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

News: GSHPA Volunteer Conference

GSHPA is getting excited about our upcoming virtual volunteer conference happening February 20th from 9am-12pm. The conference will feature inspiring speakers, breakout sessions with opportunities to expand personal development and Girl Scout expertise, as well as networking opportunities! 

Breakout sessions will explore how to plan a Journey in a day/weekend, outdoor programming, how to run a virtual meeting, how to keep girls engaged virtually, being a part of challenging conversations, as well as Girl Scout Traditions and Ceremonies.  

You can register through www.gshpa.org or hereMake sure to register by January 30th! An email with the breakout session registration will be sent to all participants at a later date. Each participant will receive a goodie bag in the mail with conference materials, resources and access to the recorded sessions. 

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

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. 

Fall Traditions: Girl Scout Promise and Law

Girl Scout Traditions provide both girls and adults with a sense of history, connection and belonging. One tradition at the very center of Girl Scouting is following the Girl Scout Promise and Girl Scout Law. Both the Girl Scout Promise and Law guide Girl Scouts through the mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.  

Reciting the Girl Scout Promise and Law can be easily included in most meetings, ceremonies, special events and virtual gatherings. They serve as great ways to check in with the troop about the true meaning of being a Girl Scout. While it is important to help the girls learn the Girl Scout Promise and Law it can also be a fun way to complete a step towards the Girl Scout Way badge as well!  

The Basics 

When saying the Girl Scout Promise you should start by making the Girl Scout Sign. To begin raise three fingers of the right hand then use your thumb to hold down the pinky finger. The three fingers represent the three parts of the promise.  

Girl Scout Promise (Learn and follow along with GSHPA Girl Scouts here)

On my honor, I will try:  
     to serve God* and my country, 
     to help people at all times,  
     and to live by the Girl Scout Law

*members can substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs  

Girl Scout Law (Learn and follow along with GSHPA Girl Scouts here)

   I will do my best to be 
       honest and fair, 
       friendly and helpful, 
       considerate and caring,  
       courageous and strong, and 
      responsible for what I say and do,  
     and to   
      respect myself and others,  
      respect authority, 
     use resources wisely, 
     make the world a better place, and  
     be a sister to every Girl Scout.
  

Here are 3 fun activities you can do to help your girls learn the Girl Scout Promise and Girl Scout Law!  

Girl Scout Paper Sign 

Materials: construction paper, GS Promise trefoil cut outs, scissors, tape/glue, pencils, and markers/crayons. 

Directions:  

  1. Each girl will need 1 piece of paper to start. They place their hand flat on the paper then begin tracing their hand with the pencil. Once traced they will want to cut it out.  If easier you can provide your girls with a preprinted/traced hand they can simply cut out instead!  
  1. Then fold/bend the pinky and thumb until they meet in the middle to create the Girl Scout Sign.  
  1. After that have your girls cut out and decorate trefoil cut outs which include the GS Promise.  
  1. Then tape/Glue both the hand and trefoil onto a piece of construction paper. After everything is attached they can also decorate their creation! 
  1. Afterwards have them over the promise individually or together so the girls learn it by heart. 
  1. Try making the hand gesture/symbol with their own hands, now that they see how it’s supposed to look with the paper! 

Girl Scout Law Popsicle Hanger 

Materials: 12 Popsicle Sticks (per girl), ribbon, colored pencils/crayons, a marker, and glue.  

Directions: 

  1. Once each girl has her materials, have her write the Girl Scout Law on the 12 Popsicle sticks with her marker.  
  1. After the writing out the Girl Scout Law, color each stick a different color. 
  1. When the Popsicle sticks are colored you will then glue them onto a piece of ribbon in the order they are said when reciting the Girl Scout Law. If you would like hang up your Girl Scout Law simply make a “U” shape out of the ribbon with the round curve at the top. Then add your Girl Scout Law sticks!  
  1. After the glue has dried encourage your girls to hang/place their creations somewhere at home!   

Girl Scout Law SWAPS  

While this activity will help your girls learn the Girl Scout Law, it also allows them to participate in another longtime Girl Scout Traditions: SWAPS. The term “SWAPS” is short for: a Special Whatchamacallit Affectionately Pinned Somewhere and is an amazing Girl Scout tradition! Each Girl Scout will make their own SWAPS to exchange with other Girl Scouts promoting friendship and connection.  

Materials:  beads, safety pins, string, and a card with the Girl Scout Law (you can make your own or use this). We recommend using the corresponding bead colors included on this print out.  

Directions: 

  1. Each girl will get a copy of the Girl Scout Law, beads, a key ring and string. The girls should begin placing their beads on the string in the order they appear on the card. As they do this, explain each color and its corresponding line of the Girl Scout Law.  
  1. Once all the beads are in place, tie off the string and attach a safety pin to the top of the chain.  
  1. Afterwards encourage girls to hang onto their Girl Scout Law SWAP or try swapping it with other members in the troop!  

Post by Gabby Dietrich

Investiture Ceremony

What is an Investiture Ceremony? 

An investiture is a traditional ceremony designed to welcome new members to the  

Girl Scout family —both girls and adults alike! An investiture ceremony makes for a great way to start the Girl Scout year. The primary focus is honoring the Girl Scout Promise and Law and it can be customized based upon the age and interests of the group. Since Girl Scouting is always girl-led it is important to let the girls influence the planning of this ceremony.  

The ceremony should have an opening or welcome, the main section which includes the investiture itself and a closing where you’ll leave the group with an inspiring takeaway.  

All investitures should include these 3 key elements: 

  • Recite the Girl Scout Promise, either individually or as a group. 
  • Receive the appropriate membership pin—the Girl Scout Daisy pin, Girl Scout Brownie pin, or Traditional Membership pin, depending on the girls in your troop. 
  • Be verbally welcomed into your troop and to Girl Scouting. You may choose to give the welcome to new members yourself, or returning girls might want to collectively give the welcome. 

What is a Rededication Ceremony?  

Rededication is the opportunity for girls and adults to renew their commitment to the Girl Scout Promise and Law. You can choose to do an investiture and rededication ceremony as one or two separate ceremonies. Just like the investiture ceremony, a rededication can also be easily customized your group. An example of this customization could be scheduling the celebration of this ceremony the week of Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday (October 31st) to highlight the legacy of Girl Scouts.  

Ceremony Example: How to Hold a Candle Light Investiture and Rededication 

Materials Needed:  

  • 1 Small Table 
  • 3 Large Candles (with holders) 
  • 10 Small Candles (with holders) 
  • Matches  
  • Girl Scout Pin for Each Girl/Adult Involved  

Room Set Up:   

  • Candles and matches should be placed on the small table (do not light)  
  • Troop/Group should stand in horseshoe formation  

Holding the Ceremony:  

Start by explaining the importance and meaning of investiture/rededication that we mentioned earlier.  

Then someone will begin to light the 3 large candles which represent the 3 parts of the Girl Scout Promise while reciting:  

  • Candle 1: “The first candle I light shall shine as a symbol that Girl Scouts try to serve God and their country.”  
  • Candle 2: May the light of the second candle shine as a symbol that Girl Scouts try to help people at all times. 
  • Candle 3: “May the light of the third candle shine as a symbol that Girl Scouts are true to their ideals as interpreted by the Girl Scout Law.” 

After that you will move on to the remaining 10 unlit candles, which each represent a part of the Girl Scout Law. As you begin you should assign a portion of the law to each candle so it can be recited when the candle is lit.  

You can now call forward girls/adults from the group to light a candle. If you do not have 10 or more participants you can have girls/adults light multiple candles. Just keep in mind the fire safety guidelines when asking girls/adults to take over the lighting of these candles.   

When ready the girls/adults should begin lighting their candle individually from one of the large candles. As the candle is lit the girl/adult should recite the part of the Girl Scout Law assigned to that candle.  

After the candles have been lit those being invested or rededicated should come forward. You should have the girls/adults (individually or as a group) say the Girl Scout Promise. Then the Troop/Ceremony Leader will pin the Trefoil (Membership Pin) on each girl and say: “This pin tells everyone you are a Girl Scout, I know you will wear it proudly.”  

One option is to pin the pin upside down. If so, the leader says: “I have put your pin on upside down. Do at least 3 good turns or deeds this week, one for each part of the Girl Scout Promise, and at our next meeting I will turn your pin upright.” The pin can also be pinned upright at the ceremony to skip this step if desired.  

Once pinned the leader and girl/adult will do the Girl Scout Handshake. If you want to see how to do the Girl Scout Handshake, check out our video here! The Troop/Ceremony Leader will then welcome the girl/adult to the Girl Scout organization and to the troop.  

After all the members have been invested or rededicated the Troop/Ceremony Leader says:  

“Girl Scouts, the three gold leaves of the trefoil hold a message as you start your journey through Girl Scouting. Today you are entering into an organization that will bring you joy as you work together, play together, seek together. The Trefoil Emblem points the way to sisterhood, friendliness and good citizenship.”  

At the end of the ceremony the group should saying the Girl Scout Promise all together.  

Veterans Day Message

“I have found a family here at Girl Scouts and I hope you do too.” That is something I recently told a new staff member when talking about working for this organization. For me, this family I have found has supported me through some rather challenging times. And this Veteran’s Day, I’m even more grateful for my Girl Scout family.

You see, I am part of a military family. My husband has served in the National Guard for the past 22 years with three deployments under his belt. But his position in the military has required so much more travel than just these deployments. I did a little math before I began writing and realized he has been gone, whether somewhere in the United States or overseas, for 32 out of the past 67 months. Why 67 months? That is how long I have been working here at GSHPA, and why this family has become so important to me.

We’re not the typical military family that has to move around a lot. We are a National Guard family. This means my children and I stay put while my husband goes where he is ordered. Sometimes it’s a weekend, sometimes a month, and most recently a year. My children and I are so lucky to have the stability of staying in one place, but that doesn’t make it easy either. One of the things that has helped has been GSHPA. The staff who have become family, the volunteers who have become friends, and the girls who continue to motivate and inspire, have made this military life so special.

Service is such an important part of what we teach our Girl Scouts. It is incorporated in almost everything we do, most visibly in the donations to the military through our Fall Fundraiser and Cookie programs. But our girls’ support of our military men, women, and families goes far beyond those two programs.

My daughter’s troop and service unit have participated in several activities in support of our military. Her troop and service unit participate not because she and I are part of a military family, but because they truly care. Two years ago, they volunteered to line a local park with American flags for the arrival of a traveling 9/11 memorial. Walking around the memorial that week, I showed my daughter several soldiers who served alongside her father. As a wife and mother, these Girl Scouts gave me hope.

Her troop also donates cookies every year to a local combat veteran support group. The first time they dropped off cookies, the veteran who runs the support group told my daughter that he served with her father. Girl Scouts has helped her learn and appreciate not only the sacrifices of our service men and women everywhere, but also that of her own father.

I am always amazed and grateful for volunteers. For the time they dedicate to our mission, for the opportunities and lessons they provide for our Girl Scouts, and for the kindness they show to those around them. Every time I have the opportunity to speak with one of my volunteers, they always take the time to ask me how my family is doing. Volunteers ask because they know of our recent deployment and because they simply care. I wish I could explain just how much this means to me, but I cannot. That simple question means the world to me. Our volunteers have so many things on mind right now, but they always take the time to check on us. They truly are sisters to every Girl Scout.

Our Girl Scouts, girls and adults alike, support our military year round, in seen and unseen ways. Much like our military men and women, Girl Scouts do not seek recognition for their service and support. Veteran’s day is a day to recognize the service of military men and women. For me, Veteran’s Day can be a difficult reminder of the sacrifices my family makes for this service. It’s a life we chose and we wouldn’t have it any other way. And my Girl Scout family, my co-workers, volunteers, and girls, help make this life so much better!

This Veterans Day message is from Jess Mislinski, GSHPA’s Regional Director.