-800-932-0313, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive reports of suspected child abuse. Mandated reporters can report electronically.  

  1. That was tough. Take care of yourself! 

Tough conversations can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Remember to take some time to practice good self-care! If able, at the end of the conversation take time to debrief and process feelings that may have come up. Make a self-care plan for the remainder of the day. Respect the privacy of information disclosed but if you are feeling heavy after the conversation reach out for support. Taking deep breaths, a walk, or time for creative processing can all be helpful ways to release some feelings and care for yourself.  

Check out additional resources for common tough topics: 

If your a GSHPA volunteer and interested in learning more about responding to hard conversations, check out our upcoming Volunteer Conference where I will be talking more on the subject!


Post by Gabby Dietrich

STEAM Snack: Cookie Creations!

Hello! Welcome back to our monthly post that will focus on STEAM activities and snacks you can do at home with your family or with your troops! 

January can seem like a time when there’s not much going on – the holidays have passed, decorations are being put away, and it feels like it gets colder each day. January is also the perfect time to incorporate fun and creative STEAM projects for your family and Girl Scouts to overcome those “January doldrums.” This food science activity combines BOTH the STEAM and a snack! There are so many more STEAM projects out there and if you have a favorite or a new topic you’d like to see please let us know in the comments. 

Why food science? 

Food science is simply the study of food! Food Scientists use various scientific and engineering methods to explore the food we eat every day. They take a closer look at the physical (what we can see), microbial (what we can’t see), and chemical makeup (how different ingredients interact) of food. Food Scientists apply their findings to develop safe, nutritious, and sustainable foods. They also create innovative packaging that are used in stores and supermarkets. A Food Scientist’s job contributes to ensuring that our food supply is: 

  • Safe 
  • Nutritious 
  • Tastes good 
  • Economical 
  • Abundant 
  • Easy to prepare 
  • Sustainable  

Food Scientists use creative thinking to solve problems and come up with brand new food products and packaging. So this is a great opportunity to enable girls to think outside-of-the-box and expand their creativity to help make the world a better place. A great way to guide your girls’ thinking is through the stages of creative thinking: 

  1. Preparation: The very first step of the creativity process; it refers to the curiosity of an individual to explore a problem. At this stage, you identify the problem and collect all the information you need in order to properly formulate it and start thinking about possible solutions. This is when you have to set your goals, conduct research, map your thoughts and brainstorm. 
  2. Incubation: During this stage, you might stop thinking directly about your problem as you begin to combine your thoughts putting your imagination in action. You don’t have to find a solution now, but this is the beginning of its construction. 
  3. Illumination: This is when your ideas come together becoming one piece in a logical manner. It is what is known as the “aha” or “eureka” experience. 
  4. Evaluation: At this stage, you need to evaluate the solution that came as an epiphany into your mind. Ask for feedback and make any adjustments needed in order for your solution to be valid and finally approved. 
  5. Implementation: The final step of the creative thinking process is to transform your solution into a final product. Implement your ideas and make changes until you are pleased with the result. 

(Source: https://engage.erasmus.site/creativity/5/)  

What if I’m not an expert? 

We are not all food scientists, and it’s okay to feel like we don’t know enough to lead the girls in a food experiment. But remember you do! Think back to the time when you were young and were told not to play with your food – for food scientists, using food for something other than a meal or snack is actually their job – so embrace what comes along with this activity and refer back to the 5 stages of creative thinking.  

If you are feeling you want more expert knowledge reach out to your troop parents, friends, relatives or other GSHPA troop leaders on the GSHPA Facebook page to see if there is a food scientist or someone who works in the food industry that you can invite to come talk to your girls.   

How do I get started? 

Take some time to look over the 5 stages of creative thinking. These stages are not only helpful for this activity, but can be applied to almost all activities and situations in life and Girl Scouting.  

Take a look at the following links to read about cooking experiments and the different branches of food science. If your girls are interested in learning more about food science, have them do research on different colleges, universities, and companies that offer or utilize food scientists.  

The Badges 

Our activity is a great start to partially completing Step 2: Discover the Possibilities in the Brownie, Junior, and Cadette STEM Career Exploration Badges. This badge explores 6 different fields of STEM careers and food science is listed under the Food & Agriculture field: 

  • Computer science 
  • Creative technology & design 
  • Engineering 
  • Food & agriculture – a field that focuses on growing, cooking, and consuming food. It includes careers such as a baker, farmer, food scientist, chef, agricultural engineer, urban farmer, and agricultural scientist. 
  • Health & wellness 
  • Nature & environment  

The Activity 

Materialsat least 2-3 kinds of cookies (use your favorites, granola bars work great too), frosting (as many flavors as you like, or you can use Nutella, jams, etc.), sprinkles, plates, cups, spoons, butter knives, paper towels/towels, multiple pieces of paper, pencil, things to color with. *(Cookies and frosting can be swapped out for healthier choices, use whatever snack foods you like!) 

Set up a separate table or section of table where you are working with all the food supplies: cookies, frostings, sprinkles, etc. This is where girls will go when they need more supplies. Use plates for the cookies and small cups or bowls for the frosting and sprinkles. 

For this activity, the girls will act as food scientists to come up with a brand new cookie! Girls will use existing cookies and materials to create several cookie samples, document their cookie creation steps, design cookie packaging, and then share their ideas. Throughout this activity, break the steps into each of the 5 steps of creative thinking. Remember – creativity is a process that results in generating new ideas OR transforming old ideas into new ones. You will help the girls create new cookies OR transform ones into a brand new idea. 

Introduction to the GirlsStart the activity by talking to the girls about what a food scientist is and introduce the 5 stages of creative thinking process. Refer to the list of questions & talking points: 

  • Have you ever heard of food science/food scientists? 
  • Raise your hand if you like to cook or bake – some of you are closer to food science than you think! 
  • Have you ever wondered how different foods or snacks at the grocery store are created? They are designed and developed by food scientists! They think of new and innovative ways to create food for us to eat every day. 
  • Ask about favorite snack foods and things they’ve seen at the grocery store. 

Step 1: Preparation 

  • Explain to the girls that they are acting as food scientists that have been tasked with creating a new cookie. They’ve been given certain samples and need to create a new combination.  
  • Pass out paper and pencil. Have the girls fold their paper so it creates three different sections. This is where they will write down their notes for the three different kinds of cookies they will create. Girls should include the following info for each cookie: 
  • Name, ingredients/samples used, and a brief description of what the cookie is like/tastes like. 

Step 2: Incubation 

  • This is where girls are able to gather supplies to create their THREE cookie samples. 
  • Encourage them to try and make three different types of cookies if possible. 
  • Let girls’ creativity and imagination run wild in this step. Remind them that we are scientists, so we must write down our ideas and steps we take in designing each cookie so we can refer back to them later.  

Step 3: Illumination 

  • During this time, girls should have all three cookies made.  
  • Once they have their three samples, they will choose ONE cookie to move forward with. 
  • This step is important, as food scientists create many different samples but only ONE ends up getting chosen.  
  • Have them review the notes they took about each cookie.  
  • Who would like this cookie/who is the best consumer? 
  • Is this cookie easy to eat or really messy? 
  • Remind younger girls that even though they have to pick just one cookie, the time they took to create all three is so important! Without creating and testing their cookies, they wouldn’t know which would be the better of the three they created.  

Step 4: Evaluation 

  • Have the girls share their cookie ideas with each other and get feedback. 
  • Feedback is great because it can help the girls improve their cookie designs and make them even better.  

Step 5: Implementation 

  • The final step is to transform their solution into a final product – implement the changes they received from the feedback. 
  • Once their cookie creation is complete, girls will complete the last step – use their imagination to create what their cookie packaging will look like!  
  • Girls will use paper, pencil, and things to color with. 
  • To help them think of ideas, grab any boxes or packages of food in your kitchen and have the girls take a look: 
  • Colors, shape, size, where the name of the cookie is, etc.  
  • If you have extra boxes, tape the girls’ pictures onto a box to bring it to life! 
  • When they are ready to begin, have them draw what their cookie box/packaging looks like. 
  • For older girls, take it one step further and ask about packaging materials (plastic, paper, etc.), are the materials sustainable or environmentally friendly, how many cookies are in each package, etc.  

Present their products 

Make sure to leave 10-15 minutes, depending on how talkative your group is, to review with them. 

Once the girls have finished creating their packaging, have each of them share their cookies! Have them share as much information about their new creation as they want. To help guide you, ask girls these questions: 

  • What is the name of your cookie? 
  • How did you decide on the flavor? 
  • How did you decide on your cookie packaging/box? 
  • What’s your favorite thing about your cookie? 
  • Who do you think would buy your cookie if it was sold in stores?  
  • Has this activity inspired you to learn more about food? 

Congratulations, you did it! You deserve a snack – eat your cookie creations! Remember those cookies that didn’t get chosen? Time to snack on those! If you have extra cookie creation supplies, design another snack to enjoy!  


Post by Colleen Park, Program Coordinator

Exploring Goals with Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA would like to wish you a very Happy New Year! It is officially that time of year, where we all make resolutions and set goals for the upcoming year. It can also be a reminder of the resolutions that didn’t stick or how our goals may have shifted throughout the past year. Regardless how you feel about setting New Year’s resolutions it is important to note that as Girl Scouts, setting and accomplishing goals can be done any time of year, not just in January!  

To start off 2021 we wanted to share some tips and tricks to help you explore and accomplish goals with your Girl Scout troop!  

  • Determine the goals that drive your troop! A large part of what makes Girl Scouting great is that we keep everything GIRL LED! So, whether you are talking about goals for your troop or an individual Girl Scout it is important that girls are involved and interested! It can be difficult to accomplish a goal that you are not personally invested in, right? So be sure to talk with your girls about what they hope to accomplish!  
    • Try getting your girls thinking with a fun and goal oriented ice-breaker such as wishing stars! In this activity the stars will be things that each girl does well, maybe selling cookies or STEM activities. They should each come up with 3 stars! Now that they have their stars, it is time to make a wish! The wishes should be thing the girls would like to work on throughout the year. If you want to add to the fun you can make this a drawing or guessing game with the girls as well! Once each star and wish has been discussed, talk with the girls about HOW they accomplished their stars and WHAT can be done to make their wish (goal) come true!  
    • Another way to gauge the girls’ interest in goals is by setting aside some time to rank their ideas. Start by creating a list of goals (potential accomplishments, activities, etc.) then have the girls choose their top 3-5 they want to work on this year! It can also be a great way to find common interests amongst the girls which can be helpful in goal setting and in choosing journeys, badges, Service and Take Action projects! 
If meeting virtually, prep a list of goals like the one pictured, share your screen, and have girls rank their favorites.
  • Be SMART with your goals! A well-known method for goal setting is using the SMART goal formula. It can be used with long- and short-term goals and is a great way to build goal accomplishing skills!  Set yourself up for success by following the SMART method and asking yourself these questions:   
    • S: Specific– can you clearly define or identify the goal?  
    • MMeasurable– How will you know when you accomplished your goal? What are the measurable terms of your goal?  
    • AAttainable– Is this a realistic goal? Do you have access to the needed resources to accomplish the goal? Are your expectations realistic?  
    • RRelevant– Does this goal make sense for you? Is it something that is important to you?  
    • TTime-bound– When will you achieve this goal by? What time frame do you have for accomplishing this goal? 
  • Map your goals out! Big goals can feel like a long daunting journey, but they don’t have to be. A new goal can be an exciting adventure full of learning experiences and endless opportunities. Get creative and explore goal setting with your Girl Scout(s) by creating a goal map! 
    • A goal map should start with an easy prompt for individual girls or troops as a whole. All you will need is paper and writing tools. Start by drawing a winding road across the paper, ending at the goal you have in mind! Would reaching your goal be a long or short trip? What will you need to get to your destination? What stops are needed along the way? Can you think of any roadblocks that might interfere with your route? Use the map to brainstorm and plan how you will reach your goal and what you can do to stay on track!  
  • Plan the steps needed to accomplish your goal! Another creative way to plan out what is needed to reach goals is by designing a goal ladder! Start by having your Girl Scout(s) write their goal in a star and below that, a ladder with 3-5 steps. Identify what steps are needed to climb the ladder and reach the goal. 
    • For example, if you want to sell 500 Girl Scout cookies, maybe the steps would be: 1) (first step at the bottom) make a list of 30 people that may buy cookies; 2) Make a list of 5 places to host cookie booths, 3) Get approval for cookie booths 4) plan and schedule time for making sales and cookie booths; 5) Design a poster/flyer promoting cookie sales. 
  • Vision boards! Get creative and visualize your accomplishments by making a vision board, which can be a fun activity for all ages! You can create a vision board for the upcoming year in general or a specific goal. Vision boards can be done as an individual or a group! If you are creating virtually you can have the girls design a vision board on google slides or PowerPoint. It is important to give the girls creative freedom when creating. Vision board materials can include cutouts from magazines, pictures, quotes printed out, clip-art, paint, and whatever else represents your ideas. Once the vision board is finished hang it somewhere that you will see often.  

Post by Gabby Dietrich

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 Robinson! 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