Monday, June 1, 2015

Sarah's Girl Scout Gold Award Blog: Step 1 - Picking a Project

Hi! My name is Sarah, and I wanted to document the process of completing my Girl Scout Gold Award project. 

The goal of this blog is to help and inform any girls who are possibly interested in pursuing her Girl Scout Gold Award.  Trust me, I know that creating, organizing, and leading a large scale community service project sounds intimidating, but it is possible to accomplish.  The key is finding a project that motivates you and you are passionate about. 

My goal for my project is to create a functional library and stress-free therapy zone for students with special needs at a local middle school.  The school currently has an operating library, but all of the books are too advanced for these students to read and comprehend.  The kids I’ll be working with are only able to read from a preschool to a third grade level.  I want them to be able to relate and feel included with their peers.  I also plan to add a shelf to one of the school’s rolling carts and make it into a “rolling library”.  This will allow more special needs classrooms access to the books.  
Since these children have disabilities such as behavior disorders and autism, the classroom can be a very stressful environment for them.  Not only do I want to create a space where they can read, but I also want to make a safe area where they can relax and enjoy themselves.  To do this, I am going to make sensory and therapy toys for them to play with.  I will also provide games, puzzles, lounging furniture, and even a fish tank for their enjoyment.  Even though I have only an 8x8 ft area to build my library, this is going to be a big project.

The first and most difficult step to starting my Girl Scout Gold Award project was coming up with an idea.  For months, my troop leader would ask me if I had an idea so we could get started a project.  Every time, I drew a blank.  I could NOT come up with a single idea!!!  My older sister had completed her project a year before and she had set the bar pretty high.  Her project’s goal was to host fun events where patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital could paint pictures, decorate cupcakes, and meet their heroes like policemen and firefighters.  She even managed to bring Olympic athletes in to meet with the kids! 
Long story short, I was stumped.  When my leader informed me that a friend of hers was looking for help to create a library for her students, I jumped on the opportunity.  For me, it was like a match made in heaven.  I love reading more than almost anything.  To give other kids the opportunity to share in the joy of reading sounded like a worthy cause to me.  Finding the perfect project idea can be a trial all on its own, but if you look into your hobbies, you might be surprised to find a need in the community.  Also, be sure to ask several different sources about possible projects like school advisors, charitable organizations (remember to stick to Gold Award rules), and even your troop leader.  Research lots of ideas before you ask to get approved.

Once I had my idea on lock-down, I met with my project advisor, Cindy, the teacher who asked for my help.  She told me the conditions of her students and she pitched to me her own ideas for the space.  I wrote her ideas and my own down in a handy dandy little notebook for future reference.  My leader, Karlene, and I measured the area Cindy gave me to work with and also jotted down possible dimensions for book shelves and other furniture.  We also discussed therapeutic amenities for the space.  Cindy’s only restriction was that anything we brought in had to be large enough to not be able to fit into a sneaky student’s pocket.  That seemed easy enough J. 
After our meeting with Cindy, we headed back to Mrs. Karlene’s house to fill out the paperwork for the Girl Scout Council of Southern Illinois.  4 hours and a whole pizza later, the paperwork was done and ready to be reviewed.  Since I had cut it pretty close to the submission deadline, Mrs. Karlene had to personally drop the paperwork off to Council the next morning while I was at school.  All that time writing up my project ideas and goals had paid off! I was approved!  With school drawing to a close and summer just around the corner, I’m ready to kick off my project.