Learning New Skills and Working Together By: Terry Callahan

Friendship, excitement, laughter and responsibility. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when describing Girl Scout Cadette Troop 1308. It is immediately apparent that the girls are totally involved as they recount some of the reasons they like scouting. “I like volunteering and doing community service,” said Charlotte. “I like that Girl Scouting opens me up to more opportunities and chances to do that.” Both Lily and Rebecca agreed that they also liked trying new things that “you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise” and meeting new people. Katie also agreed, “I like going around and seeing what other Girl Scout troops do and going on trips.”

These Cadettes have been working hard on their badges , all the while learning or reinforcing skills as they have addressed first aid, financial literacy with the Build Your Own Business badge, healthy eating and choices, noticing details (Special Agent badge), and more. They also led a younger troop on a Brownie Quest Journey.

Leadership has been a key component of the troop’s activities. Team-building is promoted as members research topics outside of the meeting, divide responsibilities and then present what they have learned to the rest of the troop as they lead them in an activity. In working together, they have made jewelry and baked goods to sell to raise money for a trip to Savannah, Georgia where they will visit Juliette Gordon Low’s house (she is the founder of Girl Scouts of America) and go on area tours.

Recently they began a new project, learning to raise vegetables at Farmstead Farm. Thanks to Jack Stieff, who provided the ground, materials and instruction, the girls hope to sell the vegetables to raise more funds. First, however, they took a tour of the farm where they got to feed the chickens and see vegetables that were already growing. The girls also got to see his collection of tools and other objects from earlier times and explanations of how they are used. Some of these items have been reworked as art or for other uses. As one mother said, “It was very educational to see how something can be repurposed into an entirely different object or use.” Autumn added, “I liked walking around his farm and seeing the tools and everything and all the antiques that he has. He taught us how to hoe using this big tool with wheels; it was like an old-fashioned way.”

On their plot of land, Jack modeled how to dig the hole, plant the seeds, and have the correct soil height. He also showed how to make rows and space the plantings. Each girl planted seeds as he gave feedback. The troop planted several rows of radishes, lettuce and kale and then were shown how to water and properly hoe the soil. All through this introductory experience, Jack stressed to do things the right way. Members will be going back periodically to tend the plants, water them as needed and then harvest them.

The girls will also be planting broom straw seeds. They will see the young plants develop at home, then bring these back, plant them and harvest them. Afterwards, they will use the broom straw to make their own brooms.

The troop members very much enjoyed their time at Farmstead Farm. As Emilee said, “We got to go outside and do something.” Katie, Jenna and Madison all commented on how they liked feeding the chickens along with seeing how “you can eat radishes and onions right out of the ground.” Jenna also said that her favorite part was interacting with Jack, along with learning about using ground oyster shells to help the soil and smashing unfertilized eggshells to add nutrients to it.

Several of the girls either have gardened at home or are now considering it. Jack talked to them about the space requirements of different vegetables. One benefit of this project is that it promotes better planning on what they may like to grow, to use space wisely and even raise produce for pets that eat vegetables, such as guinea pigs.

Troop leader Theresa Bauer said that the girls will also use this project to work on their Sow Journey badge. Hopefully, this will be a long-term effort as members learn about agriculture and farming, experience the responsibility of taking care of crops, sell their produce at a local farmers market, and learn about budgeting with their earnings from this project that is truly reflective of life on the Eastern Shore.