Friday, February 28, 2014

Camp and Outdoor series: "We are prepared and adaptable. We are Girl Scouts!"

So you think Girl Scouts just sell cookies and ride horses at camp? Think again. Our Outdoor Specialist, Jessica Noelke, taught a Backpacking Basics course at the beginning of February and the things these girls learn are not for the faint of heart! Read about their adventure and what a regular backpacking course looks like. These girls do not survive in the wilderness by chance, but by preparedness and this is something they learn everyday through Girl Scouting. 


On February 7th – 9th, 2014 my volunteer, Ruthy Mounce and I put together a Backpacking Basics course that would challenge and prepare girls and their leaders for future backpacking adventures. This was the first event that I would do with Girl Scouts. I have been the Outdoor Program Specialist for one month, and so far so good.
And they're off!
  The weather was cold and wet on the way down, but I refused to cancel knowing that Saturday would be perfect for the activities we had planned (Isn’t that how it always goes?).  Not only the weather, but the size of the camp we were using and the location were also a concern I, along with others, had. This was my first event to host with Girl Scouts, and it was going to be a good one despite the circumstances!

     Everyone showed up around 9 PM to make s’mores over the fire we had going in the lodge at Happy Hollow, and find their campsites that would now be a little damp from the drizzle we had experienced all day. But we are Girl Scouts! We are prepared and we are adaptable! Ruthy and I headed out to set up our own camp as well, and to get ready for a good night’s sleep to be ready for the next morning.

     Now I have been a Girl Scout and I have camped in primitive sights, not showered for days, seen all types of wildlife not limited to bears and cougars, and witnessed some of the most amazing sunrises you have ever seen above treeline. One night camping five miles away from 290 in Texas was one of the hardest things I have done. You might be thinking, “This is our outdoor Program Specialist?” but ‘bear’ with me.

     I don’t think I slept a wink that night. It was below freezing and between the coyotes mocking girls screaming and laughing, and birds that sounded like bands of monkeys flying through the canopy, I was awakened multiple times throughout the night wondering “what country am I in this time?” The cars from the road weren’t soothing either, and I believe at some point in the night there was a train. I also woke up to my friend ‘whisper-yelling’ at me to stop pushing her into the other side of the tent. “I can’t help it! It’s freezing and you’re warm!” Not only that, I had started to get a scratchy throat and was drowning in my own drool, along with not being able to breathe at all, I started to second-guess whether or not camping was really for me.

     We got started around 9am that next morning, starting with the Ten Essentials of Hiking, performing some Leave No Trace skits, and going over how to filter water with a Katadyn Filter. We also hiked around (a total of 6 miles according to someone’s FitBit) and went over some basic ways to avoid getting lost, avoid lightning strikes, and also how to not get eaten by mountain lions (a serious problem in the backwoods of East Texas). 

After lunch, I would surprise the girls with a quiche that was made from all powdered ingredients; powdered eggs, powdered milk, and powdered soup mix with a crust that only required water to be added to it. We were all amazed about how good it was and how this was something the girls could make on their camp stoves in the backcountry. That afternoon, Ruthy had created a fun game that would present the girls with various challenges that they may face when backpacking in the wilderness, as well as test the skills that they had learned that morning. One of these challenges involved the girls getting stranded on a day hike and needing to build an emergency shelter to get them through the night or during a rainstorm. The girls were divided into teams and each given two trash bags, some rope, and what they had in their packs to build a shelter in ten minutes. The girls really put their heads together for this one, and each team built a shelter that was well thought out, and functional in varying situations. I was really proud of the girls and by the end of the day we were pretty tired.

     Ruthy and I were invited to our neighbor’s that night for dinner and enjoyed some stew with Fritos, and black cherry red velvet cake with coffee, and shared stories around the fire with some of the Girl Scouts and their moms. Ruthy and I have been friends for ten years, and have been on many adventures together in the Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. She is an amazing outdoorswoman, and none of this would have happened without her expertise and inspiring stories to get the girls intrigued about going on their own wild adventures in the back country.

     That night sleeping was easier with some cold medicine and an extra sleeping bag over my original one. Ruthy and I both, doubling up with some of the spare bags I brought for people to use, got into the sleeping bags and both sighed with relief knowing we would be warm the whole night. Being prepared is the secret to having a good time and having the right gear is important when camping. Overall, the Backpacking Basics weekend was a success and we all had a great time learning together!

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.-James Cash Penney

Proud to be a Girl Scout,

Jessica Noelke, Outdoor Program Specialist

Trail of Thought: Positivity Rocks

A nationwide movement is afoot and it's all thanks to  members of Troop 219. These amazing girls wanted to create a way to spread positive ideas and energy for their Silver Award, so they did.  They came up with the Trail of Thought, a way for girls to spread good-will and happiness, making the world a better place. The troop wrote inspirational quotes and phrases on rocks and then distributed them to members of their community. They describe the project to being similar to geocaching, but with the Girl Scout twist. 

                The troop now holds regular “Thought Parties” to start up their project and made party instructions available on their website.   Once there, visitors can view those who have participated in the Trail of Thought movement, which has taken over the East Coast. The troop is excited for the movement to spread even further, so check out their website and Facebook page and join in on the fun!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Breaking Bad Eating Habits- One girl teaches youths about healthy lifestyle choices

Gold Award Girls

The following entry was written by Elizabeth Twichell, who was the mastermind behind the nutrition program "Breaking Bad Eating Habits!" Her project was designed to increase awareness of the impact of good dietary choices within a healthy lifestyle. Keep reading to find out about her motivation, challenges and how she overcame them.


The summer before my senior year of high school, I completed my Girl Scout Gold Award project with Breakthrough Austin, an organization that helps middle school students from low-income backgrounds be the first in their families to graduate from college. I selected this project because I was familiar with Breakthrough through its partnership with my high school and had volunteered as a mentor during my sophomore year. Consequently, I knew how the organization worked, what its strengths were, and what I felt was missing. Breakthrough already had a longstanding fitness program called "Breakthrough Gets Fit,” but, although exercise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, nutrition must complement it in order to be truly healthy. So, over the course of 112 hours, I implemented a nutrition program into the summer session of Breakthrough Austin. My project, entitled “Break-ing Bad Eating Habits!” was designed to increase awareness of good nutritional practices, addressing topics like the importance of home cooking and reading nutrition labels. I presented my project through a series of 10 lessons at the University of Texas at Austin’s University Teaching Center and arranged to have the Healthy Lifestyles Chair of the Texas PTA come to relate healthy eating habits to academic performance. My nutrition program will be a key component of Breakthrough Austin’s summer program for years to come.

My goals in my project were to inspire youths from low-income families to improve their quality of life by eating healthier foods on a regular basis. Despite my careful planning, however, I encountered scheduling conflicts and technical issues throughout the course of the summer. A few days, I even arrived at the UTC and was told that I would be unable to present my lesson due to complications beyond my control. Since the nutrition program was new to Breakthrough this summer, the Breakthrough staff had to balance the original Breakthrough summer program with the schedule for my project. Consequently, plans sometimes changed and I had to be flexible. To ensure I was still able to cover enough material, I pushed back lessons a day or two, and prioritized which lessons I felt were the most important to present to the Breakthrough students.

Throughout my Gold Award project, I learned much about interacting with professionals, teaching students, creating lesson plans, public speaking, and efficient organization. My contact with Breakthrough staff and with the guest speaker I arranged taught me the proper etiquette used when working with professionals. While planning my lessons, I carefully designed outlines before making PowerPoint slides to maximize effective teaching in a short period of time. Sometimes I even rehearsed my lessons before presenting them so I wouldn’t falter while teaching the students. I developed an organized system for presenting each lesson, which included an introduction, a demonstration or interesting hook to attract the students’ attention, a series of key points, and a review assessment. Clearly, even though the students were supposed to be learning from me, I learned many invaluable lessons about myself that I will remember in the future.

For other Girl Scouts thinking about pursuing their Gold Award: Start early! More than half of the hours that went into my project were spent planning and organizing the resources needed, so it is always a good idea to start thinking about your project several months before you plan to put it into action. Choose a project you feel confident about doing with an organization you are familiar with. Lastly, don’t be intimidated of working with professionals, be patient and flexible with scheduling conflicts as they arise, and don’t forget to thank those who have helped you along the way!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cookie Spotlight: David M.

Few people are bigger fans of Girl Scout cookies as staff at GSCTX. Today we present to David M. He is one of our awesome rangers at Camp Texlake and a Girl Scout cookie fan. Take it away, David!

What is your favorite cookie?

If you were a cookie what cookie would you be and why?
      The short bread cookie because it’s an original, much like I am.

Do you know any of the cookie characters and if so could you describe one?
A Samoa, it looks like a big cookie with little lines of chocolate on it.

Do you remember the first time you had a Girl Scout Cookie? My sister sold them as a brownie when I was little, so I got to sample a thin mint for the first time. Pretty amazing.

What is your favorite part about cookie season? 
Seeing the girls sell cookies to achieve a goal, such as raising money for a troop trip to D.C. or to travel abroad.

What advice do you have for Girl Scouts braving the cold weather to sell cookies?
Hot cocoa! Bring enough for you and your potential customers, might be just enough to get some extra sales.

If you had the last box of Girl Scout cookies in the entire world who would you share it with? My wife, of course!

We have to agree: Thin Mints are pretty amazing! Thanks for sharing, David!
Stay tuned for more of our cookie spotlights.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Back to Basics: helping children experience nature

Gold Award Girls

The following entry was written by Nicolette Newton about her Gold Award project-- a hands-on booklet to help children experience nature--and how she accomplished it. Keep reading to find out her motivation to stick with Girl Scouting through the years and the impact it has made in her life.


I started as a Daisy, at age five, not knowing at the time that Girl Scouts would have taken the course it did.
At first, Girl Scouts was all about earning badges, being with friends, and having fun, but then it became more; it was more about learning and growing. This was around the time that many girls were dropping out and saying it wasn’t cool, but I made my decision to stay. I remember reading an article in the newspaper about three close friends who earned their Gold Awards, which is so rare. I also remember thinking how cool it would be to stay in Girl Scouts and be as happy as they were in that picture. That was my “aha!” moment and my reason to stick with it. I think that was one of the first big decisions I made in life.
I chose to focus my Gold Award project at Candlelight Ranch because they have been an inspiration to me. CLR aids special needs and at-risk children, focuses heavily on the importance of the outdoors, and represents conservation in many of their projects.

My father is a member of the advisory committee for Candlelight Ranch and I have done many service camps at the Ranch, so the location was an obvious choice. Choosing my Gold Award project was another step along the path of my passion for helping others. It was a monumental goal, which I pursued enthusiastically. I’m also really handy with a computer and designing, so I wanted to pick a project that I could be very successful at. 

My goal was to create a hands-on booklet that helps children learn and experience nature. My goals were definitely met. 
I was faced with many challenges. My main obstacle was time management. It was my senior year when I focused on this project and time management was very difficult for me. One day, I spread all my notes out, organized layouts and buckled down. It was a very exciting and rewarding experience and I became very passionate about the outcome.
I’m glad I stuck with Girl Scouts for the adventure, fun times, learning experiences, and the discoveries I made about myself. I am so proud of having reached my goal, and completing my Gold Award. Not only did it enrich my past, but it will greatly impact my future. Being a Gold Award recipient is an honor and is well respected by colleges, employers, family and peers. It will open up opportunities, which would not have been accessible before. I believe this was a factor in my acceptance to Baylor University, where I am a freshman majoring in Graphic Design. 

I remember the days when I was selling cookies at Randall’s, going on campouts, wrapping presents at Brown Santa, designing and selling t-shirts, hosting a father/daughter dance, and so much more. It was a whirlwind of adventures and I wouldn’t take the experience back for anything. 

Advice I have for girls seeking their Gold Award is to have fun! Pursuing the Gold Award is a very rewarding and challenging experience. Keep in mind that organization, time management, budget and contacts are all important aspects of attaining a successful project. Most importantly, always believe in yourself, and just like the Olympic athletes, “Go for the Gold!”

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cookie Spotlight: Danielle R.

Few people love Girl Scout cookies more than the staff at GSCTX. Today we're featuring Danielle R. who works out of Waco and is a Tagalong fan. We can't blame her! It makes sense she would love them so much, since she's just as sweet! Take it away, Danielle:

What is your favorite cookie?
My favorite cookie is the Tagalong; anything with peanut butter is a sure win with me!

If you were a cookie what cookie would you be and why?
If I were a cookie, I think I’d be a Trefoil. I’m classic and a bit of an old soul. I’m reliable and loyal, as I picture the oldest cookie to be.

Do you know any of the cookie characters and if so could you describe one?
Girl Scout cookie characters- like the image that goes with them? I know them all! Tagalongs  have a red hat on and carry a baseball bat and wearing red shoes and tall socks. Thin Mints have an “old school” style Girl Scout hat on and a green sash. The Do Si Do is wearing an orange cowboy hat and jamming out on a guitar.

Do you remember the first time you had a Girl Scout Cookie?
I don’t remember eating one for the first time, but when I see the cardboard cases from LBB, I have blast from the past memories.

What is your favorite part about cookie season?
My favorite part of Girl Scout cookie season is talking to the girls about their goals. I love to be reminded of how brilliant and adventurous they are. I love hearing the excitement in their voices when they describe their goal to me and what they’ll get to do when they accomplish their goal.

What advice do you have for Girl Scouts braving the cold weather to sell cookies?
Smiles and laughing are contagious. Show people that you are enjoying yourself by doing so and they’ll be more likely to approach you and give you a sale. If you enjoy cookies, other people will, too. Looking miserable- people aren't as likely to approach you.

If you had the last box of Girl Scout cookies in the entire world who would you share it with?
The last box of GS cookies in the entire world- eek- what a predicament! I’d share my box with…someone who owns an ice cream shop so we could mix the ice cream and the cookies together and make them last longer!

Thanks, Danielle!!

Camp Series: KJ Falchuk, GSCTX Camps Coordinator

One of the core experiences of Girl Scouts is camp—we've long been known for encouraging the development of female leaders through our camp program and we are getting ready for one of the best seasons yet.

With the release of our long-awaited Camp Guide, we’re also launching our Camp Series: a weekly feature on our blog where you’ll get to know more about the whole journey, from counselors to camp grounds and everything in between.

Today we kick off with our Camps Coordinator, KJ Falchuck.

KJ Flachuck, Camps Coordinator
My name is KJ Falchuck and I’m the Camps Coordinator at GSCTX as of October 2013. I have the best job in the world! Not only do I get to coordinate camp staff and operations at Camp Kachina and Camp Texlake, but I get to meet and talk with amazing Girl Scouts year-round!

Although I wasn't a Girl Scout growing up, I've long loved going to camp and being outdoors.  I am so happy to be welcomed as a Girl Scout as an adult and to be able to learn so much from Daisies to Ambassadors and beyond!

Since I wasn't a Girl Scout, I went to a church camp growing up and loved it so much that I worked in it for 7 summers: 5 in Texas, one as a backpack guide in Colorado, and one in Brooklyn, NY!  Camp is a powerful, wonderful experience--near and far!

One of the best things about camp is learning about who you are.  I learned at camp that instead of trying to be someone else, I should always try to be the best version of myself!  Camp was the first place where I really knew that I belonged outside of my family; that is what I want all campers to feel as well!

My fondest memories of camp are playing the guitar with hundreds of people singing camp songs around a fire.  What could be better than singing at the top of your lungs with a bunch of friends outside?

While camp is full of heroes, my personal heroes were my first counselors from Camp Chrysalis. They taught me that it is a lot about responsibility, joy, and that it’s quite an honor to be a person's very first camp counselor!  

Given my own experience at camp, my favorite thing is to see transformation.  Girl Scout campers realize how powerful, smart, and capable they are.  By the end of a week at camp, girls have made new friends and done things they never dreamt possible!

If I could tell girls anything about camp it’s that we need you!  Yes, you!  Every camper makes our week brighter.  Can't make it this summer?  Check us out year-round on the weekends!  We can't wait to see you at Girl Scout camp!

I’m KJ Falchuck and camp is camptastic!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

197 boxes for Troops and First Responders!

One of the biggest strengths of the cookie program is teaching girls to set goals and follow through. This is exactly what Eva Elaine has done and she has done so while ALSO helping others through the "7th Box." 

Girl Scouts of Central Texas feels it is imperative in raising future leaders to show our appreciation and support to our troops and first responders. Eva Elaine has shown this dedication in her sales and is well on her way to meeting her goal. 

Eva Elaine D.,  with the support of her amazing dad, Patrick, has been working tirelessly to reach her goal of selling 1000 boxes. So far, she has sold almost 700 boxes, of which 197 of those are donations to the Operation Cookie program. That's 197 boxes of yummy Girl Scout cookies that will be sent to US military troops overseas. 

That's $788.00 in monetary donations!

Eva is part of Junior Girl Scout Troop 2062 which is in the Westwood Service Unit. She is nine years old and in the 4th grade. She is proud to be able to earn so much money for her troop and is hoping to reach her goal of selling 1000 boxes so she can earn a week at Girl Scout camp this summer!

We appreciate your work so much, Eva Elaine and Patrick! A big, warm GSCTX salute to you! Good luck reaching your goal!

-Special thanks to Stephanie Thornburg for sharing!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Helping them Remember: How one Girl Scout helped Alzheimer's patients

Gold Award Girls

The following entry was written by Marissa Konde about her Gold Award project--helping Alzheimer's patients--where she drew inspiration from and how she accomplished it. Thank you, Marissa!


For my project I made and led activities for an Alzheimer’s /dementia respite group called Mike’s Place. Mike’s Place program is part of Meals on Wheels (MoW) and is held in east Austin in the MoW building. About 16 families were being served with my project. The activities engaged the Alzheimer’s patient’s minds and helped them to keep communicating. It also strengthened family bonds since some activities were taken home and done with a family member.  It benefited others because the Alzheimer’s patients engaged their minds, reduced anxiety/ restlessness and kept them intellectually active. Also, their caregivers got a break, and the volunteers helped the participants grow.  Indirectly, I believe that others in Austin (and in the United States) benefited from my blog, which listed activities and directions to complete the activities. These groups or families would then have ideas for interacting with persons who have dementia.

I chose this project because my grandma has been having memory problems, and this project could help me learn more about memory difficulties.  I also selected it because my mom volunteers at Mike’s Place and she thought it would be a great place that could use my contribution. 

My goals were to impact the Alzheimer’s/dementia patients and families in a positive way, advertise my activity blog, and have some money donated for supplies for the sustainability of the project. I also created an interest survey for the participant’s families to complete so different kinds of focus could be incorporated into activities at Mike’s Place. 

 Many of them are sustainable because they can be reused again, time after time (see list of sustainable activities attached). I purchased some decorations to go with Mike’s Place weekly themes that can be reused year to year too.  I also raised $400 along with my church, which went to Mike’s Place to provide funding for purchasing materials needed for activities. I recruited the craft group from my church to commit to making a few activities for Mike’s Place next year. Hopefully my blog will continue to be a source of inspiration for others to do the same in their communities.

One of my biggest obstacles was collecting funds for supplies. I sent letters and emails explaining my project to various businesses requesting funds to support with little to no response.  I was able to get a couple of businesses to donate supplies and one of them donated laminating services, which was very helpful.  Once I saw where most of the money was going, I did find ways to cut costs.  My church allowed me to make color copies using their copier, as did Mike’s place.  This helped me cut down significantly on costs. I was able to raise money in my church to support Mike’s Place for next year.
My advice to anyone getting their gold award is to pick a subject that you really like and won’t get tired of. Most importantly never give up!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cookie Spotlight: Emily M.

Few people are bigger fans of Girl Scout cookies than the dedicated staff at GSCTX! Today we're shining a light on Emily M. who works out of Bryan-College Station and always has a smile on her face. Take it away, Emily:

What is your favorite cookie?

If you were a cookie what cookie would you be and why?
I would be a Savannah Smiles because I would get to smile all the time!

Do you know any of the cookie characters and if so could you describe one?
I know what the characters look like but I couldn't describe anything about them.

Do you remember the first time you had a Girl Scout Cookie?
I remember the first time I sold cookies. I was at our local grocery store as a Brownie and asked every single person that passed by if they wanted to buy cookies. I never was allowed to handle the money because I was always the best “asker” in my troop and had to be out in front of the booth asking people.

What is your favorite part about cookie season?Girls really see what they can do with the money they earned from selling cookies.

What advice do you have for Girl Scouts braving the cold weather to sell cookies?It’s Texas, there is no cold weather.

If you had the last box of Girl Scout cookies in the entire world who would you share it with?Anyone who asks. Everyone deserves to have Girl Scout cookies.

Thanks for sharing, Emily. We love your enthusiasm and sunny disposition!