Thursday, December 18, 2014

Giving Confidence for the Holidays

A gift can say a lot of things, but what we usually want it to say is "I care." When you have a Girl Scout in your life, you look for every opportunity to give her new experiences that'll let her see how amazing she is and all the potential she has. We can't say enough about how camp is the the best embodiment of Girl Scouting. But don't let us do all the talking! Here is a post written by our Camp Texlake counselor, PJ, about why giving a Girl Scout camp for Christmas (or Hannukah, or Kwanzaa or just because!) is the gift the keeps on giving.


I’m really excited that our summer camp guide debuted Tuesday, December 9 so that you have the chance to actually start planning what’s coming up this summer, just in time for the holidays! I know what you may be thinking, “Who in the world wants to talk summer camp around the holidays?” Well, I’d like to invite you to think about Giving the Gift of camp this holiday season to a young lady in your life. Here are just a few reasons why:

Recent studies show that the satisfaction of having a fun experience far longer, especially with children, than the instant gratification of getting stuff.
Less clutter in your house (hey, whatever keeps the house clean!)
Physical health benefits – The most obvious is getting exercise, but did you know the large amount of time spent outdoors at camp raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues? Kids spending time outside has even shown, in clinical research, to help improve distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness!
Mental health benefits- Learning leadership skills, building confidence and discovering independence are just the tip of the ice berg for what girls learn at Girl Scout Camp. Camp experiences help kids learn life skills and even become more resilient to life pressures and stress 

This post would be days long if I listed all of the benefits camp has to offer, so I suggest you check out my favorite list for yourself. 

Now I know getting a piece of paper isn’t as much fun for kids to unwrap, so I polled a few Girl Scouts and here are some suggestions from actual Texlake campers for getting camp as a gift this year:
Give a stuffed toy along with a homemade gift certificate for camp. If your girl picks a horse camp, for example, give her a stuffed horse. Bonus, she can take the stuffed animal to camp when summer comes!
Let your camper choose the camp. One girl I spoke with wanted to get a “gift card, a camp [guide] and how much money I can spend” so she could pick her own camp!
Give a journal (for older girls) with some fun pens. One camper told me “I want to write down all the things I want to do at camp and check off the list.” 
Give a camera along with the camp registration so she can start thinking about capturing memories. Disposable cameras don’t cost too much and digital cameras from almost any budget are available for girls who are ready for those kinds of electronics. 

What holiday gift suggestions do you have for giving the gift of camp confidence this holiday season? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Seniors Go Tech! - Helping Every Age Stay Connected

This month's featured Gold Girl Scout is Rachel Freeman who focused her efforts on helping senior citizens learn how to use technology to stay connected and active with their communities. Congratulations on becoming a Gold Girl Scout, Rachel!

My Gold Girl Scout Project, 'Seniors Go Tech!', was designed to provide senior citizens the knowledge and hands-on practice with technology so they would be empowered to maintain and expand their connections with family, friends and their community.  Medical studies have shown seniors who remain socially connected live happier and healthier lives which benefit everyone around.  Technology is one way to help senior citizens can stay connected but many do not know how to use a computer, the Internet or smart phones.  

Although the retirement centers I worked with provided free internet access, only one offered access to community computers and none provided any type of technological support or education to their residents. I created lesson plans and held classes, as well as individual tutoring sessions on several topics including Introduction to the Internet, Introduction to GoogleUsing Facebook, iPads, iPhones, Email and Kindle for two local retirement centers.  As part of my project I created 'how-to' handbooks for the senior centers and local community groups so others could continue presenting the technology classes I created and possibly expand on the topics.

The 78 senior citizens who attended Seniors Go Tech! classes and tutoring sessions are now able to use their technology much more effectively. In the long-term they will become more connected with their families, friends and communities.  At one Seniors Go Tech! class I met Muriel. Muriel told me she was invited to meet some friends for lunch but she wasn’t going to go. When I asked why not she said she didn’t know where the restaurant was. I told her we could find the address and directions on the internet using her iPhone but she replied she couldn’t read maps very well any more. When I explained to her we could have Google Maps give her verbal directions on her iPhone she was so excited.  We found the address online, programmed the address into her phone and she drove off to meet her friends. I am happy I was able to help her learn how technology can work for her. In the future Muriel will be able to meet her friends for lunch, dinner and movies. She can share what she’s learned with her friends and they will all maintain their connections with families and friends and their community.

Seeing my new friends successfully using technology—some for the first time—was very rewarding. Seniors Go Tech! helped them learn to retrieve voicemail messages, send pictures, texts, emails and “surf the web” with confidence.  I was thrilled to help all of them learn how technology can help them in their daily lives and keep their social connections strong.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Meet the Team: STEM Programs Manager, Mitchell Whittier

Hey Scouts! I’m Mitchell Whittier the STEM Programs Manager at Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I’ve been a part of the Programs team since July 2014 and am super excited to be working here. “How did you get to be in this position with Girl Scouts?” I get this question a lot (probably because I’m a guy), so let’s get to that first. Thankfully, guys can be Girl Scouts too!

I earned a B.S. in Physics from the University of Denver. And, I earned a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Washington where I developed a love for experiential education. A year of my program was at a magical place called IslandWood, a school in the woods. At IslandWood, I was able to teach science on the shores of the Puget Sound, in the forest, up in a tree-house, and on a suspension bridge. I've also had the amazing experience of teaching science in the heart of the Rocky Mountains at the Keystone Science School. There, I had the opportunity to teach ecology, geology, and astronomy while hiking in the mountains, cross-country skiing through a forest, and breaking the rocks of the Rocky Mountains. 

I have also taught Math and Science in classroom settings at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas and Kirby Hall School in Austin. And, I have been a high-dosage tutor at Martin Middle School, Burnet Middle School and LBJ Early College High School here in Austin as well. Most recently, I taught MCAT Physics courses for students wanting to apply to medical school.

Okay, enough of the boring stuff. Let me tell you more about me, the person. I am an outdoor enthusiast. I love doing anything active and fun outside. My newest favorite pastime is Ultimate Frisbee, but I also really enjoy riding my bike, hiking the greenbelt, swimming in Central Texas’ amazing swimming holes, and especially camping and backpacking. I have an eight-year-old German Shepherd Mix, B-Dog, who likes going on adventures with me. But, he’s slowing down in his middle-age and can’t go on the big adventures anymore.

As far as downtime, I enjoy a good board game with friends and family--no, not Monopoly! Newer more awesome games like "Settlers of Catan" (not that new anymore) and "Dominion". I love reading science fiction; my favorite novel is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (I know, I know…the movie wasn't very good).

In my youth, I was an active boy scout. Earning the Eagle Scout award gave me some amazing experiences and I highly value the role scouting has had in my life. I’m so excited to be a part of the GSCTX family. Thanks for allowing me to share my passions for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Scouting with you.