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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.

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gs-blog-mints-footprints

The purpose of Girl Scouting is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. To fulfill this journey, we are educating ourselves with business skills through our cookie sales and other fundraising activities. We are working toward a goal of an international troop trip and community project to benefit those in need.

One of the many reasons we sell Girl Scout cookies is to gain financial support for our growth in knowledge and skills to help us reach out to others. By purchasing a box of cookies, you are fueling a girl and her troop’s passion to lend a hand. Our troop gets about a dollar for every box sold, and we’re putting those dollars toward our local and global community efforts.

Part of what you’re supporting is our work toward earning badges. We have badges that address and build environmental responsibility, community outreach, and other skills that shape us into good citizens.

Before the end of their scouting career, Girl Scouts work toward global change by participating in the Bronze Award, then the Silver Award and, finally, the Gold Award—the three highest honors a Girl Scout can receive. To achieve these, we are required to make a sustainable, positive impact in our communities by identifying a need, creating a plan, and then taking action that will fill that need while leaving “footprints” behind to inspire long-term benefits.

We want to leave our footprints locally and globally, and you can help us through simply buying a box of Thin Mints. Of course, if Thin Mints aren’t your thing, we have several other flavors that just might be!

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.