Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Girl Scout way

I am the leader of two different Brownie Girl Scout troops. (2 daughters = 2 troops ... must keep these things fair)

This is my second year leading two troops and will definitely be my last year. It's fun, but it's also time consuming. In fact, no one told me how much of my time would be given over to Girl Scouts. Just training to become a leader involves five different classes that involve a total of 10-12 hours. Then there's the paperwork, which could just about kill a person or at least overwhelm them into a fetal position. After that, the leader has to plan each meeting -- there's no prescribed list of meetings and how one one should entertain a dozen energetic girls for an hour. I spent about ten hours last August working on my general plan for this year and usually spend another 5-10 hours each month gathering materials and preparing for each meeting.

Somehow, last summer I came up with the most amazing idea for my second grade troop. In fact, I still do not know how I came to receive such divine inspiration. Normally, a troop will work on a variety of things throughout the year: arts and crafts, music, sports and games, etc. Somehow, I decided to combine all these ideas -- and more -- into a comprehensive plan for the year that has us traveling all over the world.

At our first meeting in September, we talked about what's involved with world travel, made passports, pored over maps, and generally got excited. Each meeting, we look at our map on which we've marked our trip and talk about where we were at the last meeting and what is involved with getting to our new location.

Here's our itinerary for the year:
  • England -- a good place to start since the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were begun here. We talked about how English is not always English and the differences between American English and British English. We examined British money and how it differs from ours. We talked about British Girl Guides. We also drank tea and ate "biscuits" (cookies to us Yanks).
  • France -- We learned French words and phrases, talked about art, and tried some new foods.
  • Greece -- We studied the first Olympics and had our very own games. One of the troop families is Greek Orthodox, so the mother brought in baklava and other treats.
  • Egypt -- Since this is a group of seven- and eight-year-olds, we just had to study mummies. We learned about the entire mummification process and the girls wrapped each other with toilet paper. After that, the entire troop worked as a team and wrapped one girl, while observing the proper rituals and procedures. One of the mothers in the troop is a music teacher and she played traditional oboe music for us. We ended the meeting by writing our names in hieroglyphics.
  • China -- We ate lots and lots of Chinese food, tried Chinese jump rope, and learned how to use chopsticks. It was the Chinese new year, so we talked about how each year is associated with an animal, such as the year of the Dog, and looked at charts to see which year each girl was born in.
  • Australia -- We are lucky enough to have an aboriginal art museum in our town, so we went there to learn about aboriginal culture and art.
  • Japan -- This meeting was today and it was great. One mother brought a variety of foods for us to try. I taught the girls some words and phrases to use throughout the meeting. Another mother brought different kimonos for the girls to try on. After that we did some simple origami and then ended things by playing the Japanese version of "rock, paper, scissors."
  • Amazonian rain forest -- We're going to learn about the rain forest and its inhabitants, the environment, etc.
  • U.S. -- This will be our last meeting and, in honor of our return from our travels, we'll have an old fashioned American party, with sugary treats and fun activities.
Throughout our journey this year we've talked about how children in other countries are different and also the same, Girl Scouts/Guides in other countries, etc. I've been very pleased with how adventurous the girls have been and with their willingness to try new foods. They've really been interested in what we're doing and, when I see them at school in between meetings, they always stop to ask me where we're going next. In fact, some of the girls read up on the countries in advance so that they'll have something interesting to contribute to the conversations. With any luck, they'll always remember this and will one day tell their own daughters about the year they were international travelers. I'm sure that some of the girls will be world travelers in reality and not just in fantasy. In fact, one of the girls is going to England next month and my own family will be going to Canada this summer. It's possible that some of the girls won't have the means to travel when they're older, but I hope that the spirit of adventure will live within their hearts and that they'll at least read about other countries and learn when they can.

And that is the real Girl Scout way.

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