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Empathy

fourgirlsforgirls

by Amanda, Lily, Olivia and Maxine

We are “Four Girls for Girls,” a few members of Troop 3225 who recently worked together to complete our Silver Award project.

What is the Silver Award? The Silver Award is a group service project where Girl Scouts (specifically Cadettes) support their community by enacting change that benefits others. The project should incorporate sustainability, and each girl is required to contribute a minimum of fifty hours of work to complete the Silver Award. For our service project, we were interested in focusing on helping young girls our age who may be facing difficult living situations or life transitions. We wanted the project to pertain specifically to young girls because we felt as though we could better establish a connection with them. We teamed up with a non-profit organization called Five Acres throughout our project with this goal in mind.

Five Acres is a non-profit organization that works as both a foster home and transitional home for children in Southern California. It’s been helping families for 128 years. Specifically, we targeted girls ages 6-14. Last March, Five Acres added a new transitional program and cottage for girls who are being relocated. Typically, they’re placed here if they’ve just been removed from unsafe conditions. They stay in this home for a few days while Five Acres searches for extended family members in the area. Generally, these girls arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Learning about this really affected us, being four teenage girls ourselves, and this inspired us to formulate our Silver Award action.

The core of our Silver Award project was to create comfort bags. Each girl will receive one when they arrive at their cottage at Five Acres. The bag itself is a drawstring backpack filled with several things, including toiletries, books, friendship bracelets, comfy socks, a journal and pen, pocket hearts, and comfort dolls, which are of our own creation. The pocket hearts are made out of clay, and painted with acrylic paint, and they have a textured pattern on their front. The purpose of pocket hearts is when you feel stressed or worried, you can rub the heart to make you comfortable and calm you down. We also made the comfort dolls. The comfort dolls are weighted, heavy dolls that contain rice, lavender, and stuffing. Give them a hug when you feel stressed, and all your worries will go away! In addition, we recycled chip bags into vinyl covered, fabric lined zipper bags, which could be used for holding their toiletries or for any other purpose. We felt like all of these things were crucial to add to the bags because they seemed to be the essential to make someone happy, or at least girls like us, our age.

As part of our sustainability aspect, we first presented our Silver Award to fifth graders at our school and taught them how to make friendship bracelets, which we put in our bags. Each of the fifth graders seemed very interested in the bags we were making, and we were really impressed that they each made several to put into the bags. Even though we gave them the option to either keep their bracelet or donate it, nearly everyone chose to donate theirs because they really liked the idea of helping the girls at 5 Acres. One of the fifth graders turned out to be a Girl Scout, and was so excited about our project had her mom get in contact with us, so we also presented to her troop, and later to our own.

We also presented our project at our local service unit’s monthly meeting, this time to other troop leaders in our area, who could take the information back to each of their troops. By presenting to all of these groups, we raised awareness and received supplies for our project. We decided to put some sustainability into the bags as well, by including journals that the girls will probably look back on to remember the life they were living. We also collected puzzles, board games, card games, and books to donate to the cottage itself, which will hopefully last a few years and leave something for the girls who come after the bags have all been distributed.

Interestingly, there was an unexpected but very welcome addition to the sustainability aspect of the project. A staff member at 5 Acres told us that Girl Scouts often ask what they can do to help them. She told us that from now on she will tell them about how helpful our project was and will encourage them to make similar donations. 

The last part of our sustainability is writing this blog post, to share our experience with all of the readers. We hope that you will share this with people you know, and continue to sustain the effect of our service project by spreading the idea far and wide, so others might pick it up and run with it.

Reflecting upon this project, each of us realized the voice we have in our community. With a new perspective revealed to us by girls going through the same stage of life we’re in, we learned to appreciate what we have. We’re all so grateful to have had this opportunity to contribute to the community, as well as educate our peers and ourselves about some of the needs that exist and the ways we can reach out to others.

May-2016-Chloe

by Chloe

Let’s face it, everyone has had the long talk in class about peer pressure, and everyone had probably experienced it at some point in their life. But I don’t think everyone has had the chance to really explore every aspect of the concept. Peer pressure is always thought of as this negative thing, and yes—it can be, but there are two other parts of it that are not very well known. One being indirect peer pressure and the other being positive peer pressure.

Let’s start with the more well-known one, negative peer pressure. Imagine that your friend comes up to you in class and asks you to go to the bathroom with him/her (you know the weird rule that you always have to to take a buddy with you). However in that class, you are working on a huge project that you are afraid that you won’t finish. Since it’s your friend asking you might be more inclined to say yes. You have just given in to peer pressure, even though it might not seem like this is happening. Given that it might seem to be a minor case, think back to that huge project you are working on. If you don’t finish and get a bad grade it will bring down your overall grade in the class, which will bring down your grade point average. I’m not saying that you have to say no every time someone asks you to do something, but you have to be aware of your surroundings and recognize when that something will potentially affect your life.

Just as there is negative peer pressure, there is also positive peer pressure. This is when peers push you to excel and to do better in your life. For example, at my school, we do something called a buddy run. Basically, the fastest runners get paired up with the slowest runners and have to get the slowest runners to beat their mile time. Being an elite runner in my grade, I was paired with a boy in my class with a mental disability. I tried the hardest I could to encourage him positively and worked with him so that he felt ok and so that we were still running most of it. Our hard work paid off because he beat his time by almost a minute. This was one of the first times that he had been able to complete the run and get an A. His caretaker was thrilled, he was thrilled, and frankly I was happy too. Just helping someone else made me feel good. Since then I was asked to do other runs with him and I am so happy to have the chance to do something like that. I hope that I have had a positive impact on his life by helping him in P.E., by encouraging him during runs and asking him to be on teams with me.

The last one is indirect peer pressure. This can go in two directions, positive or negative. First, let’s talk about the negative indirect peer pressure. This happens when someone’s actions or words that are not necessarily directed towards you cause you to be more inclined or want to do that action or what they want others to do that is not beneficial to you. People everywhere are exposed to this without even knowing about it. This source is advertising and media. It’s an advertising company’s job to sell something to you or make you want to do something. And the internet is filled to the brim with things like the latest trends or challenges people are doing most of which will hurt you in some way. Things like the cinnamon challenge in which you try to swallow a spoon full of cinnamon without the use of water might get views or likes, but a large amount of cinnamon is known to cause problems. It can be toxic especially to those with liver problems. Also, trends inspired by things that celebrities supposedly do or use. Just because a celebrity sponsors something does not mean that it is better than other products. you have to think about what you’re buying and what will be best for you.

On a lighter note, let’s talk about positive indirect peer pressure. This is basically the same thing as the other one but the outcome is positive. For example, let’s say that all of your friends are signing up to work at an animal shelter. Since your friends are doing it, you decide to do it too. You end up really loving it and you’re helping these shelters find homes for the animals and helping the animals stay happy and healthy. Your friends did not tell you to do it but their choices impacted your decisions.

People everywhere need to be more informed about peer pressure so that they can be more aware of when it is happening. You probably already knew about negative peer pressure whether it was from the great David Bowie or from school, and now you know about positive peer pressure. I hope this was helpful to everyone who reads it!

Arguments.

by Olivia

Almost all humans have judged a person and made assumptions about them based on looks, most of the time without realizing what they’re doing. According to Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist, we assume things about people within an average of 7 seconds, before even speaking to them. Just walking down the street, we assume all kinds of things about people, from popularity to personality. If we haven’t met these people or had any conversation with them, these assumptions are made entirely on looks. Whether it’s body shape or clothing, hair or accessories, thinking one way or another about someone before meeting them isn’t fair or kind.

There are a few different ways we judge people: maybe you’re in public and you see someone and make assumptions about their personality or ‘type’ based on what they’re wearing. Another way that people judge is when someone doesn’t buy you a birthday present. Maybe they couldn’t afford one. Or if someone texts something harsh and you get mad, they might have realized later that they didn’t mean it the way it sounded. In this blog post, I will mostly be talking about the first type of judging, where someone makes assumptions about a person before meeting them.

All of this judging comes from a lot of things, the main ones being society and stereotypes. They really go hand in hand. Society has taught us that nerds have glasses and girls have long hair, that thin is good and fat is bad. They taught us that nerds aren’t the right people to hang out with if you want to be ‘cool.’ Because society has put this into our heads, we automatically assume if a person is wearing glasses they are a nerd, and because they are a nerd they aren’t ‘cool’ and don’t deserve our attention or time. Glasses are meant to improve eyesight, not to be associated with popularity. We think that because someone’s shoes are dirty and they have a wrinkled shirt that they don’t care about their appearance or are sloppy. What if they’re poor and can’t afford something else? We see someone who is holding a Starbucks cup and think that they’re ‘cool’ and worth hanging out with, throwing the person with the glasses and the dirty shoes aside. These images that society has put into our heads using stereotypes are terrible and shouldn’t be supported when we judge people based on of them.

A person’s face can have a huge impact on our first impression of them. Blue eyes and blonde hair? Surf girl, from California. Milk mustache or food on face? Ugly, gross, immature. People have opinions on most things, like hairstyles, and that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t influence your feelings about the person. If you don’t particularly like pigtails, go ahead, but you can’t dislike someone because they’re wearing pigtails before you’ve met them . I have a pixie cut and I’m a girl, but a lot of people assume that I’m a boy, just looking at the hairstyle.

Clothing can also have a huge impact on who you like and don’t. It can be associated with what styles you like, and what new trends you like. If someone isn’t wearing your favorite color, why should you dislike them? Just because a person is wearing Crocs or a bright green shouldn’t affect what you think of them.

I’m going to have to admit a lot in this blog post, so here goes. When I find myself judging someone, rather than stopping I often try to find ways they could change their appearance to make a better impression on people, not just me. Do they have pimples? Use some pimple cream. Does their outfit not match? Learn from others that black complements everything. It’s absolutely terrible, and I feel terrible admitting that I think these things, but it’s true. After writing this, though, I have realized that I haven’t been judging people as much as I did before writing this. Now, sometimes when I’m in public, I’ll close my eyes and then look up and immediately think ‘friendly, hard working, kind’ to whoever I see first.

Although assuming facts and judging someone before meeting them is wrong, there are a few ways you can stop doing it. When you find yourself judging someone you haven’t met, forget what you would originally think of them and think of them as someone nice and someone you would be interested being friends with. Remember that their clothing or hairstyle should not determine what you think of them. Look at yourself. Would you like to be judged based off of your outfit? If you are in a public place (where introducing yourself wouldn’t be weird) introduce yourself to someone who you might have categorized as not a good person or someone who isn’t worth your time. Go to someone older than you, someone younger than you, someone the same age, anyone. Introduce yourself, say a few things about yourself. Ask them some questions. I can almost guarantee that the prediction that society and stereotypes put in your head won’t be true, and you could even find them as a new friend.

Why should personal styles determine what people think of you? Learning how to avoid judging people is very important. Judging is something that everyone can improve on, and learn from. When you find yourself judging, think of the person as a person, not a personality or type. Look at everyone as a person, instead of someone popular or nerdy. Judging can be stopped, but you need to start with yourself. Love yourself, and love everyone else.

Friends helping friends

by Amanda

Have you ever found the urge to compare yourself to others, or to look at the work of your peers in order to gain motivation and inspiration? You might even think that competing with your friends is a good thing, yet new research suggests it can do more harm than good.

A recent study exploring this—one conducted by Todd Rogers, associate professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Avi Feller, assistant professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley—found that when people are exposed to practices that praise the exemplary accomplishments of peers, they are more likely to have reduced motivation in completing and achieving their own work goals. In other words, when we see the excellent work of our peers being held up as an example, it can reduce our motivation rather than increase it. While it’s easy to think that publicly praising good examples of peer work should be an encouraging and motivating practice, new research clearly proves otherwise.

Leaders and companies regularly celebrate the excellent accomplishments of their more exemplary workers and students publicly, often hoping it will spark motivation and encourage others to reach the same levels of productivity. To find out whether it really does, the researchers observed and studied a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC ). They randomly split students into two groups—one group meant to assess average peer essays, while the other assessed above average peer work. Those who had been assigned to assess above average peer essays were dramatically more likely to fall behind and/or quit the course.

To follow up, researchers conducted an experiment which simulated a MOOC setting, in which they discovered that those assessing the more excellent peer essays mistakenly thought those essays must have been the norm, although they were much higher than the norm. Much like in the original MOOC setting, these students then expressed more disinterest in the task at hand than the students assessing average essays, and they too were more likely to quit the course. The researchers concluded that exposing students and workers to especially exemplary work or accomplishments is dramatically more discouraging to learners than exposing them to more “attainable social comparisons.”

Could this be similar to another phenomenon called “learned helplessness?” Learned helplessness is a form of giving up, and it is commonly seen when people have been repeatedly unsuccessful in reaching a goal, and as a result, they are conditioned to see it as unattainable.

The researchers do not make that connection, but given their findings, it’s easy to see how this effect applies in the world of not only education but the average workplace and work or learning environment. This research could have very important implications in real world settings since peer assessment is becoming a bigger part of both online and offline education. “Exemplar discouragement is powerful: Real students who assessed exemplary peers’ essays are substantially less likely to earn course credit than those who assessed average peers’ essays,” wrote Rogers and Feller. In their opinion, it’s also important for leaders and organizations to examine their motivational practices and patterns, and recognize where these practices can be rather discouraging.

So if comparing yourself to your peers isn’t helpful, what can you and your friends do instead to help one another improve? Peer encouragement is important, so one idea is to help your friends appreciate their own positive efforts and if you’d rather, you may even work together. Studies show that what makes us more productive is not competition, but our level of happiness, and what makes us happiest is our empathic connections with others. Working with others, giving to others, showing gratitude to others, and generally nurturing our relationships is what makes human beings mentally and physically healthy and happy—and successful.

So stop comparing yourself to your friends, classmates, and others in your peer group, and start reaching out to them instead. You will find you are better able to accomplish your goals when you develop empathy rather than competition.

Cocobear-maze-of-exclusion

by Frankie

One day, my friends Katie, Aubrey, Korryn and I decided to try a maze room, a place where a bunch of staff lock you into a room and you work with your friends to escape with the resources in the room. There are many different maze rooms, from Demon Hunters to Prison Cell, and they usually consist of one main room and a bunch of other rooms that branch off and lead you to your escape.  There are only (at most) seven people allowed, so we had to exclude one of our friends, Jadyn.

The maze room requires wits, bravery, and  the ability to use your brain. Not to forget teamwork, which you cannot succeed without. This is what scared us. Our group, a bunch of zany, reckless middle-school students who are very unobservant and (sometimes) act like first-graders, aren’t necessarily fit for the job. Nevertheless, we decided to do it, because it sounded fun. At least we were good at teamwork.

Once we reached the limit with the number of people we could bring, we drove to Los Angeles to get to the maze room. Finding the actual building was a maze within itself. Once we found the building (which was up a sketchy looking set of stairs), we waited until a woman told us everything about the room. She said to ask for a hint if we needed one and explained that we only had sixty minutes. Then we went inside the room, where we saw a door to the left, a door to the right, a table with a chair against the wall, an end table, another table with a bunch of books on it, and a lamp in the corner. The table with the books also had several drawers below. It was very weird. When we looked to the left, paint on the wall read “The rat eats the furniture.” At that moment, Katie tripped on her foot, and landed beside the table with the chair, and picked something up. What a coincidence! It was the rat.

We didn’t know what to do after that. We were just wandering around, literally tearing the room apart. We must have gotten the rat for something. Aubrey’s mom took the rat and stuck it against everything, to see if anything else would happen. Korryn and I turned over the end table, only to find nothing. But there were weird markings on it as well. Aubrey’s mom put the rat against the markings and the end table, which was previously locked, opened up. Inside was a creepy photo of some dude, but there was a date on the back of  the photo. We typed in the date in a lock, and a box beside the door on the right opened. Inside was a metal rod. Okay . . . interesting. At that same moment, the door on the left opened, because Katie was fiddling around with the rat against the left door. We were told through a walkie-talkie that the door wasn’t supposed to open yet, so we closed it.

We didn’t know what to do for a while, so we asked for a clue through the walkie-talkie. The woman said to remove all the books. So we all did, and a small hole appeared, the perfect size to place the metal rod in. A drawer swung open below the table, and inside it had the code to escape the first room. We did. The rest of the maze room was full of random problem-solving, and we all worked together pretty equally. Once we escaped, which involved putting candles on all five tips of a pentagram, we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant nearby. But, that wasn’t all.  Because the joy of escaping and figuring out how to do so, and locking your brain into high gear was so thrilling, we HAD to do it again. We did the Demon Hunters one first. We had five minutes left to spare. That was medium difficulty. We decided to do the Soviet Spy one, where we were FBI agents that were trying to find the undercover Soviet spy. It was rated HARD DIFFICULTY LEVEL. We knew we could do it.

Just like the first location, this maze room was very hard to find. We had to go up a small elevator, then we walked along the second floor of the building until we found the maze room. A man welcomed us, and we were given fake mustaches and vests that had fake FBI names on it. It was amazing. We could already tell that this maze room was going to be the best. We went through a series of crazy steps, and one even involved a closet opening from the back. It was epic. We ended up finishing the room with fifteen minutes to spare. But all the crazy adventure made me think of Jadyn, whom we had excluded. I had to set things right, especially because all of my friends said she was going to be invited. It was a serious problem. After having the time of my life in a bunch of maze rooms, it was time to go back to school and face this.

I went up to Jadyn, and told her that we had gone and weren’t able to invite her because  there was no more room. I told her that it was wrong of me for going without telling her anything beforehand, and then we worked out a date where we could go and do something that was just the two of us. It took some planning, but after Spring Break, we did the Bean Boozled Challenge [a game of chance involving Jelly Beans], ate some delicious food, and hung out, spending lots of time having fun. Not only did I have a great time at the hangout with Jadyn, but I felt a lot better about our friendship.

If you are ever in the situation where you feel peer pressure to exclude someone, think twice and always include them.