Flying the Flag for 9/11

As we mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, take a moment to look at your right shoulder. Specifically, look at the flag waving atop your uniform sash or vest.

The US flag was not part of the official Girl Scout uniform until after 9/11. Even today, the flag technically is optional, although most girls wear it.

The straight flag was introduced in the 2002 catalog, although no girl pictured in the catalog was wearing one. The wavy flag was introduced in 2008.

 

GSUSA also introduced three new badges that emphasized flag etiquette, history, and patriotism: Wave the Flag for Brownies, United We Stand for Juniors, and American Patriotism for Cadettes and Seniors.

As troops form and begin meeting this fall, take the opportunity to explain the importance of that small flag on her shoulder.

©2016 Ann Robertson

Laundry Day with the Girl Scouts

It’s laundry day at the Robertson household. No, I’m not going to tackle that teeming basket of ironing, I’m going to look at Girl Scout laundry badges!

The first handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country included the Laundress badge. Girls had to:

laundress 1917

Laundress, 1917

  1. Know how to wash and iron a garment, clear starch, and how to do up a blouse.

  2. Press a skirt and coat.

  3. Know how to use soap and starch, how to soften hard water, and how to use a wringer.

 

2016-08-04 09.35.57

After 1938, laundry-related skills were incorporated into other badges, such as Housekeeper. Intermediate Girl Scouts of the 1940s had to learn how to remove a variety of stains (milk, coffee, ink, rust, etc.) and :

 

Assist in a weekly laundering by gathering and assorting the clothes and linens, by washing and ironing some articles with your mother’s permission, and by assorting and putting away the clean laundry.

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Since the 1980s, badges involving clothing have focused more on design and cost than care and cleaning.

One thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find in my Rockwood research is how nice campers managed to look, especially while touring Washington, DC. Whether in a tent or lodge, girls managed to keep their white uniform blouses clean and crisp.

Ironing

Girl Scouts ironing at Skyview Lodge, Rockwood (NHPC)

 

 

Personally, I really like this laundry spoof badge I found on Etsy.  Who knows what all those laundry symbols mean? laundry badge

If anyone would like to do my ironing, I’ll gladly buy one for you!

©2016 Ann Robertson

If I Were CEO of GSUSA

With the search underway for a new Chief Executive Officer at GSUSA, I started thinking about what I would do if I were CEO.

1. Relocate Headquarters

Earlier this year GSUSA announced its intention to sell part of its suite of floors at 420 Fifth Avenue in New York. Why not sell all of it? Let’s relocate to a less expensive, more centralized city, how about Chicago or Memphis or Kansas City? Personally I vote for bringing HQ back to Washington DC.

In addition to corporate offices, archives, and an expanded museum, let’s include a conference center and hostel facilities for traveling troops. Girl Scouting promotes active citizenship, which is enhanced when girls tour the Nation’s Capital and see how our government works. The Rockwood National Program Center served a similar purpose for decades but today still suffers from a lack of public transit options. A better model might be that of the National 4-H Conference Center. Nice, affordable space near public transit.

2. Return to a Skills-based Program

4 levels cover

The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine highlighted new handbooks for all levels.

Girls learn by doing activities, not by reading about them. They like challenges and stretching themselves. Let’s dump the Journeys and emphasize learning by doing with a rich range of badges. Put them all in ONE handbook, available in print and online. As Miss Frizzle always says in the Magic School Bus, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” (Wouldn’t Miss Frizz make a great troop leader?) She had great field trips and knew the importance of getting outside.

 

3. Invest in Staff Stability

Girl Scout councils have become pass-through workplaces. Few staff stay as long as two years, regarding the jobs as temporary stages in their careers. But younger doesn’t necessarily mean better in terms of employees; it simply means cheaper. How do we get them to put down roots? We could ask new hires to make a two-year commitment. We could also recruit from another demographic—current volunteers. Would empty-nesters, long-time volunteers whose troops have graduated, be interested? They are already  familiar with the program, so they would have less of a learning curve. We can’t build strong relationships and continuity with fleeting partners.

4. Promote a Culture of Collaboration

The various components of our movement must commit to improving communication, treating others with respect, and not going off to pout in our tents. This is OUR movement. It is up to us to find ways to perpetuate it.

APR23AR07The old recipe for Brownie Stew applies in the conference room as well as the campsite: everyone brings something to the table—new ideas, hard-earned experience, and enthusiasm, to name a few. Just because an adult wasn’t a member as girl doesn’t mean they can’t contribute today.

We must eliminate the fear of being expelled or fired that intimidates leaders and staff into silence.

Staff must learn to value the contribution of volunteers—that means recognizing the hours they serve as well as the dollars they give. Both forms of contribution are equally vital to the future of our movement.

National, council, staff, volunteer, girl—we’re all part of the same big troop.

5. Promote Girl Scout Pride

The Girl Scout uniform is a symbol of an internationally respected organization devoted to the development of girls. Wearing your uniform identifies you as a member of Girl Scouts of the USA and of a worldwide movement rich in tradition. It shows Girl Scout pride and provides for recognition and visibility. (“The Girl Scout Uniform,” Leader Magazine Fall 2003).

TakomaParkUnifThe best way to improve our visibility is to, duh, BE VISIBLE. Part of that means wearing a uniform. The public won’t know what we’re doing if they don’t realize who we are. This includes staff, perhaps just one or two days a week, but we’re all in this together. Plus, uniforms are one segment of merchandise whose profits go to GSUSA. Is it a coincidence that the budget deficits swelled when uniforms were all but eliminated?

Getting off my soapbox now. The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the members or staff of my council, my family, or even my cats.

GSUSA Executive Search Team: Interested? You know where to find me.

©2016 Ann Robertson

Who Is Sylvia Acevedo?

Today, Sylvia Acevedo was named interim CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, following the resignation of Anna Maria Chávez. She is the CEO of  CommuniCard LLC, which “provides solutions in education and healthcare for America’s rising generation.” She also is the secretary of the GSUSA Board of Directors and a real, live rocket scientist.

Sylvia_Acevedo

Sylvia Acevedo, acting CEO of GSUSA

I had the pleasure of hearing Acevedo speak at the 2014 Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City. She gave a moving presentation where she talked about how her childhood Girl Scout leader had gone above and beyond the call of duty by tutoring Sylvia’s mother in English so that she could pass her US citizenship exam.

Her biography included with the Annual Meeting packet describes her as:

a lifelong Girl Scout. Earning her science badge as a Girl Scout Junior inspired her to become a rocket scientist. Learning to sell cookies sparked her dream of being an entrepreneur. Elected to the Girl Scouts of the USA’s National Board in 2008, Sylvia was the Girl Scout Gold Award keynote speaker in 2012 for the Girl Scout councils of Texas.

Girl Scouts of Central Texas named her a Woman of Distinction in 2013 and profiled her. The profile also mentions her partner, Dr. Janet Osimo, and their two rescue dogs.

 

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Look, this patch has a rocket on it!

I can’t wait to see what exciting changes will come with new leadership at GSUSA!

©2016 Ann Robertson

The views reflected here are personal and do not represent the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. 

Skills Needed: Girl Scout Badges Could Help

A new book claims that today’s college freshman lack basic life skills. This is a gap that Girl Scouts should address.

New book by former Stanford Dean of Freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims

New book by former Stanford Dean of Freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshman at Stanford University, claims that incoming students had impressive resumes, but were increasingly incapable of taking care of themselves. To remedy this problem, she says that, especially with teenagers, we should “seek out opportunities to put independence in their way,” such as making them responsible for their own food or learning to take public transportation.

She’s not alone in this belief. Many colleges have “College 101” courses to teach some of the basics. US News & World Report suggests that college freshmen need Seven Essential Life Skills.

With college looming, my troop of Seniors and Ambassadors has been focusing on basic life skills. We haven’t found much help from the current badge offerings, especially given the slim pickings for Ambassadors. Let’s see how well current badges satisfy the US News Seven Skills:

Dinner Party

Dinner Party

(1) Cooking:  While learning to host a Dinner Party is a great idea, we’ve taken a more basic approach to cooking. We did one meeting on things you can microwave in a mug, like scrambled eggs (and a Nutella cake that will get you through almost any crisis). Another session is how to boost a packet of ramen noodles into actual food.

On My Own

On My Own

(2) Managing money and (3) Apartment hunting: We did On My Own, which was pretty good, although I wish the actual badge wasn’t screen printed. To teach budgeting and how to manage a checkbook, I turned to Teachers Pay Teachers. This is a great website where teachers upload materials they have developed for various age levels. For about $5 I downloaded a PDF packet with blank checks to cut out, registers to fill out, and more.

(4) Getting around town: This includes both auto care (which the Senior Car Care badge somewhat covers), but also public transportation, especially since many colleges do not allow freshmen to bring cars. Perhaps we should bring back the old Transportation badge from the 1940s?

Take Charge (photo by Annelies Squieri)

Take Charge (photo by Annelies Squieri)

(5) Staying safe and healthy: We did the old Studio 2B Take Charge badge, since there is no self-defense badge today. That was a controversial badge in its day, but girls need some blunt talk about domestic violence and rape with a trusted adult. It was surprising how many knew girls who had already been victims.

(6) Studying: I miss the old Reading badges that encouraged girls to read for fun and create troop book clubs.  To fill that gap, I’ve created my own patch programs based on the Hunger Games series and the Princess Diaries. They are fun ways to make stories come alive, learn related skills, and explore unexpected career paths.

(7) Planning: Any girl who has completed a Silver or Gold Award knows the importance of planning, but the current program is not adequately preparing them. I’ve been on my council’s Gold Award Panel for some eight years and have seen hundreds of girls who think adequate planning is a four-slide PowerPoint. With rare exception, project management is a skill that we have to teach girls as we mentor them, not one they’ve acquired in their troop.

I’ll add a few other skills:

Laundry Symbols Explained (http://visual.ly/laundry-symbols-explained)

Laundry Symbols Explained (http://visual.ly/laundry-symbols-explained)

  • Laundry: We don’t need to resurrect the old Laundress badge, but how about teaching girls (and their leaders) what all those mystery symbols on care tags mean?
  • Sewing: Perhaps GSUSA thinks we don’t need to know how to sew any more, since insignia are now all iron-in, but every now and then you have to sew on a button or fix a hem.
  • Swimming: Yes, swimming. There’s no Girl Scout badge for swimming any more.  But to graduate, every Columbia University student has to be able to swim the length of the pool.

So there are my suggestions. Some of these skills are covered at earlier Girl Scout levels, but Ambassadors at least need a good review.

But of course, that would mean revamping the flimsy Ambassador program.

©2015 Ann Robertson

Rocking Rededication

multi-year_rededicationFall is an exciting time for Girl Scouts, as new girls join, new troops form, and returning members recommit themselves to the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Each is marked by a special ceremony, either an Investiture or a Rededication.

Both are beautiful rituals that have been performed since the earliest troops met.

But too often, once the ceremony ends, mothers rush over to the leaders and immediately begin arguing. The issue? The dreaded Rededication Rocker – the iron-on patch reading “First Year,” “Second, Year,” etc.

“Susie’s been in your troop three years, but you gave her a Second Year rocker. Can’t you get your paperwork right?”

And so it begins.

Let’s set the record straight about Rededication Rockers.

Rededication Rockers first appeared in the 1999 patch catalog.

Rededication Rockers first appeared in the 1999 patch catalog.

First, Rededication Patches and Rockers are not official insignia, like the Girl Scout pin, Council ID Strip, or even the troop numerals. They fall into the same category as cookie patches and event participation patches and go on the back of the uniform sash or vest.

Look at the girls in the latest Girl Scout Catalog. Are any of them wearing Rededication patches? Do you even see Rededication patches listed for sale? No. With the exception of the 2004 catalog, Rededication patches have not been included; they have been offered in separate “Fun Patch” catalogs.

When Daisies expanded to Kindergarten, new 11th and 12th year rockers were added to the 2004 catalog.

When Daisies expanded to Kindergarten, new 11th and 12th year rockers were added to the 2004 catalog.

Second, Rededication Patches and Rockers are optional. The uniform police aren’t going to come after you if your troop decides to skip them. And even if you do pass them out, Ambassadors really don’t need a huge row going back to their birth. Personally, I don’t think it’s a wise use of resources; a dozen rockers take up a lot of acreage on a teen vest, and at $1.75 each, I don’t think a troop should spend funds on patches “earned” six or seven years ago. If it’s that important, parents can buy the whole series.

A new design was introduced in 2006.

A new design was introduced in 2006.

Third, because they are not official insignia, Rededication Patches and Rockers do not have requirements to earn them. If a girl commits to another of Girl Scouts by reregistering, that’s sufficient for me. If she can’t make the rededication meeting, but comes later and asks, I’ll give her one. I’m just happy to have her back for another year.

Fourth, Rededication Years are one less than membership years. This is my biggest complaint about Rededication Rockers, the annual debate over what year a girl should receive. When you join Girl Scouts, you are invested; when you re-up for another year, you rededicate. Your second year as a Girl Scout is the first time you have a Rededication Ceremony; therefore, it is year one.

Really.  Yes, it is.

OK, let’s try it this way. If you believe that a returning first grader would receive a Year Two Rededication Rocker, then when she hits 12th grade she should receive a Year 13 Rocker, right?

Wrong!! There is no Year 13 Rocker. Now do you believe me?

Arrrrrgggggghhhhhh.

There is way too much drama about who gets what scrap of fabric at a Rededication Ceremony. Let’s keep the attention on the real meaning of Rededication. She came back!!!! Isn’t that enough reason to celebrate?

©2015 Ann Robertson

Girl Scouts and the American Bicentennial

Girl Scouts and the American Bicentennial

Happy Independence Day from the Girl Scout History Project!

Back in 1976, the United States was giddy celebrating the 200th birthday of the Declaration of Independence.

The Girl Scouts joined in, of course, issuing two national patches that could be worn on the uniform.

Proposed designs for a third patch highlighting “Horizons 76” appeared on the cover of the March 1975 Leader magazine. Each troop could vote for one. “Horizons 76” was a national program encouraging local service projects. A book containing descriptions of these projects was presented to First Lady Betty Ford at the national convention in Washington, DC, in 1975.

Individual councils also marked the American Bicentennial, with patriotic themed patches for local events and cookie sales.

Bicentennial-themed patches from various councils.

Bicentennial-themed patches from various councils.

One of the largest programs came from the Connecticut Trails Girl Scout Council: “If I Were a Girl Scout in 1776.” The program handbook was divided into two sections. The first two parts, “Home and Family” and “The Nation in 1776,” each had six badges that encouraged girls to delve into the history of their families, communities, and country.

Some of the badges available.

Selection of program badges. Top row, l-r: My Flag, George Washington, The State House Bell, My Heritage; Bottom row: My House and Yard, My Country, Toys and Games, My Colony (hand drawn on blank).

The third section contained instructions for making “the 1776 Girl Scout uniform,” which included a gown or dress, an apron, a fichu (scarf), mob cap, and shoes.

My bicentennial dress from 4th grade.

My bicentennial dress from 4th grade.

I was a Junior during the Bicentennial and really wish I’d known about this program. I would have earned all of the badges!

Happy Fourth of July!