Girl Power

After a week that’s been disheartening, shocking, and downright scary – I thought I would talk about something super light and happy: girl scout programming at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum (GTM). This semester I’m interning at Gadsby’s, and they have some really great education programs centered around girl scouts. This is an audience I’ve never worked with before, so I wanted to share some general thoughts.

This past weekend, GTM debuted a new program for girl scout troops called the “Wonders of Water” tea. This educational afternoon essentially focused on water – how we use it, why we use it, why it’s important to conserve, and how that has changed over time. Reading through the lesson plan initially, I was impressed at how seamlessly the education department integrated science, history, and entertainment. The program also helps girl scout brownies to complete an “It’s Your Planet – Love it!” Journey.

The program starts with a simple intro activity while the girls arrive. Each girl gets two cut-out water droplets, and they are tasked with writing something they like about water. Very simple, just to get them started thinking about the topic. This then launched into a presentation and discussion on the water cycle. A very simple explanation with pictures, and a short demonstration that simulated the water cycle in a Tupperware container. The conversation then turned to why water was important in the past – specifically around the 1780s when the tavern was built. Our education director led the girls through several of the tavern’s rooms, and talked about Alexandria as a port city, how clean water wasn’t available for drinking, and bathing customs at the time.

After the tour, we led the girls back downstairs to the ballroom, where they were greeted by a Martha Washington re-enactor. She taught them the proper way to take tea, and discussed other customs of the time – such as different clothing items. This was probably the only part of the program that could have been more integrated with the water theme. Martha’s conversation was interesting, but it would have been great if she focused less on shifts and stays – and more on water and tea customs. Lastly, the girls created a “water promise” – basically how they would work to conserve water on a daily basis, and wrote it down on another water droplet. These were then pasted onto pieces of paper, and put together in a binder to form a scrapbook of their time at GTM.

This was a great simple program that integrated science, history, and art. It was relatively low-tech – and I honestly think that this added to the experience. Instead of showing a video about the water cycle – the science experiment actually showed the steps of the water cycle using boiling water and ice. Instead of showing a film about taverns of the period, the volunteers and I were dressed in period clothing and talked about tavern life. Instead of tweeting or snapchatting, the girls could actually talk to Martha Washington and have tea.

“Wonders of Water” was a perfect illustration of the phrase “less is more.” The amount of thought put into the program was apparent, and the choice to not involve as much tech was well thought out. Does anyone else have examples of great low-tech educational programs? Or any ideas on how GTM could incorporate technology effectively into this specific program?

*I should also mention that other girl scout programs that GTM hosts do include technology in different forms. They host an overnight program with Girl Scout Cadettes that is all about media – the final product: a 30 second PSA video using an IPad and IMovie.

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