Wednesday, January 11, 2012

3 Cheers for Animals Session 1

I might have mentioned before that I have had the joy of being a Girl Scout leader since A joined last year. I have LOVED every moment of it. Apparently A has LOVED every moment of it as well. In October GSUSA released these binders called "A Girls Guide" that a girl can track her journey through. I'm compulsive and decided that we had to start with the Daisy binder despite our troop not using it. I just thought it would be neat to collect the whole set. Well A got her hands on the binder and noticed that there were more activities in it and more awards, and... well you get the idea. I think she has a bit of compulsivity in her as well, but she absolutely LOVES Girl Scouts. If there is down time she pulls out scout stuff and starts going through it, even if it means redoing a journey or a petal.
One day she just decided that she wanted to do the 3rd journey - 3 Cheers for Animals. I looked at how we could do it, made a plan, and told her what it required. She still wanted to do it. How could I argue with a 6yo girl who spent 10 hours of her Thanksgiving break working on her Faith Award without prompting? So I asked if she wanted to invite her other Daisy friends to do the journey too. Of course she did! We sent an e-mail to the troop offering this additional journey - an extra meeting a week for 10 weeks plus field trips and a service project. We are delighted to report that there are 5 girls who took the challenge! Even more exciting is that this means 3 of them are slated to Summit with completing this journey. It's very exciting.
Through out this Girl Scout journey I had promised my self that I would start posting the lessons and materials I create to help my fellow leaders. I love when we share ideas and help each other along the way. Since the girls have taken on an additional challenge I decided that I needed to take the additional challenge of actually posting our journey so that other leaders have benefit of our experience.

Session 1 - Introduction to the Journey.
Animals need food and water.
Materials: Clay pots with the bases, craft paint, paint brushes, and cups to hold the paint, Animal journals, glue, scissors, pictures of winter birds (see my pinterest for pictures if you need them. I've been collecting), tuna / chicken cans, wooden stick, packaging tape, bird seed (wild bird mix and shelled sunflower seeds for the Central Texas area), suet, rolled oats, corn meal, peanut butter, measuring cups, medium sized bowl, spoons (or hands). We covered our work area in paper because this was a messy night.
I just realized that I did some prep ahead of time that I should tell you about. I had a few composition books on hand and some animal themed scrapbook paper. I covered the book with the paper to create their animal journal. They will us these at every meeting to take notes about the things they are learning. They will be able to add to them for as long as they want. I got the idea from birders. They keep some sort of notebook on the birds they have seen, where they saw the bird, etc.

Suet.... that was an experience. Once I found out what suet was our family was on a quest to actually find some. Suet is the extra fat that the butchers cut off the meat prior to packaging it. You will need to request a pound of suet. From there you will take it home and cook it on medium heat until there is a nice liquid in the pan. You want the liquid. I saw on line that some people put it in muffin tins until they are ready to use it, but we took the path of least dishes and foil lined our little metal measuring thing we use to melt butter in on the stove. Sorry no picture. As long as you have a way to store and reheat your suet that's the important thing. You will need to reheat it during your meeting. Remind me later to tell you something else we learned about suet that's important to warmer climates.
The girls arrived for the first session super excited. I think my daughter had something to do with that. She had helped do all the prep work and knew what was on the activity list. She loved the word suet and would use it every opportunity she had. I think she invited the world to join us on the journey. Apparently we have a few animal lovers in the troop as well and when we said 10 weeks of nothing but animals they were hooked! We gathered in our library (just a formal dining that we converted to a library because we would never use a formal dining) around a coffee table I have in there.
I'm a stickler for tradition because I love it. I also love that having an expected routine to start a meeting gets the girls in the right frame of mind and prevents behavior issues. I'm also working hard on being more of the "guide on the side" rather than the "sage on the stage". I asked the girls how we start a meeting and of course they said pledge and promise. I love listening to them lead the pledge and the promise. I also love that they want to do the pledge to both the US flag and the Texas flag. We didn't have a pledge to the Texas flag when I was a kid.
They picked their animal journal and decorated the first page with their name and any drawings they wanted to do. While they did this I explained how the whole journey is about animals. After a couple minutes I shifted the conversation to something a bit more specific.

Luckily the weather was a little bit chilly that night and I was able to keep them in the frame of mind that it really is winter (they've been able to wear shorts in the last week). We talked about how there will still be birds (and at their instance squirrels but I didn't want to talk about squirrels) still hanging around our yards over the winter. Then we talked about things that birds would need over the winter - food and water. I had printed a couple internet pictures of winter birds eating for them to paste into their journal and write a note that "birds need food and water". I was shocked at how specific they were about what they wrote. They wrote exactly what I said and helped each other with spelling. I explained that we could make the birds something called a suet cake. As I read each ingredient I had each girl measure and pour the items into a big bowl.
Soap box moment - allowing your girls to measure out portions is a HUGE deal! This simple "guide on the side" moment reinforces concepts they learn in school (yes it's a TEK!), and gives them real life experiences for those random word problems they get at school and in standardized tests. I teach middle school and you have no idea how often I call a parent only to hear that their kid has never helped in the kitchen or looked at measurements at the store or helped with mileage on a trip. Please, I am begging you to help reinforce math concepts at home through real life experiences.
Back to Girl Scouts. I received this recipe from a local Wild Life Rescue volunteer. More on her in another post - super awesome.
1 cup corn meal
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup wild bird seed mix
1 cup shelled sunflowers
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup suet
As the girls mixed all the ingredients but the suet I had the suet heating up and melting down. It heats quickly and if you let it go too long it will burn. It smells bad, but the smell does dissipate. It turned out to be easier to let the girls mix with their hands until we added the suet (hence being the last ingredient). Immediately after an adult poured the suet in the girls used a spoon to stir it into the mix. It cools quickly which is good because the girls couldn't keep their hands out of the mixture.
melted suet

Each girl scooped some of the mixture out of the bowl and into her suet cake form (the tin tuna can because I love to repurpose). She patted it down into the bottom of the can so that it was an inch or two thick. Then we used wooden dowels to hold the place for our string. They really were too tall, but I didn't think ahead enough to shrink them to a reasonable size. Really it could be anything as a spacer. Maybe next time we will use a marble.  That would fit in the fridge better. We had to use packaging tape to hold the rod up until the cake hardened in the fridge /freezer. The girls took them home to cure and then ran a string or ribbon through the hole to hang it from the tree. Remind me later to address some scientific inquiry that came up with the girls as they hung the cake.
Suet cakes curing all in a row. They all look the same so we put the girls name on a post it.

 After cleaning up our suet cake mess (especially little hands. next time I'll set up the stool at the kitchen sink ahead of time because that was a mess) we covered the table in paper. I don't know about your troop, but my girls LOVE paint and they can't seem to keep their hands out of it! I showed them how the bird feeder looked and let them go to town with paint.

We ended up with some beautiful works of art that were not ready to be taken home immediately. Can you believe that the moms didn't want wet paint in their cars?!?!

Once we cleaned up the paint mess we closed with our traditional Daisy circle. I just felt so blessed to be able to spend the evening with my Daisy's, and honestly I almost cried when I said "Good night Girl Scouts" at the end of our circle. The moms reported that the girls loved the evening. It made me feel so good!
Our story doesn't end there. I'm kind of on a cleaning kick right now and a bunch of painted pots in my library was not on my agenda for the week. We left for school a couple minutes early the next day and set up little bird baths in our fellow Girl Scout's yards. It was so much fun! I bet the girls were so surprised at their finished bird bath in their yard when they left for school (apparently we leave early).
There were a couple things I said to remind me about later... yes I am going back through the post to remember what I needed to tell you.
1 - Suet and warm climates. Apparently suet has a melting point of something like 55 degrees. Remember I said something about the girls being able to wear shorts lately and yes it's January. So A and H put A's suet cake up in a tree. They were so proud and excited. They knew the birds would love it.
We went to run a few errands after that. When we got home the suet cake was on the ground. I think the temperature was just too much for it to hold. The girls think the birds pecked through to the hole in the cake and it fell off. They are certain that the birds will still eat it on the ground and it's the best meal the birds have ever had. They are planning to make more (gotta find more suet).

2 - scientific inquiry. Two of the girls hung A's cake on our tree. They got into a discussion about hole placement. Do you place the hole in the outer edge so that more hangs down or do you place it in the middle for support. Last I heard they hadn't come to a conclusion, but it was great to hear them thinking and reasoning things through. I would love to hear what your girls decision was and why.


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