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January 31, 2012 > Girl Scouts - Giving back to their community

Girl Scouts - Giving back to their community

Submitted By Bethany Hung, Steffi Kwok, and Andrea You
Photos By May Chen

Looks like Santa had a sleigh full of goodies for Warm Springs Elementary this past winter break! Bethany, Steffi, and Andrea, Girl Scouts from Fremont Troop 31509, assumed the role of Santa's elves and painted in some fun and educational activities on the Warm Springs' playground. While doing so, they will be earning their Silver Award.

The Silver Award is the highest honor a Cadette level Girl Scout can earn. Obtaining it involves completing a Silver Project; each project team may have up to four girls. As a service project, the first step is to identify a need beyond the Girl Scouts community. When completed, it must benefit the local community, be sustainable, and have taken at least fifty hours per girl. Before starting their project, every girl in the team must complete a Cadette Journey - an expansive series of leadership and life skill activities.

This project was born with a personal experience. Back in her elementary school days, Steffi was never interested in monkey bars, basketball, or other commonplace recess activities. While brainstorming for Silver Project ideas, she thought about how she could change this experience for others in the same predicament. At first, Steffi thought of creating some funky hopscotch designs which kids could get creative with or make up their own games, instead of the standard ones. From there, the project developed.

The goal, focused towards youth's health, was to make more playground activities available so that students could be active, stay healthy, and be more energized to learn. At a meeting with Mr. Brett Nelson, the Warm Springs principal, it was discovered that the school had been meaning to paint new four-square courts. A work order had been put in for a while, but the district lacked the time and resources to execute it. Warm Springs Elementary eagerly welcomed the project, as Mr. Nelson gave the girls his preliminary approval.

Consequently, the team decided to paint two four-square courts and an educational US map in addition to the funky hopscotch for Warm Springs' playground. Bethany, the artistic one on the team, came up with a lily pad pond design for the hopscotch. After researching for the necessary materials, the team solicited donations. The girls contacted local businesses, and obtained many gallons of 'oops' paint, a term for rejected customized paint. As for their U.S. map stencil, they even managed to receive a fifty percent discount. For items not donated, they presented a proposal to their own troop, appealing for funds. After a detailed design and budget were completed, the team made a formal presentation to Mr. Nelson and obtained the official approval for their playground project.

Winter vacation rolled in, and with all materials ready and planning finalized, it was the team's goal to start and finish painting during the break. Thus, Bethany, Steffi, and Andrea devoted much of their break working on the school playground. Luckily, the weather was cooperative, allowing them to be out on the asphalt every day in an attempt to finish it before school resumed. The team later joked about how their sunshine dances and prayers for good weather actually worked!

When students from Warm Springs returned from winter break, they were greeted and surprised with beautifully painted additions to the playground. Mr. Nelson, standing in the middle of the new map, quizzed kids on their U.S. geography as they played state tag. Emily You, a fourth grader, said, "I really like the bright colors on the map, and now we can play number hop on the hopscotch pond." A fifth grade student, pleasantly surprised, exclaimed, "This giant map will be really helpful for my fifty states test!" Students joyfully played line tag and bounced balls back and forth on the four-square courts.

Bethany, Steffi, and Andrea would like to thank Kelly-Moore Paints, The Home Depot, and Peaceful Playgrounds for their generous donations and discounts. The team would also like to thank the community and their troop for support, and especially Mr. Nelson for giving them this wondrous opportunity to transform their idea into a reality.

For the team, the completion of the Silver Award was a very fulfilling experience. When observing the smiles on the students' faces and watching them invent games on the newly painted playground additions, Bethany, Steffi, and Andrea realized how truly wonderful it felt to give back to their community. In spreading this feeling, they hope that this project will inspire others, scouts and non-scouts included, to give back to their own communities as well.

Now, the girls are working as an advisory team. If you would like to duplicate this project in your community, please do not hesitate to contact May Chen at may.chen@alumni.haas.org, a parent of one of the girls. They will be very eager to assist you with your project!

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