Friday, June 14, 2019

Raise it. Salute it. Love it. Let's celebrate Flag Day!

Old Glory. Stars and Stripes. The Star-Spangled Banner.

However you refer to it, the American flag—and respect for it—is an important part of the Girl Scout Movement and our nation’s history.

Our flag’s story begins in 1776 with “the Continental Colors,” often described as the first national flag. Its design was similar to our current flag, with 13 alternate red and white stripes, but with the British Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress resolved that our flag would include 13 alternating red and white stripes, with 13 white stars in a blue field. The colors have meaning: Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

No one knows for sure who actually designed the first stars and stripes, or even who made it. Many historians credit New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson with the design—and the story of George Washington asking a Philadelphia upholsterer by the name of Betsy Ross to create a flag may be more legend than fact.

Nevertheless, that original, basic design endures to this day, with additional stars added to the field of blue through the years, representing each state’s admission to the Union.

In 1916, when patriotism after the Great War was high, President Woodrow Wilson introduced a national celebration honoring our flag. But it wasn’t until 1934 that President Harry Truman signed an act of Congress officially establishing June 14 as National Flag Day.

Fun fact: Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, herself a famous patriot and advocate for displaying and honoring our nation’s flag, developed a stars-and-stripes design for Girl Scout uniforms, though it was never implemented.

Today, as we celebrate Flag Day 2019, Girl Scouts everywhere are honoring, in many ways, this powerful symbol of our nation.

Thinking about how you might participate? Here are a few ideas:

1. Display the flag. This one’s super easy! Whether you station a small flag on your desk; wear a patch on your sash, backpack, or jacket; or fly a full-size version on a flagpole at home or school, show our nation’s colors proudly.
2. Learn about flag ceremonies. “Color guard, advance!” Refresh your flag etiquette before holding a special Flag Day ceremony. Flag ceremonies can take many forms, depending on location, audience, and type of event—though they should always include saying the Pledge of Allegiance and even the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
3. Retire flags with honor. Many Girl Scout troops host events to help the public “retire” old and/or damaged flags. While the official guidelines call for flags to be retired “with dignity,” many customs such as burning, cutting, and otherwise disposing of the flag have their roots in local traditions. Check with veterans groups near you to learn what’s acceptable in your area.
4. Brush up on flag etiquette. Do you know how to fold the flag? How to properly display it? How to participate on a color guard? Here are a few tips to help make sure you get it right. Remember: showing proper respect is a great way to show your love for the flag and all it represents.
5. Say the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s a daily ritual in classrooms around the country, but adults and youngsters alike can reaffirm their commitment to the flag and “to the republic for which it stands” on Flag Day. Take pride in honoring a symbol that stands for “liberty and justice for all.”

Let’s make Flag Day 2019 a day when we remember, honor, and celebrate our flag. And let’s keep the spirit with us throughout the year—because Girl Scouts honor the flag every day, not just on Flag Day.

Old Glory, we salute you! Long may you wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Monday, June 10, 2019

10 Essential Knots for Girl Scouts

Guest blog post by Girl Scouts of Northern California. This was originally posted on The Trailhead.

Rope, yarn, string, lacing cord, paracord, the things you can tie goes on and on. We’ve all tied our shoelaces, but knot tying is so much more than just looping some string and pulling really tight—it’s an essential skill for taking on the outdoors. In most outdoor activities, your safety relies on the accuracy of your knots. Some knots work better than others, and it’s important to know when and how to tie the necessary knots.

Whether your Girl Scouts want to climb a mountain or dock a boat, here are 10 notable knots to show you and your girls the ropes and help them take their knot tying skills beyond the basic loop-de-loop-and-pull.

Basic Knot Vocabulary

Jam: When a knot becomes permanent, or so tight to the point of being unable to untie it.
Loop: A full circle formed by passing a rope over itself.
Running End: The “moving” portion of the rope that is used to thread the knot itself.
Standing End: The “still” portion of the rope that remains fixed in place throughout the knot tying process.
Stopper Knot: A type of knot used to make a portion of the rope thicker and prevent it from unraveling.
Round Turn: A full encirclement of the rope.
Half Hitch: A knot that runs around the standing end and through the loop formed.
Hitch: Attaches a rope to another object (relies on the object to hold its own shape.)
Bight: A “u” shaped loop; the slack part of the rope.
Bend: A type of knot used to join two ropes together.

The Overhand Knot

The simplest of the bunch, but also one of the most essential knots: the overhand. When pulled tight, the overhand knot is a sturdy knot that holds its own (literally, that’s why it’s the go-to stopper knot for everything from climbing to shoelace-tying). Once you and your girls master this knot, you’ll be able to apply this technique to more complex knots.

The Round Turn and Two Half Hitches

This knot has multiple components, but is the easiest knot for securing rope to fixed objects like poles and trees. The round turn and two half hitches knot is a more dynamic knot that can self-tighten, but isn’t too hard to untie. For this knot, the running end is going to be shorter than the standing end, so make sure it’s not too short—if it’s too short and the ends get loose, your knot will come undone!

Pro Tip: If your knot is going to hold heavy loads, add multiple round turns to make it more secure.

The Clove Hitch

Like the round turn and two half hitches knot, the clove hitch is used for securing rope to fixed objects. Girl Scouts use this knot all the time on climbing rope, bandages, and even hammocks, because the knot holds tight under tension—and when your body weight is on the line, a sturdy knot is essential.

The Square or Reef

Some call it the square knot, others call it the reef knot, but this timeless knot has been around since the ancient Greeks used it for healing, protection, and weddings (ever heard of “tying the knot”?). Once you get the hang of it, the square knot is quick and easy, which is why it’s the primary knot in macramé textile projects.

Pro Tip: This one can get a little tricky, so use two different-colored ropes when practicing to really understand the relationship between the two half hitches.

The Sheet Bend

Building off the square/reef knot, the sheet bend can also be used to join two ropes of different sizes. Even though this knot is useful in tying together ropes of different diameters and textures, that doesn’t mean they have to be. For example, fishing nets are just a collection of similarly sized sheet bend knots.

By itself, the sheet bend isn’t very secure (the knot requires constant tension to prevent it from coming loose), but together they can weave something neat (or should I say net)!

The Bowline

The bowline knot is similar to the sheet bend, but only uses one piece of rope (and creates a bowl-like loop). The bowline is a strong, reliable knot with a loop that makes it easy for sailors and campers alike to secure their precious cargo.

The Bowline on a Bight

You thought the bowline knot was strong? Well, the u-shape bight adds another level of strength to the bowline knot, which is why they’re used in rescue missions—the double loops make the knot secure enough to support a person’s body weight!

The Taut Line Hitch

Like the round turn and two half hitches and the clove hitch, the taut line hitch is used for securing rope to fixed objects. The taut line hitch is a bit more challenging than the previous hitch knots due to its many turns and loops. If you have outdoorsy Girl Scouts, this knot is essential for tying down tarps and tents!

The Cleat Hitch

This nautical knot is a must for those mariner Girl Scouts. If you’re still growing your sea legs, a cleat is t-shaped piece (usually wood or metal) on the dock that deckhands tie the boat to. So if you don’t want your boat to float away, make sure you practice this one!

The Double Figure Eight

With a name like double figure eight, it’s no surprise this knot has more twists, turns, and direction changes. This knot is definitely the complex and heavy-duty on the list. When done right, this multiple loop knot will be able to help your girls belay down the side of a mountain or even tow a car out of the mud!

Like any new skill, all of these knots will take practice. Your fingers may get tangled and your girls may feel tied up, but once you get the hang of it, your girls will have a whole new world of adventures at their fingertips. Crafting, first aid, climbing, sailing—try naming a Girl Scout activity that doesn’t require some knot tying. Like the knots, keep it tight!

What to do next:

Bookmark the entire How to Tie Knots playlist on YouTube and keep practicing! Looking to take your knot tying skills to the next level? Check out Animated Knots for more knot-tying tutorials and knot activities.
Monday, June 3, 2019

Girl Scout Robotics Teams Tackle Radiation

Though it’s been nearly 85 years since Marie Curie’s death from prolonged exposure to radiation, radiation is still a significant issue today, and Girl Scouts are stepping up to tackle this challenge. Two of the many Girl Scout robotics teams that attended the 2019 FIRST® Championship (the world’s largest robotics competition and celebration for students) focused on how to protect astronauts from radiation exposure in space. Today’s girls are addressing this topic of great importance to humankind.

The theme for the FIRST competition is “Into Orbit,” in which teams identify and propose a solution for a physical or a social problem faced by humans during long duration space exploration. For NASA, space radiation is one of the biggest challenges for a human journey to Mars, the top option for expanding human presence in space. The Tech Hoppers (from Girl Scouts of Greater New York) and Team Smarties (from Girl Scouts Louisiana East) are ready and in position to be our current and future science pioneers. 

The Tech Hoppers came up with the idea of creating a robot within a meteor or asteroid to protect against radiation, due to hydrogen’s prevalence in asteroid and meteors, and its properties as a radiation shield material. Team Smarties developed an antioxidant powder called Smart Blast that can be sprinkled over food to offset the effects of radiation—and they are even submitting a provisional patent application for the powder! Team Smarties chose to solve the problem of radiation due to its current relevancy for people affected by radiation world-wide as well as and for astronauts in space exploration.
Girl Scouts Robotics Team TechHoppers.
Photo: Girl Scouts of Greater New York
Girl Scouts are almost twice as likely as non–Girl Scouts to participate in STEM activities (60 percent versus 35 percent) like science experiments and building robots. At GSUSA, we recognize that in our increasingly tech-driven world, future generations must possess the skills to navigate the complexities and inherent challenges of the STEM and cyber realms. Team Smarties and the Tech Hoppers are part of Girl Scouts’ effort to eliminate traditional barriers to industry access, such as gender and geography, helping to ensure that girls of all ages have a strong foundation to tackle our world’s pressing issues.

Girl Scouts Take On FIRST World Championships

The CookieNauts from Girl Scouts of Utah earned the Motivate trophy at Utah State Competition
in recognition of the robotics camps they ran for kids from military families. 

For too long, children have been raised to believe that boys are innately more talented in math and sciences than girls; as early as second grade, youth agree that “math is for boys, not girls.” For over a century, Girl Scouts has pushed back against this harmful stereotype, providing an encouraging space for girls to explore their STEM interests in cybersecurity, engineering, robotics, and more - while also building confidence, leadership, and teamwork in a safe all-girl environment. Girl Scouts are almost twice as likely as non–Girl Scouts to participate in STEM activities (60 percent versus 35 percent) like science experiments and building robots.

This year, Girl Scouts once again shattered the STEM glass ceiling as Girl Scout robotics teams from across the country showcased their incredible talents as they competed at the FIRST World Championships in Houston (April 17-20) and Detroit (April 24-27) – the world’s largest robotics competition and celebration. The challenge this year is to identify a physical or social problem faced by humans during long duration space exploration and propose a solution; each team is challenged to think creatively and use their knowledge to put together an effective robotics project.

These are just a few of the many Girl Scout robotics teams across the country! 

Space Cookies from Girl Scouts of Northern California placed first at
LA North Regionals and competed at FIRST World Championships in Houston.

These Girl Scout Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors each earned THREE Robotics badges!
They built small-dome robots, learned about engineering, and are ready to tackle the next challenge

More than 300 Girl Scouts earned Robotics badges from The Bionic Tigers, a high school robotics team. 

This Girl Scout Brownie robotics team worked hard all year to develop some amazing STEM skills.
Winning an award at the FIRST LEGO League Jr. Expo was just the icing on the cake. 

This Girl Scout Cadette and her STEM club team’s LEGO Mindstorm robot earned them second place
in their school’s robotics competition. Next up: Medtronic Robotics Competition! 

This Girl Scout Junior and her team won the Excellence Award at a VEX IG tournament
and are headed to the World Championship in Kentucky! 

RoboScout Squad from Girl Scouts of Montana & Wyoming earned second place
for innovation and strategy at the FLL Montana State Championship!

Five Ways to Celebrate Great Outdoors Month

Warmer weather, longer days, and endless adventures—sounds like the beginning of summer! And the best part about this beautiful month? June is also Great Outdoors Month!

You already know that Girl Scouts loves the outdoors. Whether we’re protecting the environment or just having fun, getting outside is one of our favorite things to do. Plus, it’s good for us! In fact, girls who participate in outdoor activities on a monthly basis are stronger challenge-seekers and problem-solvers, which benefits their futures and the world.

To kick off Great Outdoors Month, we put together our favorite outside activities that you can do to celebrate—like a Girl Scout!

1. Earn your Troop Camping badge. The requirements for the Girls’ Choice outdoor badges are available for download in the Girl Scout Shop! Check out the Troop Camping badges available for all Girl Scout levels—yes, even Daisies! Feeling creative? Art in the Outdoors badges are super fun!

2. Earn your Junior Ranger patch. Through Girl Scouts’ continued partnership with the National Park Service, we’ve made it easier than ever to visit your favorite national parks. Girl Scouts have the unique opportunity to complete Journeys, achieve Take Action or Highest Award projects, and even earn a patch along the way!

3. Go camping. What’s a Girl Scout summer without camp? Making new friends, learning new skills, and overcoming challenges—plus, girls say camping is their most memorable outdoor experience in Girl Scouts. What’s not to love? Many camps are still accepting reservations, so find a Girl Scout camp near you today!

To help you and your girl prepare for her camping adventure, we’ve come up with some awesome summer camp hacks to stay light on hassle and big on fun. And don’t forget to freshen up on those favorite camp songs!

4. Care for the environment. It’s easy to be green, especially when you’re a Girl Scout! From the very beginning of Girl Scouting, caring for our world has been part of our DNA. Whether you’re learning about endangered species, planting trees in your local park, or taking the lead to recycle, girls develop a lasting commitment to the environment. It’s your planet—love it!

5. Have fun in your own backyard. Getting outside doesn’t have to be hard; you can explore the wonders of Mother Nature in your own neighborhood! Plant a garden, create a nature scavenger hunt, go for a walk, or have fun in your community park—the options are endless!

Whether you’re a nature pro or just starting out, you can help girls of all ages have a positive experience in the great outdoors. Check out these videos and other resources to make getting outdoors even more rewarding for both girls and adults, and get outside!