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! My oldest troop has since bridged up to Juniors, and I've taken on a Daisy troop as well, so I will continue updating with new Juniors information and additional Daisy stuff too. My hope is to continue to update with every level as my troops advance. But we'll see.

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

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Juniors: Detective Badge: Science (This is long! Grab your coffee now)

Before I get started, please note that a lot of the prep work can be done by the girls in a meeting. But we were going to be pressed for time, so I did as much prep work beforehand as possible, because I wanted to do all of this in one meeting. It was a lot, but was GREAT!

Now, you can use the suggested activities in the Junior binder, and that's fine! But as usual, I went a little outside the box. Do what works best for you and your troop! But you might enjoy one of the activities here.

It took a little over an hour and a half for the actual meeting activities (which we completed, except for the shoe prints, which were a take-home for most girls), but there was a LOT of prep time! And we were careful to keep an eye on the clock. It could've taken 2 hours to do. Or you can break it up into two meetings. Whatever works.

We began the meeting with a bit of a discussion about what a Detective is, and all about different codes (including the Code Talkers), etc.  When talking about Morse Code, be sure to tell your girls that when it is written as a message, the dashes should be slightly elevated on the paper -- this ensures it is read right-side-up, not upside-down. (It also makes the dashes easier to see.)

Make a point to talk about the different ways Morse Code can be used: light, sound, writing, etc.

My 15 girls were split into three patrols (patrols are typically Juniors and up, and the next step up from buddies/pairs; here's a bunch of info about patrols), we had three stations (one overflow area for shoe prints), and the girls rotated, spending about 20 minutes at each station. If you're moving quickly, skip naming patrols and electing leaders, etc. Just split them up randomly and go!

I had two parent volunteers on hand -- it depends upon how many girls you have (we had 15 for this meeting), as to how many you will need. More parents arrived towards the end, and it was great to have several helpers! I would recommend three volunteers if possible, so you can float from station to station and continue elaborating on how it ties into being a detective.

To earn our badge, we did Fingerprinting, Shoe Prints, Color (Secret) Codes, Morse Code Necklaces, and DNA extraction. (We had a scavenger hunt Halloween party afterwards, which tied in nicely to the Detective Badge, and I'll list details in Part Two.)

You will need at least 3 tables for this meeting, and will have to do clean up as you go. If you're going to have a snack, do it first! And I recommend removing vests before you begin the meeting, as it will get messy.

I have a big Thirty-One large utility tote that I carried everything in, atop my wheeled file box (which held things like my soft cooler for the rubbing alcohol, portable recycle bin, paperwork, flag, etc.). The activity supplies were placed in labeled gallon Ziplocs where possible, and instructions were included, so I didn't have to waste time explaining it to my volunteers. They read over the instructions during snack. The only cumbersome thing was the poster frame.

All of the items listed are to accommodate 15 girls. Adjust as needed. As always, you might find a shortcut to the way I did it. If so, please post and let me know how it worked! I tend to overcomplicate things at times. . . .


You will need the following items for this activity:

(Do at home ahead of time unless you are spreading this badge over more than one meeting. You can have the girls do more prep work, but it's very messy. It's up to you):
- 3-4 full sized (9"x11") sheets of sandpaper
- 1 four-pack of graphite sticks (Michael's, drawing/art section, or Amazon)
- 1 piece of paper that's been folded in half then re-opened
- Plastic gloves (optional)

(Bring to meeting:)
- 5 small plastic containers (reusable Glad or other brand works well)
- 20+ index cards (they might mess up, so have spares)
- Pre-printed fingerprint cards (see below)
- 5 makeup brushes (big and old -- these will be pretty much ruined, so use cheap ones!)
- 1 small container hand lotion
- Poster frame (or similar acrylic type surface -- our tables are wooden and have grooves, so we needed something very flat)
- Clear packing tape
- Scissors
- 2 stamp pads (washable ink)
- 1 roll paper towels
- Access to a sink for hand-washing (soap)
- Pencils or pens to write names on things

Tiny Glad containers worked great for fingerprint powder

Prepare before meeting:

- I used one four-pack of graphite sticks from Michaels (art/drawing section). You can use regular pencils (it's a pain though as you have to stop and sharpen them constantly), sidewalk chalk, or powdered cocoa. I've not tried any of that though. The graphite worked well.
- Wearing plastic gloves (optional, but it's very messy. Seriously), scrub the graphite against the sandpaper (just like you're coloring the sandpaper). Periodically tap the powdered graphite onto a sheet of paper that's been folded in half then opened (powder collects in crease). Pour powder into your small plastic container and make sure the lid is on tightly. In the end you should have 5 containers. Each one will be plenty for three girls to use. (5x3=15. Adjust yours as needed for how many girls you'll have.)
- Print out individual fingerprint cards:

You can use card stock or regular paper for this. 
Cut them up ahead of time if you'll be pressed for time during your meeting.

Create a sample stamped card to use as reference. Pack up everything with instructions in case there are other volunteers assisting. 

What to do in the actual meeting:

- Have each girl write her name on an index card. Set aside.
- Have each girl write her name on the card, then stamp her fingerprints onto it. 
- Wash hands. 
- Apply small amount of hand lotion (otherwise the fingerprints won't show up).
- Press fingertip firmly onto poster frame. 
- Gently pick up some powdered graphite with a blush brush and tap it over the fingerprint.
- Use the brush to gently reveal the fingerprint.
- Cut off a piece of packing tape (it's easiest to have the adult helpers doing this) and press it gently keeping the edges unstuck so they can peel it off easier.
- Peel it off and stick to an index card that the girl has written her name on.
- Wash hands really well. :)


This was our overlap/do-at-home activity. So if a girl finished an activity before others in her patrol, and had already cleaned up, she could do this. You may need to use some of your graphite, or some chalk, or just have them walk around on asphalt or dirt. We did not have enough time for this for most girls, so we sent it home with them. You could elaborate on it a bit, if you want it to be a more involved activity, and have the girls leave a shoe print on paper, then have each girl walk around with the paper and try to match it to the actual shoe, etc.

Because of time, we needed a quick and easy fifth activity, so this was it.

Shoe prints won't work if their shoes are squeaky clean.

COLOR CODES (Steganography):

This was based off of some research I did into Chromatography. Which was cool! But opted instead for steganography, which is basically hiding messages in pictures or text. More info on it here. Also, steganography is a hard word to say, seriously. It look like it could mean "if dinosaurs could write" or something. Practice saying it before you get to the meeting. 

This is an example of a much easier way to approach it. 
But, it wouldn't take 20 minutes and I needed comparable time for each activity. 
I'm glad I opted for way more complicated. The girls had a great time figuring it all out. 
Do what works best for you!

Here's the thing. On my versions (scroll down to the red images), I can see the Morse Code symbols on the electronic version on my computer, but when I printed them out? Could not see them unless I knew to look for them. I tested it on my Daisy. She couldn't see anything but red designs. But when viewed through red glasses? We could both see the symbols clearly. So while you might be able to see something here on this site -- try printing it out and see if you still can (or not). Hopefully these will work. If not, Google is your friend! :)

A great online resource for making Morse Code messages can be found here.

Please note: If you have girls who are colorblind, a steganography activity probably won't work. But they can still participate if you're using a coded message like mine below (and not just colored letters to form a message, like above). Just have them work with a partner. The partner uses her red glasses and copies down the Morse Code, while the colorblind girl translates the code.

You will need the following items for this activity:

- Colored glasses (I made five total. Each pair was used three times)
- Colored messages (variety for each group, so not everyone is working on the same message)
- Scrap paper (one per girl)
- Pencils (ditto)
- Morse Code Key (see below)
- Helper cheat sheet so the volunteers could help prompt girls if they got stuck

Prepare before the meeting:

- Print out the sheets below and cut each in half (each sheet has TWO messages on it; each girl needs one message -- the last message probably won't work for your troop, so discard it)
- Print out the Morse Code keys (one per girl)
- Create a volunteer/helper cheat sheet with translations (keep this one folded away)
- Paperclip one message, one scrap paper, and one Morse Code key for each girl in each patrol (I had three groups of five, with one left over spare for each in case someone's didn't print out well). Make sure you use different red sheets for the girls in each patrol, so they aren't all working on the same message.
- Bundle each patrol's packets together, so it's easy for your volunteers to pull out a new batch for the next group
- Make your glasses (see below)

Red cellophane glasses:

You will need the following to make your own (one per girl, per group. You don't need to make each girl a pair of glasses if you're doing these activities as rotations. Just make the total you'll need per group):

- Card stock
- Cellophane (I used clear pocket divider cover things; you could use thick shrink wrap from packaging, etc. Just has to be thick and clear. Saran wrap won't work. Does your school have a laminating machine? I bet there's a bunch of scrap plastic you could use.)
- Red Sharpies (fresh is best)
- Tape
- Scissors

Follow the steps below to make your own. I made five glasses, but didn't bother to put ear pieces on them. The girls just held them with one hand, and it worked fine. If you have time, add ear pieces.

Make sure the marker on the cellophane pieces is DRY before you tape the red cellophane over the holes in your card stock, or else you'll end up with red ink everywhere. If your marker doesn't go on smoothly, use your finger to spread the ink around. It'll make a mess though, so wear gloves (also, rubbing alcohol works well for getting Sharpie off tables. Ha!)

I traced the front shape of the 3-D type sample glasses I had on hand, onto a folded piece of 
card stock. Then cut out the shape and unfolded.

After you've cut out the glasses shape,  mark roughly where to cut out for eyes, keep the shape folded in half, and use an X-Acto knife to cut the slots for the red cellophane.

Use a red Sharpie to color the cellophane, which should be larger than the eye hole, but smaller than the card stock. You're going to tape the red cellophane inside the glasses shape. 
Red Sharpie transfers pretty easily. 

This is what the inside should look like with cellophane taped in. 
Once you're done, close and tape the card stock edges shut.

Ta-dah! Homemade spy glasses!

Print out all this stuff:

You don't have to use my stuff. You can find others online, or make your own! But here's everything we used for the meeting. You will cut the red cards in half, and each girl in each group rotation/patrol gets a different one (so they aren't all working on the same message at the same time):

"We are a great troop" and "Girl Scouts is awesome"
Each word is on its own line.

"This is super fun" and "Morse code is cool"

"Secret codes are cool" and "Miss Renee rocks"

And okay, so that last one is unusable for your troop, unless you happen to have a Miss Renee... Ha! So, just discard the #6 and use 1-5 for your group rotations. If you have more than 5 in a patrol, have them work in pairs.

Each girl gets a copy of this to use and to take home and keep. Remind them that when Morse Code is written, the dashes are typically raised slightly so you know you're not looking at it upside-down. That's why the color sheets all have raised dashes. I didn't use the numbers, but it's nice to include them for reference.

What to do in the actual meeting:

Make sure the girls coming from the Fingerprints table have washed their hands well. Smudged graphite can really mess with this activity.

Give each girl her paper-clipped bundle and a pencil. Tell her that each line of code is ONE word and to copy down the code exactly as she sees it. Don't try to translate it until you have everything copied down on your scrap paper. That way if they make a mistake, it's easier to find where they went wrong. (Reiterate how careful detectives are!)

You can have them draw one of these: "/" in between each letter, if that helps. Some of my girls used their pencils to trace/color over the code on the actual paper, which made it visible without the glasses. Very clever girls!


You will need the following items:

- String/cord (pre-cut, one per girl. Make these a bit longer than necessary, to accommodate knots)
- Pony beads (variety, round)
- Tube beads (like these; see below)
- Morse Code sheets (see above)

Prepare before the meeting:

Make a sample necklace for yourself. Tie knots in between the words (or you could tie single knots in between letters and double knots in between words. Whatever you like). I used the same color beads for letters (so all my E letters were one color, etc.), but you don't have to do that. The round beads are dots. The tubes are dashes. The girls LOVED this!

Bucket of (tube) beads at Michaels. Super cheap and worked great!

My "Miss Renee" necklace


Lots of great instructions online. Here's one example. Here's another. But don't worry; it's not nearly as complicated as it sounds. The key is to do it at least once at home so you won't stumble in the meeting, since timing is key. The measurements don't have to be exact, honestly. But try to get close if you can. It's more about proportions.

We finished the patrol/group rotations for the other activities, cleaned up, and then everyone did this together, in pairs. All my adult helpers pitched in, which was GREAT! This can get tricky in terms of timing, especially the last step, so having more hands on deck is good.

You will need the following items:

- Rubbing alcohol, chilled (I put mine in a cooler with ice the night before, and brought the cooler to the meeting with me)
- Small clear acrylic cups -- we worked in pairs for this, so I had two per pair. (You could use mixing bowls and cups instead, or go super fancy and get beakers. I just went to the Dollar store and bought cheap punch-size acrylic cups)
- Wooden popsicle sticks (skewers can work too. Toothpicks are a bit too small, IMO)
- Plastic spoons
- Dish liquid (any brand will do. I've heard Dawn works well but I used a clear liquid. It was fine)
- Sturdy Ziploc baggies (don't get the cheap ones, they'll rip)
- Frozen strawberries -- THAWED! (Frozen ones work best, because once they thaw, they're already mushy. Plus, they have the tops cut off). I bought two bags but really only needed one. You don't need a ton, maybe three or four per girl, if they're medium-sized berries)
- Salt
- Paper napkins (or cheesecloth if you have it. We just used generic paper napkins -- they were the soft, super cheap cheap, double-ply kind. Not the Disney Princess style that have a more solid outer layer. You want something that liquid can pass through easily, but that won't tear)
- Measuring cups/spoons
- Water
- Clean up towels for spills

Prepare before the meeting:

Run through it at least once beforehand. I should've done it twice, because I forgot a step early on during the meeting and had to start over. Which was no big deal, but that meant we ran over a little time-wise. So definitely do the experiment at home first, and I'd advise doing it twice just to be safe.

The night before, chill your alcohol and grab a cooler, so it'll still be cold for your meeting. And don't forget to thaw your strawberries! If you leave them out overnight on the counter they should be nice and mushy for your meeting the next day.

What to do in the actual meeting:

Talk to the girls about how detectives use DNA, and what DNA is (I was surprised that some had no idea, so we had a nice little quick intro to genetics).

1. Pass out the cups (two per pair), plastic spoons (one per pair), popsicle sticks (two per pair), and napkins (extras on hand in case of spills or tears, etc.).
2. Give each pair of girls a sturdy Ziploc, and scoop some mushy strawberries into each one. Make sure the baggies are very well sealed, with the air pushed out. Set aside.
3. Put 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup water, and 1 tablespoon of dish liquid in one cup per pair of girls.
4. Have them use the spoons to gently mix the solution. This will be the extraction liquid. Set it aside.
5. Take turns gently mushing strawberries in baggies for ~2 minutes, or until it's as mushy as possible (they loved this part!). Set aside.
6. Have them place the napkins carefully over the top of the second cup. Press down in the middle so it sags well, and the strawberries won't spill over. Set aside. (You can use rubberbands to hold it in place, or just fingers.)
7. Add three tablespoons of the extraction liquid to the mushed strawberries baggy. You're done with the extraction cup (but hang on to it in case you need to re-do one).
8. Re-seal baggy (air pushed out) and work it through for another minute or so, until it's very well blended with the strawberries. Don't overwork it! You want to be gentle -- don't make bubbles.
9. Open the bag and carefully pour into the cup with the napkin on top. Have one girl hold the napkin in place with the middle pushed far down, while the other pours the mixture. Watch it drip into the cup.
10. Very gently pick up the edges of the napkin, so the mushy strawberry solution is contained within, then gently squeeze it so you get as much liquid into the cup as possible.
11. Carefully pick up the cup, then tilt it slightly. Pour a small amount (about 1-2 tablespoons? Test it at home and see) of chilled alcohol down the side of the cup (if you pour it straight in and it splashes, the experiment won't work as well).
12. Set the cup down and watch. It should start to work immediately. See the white layer forming? The alcohol is pulling strands of DNA from your mixture!
13. Use popsicle stick to carefully dip and grab the DNA strands.

Randomly Googled image. I was too busy to take pictures of our actual experiment, but it was cool!

Next up? Detective Part Two -- Halloween Scavenger Hunt.


  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful summary. Where did you find the red pattern to put over your morse code? I am having a hard time seeing the code under the red and thought I could make some for my troop's meeting. Thanks!

    1. You shouldn't be able to see the code under the red, without the glasses. I created it in Photoshop. :)

  2. Thanks for posting this! It was a great inspiration for a last hurrah to my troop. (I moved across the country) My girls LOVED the idea, and I really enjoyed this idea as a theme.

  3. I've really enjoyed reading through all the GREAT content that you've shared. It's incredibly helpful and I thank you!!!

    Looking forward to more great content,


  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Are you still leading troops? I have been so thankful for your blog as I had Daisy and Brownies. I now have Juniors and look forward to doing this great activity! Thanks for sharing and would love to hear your ideas on the other badges

    1. I am! My older girls are now Cadettes and my younger girls are second year Brownies. I've just been too busy to update the blog in awhile. But I still check it and respond to questions. :)

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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