Welcome to my blog! I started it when I was a new Girl Scout leader and needed some kind of organized "to-do" list. I decided the best way to keep things organized was to start a blog. So here it is! Our troop has since bridged up to Brownies, and I've taken on a second Daisy troop, so I will continue updating with new Brownie information and additional Daisy stuff too. My hope is to continue to update with every level as my troops advance (not just Daisies and Brownies). But we'll see.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope it's helpful!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Daisies & Brownies: Combined Troops and Badge Work

I've had a request for suggestions regarding mixed level troops (Daisy/Brownie), and how to meet the needs of each level's badge work with combined activities.

Sp, below is a list of Daisy Petals and which Brownie badge might correspond with it, or have similar activities. Also, don't forget about Brownies earning their Bridging to Juniors badge. Many of the typical activities for Daisy petals can be an opportunity for Brownies to help out, too. Look at doing some Try-Its as well, if you don't have a large troop and have access to the badges. The suggestions for Brownie badges here are in no particular order. There are also fun patches that can correspond to petals.

Some of the suggested badges may not seem to work at first glance, but basically there is an opportunity for Daisies to earn their petals while participating in some of the same activities Brownies can do while earning those badges. For instance, yellow petal can go with the art-focused badges, if the works of art are for gifts, to be donated, etc. Red petal can go with Senses if you have them taste new things or reach into something squishy. And so on. 

I would sit down and go through my calendar, see how many times your troop will meet this year, and how long you have with each level (is this first year Daisies? Then you can spread the petals out over two years, etc.). Have goals for the year and the levels (second year Brownies to complete X steps towards Bridge badge, etc.), and then start matching up what looks like it will work.

Also, Daisies might do 3 steps of something while Brownies do 5, with 3 of the 5 steps being tailored towards Daisies, and so on.

Center Blue (Promise) –
Girl Scout Way
Making Friends
Light Blue (honest & fair) –
Making Games
Making Friends
Fair Play
Yellow (friendly & helpful) –
My Great Day
Making Friends
Fair Play
Light Green (considerate & caring) –
Household Elf
Making Friends
Red (courageous & strong) –
My Best Self
First Aid
Safety Award
Orange (responsible for what I say & do) –
Safety Award
Home Scientist
Household Elf
(general Kapers too)
Purple (respect myself & others) –
Making Friends
My Best Self
My Great Day
First Aid
Family Story
Fair Play
Making Games
Celebrating Community
Magenta (respect authority) –
First Aid
Celebrating Community
My Best Self
My Family Story
Making Games
Fair Play
(cookie badges too)
Green (use resources wisely) –
Household Elf
Home Scientist
Computer Expert
Making Games
GS Way
Rose (make the world a better place) –
Household Elf
My Great Day
GS Way
Violet (be a sister to every GS) –
Making Friends
My Family Story
Making Games
Fair Play
Celebrating Community
GS Way

All the money/business badges can go easily with the Daisy leaves, I think. Safety Awards as well. I would recommend having separate Journey-in-a-Day events, if your girls want to tackle Journeys.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

SU: Branding Guidelines and Helpful Links (Terms, Colors, Copyright, etc.)

Over the past few years, I've learned many things about GSUSA guidelines and branding. I recently took over our service unit communications, and built a website for our service unit (this is not the same as the Shutterfly sites I use for my troops; the website is public, with private areas for parents and leaders). So I had to do quite a bit of research about branding and what was okay to use, and what required permission.

For those of you who use a private site for your troops, this information may be helpful, but not necessary. I think the focus should always be on the girls, and having fun, but if you're talking about a public website, or printed materials, take a look at some of the information below. It's from a lot of different resources, and as always, if you see something that looks outdated or inaccurate, please leave me a comment!

Here is a great online resource for current branding information.

You can download the official GSUSA style guide here.

When I first started writing this blog, I didn't know there were specific guidelines for brand-related images and so on (so if you see things that aren't according to the guidelines below, chalk it up to well-intentioned ignorance on my part). And even now, if I like the look of one font over another (makes it more fun for my girls), I always vote for being creative and engaging! So a lot of what I'm talking about in this post is more about "official" stuff -- if you're representing Girl Scouts, as opposed to creating things for/with your troops. Mostly. Well, you'll see. ;)

Some Quick/Random Info:

It used to be that "Daisy Girl Scout" was the preferred title. This has changed. It is now "Girl Scout Daisy" (etc.). Here's a great resource on the timeline of various other changes.

The brand colors are not always web-friendly (and individual monitors/screens can display colors differently as well), so rather than using the green color for your font, for instance, think about just sticking with black. You might want to use the brand colors (green, blue, etc.) for static files like .jpg, .pdf, etc.

Always check with your council before making any printed merchandise using "Girl Scouts" branding (name[s], title[s], the faces logo, etc.). It is fine to use the word "troop" and your troop numbers without your council's permission, though. So if you want to make troop shirts with just "TROOP 12345" on it, for instance, go for it! Just don't use the words "Girl Scouts" on it. If you do that, you have to get your council's approval and use their manufacturer.

Make sure any products you're creating for fundraising are in keeping with your council's rules. When in doubt, ask your service unit manager (SUM) and/or council rep.

What About Logos and Other Official Stuff? 

Are you making Welcome certificates for your girls? Or trefoil-shaped name tags? Are your girls making Daisy bookmarks? That sort of thing is fine. Do you have a blog? Are you posting ideas on Pinterest? No problem. Ask yourself these questions: Am I making a profit by doing this? Is this information only available by purchase? If the answer is yes, then ask for permission.

You cannot take currently copyrighted materials that GSUSA currently sells and post them online for others to use for free.

Recently there were some websites out there where authors had scanned current GS publications and posted them online. That wouldn't be bad if it had been free-use material, but in these cases, the publications scanned were items being currently sold by GSUSA. By scanning them and posting online, these individuals violated GSUSA's copyright (no, I was not the person who reported them. I found out about it after the fact). Personally? I think leaders should be allowed to share ALL resources if possible, and in an ideal world no girl should have to pay for any printed resources. But I'm not in charge, and the last thing I'd want to do is risk my position within the organization by infringing upon copyright. And honestly, it's understandable. GSUSA is obviously doing everything it can to fund the organization. I respect that. So when in doubt, ask for permission.

But enough of that. Here's some general, free-use info for you. :)

Handy-Dandy Reference Sheet:

Please note, that the Omnes font is unavailable for leaders to use, typically. It is basically an altered (bolder) version of the Avenir font (and the left side cross of the lowercase "t" has been removed). When in doubt, use Arial. You can download the file directly from its source by clicking here (it's under Branding & Photos). 

The Logo Has Changed?

The logo has gone through quite a few changes over the years. Lots of great info (with pictures) can be found here.

Different fonts, colors, and shape

But My Service Unit Has the Old One on Its Sign/Wall/Whatever!

Leave it. :) Don't stress about it. Our service unit has a room at the local community center, dedicated to GS use. One wall has a giant mural on it that a group of our girls painted a while back. The girls in the picture are all wearing older style vests, with retired badges. The logo is the old-style faces one (on left, above). It's a beautiful mural, and was created with a lot of hard work and love. To alter it would, in my opinion, dishonor those girls who created it. (If it were peeling and in need of repair, that would be a different story -- and a great community service project for an older troop. But luckily it's in great shape. So we admire and appreciate it, and leave it be.)

But, is your service unit planning an event? Are you wanting to send out an email to all parents with info and a graphic about the event? If you're planning on using a GS-related image, use what's current if you can.

EDIT: I know. Technically the faces logo in my blog banner should have white as well. Blogger has a unique way of displaying images, and this was the best I could do. I'm not stressing over it. It's a blog. It's not official GSUSA materials. 

Your council should have specific information regarding branding. When in doubt, call your council. :)

What About Ad Campaigns/Taglines/Slogans? What Is Current?

I'm pretty sure that every year there's a new campaign. And that's okay. Some slogans are very successful, some aren't. You don't have to use the current slogan or campaign focus for your troop or service unit. Most councils do attempt to echo GSUSA's current campaign. As a leader, I try to stick with what appeals most to my troops. For example: the anti-bullying campaign that came out recently ("Ban Bossy") was met with mixed results from what I've read. Personally, I didn't choose to focus on it at all that year. My girls already know the difference between being a leader and being bossy. I think Girl Scouts is most beneficial when focusing on the positive. Since there are already plenty of resources out there for anti-bullying (and promoting GS Law, etc.) I didn't feel it necessary to buy into the campaign. Plus, my girls are still young (Daisy/Brownie age). Dealing appropriately with the topic of bullying depends a great deal upon age, in my experience. 

Other leaders found it very relevant for their troops, and bought into it wholeheartedly. That's great! As always, do what's best for your girls. But don't feel pressured to keep up with it all. My council shop sometimes carries the most up-to-date slogans on merchandise. Sometimes not. I've found searching through other councils' online stores to be a great resource for variety (as well as shopping on eBay), when I'm looking for cute shirts, etc. Just because a slogan is no longer considered current doesn't mean it can't be worn. 

What's the Most Important Thing About It All?

Remember that different councils have different guidelines. Don't stress about using images for private, non-profiting use with your troops in terms of crafts, etc. Definitely ask your council before using any copyrighted material on shirts or other items, especially if using them to raise funds for your troop/SU (some councils don't allow any fundraising outside of product sales; others do. It varies). Ask before photocopying and sharing anything from a for-purchase-only book.

And as far as online sharing, always keep troop sites private. While council sites are largely public (including their council-specific event information), most service units keep troop rosters and event information private (leader and parent access only). When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Always protect your girls' identities. Ensure your parents have filled out a permission form for using photos, etc., in media/online. Do whatever it takes to keep your girls safe online.

Most info about online security can be found in your volunteer resources guide; safety pledge is here. Before creating any public website for your troop or service unit, check with your council (there's typically a form you have to fill out). 

That's it for now. I'm in the process of ramping things up for the new school year. I'll be leading a Kindergarten Daisy troop and a Third Grade Brownie troop, so LOTS of new info to come!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Vests vs. Sashes, Badges vs. Patches, and General Patch/Pin/Uniform Tips

This is a general post about vests, sashes, badges, patches, and pins. And how to make sense of it all, and how to make it all fit. If you have a suggestion, or if you have tried one of the suggestions here and had a different experience than I did, please post a comment! Hope some of this might help.

Note: This covers Daisies and Brownies, but the gist is the same for upper levels. You'll have to ask your council or Google for specific patches/badges for upper levels. 

Which to Buy: Tunic or Vest (Daisies)?

Some of the girls who wore tunics said they weren't comfortable (especially putting them on and taking them off). But all the ones who wore vests said those were fine. One little girl had a growth spurt mid year and her tunic was obviously too small. Another had a growth spurt and her vest was shorter, but still fit fine. One girl had the smallest sized vest they make, and it was huge on her.

While I personally like the look of the tunics better than the vests, in terms of the Daisy badge designs (petals), I think the vests are more accommodating in terms of comfort, so that's what I recommend. Doesn't matter to me though if the parents or girls choose a tunic instead. It's up to them. But when it comes to sashes . . .

Which to Buy: Vest or Sash (Brownies and Up)?

Vest! Definitely buy the vest, if you can afford it. Someone asked me recently why I'm so adamant about recommending vests over sashes.

Here's a picture that pretty much sums up why I'm not a fan of sashes:

This is an absolutely adorable, precious little Girl Scout, and I love her bunches. 
And her mom tried, really she did. But this sash? It's a hot mess.

So here it is, in no particular order, why I prefer vests over sashes:
  • Vests are more comfortable for the girls to wear, typically.
  • Sashes twist and "roll" around (front to back and vice versa), so you often have to literally pin it to the shirt to keep it in place. (Also, holes in shirts, ugh.)
  • Insignia tabs on t-shirts? Not terribly handy (yes I know, they should technically be wearing their white polo-style shirts, but we meet right after school on art day. I'm not sending my child to school on art day wearing a white shirt. Sorry. Not happening). 
  • Having the insignia already attached to the vest solves the never-ending issue of WHERE DID THE TAB GO? And prevents pins from getting lost or destroyed in the washer/dryer accidentally.
  • Vests hold more patches, period. They just do.
  • Sashes don't work as well on short torsos, in my experience, because they tend to be long (though why GSUSA doesn't give us a "Tall" option for vests, I haven't a clue. They totally should. I really shouldn't complain though. At least the vests aren't as short as they used to be).

Randomly Googled image of old-style Brownie vest. Look how short it is!

Still, sashes are cheaper. A LOT cheaper. And some people don't mind the pin thing. And some girls prefer the look of a sash. I think for a lot of folks though, the cost is the bottom line, especially if uniforms are paid for with troop funds. But in our troop, parents typically pay for uniforms (councils vary on financial assistance with uniforms. Check with yours).

So while I encourage my parents to purchase vests, on occasion we do have a child show up in a sash. And that's fine! Though it pains me to see any uniform with patches, pins, and badges all mish-mashed together. So I tell my parents that I am VERY HAPPY to help with patches and uniforms if they have questions, or need assistance. As a result, I often sew on patches and badges for my parents. I'm cool with that. I like to sew.

And frankly, I'm just thrilled when the girls are in uniform at all, honestly. But it's tough enough finding room on the back of a vest for all the fun patches we earn (we have a LOT of service unit events). I can't imagine trying to make it work for a sash. 

I've had other leaders tell me their girls chose a sash, then by the end of the first year in Brownies, the sashes were full, so they had to buy a second one.

The cost of one vest is still more than two sashes, though. If money is an issue, get the sash. You can make it work. But in the end, a vest is more accommodating.

Another randomly Googled image of two sashes, criss-crossed. Wonder what the front looks like?

So there you have it. It's just my personal opinion. I don't require my girls to be in full uniform. I encourage them to wear a white shirt and khaki bottoms with their vest or sash for formal events, but a vest over everyday clothes is plenty for me. Thank goodness there are no uniform police. ;) 

And in the end, as with everything, you do what is best for your troop. If your parents cannot afford vests, but can afford sashes, by all means go with a sash! Just be prepared to get creative.

Badges Versus Patches

The difference between a badge and a patch is this: Badges are official, and level- and/or council-based. They go on the front of a vest (or sash). These typically have steps that must be completed to earn them.

Patches may be official (council), they may also have set guidelines to complete in order to earn, but they go on the back, with other fun patches.

What are Fun Patches?

Fun patches fall into a couple of categories including:

1. GS-related, general (no participation required; these are pro-GS type patches)
2. Activity- and/or event-based (participation/attendance typically required)
3. Independent (any requirements determined by troop and/or leader)

See this post for more info, including my personal take on fun patches in general.

The bottom line is fun patches go on the back of the vest, or somewhere else completely, but never on the front of a vest or sash. If you run out of room on the vest/sash, you can put patches on a backpack, satchel, hat, sweatshirt, jacket, blanket, etc. I've even seen people put them on the back of their Build-A-Bear GS bear. :)

You can also put official badges on a blanket or something as a keepsake, after your daughter has moved up. I've seen pillows and quilts made from old vests, and blankets made from patches sewn onto the fabric. There are great ideas all over Pinterest on what to do with old vests. Or just use Google for some inspiration.

What About Council's Own?

These can get confusing, because oftentimes there are steps that must be completed to earn one, yet it's not always an official badge. Sometimes it's just a fun patch that happens to have "official" steps for completion. But sometimes it is an official badge (steps required), and goes on the front.

Ask your council before working on its patch, to make sure you know where it goes.

World Thinking Day?

Yep, it's official, as long as the requirements for earning it are completed. Stick it on the front, per GSUSA.

What About Retired Badges, Like Try-Its?

Yes! These are still official, earned badges, even though they're retired and not sold in most council stores any more. These badges go on the front of the vest. It's okay to have Legacy, Cookie Business, Financial Literacy, Skill-Building, and Try-Its all mixed in. It's entirely up to you. As long as they're on the front, and were earned, they're fine. 

So Where Do The Official Badges Go on a Vest, Exactly?

Typically, Legacy and Cookie badges go on the same side as troop numbers. Journeys go in their pre-arranged design on the same side as the insignia tab. Skill-Building typically go under the Journeys. Try-Its can go on either side, mixed in or separate (depends on where you have room). But the Journeys start up in the middle-ish area on the insignia tab side. Overflow Legacy, Skill-Building, etc., go beneath on the same side.

What About the 100th Anniversary Pin?

There are several views on this pin, so I called GSUSA and asked. Keep in mind that even that isn't the "final" word on it, though, as I bet if I called back and spoke with someone else, I might get a different answer. ;) However, this is as official an answer as I could find: 

The 100th Anniversary pin is worn by girls or adults who were members in 2012. For girls, the pin goes on the front of the vest, above the insignia tab (not on the tab itself). If a girl was a member in 2012, she may (according to the nice lady at GSUSA) wear her pin on each vest, as long as she likes. So, just like the membership stars, JGL Birthplace, and cookie pins, etc., the 100 pin can be moved up with each new level/vest.

Supposedly only those who were members in 2012 can wear this pin. However, I think it's fine to wear on the back of vest even if you weren't a member then. Back of vest = fun stuff. It's up to you.

The official where to put stuff picture

JGL Birthplace Pin . . . huh?

This pin is an official pin that may be worn by GS members (girl and adult) who have toured the JGL house in Savannah, GA. It is to be worn beneath the membership stars, according to the little handout we were given at the Birthplace. However, there wasn't room on my daughter's vest for it to go there, so instead we put it under her troop number, because there was space beside the membership stars. 

Ignore the upside-down membership disc thing. I could use a glue dot to hold it in place but eh.

It used to be that this official pin, and the Friendship pin, which can be worn by those who did not tour the JGL House, were to be worn beside the troop numbers, rather than beneath them. I imagine they changed it because so many troops have longer troop numbers now than in years past. 

Anyway, The JGL tour pin is official, and can be moved up. The current version is the one with the daisy on it. The JGL gate (far right in image above) is the current Friendship pin. Traditionally this is worn for one year, then passed on to another GS, or retired and worn as a casual pin not on the vest, or worn on the back of the vest after it's been worn on the front for one year. I'm not sure what the history is behind why it is only to be worn for a year, but there you have it. Isn't it pretty? I love the gate design. 

Adult Uniform and Pins

Speaking of JGL pins, adults should wear the JGL (and/or Friendship) pin across from insignia tab (opposite side of shirt). So if you're looking at the adult uniform shirt, the tab is on the right. The JGL pin goes on the left, under your name tag if you have one.

The 100 pin goes above insignia tab (if you were a GS member/volunteer in 2012). Volunteer level pin (like this or this, etc.) goes beside the 100 pin. Both are pinned directly to the shirt, above the insignia tab.

The insignia tab looks like this:

An old picture of my adult uniform shirt and insignia with pins

I actually found my original membership pin recently (that's my original WAGGGS pin from the 70s in the picture above), and replaced the newer one with my original (totally legit to do this, by the way). Also, I need to get an SU bar but I keep forgetting. If you have two bars (the yellow is my leader bar), you can put one atop the other. Typically the leader bar goes above any other bar, because "service to the girls comes first." But if you have lots of bars, you may wear only two (one above the other -- not side by side) on the insignia tab. If you aren't wearing a tab, you may wear two bars side by side.

More info here.  

Used to be that the Volunteer pin went on the same side as name tag (opposite the insignia tab). Not anymore. It now goes above the tab. You can choose a level-specific Volunteer pin, or the generic Volunteer pin. Since I have Daisies and Brownies, I wear the generic Volunteer one.

EDIT: Some councils are retiring the generic Volunteer pin, I've heard. Grab one now before they're gone!

I have a Friendship pin from way back when too. It is not the same as what you find now at JGL Birthplace. It was something you could buy from GS and it was worn on a shirt collar or lapel, not on the actual uniform. I wear mine on my uniform shirt collar, on the same side as the name tag.

Stock image found via Google. But mine looks very similar. It's about the size of a dime.

Name Tag? I Want a Name Tag! Where Do I Get One?

Check your council store. If they don't have them, go to eBay. That's where I found mine. 

Name tags are not required. Check your council for your "official" uniform. Ours is navy polo, WAGGGS and membership pins, and khaki bottoms. Some are fancier. Some are not.

I Have My Great-Aunt's/Grandmother's/Random Relative's Gold Award. Can I Wear It?

Did you earn it? No? Then can you wear it as an official pin? Technically, no. As an heirloom? I vote why not (in an altered form; for instance, you could have it made into a pendant or a ring, if it's real gold). Again, there are no uniform police for Girl Scouts. However, the Gold Award should technically only be worn by those who've earned it (there used to be mother pins, as I recall -- oh yeah, here's one -- it's a miniature version; I can research those a bit more if anyone's interested).

If I'd earned the Gold Award, I'd wear an antique, real gold pin if I had one. But I didn't earn it. And I don't have one. If I did, I'd save it for my daughters, in case one of them earned it. I wouldn't have it turned into a pendant or ring. I'd keep it, as is, in case I one day had an heir who liked old stuff as much as I do (and happened to earn it).

What About Patches and Vests for Leaders?

Wouldn't it be great if leaders had vests too? While GSUSA does not officially sanction an adult vest, there are some available at various councils online. Some leaders might not like the idea of "girl-specific" badges or patches going anywhere but on a girl uniform, but (just to play devil's advocate) aren't we paid members too? Don't we earn them as much as the girls? Still, I can understand both sides. I'll leave it up to you. Personally, I think a vest would be far more easily identifiable in terms of "I am a Girl Scout leader" than a scarf or a polo shirt. 

But that's because I'm more of a vest kind of gal than a silk scarf with business suit person. Your mileage may vary, obviously. ;) But I think it's good for leaders to wear some kind of GS-related clothing when attending troop meetings. (I wear lots of GS t-shirts to our meetings.) And again, check with your council for what to wear on formal occasions.

Here's one site that carries leader vests.

I don't have a vest. I do, however, have a First Aid backpack that I bring to all troop meetings and events. And it is covered in fun patches (and I also have some badges I earned as a Brownie on there. It is absolutely FINE -- according to the nice lady at GSUSA -- to display patches and badges you earned as a GS on a backpack or a jacket or whatever. They're yours. You earned them!). Some leaders have jackets or sweatshirts they put fun patches on. Some think it's perfectly silly and don't want to bother with it at all. It's entirely up to you.

EDIT: I've kind of started collecting patches (ha!). I'm thinking I'm going to end up with patch blankets for my daughters . . . and me. Scroll down for more info on blankets.

I would have bought a vest if I hadn't already started putting them on my backpack. Check with your council, if you want to wear a vest. 

Here's one awesome looking leader vest, though, for those who are interested:

She puts fun patches on the back, too!

Enough About Adult Stuff. My Daughter's Vest Is FULL! What Do I Do Now?

If you cannot rearrange badges so they all fit, then you might just have to buy a sash or second vest. Technically, as I understand it, all sashes/vests should have the required troop and council identification patches on them, even if it's a second one. Check with your council.

However, one clever poster said she purchased a sash (same material as vest), then clipped the seam, and sewed it around the bottom of the vest to extend the vest length. I'm pretty sure somewhere someone might fuss about making alterations to the official uniform, but as far as I'm concerned, Juliette Low would be proud. After all, the first Girl Scouts made their own uniforms. 

Fun patches can be layered, or overflow can go elsewhere. Scroll down for more info.

EDIT: I had planned to eventually turn my daughters' vests into quilts. Or something. But I've since decided to go with a "patch blanket." See the next section for details.

Check out this gorgeous quilt someone made:

Randomly Googled image. Isn't is pretty?

Here's another one, where they added the vests, too:

You can tell a lot of love went into these!

But if you don't want to go quite that far, you can just stick with patches, on a patch blanket.

What Is a Patch Blanket?

A patch blanket is a great alternative for girls who prefer sashes, or who like to collect souvenir fun patches, and/or when a vest is full. Typically the blankets are full-sized (at least 50"x60" or larger; I would go with a full-sized blanket if possible, or at least a twin-sized). While fleece is a popular material, many of the "anti-pill" types of fleece fabric tend to be thinner, and not as warm. Thicker fleece will pill over time, even if washed in cold on delicate (the friction caused by other materials in the wash can contribute, even the friction of patches on the blanket can cause pilling as well). So a good alternative is sweatshirt material. You can find sweatshirt blankets at many sporting goods stores, or even Amazon, but they aren't cheap. Or you can purchase sweatshirt fabric and make your own blanket.

Sweatshirt fabric is typically a cotton/poly blend, with the cotton layer on the outside (where you'd put the patches), and the poly fleece on the inside.

My suggestion would be to get either an anti-pill fleece, double amount of fabric (so you can sew a back onto it when the blanket is full), and don't worry about any pilling, or buy sweatshirt fabric (you could double this as well if desired later on).

The best thing about a patch blanket? You can take it to camp! :)

Here is one blog entry about a family who created patch blankets.

That is one impressive collection of fun patches!

The key is to remove the old patches from previous vests (if desired), and basically play Tetris as you go with the blanket. I always hand-stitch patches now, because it's so much easier to remove them.

Keep in mind you do NOT want to iron a patch on a polyester/fleece material. It can melt the fabric! So if you're not great with sewing, definitely use a cotton (or blend) fabric instead. Adding adhesives can make the patch areas stiffer though, so plan on using a separate piece of material (or second blanket the same size) as backing.

EDIT: Another option for extra patches is to create a vest "cape." I found a picture! See below. One very clever leader who bought a second vest for her daughter, clipped off the front pieces, and sewed the top back/neck area to the top back/neck area of the original vest. This created a blank cape (additional flap of material over the back of the vest), so she can add more fun patches on it. I love it! Such ingenuity!

Yay! Here's a picture. Clever mom!

Okay, So How Exactly Do I Remove Fun Patches from a Vest/Sash?

If it's just stitched on, turn vest inside out and carefully snip the thread holding it in place. Be careful not to cut the fabric. Older badges like Try-Its have edges that fray easily, so be careful when pulling the them off. 

If it's ironed on, or if you've used Badge Magic, turn vest inside out, put a washcloth between it and your ironing board (otherwise a patch can stain your board cover fabric), and iron the inside back of the vest for about 20 seconds or so to melt the adhesive. Flip the vest over, and the patch will peel off. However, it will likely leave adhesive residue behind. So. . . .

I Pulled off the Patches to Rearrange Them and There's a Nasty Glue Residue! HELP!

Despite what Google says, do NOT use fingernail polish remover on your vest. It will destroy the fabric. Ditto with Goo-Gone and WD-40. Do NOT use these products on the vest. They will leave behind an oil-based stain that is worse than the white adhesive residue. The Badge Magic site recommends something called "Goof-Off" but I have never tried it. If you have tried it and it worked and didn't leave a residue, please leave a comment below to let me know! 

Instead of trying all kinds of science experiments with the vest to remove residue, sew the patches where you want them, and remove all pins (including tab) from the vest. Then take it to your local dry cleaners. They will be able to remove the white sticky residue (whether it's from Badge Magic or just the iron-on backing from the patches). There may still be an outline or impression from where the patch was originally placed, but it will look ten times better, and likely won't show up in pictures.

When it doubt, let the professionals handle it.

And this is why I pretty much no longer iron on patches at all. I hand- or machine-stitch everything now. I hand-stitch all the fun patches, because it's easier to pull out those threads if I have to play Tetris with the vest, than it is to remove machine stitches. But machine stitches are good for patches that are right next to each other evenly, like troop numbers. See below for more info.

Some Helpful Hints About Badges and Patches, and Getting Them to Stay Put

If you only iron them on, there's a good chance they'll fall off. I don't care how carefully you iron them on, some of them just fall off, especially if they've gone through the wash a few times. The best solution in my experience is to sew them on. However, not everyone likes to sew (if it's a case of not knowing how, Google is your friend. There are tons of intro tutorials on YouTube as well). Your local dry cleaners will charge you per patch to sew them for you (and there's no guarantee they'll put the patches in the right place, plus some charge $2.00 or more per patch, which is more than a lot of the patches cost in the first place!). I'd ask around and see if there is someone in your troop or service unit who might be willing to do it cheaper, if you cannot.

Don't like to Sew? Here Are Some Adhesives

Badge Magic and similar adhesives can work better than simply ironing something on (and can be easier, especially if you get the pre-cut kind), but typically this stuff isn't cheap. And it can leave behind some serious residue, if you ever need to move a patch. Your local council shop will likely carry this product, but you might also be able to find something similar (but less expensive) at a fabric or craft store. The idea is to stick the patch on the sheet, peel the patch plus stickied bit from the sheet, stick the patch on the vest, and toss in the dryer (remove pins first!). Do NOT iron on Badge Magic. It mucks it up and the patch will fall off. Here are some specific directions. 

Whether you're ironing or using adhesive, wash the vest first. It will remove any fabric treatments and make it easier for sticky stuff to stick.

Fabric glue is messy. And in my personal experience, doesn't work any better than just ironing the darn things on. But I have friends who swear by it. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. . . .

But in the End, Sew It on. Here's Why:

So, what is my preferred method? Glue Dots and thread. Oh yeah, and a needle (and thimble. There are some thick patches out there!).


Why the Glue Dots? They're so much easier to hold a patch in place than using a pin. I don't iron on hardly any patches at all anymore. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to pull off a patch/badge and move it, to make more room for others. My youngest daughter is a brand new Daisy, and has already been working on some independent fun patches for her vest (JGL Birthplace visit, etc.). When my eldest started Daisies, I put LOTS of room between fun patches, because I had no clue how many she'd earn. 

Now I know better: I start at the bottom of the vest (both my girls have long hair), on the far left side next to the seam, and put a glue dot on the back of the patch, then hand-stitch around the patch. And I put the next patch right butt-up-against the first, and continue on until I hit the seam on the right side, then the next row begins with edges against the bottom row. No space at all in between the patches if possible. Otherwise I'd have to pull them all off and redo, to make room next year. (Love that last-minute "Oh yeah, I forgot about saving room for the cookie donation patch and look, it's ginormous! Yay. . . ? Oops" moment. It's like Tetris for grownups.)

But if you prefer to iron on your patches (either before you hand- or machine-stitch them, or just in lieu of sewing at all), you can use a glue dot to hold it in place first. That way when you flip it over to iron the back part, it won't scoot off to the side. The glue in the glue dot will melt into the fabric (just like the adhesive on the back of the patch can do) so use a piece of fabric (I use an old baby washcloth, because it's thin and small) between vest and iron so you don't get glue on your iron. The dot will leave a mark on the fabric if you have to move it later. But it's not a huge mark (I use the minis), and it's easy to cover up with another patch if need be. (But be prepared, even with the added glue from the dot, over time the patch may start to lose its adhesion if all you did was iron it on.) 

Glue Dots can also melt in the dryer, but it's not going to make a mess. At worst, it'll leave a small dark stain on the inside of the vest. No one sees the inside anyway though. Thankfully. ;)

Check the bargain bins at your local craft store. But trust me, Glue Dots are so great for so many things (the mini ones are tough for little Daisy fingers to handle though -- go with a larger size for craft use), you won't use them just for keeping patches in place.

Some people like to use flat irons (hair straighteners) to iron on their patches. That is so cool! But I'm not sure how it works once you get to the middle of the vest. I bet they'd work well for sashes though. I haven't tried it (successfully). Worth a shot if you have one though. 

Be careful when using a machine to sew on older patched though, like Try-Its. They tend to have frayed edges, and a zig-zag stitch might be great! Or it might be a mess. I hand stitch those carefully. You can also use clear fingernail polish on the edges (before sewing, obviously), so I've been told. Try this at your own risk. I haven't a clue if it works.

I'd be inclined to try this first. Haven't tried it though. Let me know if you have (or another de-fray trick) and if it worked! 

Keep in mind, too, if you're using a sewing machine, that some patches have very thick border edges. I actually broke a needle once trying to sew through the edge. Do not do this. Instead, pick a color thread to match the background of the patch and sew on the thinner portion next to the border instead. Or use transparent thread. Here's one mom's experience with it. Adjust the tension on your machine as needed. Experiment with an old patch on spare fabric first.

See? That's one thick outer edge there. I'd hand-stitch that sucker, personally.

Some people layer their fun patches on the back of vests/sashes (please don't do this with official badges on the front though). They sew just the top edge of the patch, then another above on top of it, but graduated, like flaps or fish scales. Or they overlap the patches as a whole so the edges don't show on some. Obviously this doesn't work well if you're ironing them on. 

An example of overlapping fun patches

When it comes to fun patches, you do what works. But trust me, if you're planning on doing a lot of activities and service unit/council events with your troop, you'll want to start at the bottom, put them as close as possible, and go from there.

Ditto for badges on the front, too. Don't start at the top, near the bridging rainbow. Start at the bottom inner seam of the vest and move up.

It's okay to turn an official triangle badge upside down to make it fit, if there's no writing on it. BUGS, for example, is a good one to turn upside down if need be. But only official, earned badges should go on the front. Everything else goes on the back.

Start them on the bottom, right by the hem and inside/opening seam. 

Some people like to make designs with the triangles. That's fine (see Try-Its image). But if you're working on more than a handful, better to start at the bottom and go out and up. There is no rule about how they fit (except the Journeys are designed to go in a set pattern, if possible).

What About Pins?

A quick and easy trick to keeping pins secure is to take a very small piece of felt and place it behind the inside of the vest, between the vest (with pointed pin part stuck through vest and felt) and the clasp. Helps the clasp grab more securely if there's some kind of bulk to the fabric (which there isn't a lot of in typical GS uniform pieces). 

Or if you want to get really creative, you can superglue the felt to the back of the pin itself (stick pointy bit through, and glue it just next to the pointy bit, so there's some room left for stitching), then sew the felt part to the vet itself. Put the back clasp on, and ta-da! It might not fall off. Or you can glue an additional piece of felt to the back clasp, and sew both pieces of felt to the vest. 

Or something.

That's a lot of work. So I have not done it. I've found that the one tiny piece of felt, just stuck in between the vest and the clasp, works just fine.

Some people just superglue everything. I'm lucky not to glue my fingers together, so I avoid this when possible. ;)

Do NOT use a glue gun though. That's just a hot mess. HA! Literally. It is. Glue Dots are your friend.

Anyway, for the WAGGGS and membership pins on insignia tabs, don't worry about adding felt. Just pin them through the tab AND the vest, too. That typically adds enough bulk for the clasp to hold on tight.

All this is moot, however, if you happen to get a lemon for a pin. If you end up with one of those pins whose pointy bit breaks off when someone sneezes, just take it back to your council store. They should replace it free of charge.

Also, ALWAYS check your pins when buying for your troop. Especially higher awards (Bronze, Silver, Gold). Make sure the clasps work. The last thing you want is to discover a pin is faulty, in the middle of an awards ceremony.

So there you have it! Everything you ever wanted to know about uniforms and what goes on them. Hope that helps. 

Next Up: No idea. ;) Stay tuned! I'm sure it'll be fabulous.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Brownies: Choosing a Troop Crest

Troop Crests
It used to be that troop crests were for Juniors and up only. A while ago this changed, and GSUSA began allowing Brownies to choose troop crests. Technically, the crest is supposed to stay the same throughout the life of the troop. However, it is not unheard of for a troop to choose a new crest when the girls bridge to a new level (especially if they're getting a new vest and have had a change in member turnover, troop focus, etc.). If a troop ever changes its number, by all means change the crest too if that's what they want to do. While the guidelines indicate the crest should not be changed, it's important to remember the crest is supposed to represent the troop and its goals, so it makes sense to me that it might need to change over the years. After all, there's a big difference between ages seven and seventeen. And when you're focusing on being girl-led, it makes sense to let the girls choose what best represents them as a troop, as they mature. 

I'm not saying break the rules or anything. I'm just saying listen to your girls, and to me, that's part of the evolution of "girl-led" as the troop matures. I can't stress this enough: Put your troop's needs first.

Anyway, all that said, I wasn't comfortable with presenting 16 options to my girls as first-year Brownies, for a couple of reasons (listed below in no particular order):

  • They were still very young (most were seven) and it can be tough at this age to distinguish between "what represents us" versus "what represents me," and "oh, this one's pretty!" or "that sounds like what I should pick" and so on.
  • 16 options? That's great! But it's also a LOT. While second graders can definitely handle more choices than Kindergarteners (for instance), I wanted to wait until I felt like they wouldn't be overwhelmed by the number of choices.
  • They need to be able to not only pick what best represents the troop, but also keep in mind the troop goal -- the direction they want to move as a troop both now and in the future.
  • The older they get, the better they are at handling disappointment when their choice isn't the one picked by the troop as a whole.
Now, does that mean my way is the right way? Nope. Does it mean the girls wouldn't have been able to handle it and make the perfect choice as a troop? No clue. But it felt like we needed to wait, so I waited. Technically, troops can choose a crest as soon as they bridge to Brownies if they're ready. As always, do what is the best fit for your girls.

Anyway, my girls are older now, and I believe they are mature enough to think it through and handle the disappointment if their individual choice is overruled by the majority.

However, I don't want them to be distracted by how the crests look. Otherwise I'm pretty sure we'd end up with mostly unicorns, despite meaning. So I typed up the meanings of the crests, without images, worded it as best I could based upon my research about the crests, and this is what I'm giving the girls:

Troop Crest Handout

This year we are choosing our Troop Crest patch (it goes between the Council ID hamburger-shaped patch, and our troop numbers). The Troop Crest represents our troop and its purpose as a Girl Scout Troop, and is worn by our troop for many years, not just now. So think carefully about your choice. Don't just pick what you like, or what fits you. Think about the troop as a whole, if you can.

Please pick the one that you think best represents our troop by putting a checkmark by it. If you cannot choose just one, because there are two that you think are equally good fits for us, you may check two.

Once you choose one that's a good representation of our troop (and put a check by it), look again to see if you think there's another choice that would be better for us to choose to have as a troop goal. If you think there is one, then circle that box. If you aren't sure, don't circle anything. Just put a check by the one or two you think fit us the best. 

The difference between representation and goal is one this: Representation means what we already are. Goal is what we want to be, and what we should strive toward.

_____ We take action and are always moving forward. We are optimistic and want to change the world.
_____ We work hard and are industrious. We aren't afraid of working to accomplish something. We want to inspire others.
_____ We are full of happiness and good fortune. We are optimistic and want to spread good cheer
wherever we go.
_____ We are healthy and energetic. We want to make the world a better place.
_____ We are graceful and strong. We are true to ourselves, our friends, and our values. Our highest goals are honor and loyalty.
_____ We pay attention to details. We want to bring focus, and work hard, in everything we do.
_____ We are focused on love, friendship, and peace. We want to spread peace and goodwill in the world.
_____ We are full of inspiration and creative power. We seek inspiration in our own lives and want to
inspire others as well.
_____ We are always growing and changing, on the inside and outside. We are always trying new things and not afraid of change.
_____ We have loving thoughts and special friendships. We are proud to be sisters to every Girl Scout,
all over the world.
_____ We are rare, unexpected, and beautiful individuals. We want to light up the world.
_____ We are full of warmth and light. We want to spread good cheer, and help others grow, as we grow too.
_____ We are always ready to march into action. We are courageous and want to work to make the world a better place.
_____ We are beautiful and courageous. We want to spread beauty in the world with our words and actions.
_____ We are steadfast, strong, and proud of who we are, and will remain true to ourselves, no matter how much things change around us.
_____ We embrace new things, and new beginnings. We want to always be looking ahead.

Once the girls have chosen their top picks, both for current representation and goal, I'll take the top three (combined), and we will have an open discussion about them, followed by a silent ballot vote. 

Feel free to adjust the wording in the above handout, if you feel like I didn't describe the crests accurately. And post in comments, too, please! I looked at quite a few resources and tried to condense meaning and include potential goals for them all, but might've overlooked something.

After we narrow it down to three, and they vote, the top pick will be our troop crest! (If I had to pick right now which one I think best represents our troop, I think it's a tossup between the Lei and Shooting Star. We'll see how well I know my girls. ;) I'll update with their choice once they've decided.)

Here's a picture of what they look like:

Here's a link to the images with meanings included. Here is another blogger's take on the History of Troop Crests. It's an interesting read.

Next up? I HAVE NO IDEA! Ha! It's summer. I'm working on all this in bursts as my kids allow. I think tomorrow we might just go to the pool and relax. Unless our face paint and fabric markers have arrived, in which case they might talk me into working on another Try-It. . . . I'm playing it by ear. :)

Brownies: Being Girl-Led & Choosing Badges/Patches

Interpreting "Girl-Led" (Your Mileage May Vary, and That's Okay)

I love how one focus of Girl Scouts is being girl-led. But I think this term means different things to different people. To some, it means focusing on leadership skills, and encouraging the girls to be leaders as often as possible. To others, it means guiding them in making business decisions. Or it may simply mean letting the girls take on more responsibility as they grow. Or a combination, etc. And on and on. There are lots of ways to interpret it, obviously.

While I think leadership skills are very important, and I'm fine with incorporating money management (especially during cookie season), I don't think everyone is a natural leader. Nor do I think leadership should be forced, at this age, if they are extremely uncomfortable with it. I have several girls who are painfully shy, and while it's good for all of us (myself included!) to go outside our comfort levels, I try to keep it age-appropriate and be respectful of each girl as an individual. Because the last thing I want is to push an eight-year-old into being the center of attention when that is obviously going to freak her out (and perhaps make her reticent to continue in GS). 

Yeah, it can be a tough balance at times. I had one mom who told me she was grateful I paid attention to the fact that her daughter didn't like being the center of attention. I had another who told me she thought the girls should already be planning and leading the meetings, completely on their own. 

Somewhere in there is a happy medium, I think. Encouraging those who aren't natural leaders to step up, and giving those who are more Type A personalities the opportunity to shine. Treating each girl with equal respect, while acknowledging their need to be true to themselves isn't easy at this age (does it get easier?).

Regardless, I think it's vital that as the girls advance through each year of GS, their opportunities for sharing opinions, making decisions, and handling responsibilities also increase, without asking them to compromise who they are. To me, that's what being "girl-led" is all about.

In Daisies, I think being girl-led is more about giving the girls options: letting them choose between two (or perhaps three) things at a time. But with each year they grow, their ability to handle more responsibility increases, as should their investment (time/energy) in the troop.

A handy chart via Google that illustrates leadership progression

So I guess it's not just that I like the term (in my understanding of it), but I really appreciate that GSUSA allows leaders the freedom to interpret that term, especially with younger troops, and tailor the program to fit individual troop needs. 

In the past, the girls have given me input regarding badges/patches and activities. And that's great! I love it. But rather than determine our itinerary for this year based upon piecemeal suggestions and/or what I think the girls would have fun doing, I'm giving them the opportunity to decide our meeting agenda for themselves. Some leaders do this from the get-go in Brownies, and that's fine. Whatever works for you. But last year I had several core Legacy badges I wanted us to do, because I felt they were important foundations for Girl Scouts (GS Way, First Aid, etc.), and many of these required outside speakers/visitors, which had to be scheduled far in advance. So while I listened to what the girls wanted to do, in the end I planned a rough agenda and thankfully it worked out really well. I never received any complaints from the girls regarding which badges and fun patches (or other activities) we did. 

EDIT: Today I was following an online conversation about having second-year Brownies team up with a buddy (in the troop) to plan and lead meetings. All on their own. I think that's a GREAT idea! I also think it would be utter chaos in our troop for a couple of reasons: The maturity levels vary wildly, and I think the only ones who could really handle the work aspect as the aforementioned painfully shy girls. So they could do the prep work, but when it came time to actually lead, they would be in agony. 

So there's that. But logistics also come into play here. We meet on a Friday, right after school. Planning a meeting would coincide (conflict) with homework that week. Third grade is a big transition in terms of homework for our school. They have a LOT more in third grade than they did in second. Also, the main parent volunteers I have are the ones who come to every meeting. There are too many girls and too many of the parents (unfortunately) who would simply balk at the notion of having to do take-home work/preparation for Brownies. And I can't say I blame them, honestly. Not at this age.

So while I'm not at all opposed to the notion of having the girls lead the meetings, I think for our troop, it's okay that our big steps this year are letting the girls determine what they want to do as a troop, and what our long-terms goal is. If we had a smaller troop, and met on the weekend, or had less homework, or more gung-ho parents, maybe it could work.

And it still might. You never know! But I talked it over with my co-leader and she completely agreed that it would be utter chaos, at least initially. So we're moving a little slower on that end than some troops, and that's okay.

If your girls can handle the added responsibility of planning and leading meetings, GO FOR IT! Be there as their support, but let them lead the way. It's all part of what being "girl-led" is all about: knowing your girls, giving them opportunities to shine, to participate, valuing their input, and supporting them along the way.

But doing it in a realistic manner, based upon your individual troop.

Next year we will definitely be giving the girls more responsibilities. But for now, I'm okay with the plan below.

Yeah, Yeah. So, Where Are the Journeys?

I know, I keep putting these off. Yes, they are doable. Yes, if your troop wants to do them, GO FOR IT! And yes, I know, I can alter them to fit my troop. But because of how often our troop meets, and where we meet, Journeys are a serious challenge for us. And I admit, every time I read through the books, I come away overwhelmed and a little discouraged; I would simply have to do too much to tailor them to meet our troop's needs, so I put it back in my To Do Later box. (Don't get me wrong. I work really hard, and put a ton of time and effort into our troop meetings. But that's probably why I'm disinclined to attempt a Journey. I know me. I'd spend weeks preparing for it, so I'm not attempting it unless they say WE WANT TO DO THIS! In which case I'll gladly do it. Because that's what girl-led is all about. It's my job to support them in their goals.

We go from leading the girls, to guiding the girls, to supporting the girls. And a big mish-mash of all three in between. :) 

But in years past, the girls don't even like to listen to me explain what a Journey is, much less as to do one. Thankfully, Journeys are still optional for Brownies and Daisies (Juniors and up are required [at this point] to complete at least one per level, when working on Bronze, Silver, Gold Awards [two for Gold, if they didn't earn their Silver]). But for now, eh. I'm not stressing over it. 

If they choose to work on any Journeys, it would have to be a Journey-in-a-Day event on the weekend, not a regular troop meeting.

So the list down below is for regular troop meetings only. It doesn't include all the service unit fun events, nor Journeys, because those are all outside of our regular meetings. It's primarily Skill-Building (which are related to Journeys, but can be earned and purchased separately) and Legacy badges, and fun patches. 

I would love to do the old Try-Its, because I think they're great (and the books are fun too), and a great fit for our troop, except for one things: given that the badges are retired and in some cases hard to find individually, much less in bulk, we haven't been able to attempt the same one in troop meetings, because I cannot find enough of them! The troop is too big. So I encourage the girls to work on any badges/patches they like, independently, and have had quite a few work on Try-Its (if you're interested, check out this link or Google Brownie Try-Its, and search eBay for the badges and books to purchase).

Some Try-Its (there are tons!):

Skill-Building Badges:

Legacy Badges:

So here's the sheet for the girls to fill out at our first troop meeting. Please note I did not include badges/patches we earned last year. If you are wanting to do this for your first-year Brownie troop, don't forget to include all the official badges, and Journeys too, if your meetings allow for it. Also, there's a good chance I will find some more to add to this list between now and our first troop meeting. But it will give you a general idea.

Troop Badges and Patches

I hope everyone had a great summer! There are many things we can work on this year, and I want you to choose some of the things you'd like to do. Let's make it a great year!

Please pick FOUR badges/patches that you would like to work on from the list below. Just put a checkmark by the ones that appeal to you the most. If you have a question about something, ask me.

We will work on the top choices, as selected by the troop. But don't worry, if you want to work on something but it isn't chosen by the troop, you can still do it on your own, at home. Just ask me about it. And if you have something you'd like to work on and it's not on the list, tell me about it. I will see if I can find a badge or patch to fit what you're wanting to do, because there are LOTS to choose from! 

_____ Act of Kindness/Make a Difference
_____ Dancer
_____ Fair Play  
_____ Harry Potter (Scientific Sorcery)
_____ Home Scientist
_____ Household Elf
_____ Inventor
_____ Letterboxing and/or Scavenger Hunt
_____ Make Your Own Badge  
_____ Making Friends
_____ Making Games
_____ Magical Fairy Adventure
_____ My Family Story
_____ My Great Day
_____ Painting
_____ Pets
_____ Pottery
_____ Safety Award Pin  
_____ Senses  
_____ Snacks  


From this sheet, the girls will pick their top four and then we will work on anywhere between 6-8 of the top picks overall (plus cookie badges and pin, and service unit activities). My hope is there will be a good mix of Legacy and Skill-Building, with some fun patches thrown in for, well, FUN! :) And if they want to take charge of something along the way, yes! If not, no biggie.

That's it for first meeting plan, right now (more to come on first meeting prep for second-year Brownies as it gets closer to fall). Next up? Troop Crests!