Friday, May 26, 2017

Girl Scout Three Cheers for Animals Journey in a Day

Good Afternoon,

A couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at my first Journey in a Day. It was quite the learning experience as a new troop leader, but I think over-all it went well. I found it difficult to find information beyond the "Making Friends" kit that many use, so I thought a blog post might help other troops out there who are looking into completing the Daisy journey "Three Cheers for Animals" in just one day. 

To give you an idea of how I came to this schedule and activities, I'm going to explain the process I followed. I found it worked well for me and will probably do something similar in the future. First of all, I went ahead and bought the leader guide for the Three Cheers for Animals journey. I wanted to get an idea of what the requirements are, look for activity ideas and see what the traditional journey plan would look like. I decided early on that I didn't want the journey to have to much coloring. I had found that the kits available to purchase had mostly coloring and not enough movement. Not to diss coloring. I love to color. However, if I wanted a group of 6 and 7 year olds to be engaged for hours I didn't think coloring was going to do the trick. 

I also decided early on that instead of focusing on domestic animals, I was going to focus my journey on local wildlife. This was actually a hard decision for me because my husband is a veterinarian, and I could have used him...I mean use his "expertise". However, after looking at badges to come in Brownies and Juniors, I decided there was going to be enough pet focused activities that it made sense to focus this journey to something different.

To get on my soapbox for a second, my personal mission with my troop is get them engaged in the outdoors as much as possible. My personal experience when I was a scout was when our troop was more engaged in outdoor activities and education, I got more out of the scouting experience. The results of my completely unscientific survey of all my friends who were Girl Scouts as kids was they all lost interest in scouting once they ended up in a troop that only did more home based activities. I had one friend that point blank that said as a little girl she was quite peeved when she learned what her male friends were doing in Boy Scouts compared to what she was doing in Girl Scouts. So, my personal mission is to give my girls a well rounded experience. Sure, we'll do crafts. Obviously, judging by the title of my blog, I love crafts. However, I think it's important to also give them exposure to the outdoors (and STEM and leadership for that matter). It's entirely possible some of these girls come from families that aren't able to offer those kind of experiences due to a multitude of factors. While I do camp, I'm still going to have to step out of my own comfort zone as well and learn some new skills to pass along. I think that's an important part of my journey as a scout leader. Just my two cents. Back to my planning process. 

After I had a focus and did a preliminary read of the guide, I wrote down the different awards associated with the journey. In the Three Cheers for Animal Journey there is the Bird Bath Award, Red Robin Award and Tula Award. I then wrote down what the ultimate goal of each of these awards was. I read through the sample plans in the leader guide for each of these awards and noted what activities and stories I wanted to use in the journey. 

Once I did that, I then looked to see where I needed to add more content/activities. I took into account that I didn't want the girls getting all hyped up with three high energy activities in a row. So I tried to balance activities that got the girls up and moving with more passive activities. I also wrote down what the goal for each activity was. I found this helpful when I needed to keep the girls on message. 

I found this a fairly effective way to draft up my plan for the Journey. However, I knew from the start I was going to have trouble with timing. I have found through Girl Scout events and birthday parties, I don't really have any idea how long activities are going to take. It's hard to know with younger girls how long the attention span will hold before you need to shift direction. So, since every group of girls is different and you'll have to account for that, I would suggest having some back-up activities in case you speed through activities like we did. On the converse, maybe your group is really into one activity and wants to take more time on it. I would make note of what activities you can skip if you're running behind time wise.

One other note. we did have some Brownies that decided to join the Journey. Since they didn't need or had already earned the Daisy Journey badge, I looked through current Brownie badges. I didn't find a current badge that matched what we were doing. I could have done a fun badge instead, but I felt like the girls were doing a ton of work not to earn an official badge. So, I did a bit of research and found the requirements of the retired Brownie Animal Try-It badge. One little known fact is that girls can earn the retired badges and display them with their other official badges so long as they meet the badge requirements. Many local libraries and online libraries have the old badge requirement books. So, I tracked down two retired badges on eBay and ordered them for the Brownies.

Here is the schedule we followed: 

Session One
Discover – Bird Bath Award
12:00-12:15     Check-In
Game: Animal Guessing (pg. 9 of  leader guide)
Goal: Allows girls to discover local wildlife through acting and movement
                        Supplies: Notecards and hat or sack
Preparation: Print pictures of local wildlife and paste on notecards. 
Directions: Put notecards in a sack/hat. Girls take turns giving hints about the animal and the other girls try to guess what the animal is.
12:15-12:20–   Girl Scout Promise
Welcome girls to the journey. Explain that a journey is a trip. We’re going to take a journey where we learn about local wildlife/animals, how to take care of them then teach other people how to take care of wildlife. We’re going to finish up our journey will making some things to help care for wildlife in area.
12:20-12:40 –  Speaker: Local Wildlife Expert
Goal: Give girls an overview of how taking care of our environment helps take care of local wildlife and also ourselves.
Preparation: Line up speaker
12:40-1:00 –    Discussion: Decision Making Scenarios (pg. 48 of leader guide)
Goal: Girls take the information they have received from the guest speaker and the animal guessing game to make good choices to care for local wildlife.
Supplies: Notecards
Preparation: Create scenarios and put on notecards 
Directions: Read the scenarios and girls give answers on what they would do.
1:00-1:45—     Snack & Red Robin Story (pg. 17 of journey book)
                         Meal: Sunshine in a Bag or Bird Nests
Preparation: Purchase food
Directions: Read Red Robin story during snack
2:00-2:20—     Game: Fly Fly Away (pg. 47 of leader guide)
Goal: Through movement and discussion focus on how each girl is unique just like each animal.
Supplies: Streamers, iPhone, Speaker
Preparation: Playlist on phone
Directions: Each girl takes 3 streamers in each hand as their “wings,” Play music while each girl tries to fly around. Call out other birds to have girls act them out (Penguin, Hummingbird, blue bird, eagle, pheasant, ostrich, goose, and Flamingo). After dancing, have girls sit down to rest and have a discussion about what makes each bird special and what makes them special. Ask how they learned/got that characteristic that made them special.
Session Two
Connect – Red Robin Award
2:20-3:00—     Discussion: Wildlife Video 
Goal: Girls learn about how wildlife take care of themselves and what we can do to help them. 
Supplies: TV Screen or Projector
Preparation: You Tube Playlist
3:00-3:20—     Activity: Animal Care Books
Goal: Girls create books to share with community how to help local wildlife. Allow girls to lead the discussion on where to donate the finished books.
Supplies: Printer paper, crayons, pens
Preparation: Pre-print
Session Three
Take Action – Tula Award
3:35-4:00--       Activity: Bird Nesting Material Hanger
Goal: Girls create a hanging basket with bird nesting materials to take home and help birds in their own community
Supplies: Yarn pieces, leaves, twigs, dry grass, pine needles, Whisks
Preparation: Gather supplies
Directions: To read: "Most birds build some kind of structure to contain their eggs and nestlings. A bird’s nest may be as simple as a nighthawk’s or Killdeer’s depression on the ground, a hole in a tree excavated by a woodpecker, or an elaborate pouchlike nest woven by an oriole. The most familiar nest type is a cup made of vegetation and sometimes mud. Often, the outer layers are of coarse material, and the inside is lined with softer or finer material. Depending on the species, cup-nesters may hide their nests in trees or shrubs, build them on the ground, or place them in nest boxes or tree cavities. Fallen leaves and twigs left unraked make excellent nest materials for many birds. Providing nooks in your backyard where this untidy debris can collect provides a variety of material for the birds to check out when they are building nests. They may even pick through your compost pile looking for suitable nest material. You can also put out concentrated stashes of nest material. If your yard has safe nest sites and adequate construction material, it will be more attractive to birds, including those that don’t visit feeders. Where would you put the nesting material hanger?" (Source: Cornell Department of Orthnology)
Explain how we’re going to use the whisks to pack with nest stuff and how they can hang it up at home in a tree. 
4:00-4:45--      Activity: Make Bat Boxes
Goal: Girls work as a team to make a bat box for local bats. Discussion on why bat boxes are needed and relate it to the needs of each girls.
Supplies: Wood, nails, wood glue, saw, router, black paint, hammers, white paint
Preparation: Precut wood, predrill all nail holes
Directions: See handout                 
4:45-5:00—    Clean up and Friendship Circle

Bird Bath Award

The first activity we did was the Animal Guessing Game. It's a pretty basic concept. You have pictures of local wildlife, and the girls have to act out the animal while the other girls guess. Some local wildlife is easy to guess like rabbits or skunks, but surprisingly, the girls even got some of the harder ones like badgers and weasels. I found a great handout from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks which had a list of all types of local wildlife. I found corresponding pictures and printed them out. I would recommend pictures over names since some girls probably aren't the strongest readers yet or a picture is easier for them to identify. Once the girls guessed the animal I read a couple of facts from the handout I found. 


After this activity, we had a professor from our local university come and speak about how to take care of local wildlife. She spoke about maintaining habitat and sustainable practices. She was really great with the girls, and they seemed genuinely interested.



I took notes during her speech and came up with some quick scenerios to ask the girls to give solutions on. 

We had a quick snack while I read the story about the red robin and flower garden flowers telling how they got their colors. After the story we did the Fly, Fly Away game found in the leader manual. This was a favorite in the group probably because it involved moving and music. 

Red Robin Award

The first part of this session was a video playlist on YouTube that covered local wildlife. I thought this would be a nice reprieve from all the activity, but to my surprise this was the least popular portion of the journey. If I were to do this again, I would either just do a quick 3 minute or so video with an activity mixed in or just cut it all together.  To see my You Tube playlist, click here. (Note: we only watched the first 5 minutes or so of the last video)

After we watched these videos, the girls had to take what they learned on the videos to make one page of a book. The book was supposed to inform the reader about local wildlife. I found a printable book page where there's a portion for a drawing at the top and then a lined book page at the bottom. There was a small amount of discussion about where we should donate the book for people to read. Eventually it was decided that we would donate the book to the local doctor's office for kids to read. After the journey I compiled all the pages into a book, laminated it, added a cover and donated it.


Tula Award

We did watch one video regarding how birds make nests which helped us with our next activity. The girls made nesting material hangers. I did a bit of research on these before we made them. I've seen them all over Pinterest, and I wanted to make sure they were actually safe for bird before we made them. The Cornell website was very helpful with what is good to put into the nesting material hangers. Dryer lint is a no go. It dissolves in the rain and therefore harms nests instead of helping them. It's no shock that natural materials are better. I did use a bit of yarn (that was a mixed recommendation on several different websites I visited). I made sure each piece of yarn was cut very short..less than 2 inches to keep it from tangling in the feet of birds. Rather than use suet cages (which can get expensive for a large group), we used dollar store whisks. They actually worked pretty well once the girls got the hang of how to pack everything in. This was one item the girls got to take home with them.



The final activity was the big one and probably took up the most prep time. The girls got into teams of two or three and made bat boxes. Instead of bog this post down with all the details of how to make them, I did a separate blog post. You can check that out here. I pre-drilled all the holes so the girls could build them easier. The girls had a blast hammering at them. Prior to handing out hammers, I did remind each girl about how to properly hammer, and all the girls did a great job with small taps on the nail head. I had several small person hammers (how I have five of them I do not know) so they didn't have to worry about the weight or the huge claw on one end.  After the Journey, I did take their boxes home and give them a bit of TLC before donating them to a local nature park.





Since we were running about an hour ahead of schedule, we took the opportunity to get outside and do some geocaching. We held our journey at a great local resource, a large nature park. I was actually surprised by how much the girls loved it. My own daughter has asked to go several times since.


That's the story of how we put the entire Daisy Three Cheers for Animals journey in one (long) day!







Wednesday, May 24, 2017

DIY Bat Boxes for Kids

A couple of weeks ago I organized a Daisy Journey in a Day for our local Daisies and Brownies. I'll have a full post on that experience here in a few days, but one aspect of the project that deserves it's own long winded explanation is how we built 4 bat boxes with 6 and 7 year olds.

First of all, I used this handout from Wild About Gardens as the guide for building the bat houses. One caveat is the measurements are in metric. I decided not to convert them and just grabbed an old fashioned meter stick and ruler. You will want to print off the handout to get your supply list and cut list.


While I bought all the supplies at once, I didn't make all the houses at once. I wanted to cut and make one sample one before I started cutting boards for the other boxes. Couple things about the supplies. You will want to make sure the wood is not treated. Treated wood has all sorts of chemicals that wouldn't be good for bats. Also, before you search the entire store, the rubber flaps you need for the hinge are in the plumbing section. You could use a nail gun if you're doing this for personal use. Otherwise you will want to pick up some nails. You will see I used huge roofing nails which aren't the ideal type of nails. This was a conscious decision since the large head on the nails would be easier for the young girls to hit. Also, I did bring wood glue, some small bowls and a bunch of q-tips and had the girls glue each piece before nailing it together.



I made all the cuts for the first sample box. If you're making extras for little kids to build, you will want to take a moment between attaching all the different pieces to measure and record where the nails are going in. That way you can predrill all the holes on the other bat houses. If you have older girls, you can skip this step because they don't need to be predrilled.

Also, if you plan on painting the outside of the box, it might be easier to paint the pieces prior to building the box. I painted all the pieces that would be facing out but left the inside a natural wood. I used black since the color adds extra heat.

First step: Attach the front piece to the side pieces. The front piece will sit inside the side pieces. Please see the handout or pictures for examples. The side pieces and front piece will slant towards the front.


Second step: Attach the bottom piece to the bat house. This piece will also be set inside the side pieces. It will sit flush with the front piece leaving a 10 cm gap in the back for the bats to enter the bat house.

Third step: You need to rough up the back piece. I did this by using a sharp nail and pressure. Then attach the bat house to the back piece.


Last step: Attach the rubber flap to the top piece. The angled portion will go towards the back. Then attach the top to the back piece.



Ta-Da! You have a wonderful bat box to make the local insect eaters happy. Mount the bat box at least 10 feet from the ground in a sun location facing east or south. Bats are happiest when there's at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.





Thursday, May 18, 2017

Featured on Wayfair!

Hello!

The rain has finally stopped, and I have 100 projects to complete outside before it starts again. So logically, I'm sitting inside writing a blog post. I just had to share that my home office was recently featured on Wayfair. (Click here for the link) My home office was a labor love. We took space that we had nothing but a bunch of random toys sitting in it and made it a 100x more functional. For all the DIY projects, including the amazing countertops my husband made from scratch, check out my blog post here.

Screenshot office featured on Wayfair dot com


I've got lots of goodies scheduled over the coming weeks including all the projects from my Girl Scout Journey in a Day, an outdoor art center, and the completion of two huge projects on Myrtle the vintage camper.

Thanks for tuning in!