Fall is here, the weather is cooling, the leaves are starting to change and Girl Scout are heading back to school. This means girls, parents and volunteers are starting to get crazy busy with their hectic schedules. But have no fear, whether you are a brand new troop leader or a seasoned volunteer there are online and offline resources that will help you have conversations with your parents and volunteers and plan for the year, girl led of course. Here are some easy and great ideas to help make your meeting planning smooth sailing.
Find your Troop’s Vision
Talk with your troop members, adults and girls, to discuss what their vision for the upcoming year is going to be. What are your goals, what are they excited about, what are they dreading? Girl Scouts of all ages are able to come up with some SMART goals for the troop for the year to help them grow in their experiences. Don’t fall into the temptation to plan it all yourself, I know sometimes it feels easier, but Girl Scouts is girl-led. Having the girls participate in the planning will help the girls engage and be invested in the yearly agenda.
Flexibility is Key
That agenda you spend all the time and energy creating, it is a changing document. You can spend as much time planning for the unexpected as you want and there will be something that pops up unexpectedly. It is important to stay flexible and let the girls that it is ok to have changes to original plans, use it as a teaching opportunity. For example, your troop has planned a hike that might need to be cancelled or moved because of the weather, a guest speaker had to cancel last minute leaving a gap in your nightly plans. Check in with the troop throughout the year to make sure you are staying on track for your vision and see if any changes need to be made.
Think about how much time you are going to need to spend on planning, do you just need one meeting for the younger girls or a few meeting for the older girls to take the lead. Keep the planning specific with a timeline so you can stay focused and keep the process moving forward. You don’t want to spend all your year planning and not actually get to the fun stuff.
Depending on the attention span and interest of your troop, you can plan a couple meetings at a time or take on months or the entire year. This is brainstorming so make sure to write down all the ideas from each member even if they are crazy and seem to be too big or out there. These ideas can lead to something that would work for your group.
Ideas to keep track of your brainstorming session:
Write it down! Use poster board, butcher paper, whiteboard or you could use a Google doc if you are a more tech troop.
Have each girl brainstorm individually before coming back as a group to talk about it. Some girls have a hard time sharing their thoughts in large groups so this will allow everyone to have input.
Make it a game: give the girls 5 minutes to write down as many ideas for each topic you need to plan. Examples, snacks, service projects, badges, journeys, fun trips, places to visit, etc.
Start Big, Add Details
Take a look at the list that you created and decide as a group what you are going to do. For younger girls you may need to take the lead as the adult and with the older girls let them give it a try and be there to help as needed. To narrow things down, talk as a group to come up with the favorites. This can be done through voting, discussion, ranking, and more, it is important that everyone feels they are being included and their voice is being heard.
Once you have narrowed down the list to the top interested of the troop you can start filling in the details. This is where your network will come in handy to use your connections within and without Girl Scouts. This can include your Service Unit, Troop Leaders, parents, your council, social media or community groups.
Online resources are a great place to go for you and your girls to research your plans. Search engines, Pinterest, and blogs are great places to find if someone else has tried your idea, and you can build off what they had done.
What to do next
Remember you don’t have to do it all yourself, have the girls, parents, and other volunteers help! Use your resources wisely, this includes people too! Make a plan, be flexible, and use what you have to make your upcoming year full of fun success!
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:
Easy to prepare
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Creative technology & design
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
Materials: at 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 Girls: Start 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!
Have you ever thought, “How do I talk to my girls about STEAM when I have no experience?” Do you want to encourage them to learn more about science, technology, engineering, art, and math, but worry because you aren’t an expert?
STEAM is important in our world today. As you look around you will notice so much of our world is STEAM-focused, including jobs, programming, architecture, engineering, biology, app building, construction, and much more. STEAM also teaches creativity, problem solving, logic, and teamwork. When keeping this in mind it can be hard to know where to start and how to best design activities for your girls when looking at Girl Scout Badges and Journeys.
GSHPA is here to help! We will be posting a monthly activity and snack that will be focused on a principle of STEAM that you can do at home with your family or with your troop. You don’t need to be a scientist or engineer to include STEAM into your troop meetings! It is important to try to incorporate STEAM into your troops meetings to the girls’ learn through skill-building opportunities in robotics, programming, and citizen science. And most importantly these activities will boost their confidence in STEAM-related fields. We have 4 easy tips to help you feel more confident to lead the girls and present them with STEAM ideas.
Learn alongside them (you don’t have to know everything)
Do not worry about not having all the answers or knowing everything about the field you are talking about. STEAM emphasizes skills like critical thinking and creative problem solving. Ask the girls to observe, ask questions, and experiment. Show them that it is ok to not know the answers and model how to look up questions and find the answers from reliable websites or books. Seeing an adult enthusiastic about asking, investigating and learning with them is the best way to teach the girls about STEAM.
2. Present them with strong female STEAM role models for inspiration
There are so many amazing women leading in the diverse STEAM fields and they are excited to share their knowledge and experience with your girls. Knowing a STEAM role model likes to do the same things as they do, hike, play sports, knit, cook, or binge watch shows helps girls see the STEAM experts as people just like them.
These role models could be friends or family of a troop member, volunteers from a local non-profit, business, or school. If you need help finding a mentor reach out to your Girl Scout council, they should be able to help.
GSHPA is hosting quarterly Career Chats with professionals in various fields. Our next chat is Monday, Dec 14, 2020 you can registerhere to talk with an American Airlines Pilot and the first female commander of F-16 pilots in Israel.
3.Let the girls’ interests guide the meeting
Sometimes when a topic is new or intimidating we tend to over plan and worry about if we are presenting all the facts. We encourage you to take a step back and focus your plans toward asking questions rather than providing a list of facts. Questions allow the girls to take the meeting in any direction they like to discover the new ideas! All this can mean the meeting might go in directions you didn’t plan, that is okay, just go along with it! When the girls lead the discussion it increases their learning and inspires them to follow their curiosity. Also, let the girls do the hands-on work themselves. I know it is tempting to step in and “fix” something for the girls, but it is important in building STEAM confidence for the girls to work through it and discover that she can do it herself.
4. Do hands-on projects with everyday materials
When planning keep in mind these two points: hands on and on hand! You don’t need the expensive, technical equipment to do amazing activities. Taking chances, making mistakes and getting messy is the best way to explore STEAM! STEAM learning can happen anywhere with easy-to-find materials to design, build, and experiment.
Hands on projects keeps their interest and gets them engaged. It also allows the girls to work at their own pace while testing and adjusting their own ideas. Think of your role as a Troop Leader to be a guide while asking questions like, “What can you do to solve the problem?”, “What inspired that idea?” or “Is there another way?”, rather than giving the girls the answers.
Ready to get started? First project.
Cereal Box Invention
Materials Needed: cereal box, scissors, tape, glue, markers/crayons, string, anything you find at home you want to use to build.
Inventors tend to look at the world differently than most people. The average person might look at a coat hanger and only see its intended use, to hand clothes. An inventor might look at that hanger and see all the other uses for the hanger, such as an antenna, a hot dog cooker, a hair curler, etc. In this activity the girls will look at the world like an inventory, through a lens of creativity!
The Engineering Design Process:
Step One – Define and Brainstorm: You have 3 minutes to come up with as many uses for a cereal box as possible. You want to generate as many unique uses as you can. Wild ideas are encouraged! Ready, set, GO!!!
Step Two – Select: Now that you have a list, review it, is there an idea on that list that really excites you? Or you are curious about? Circle it!
Step Three – Design: Draw it out and make a plan! I have found that telling someone about your plan helps flesh it out. Find someone to tell about your design.
Step Four – Prototype and Test: Start by building your prototype. A prototype is a physical representation of one or more of your ideas to show others. Just remember a prototype is a rough draft, you can make adjustments later!
Step Five – Evaluate and Improve: Evaluate your design: what is working, what isn’t? Make changes and test them out. Repeat this process until you are happy with your design.
Ask questions about the ideas and process. What was difficult in the Engineering Design Process? What surprised you about your design? How can you use this process moving forward?
By completing the activity above your girls will fulfill the requirements for the badges listed below. We recommend taking a look at the badge requirements for your level on Badge Explorer to see if you can adjust your prototype to fulfill another step or badge as well!
Daisies: Think Like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
Brownies: Inventor – Steps 1 & 2, Think Like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
Juniors: Think like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
Cadettes: Think like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
Seniors: Think like an Engineer Journey – Step 1
Ambassadors: Think like an Engineer Journey – Step 1