Deciding whether you want to earn the Bronze Award is easy. Coming up with your project is another.
As a leader, I always wondered why the Junior Bronze Award projects seemed so small. A troop would do a collection of items, for example. I couldn’t understand how 20 hours could be spent on that kind of service project.
And then my girls began their Bronze Award project. And I learned (or re-learned) that building consensus is a key part of this leadership project.
Having a small troop of girls, we only wanted to manage one Bronze Award group project. So we set a rule early on that the girls had to decide together on what they would do.
Several meetings went by, and we struggled. Some girls might not have attended, and we didn’t feel it was fair to not have their input. Some girls didn’t want to do a certain type of project. (Helping animals – pro or con – were a hot topic of discussion.)
Time kept ticking away with no progress. And so we made an executive decision.
The first day of Thanksgiving break, we held a special meeting at my workplace where we would focus on what we were going to do for the Bronze Award. We reserved an unused conference room and set a morning aside for the big brainstorming session.
We began by having the girls set their own rules for this discussion – which included “raise your hand,” “no yelling” and “don’t climb on tables.” An unwritten rule was there were no bad ideas, just ideas that may not fit the requirements of this project.
Then we sat down, snacks in hand and started throwing out ideas.
The first round, our board was completely filled with ideas, some of which didn’t fit what Girl Scouts requires for the Bronze Award (pie splat being one of them). After each girl shared every idea in their brains, we categorized them into themes. For us, the themes centered around kids, food, animals and other, and we added extra areas to “table” how to raise money for our project, if needed, and how to celebrate finishing our award (with a lock-in and donuts).
After we grouped the ideas, we talked about what would and wouldn’t work as a project and why. If weekend family obligations or sports schedules were an issue, we would need to create a project with the most flexibility for girls’ schedules. If travel was an issue, our Bronze Award project would have to be something we could work on at our meeting place or school.
After we eliminated those choices, we got down to the tough question: narrowing down our ideas. This took several rounds of discussion, arguing, and, yes, hot chocolate.
We ended up with the final question: help animals or the homeless. While many of the girls wanted to do a project for a local animal shelter, we had one girl in our troop who simply was not interested in that, and we wanted to respect her wishes. So we opted to do a project for the homeless.
I had an idea file I’ve hung on to over the years, and in it included a newspaper article on a local group that helps homeless teens. For girls living in suburbia, it was an eye-opener. We read the news article as a group, found their website and watched a couple of videos about the group and the teens it helps. The girls brainstormed ideas of things they wanted to ask the group, and we tried calling (but being the day before Thanksgiving, had no luck in connecting with a live person).
Our next step after the holidays? Reviewing the ideas the group provided me to see what project calls to them the most.