Make new friends and keep the old…you know how the rest goes. Or, you do if you’re part of The Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE). These future leading ladies are forging a future for themselves with help from the Junior League of Birmingham (JLB) and teaching a thing or two right back.
Two missions align perfectly
The partnership between the GSLE and the JLB match up better than your favorite pair of cozy socks. The Girl Scouts Super Troup, of the Girl Scouts of North-Central AL, started around one year ago and has grown to be more of a movement than an after school activity. Mary Frances Colley fell in love with the Girl Scouts and was so excited and passionate about it, she became of the project.
“It couldn’t be a better mashup of the two missions of the organization. The JLB is really focused on developing women to become leaders in their community—confident leaders. That’s really what we’re trying to do with these young girls, also. But, working with these girls teaches us so much too.”Mary Frances Colley, Chair of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience
Full STEAM ahead
Girl Scouts has a focus on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). They have a whole set of badges that are STEAM-focused—ensuring a well rounded and balanced learning experience. However, it’s not like the kind of learning you find in classrooms.
“What I love about Girl Scouts, the thing I fell in love with, is how hands-on it is. You’re not sitting in a classroom reading a book or learning from a PowerPoint presentation.
It’s very active—we can tailor the experiences toward what the girls are interested in. We show them different patches they can work on and ask which they’d like to strive for. Then, they get a say in choosing what they do throughout the rest of the year.”Mary Frances
In fact, so much fun is happening in the Girl Scouts Super Troup that they don’t even realize how much education is at play. It’s like when your mom would slip in veggies to your favorite dish—you never noticed, and you’re still getting something beneficial for yourself.
You teach me, I’ll teach you
Last year, a group of five JLB members led the troop of about 25 girls. While they were helping these girls tackle life skills, they were also learning themselves.
“My co-chair of the project is one of my best friends so it’s been so fun to do this together. We’ve learned so much—neither one of us were Girl Scouts, we’re not teachers, we don’t have kids—but it’s been really good for us and really fun.”Mary Frances
From badges to brilliance
One of Mary Frances’ favorite badges dealt with a series of science experiments. The girls think they’re just working on crafts, but really while they’re making slime ,they’re learning about the reactions that are involved in the substances.
Of course, the Girl Scouts are most well-known for those words that rhyme with fin tints. We get a delicious treat, but meanwhile the little saleswomen are moving up the corporate cookie ladder.
“Cookie sales, for example, feel so fun to them and so exciting. But, they’re learning things like confidence, responsibility and keeping up with money.
It’s the little things, like working a stand outside of Walmart. We’re teaching them customer service and even math skills as they’re counting out change for a sale. They don’t even notice, because they’re having a blast.”Mary Frances
As someone who grew up incredibly shy, I can’t imagine the person I’d be today if I was a part of a program like the Girl Scouts in my life. Being shy is one thing, but what girls face in elementary and middle school can really be brutal. However, this troop might be on a path to making it more bearable.
Learning how to be kind is invaluable
There have been a lot of favorite moments, badges and activities for Mary Frances this past year. But, one that really struck a chord was the friendship badge and I can understand why.
“We all know about bullying and how hard it is to be a girl in this day and age. So, this friendship badge we worked on we went through role playing about when you disagree with someone how can you do that in a kind way. We did these little skits disagreeing with someone but being kind and respectful or ‘what not to do.'”Mary Frances
The scenarios involved situations like if you saw someone behaving this way in P.E. or a classroom and you knew it was disrespectful—how could you go up and stop that conversation or become a peacemaker? In correlation with the lesson, the craft that they did that day was making friendship bracelets. You might be aware, one of the Girl Scouts’ mottos is, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.”
“They made these silver and gold bracelets with the letters ‘MNF’ —make new friends. So, we challenged them to go back to school and find a girl who looked like she needed a new friend or looked like she was having a bad day or someone they never talked to before and give away their friendship bracelet.
We pushed them to make an effort to make a relationship with someone new and then come back to our next meeting and tell us how that went.”Mary Frances
What’s in store for the GSLE?
As with everything, plans for how the GSLE will look this upcoming fall is going to shift. The group plans to meet twice a month, whether it’s virtually or outside in a socially distant setting. The goal for the upcoming year is to fit in more time for activites in the community—such as visiting Vulcan or the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
The only sadness I felt after learning more about the GSLE is realizing I’m way too old to join. The good news—we’ve got a lot of future change-makers heading into the world.
Interested in learning more about the GSLE? Follow the JLB on Instagram, Facebook and their website to stay involved date on this project and many more.