Friday, July 31, 2015

Getting Things Done with Girl Scouts in Oakland Mills

With a combined total of twenty-seven years in Girl Scouting, the young women I met on Tuesday night came prepared to share a message. Anthea Pecot, Riya Gupta, and K.C. Lay were at The Other Barn in Oakland Mills to make a presentation to the Village Board on their most recent service project. Along with two of their leaders, Jeanne Lay and Puja Gupta, we sat down in the lobby to discuss "Got Milkweed? Monarch Butterfly Awareness."

When I asked how the girls decided on this particular project, they gave me a glimpse into their brainstorming process. The scouts choose their own service projects, which makes their work all the more meaningful as they craft and enact a plan. Inspired by a neighbor in Oakland Mills, Mrs. Bird-Walker, who had created a certified Monarch Butterfly Way Station in her yard, they chose to spread awareness of Monarch butterflies in the community.
The project has a two-pronged approach. In addition to educating the public on Monarch Butterflies, they undertook to encourage the planting of milkweed in various locations in the area. Milkweed, a native plant, is the only place Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs. The scouts were able to get milkweed plants growing in three school gardens in Oakland Mills, (Talbott Springs Elementary, Oakland Mills High School, and Child's Garden Learning Center) as well as in numerous home gardens.
As a follow-up they are creating milkweed seed balls which will be distributed at no cost to community members at the local Farmers' Market. The seed balls will include instructions to freeze until next Spring, then thaw, plant, and begin a new milkweed growing cycle. When they were done describing their project I found myself already so enthusiastic that I wanted to know when I could get a seed ball and get involved. Their commitment was that contagious.
Overall the project was a low cost one, they said, under a hundred dollars, and was funded through family donations. They faced several challenges along the way. They had more places they wanted to plant than they had milkweed pods available. They had to schedule times to plant around their own schedules and those of the participating schools. They had to take responsibility for communicating with all the school participants and finalize plans.
I asked the girls what kept them in Girl Scouting after all these years. They agreed that they had originally signed up under the guidance of their moms, because it sounded fun. But as teenagers their reasons for staying were many and varied: camping, singing, fun activities, volunteering as assisting counsellors at Girl Scout Camp, friendship and camaraderie, supportive Girl Scout leaders, and, yes, helping to make the world a better place. Actually, that was the first answer given.
At the end of the interview I asked the girls to think what the world would be like if there weren't any Girl Scouts. The answer was immediate.
"Nothing would get done."
After meeting with these confident, articulate young women, I'm inclined to believe they just might be right. Thank goodness we don't have to find out.



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