Saturday, August 29, 2015

Volunteer Support Team Conference

Dealing effectively with conflict, whether it is in your personal or professional life, can be beneficial on many fronts. If you can manage conflicts, you're also getting a handle on railing in stress in your life. Being able to manage conflict also opens lines of communication and strengthens relationships. In the workplace, conflict can lead to poor productivity and reduced levels of teamwork.

This fall, at the Volunteer Service Team conference on September 12, guest speaker Mary Edna Wuertenberger will be leading a workshop on the subject. She’s a Girl Scout alumna who spent most of her career as a professional which has included positions with three stateside councils and Girl Scouts of the USA through their operational unit USA Girl Scouts Overseas. She is a former instructor of trainers for Girl Scouts of the USA and Red Cross.

Mary Edna continues her involvement with Girl Scouts of the USA as a National Volunteer Partner (NVP) and as a member of the planning team for Convention 2017. She is currently self-employed as a contract hire in nonprofit management and foundational learning.

The Volunteer Support Team conference will take place on Saturday, September 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Chesapeake. This free conference is open to volunteers serving in support team positions, adult learning facilitators and volunteers who are considering a position on the volunteer support team. Get more information here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gold Award Spotlight: Small Stitch, Big Step

Girl Scout Ambassador Melina from Yorktown, has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor and achievement a girl can earn in Girl Scouting.

For her project, Melina worked with the NATASHA House, a safe home for women and children to live in while rebuilding their lives and transitioning to permanent housing. She developed a program to teach mothers at the house how to sew. Melina hosted 20 workshops, during which she taught the mothers how to follow a pattern to make wallets, placemats, gift bags and other items. She also hosted a family workshop for the mothers to be able to share their skills and make scarves with their children.

“After every class, the mothers were astonished at what they had accomplished,” Melina said. “Sewing is one of my favorite hobbies, and I enjoy teaching this life skill to others.”

Another benefit of Melina’s project is that the mothers at the NATASHA House were able to make items to sell and support the house, which does not receive government assistance to operate. With the help of the Peninsula Piecemakers Quilt Guild, Melina was able to donate five sewing machines, fabric and supplies for the mothers at the NATASHA House to continue to sew.

The Gold Award requires girls to identify an issue in their community and carry out a Take Action project to address the matter through leadership work. Nationwide, less than 6 percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award, which adds Melina to an elite group of female leaders across the country with the honor.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The State of Girls: Leadership

Over the past several decades, the role of women in the United States has changed dramatically. Women now represent half of the country’s workforce and more than half of college students and graduates are women. However, while there is high potential for women to hold leadership positions in business, politics and academia, there is a shortage of women actually in these positions. In fact, women hold just 14 percent of executive officer positions and just 20 percent of seats in Congress.

The Girl Scout Research Institute has found that girls are aware of the gender gap that exists in society. Girls view leadership in the traditional top-down, command-and-control style, but they prefer a more social and collaborative approach to leadership. They are concerned with ethics, holding true to their convictions and affecting social change. As more women step into leadership positions, girls see that they can achieve similar successes in the future.

There are external, societal barriers that continue to exist for girls and women when it comes to leadership. While 82 percent of girls and boys believe that girls and boys have similar leadership skills, more than half (56 percent) of youth believe that “in our society it is more difficult for a woman to become a leader than a man,” and 52 percent of youth believe that “girls have to work harder than boys in order to gain positions of leadership.” Girls who shy away from leadership positions report that they do so because they do not want to speak in front of others (45 percent), do not want to be laughed at (32 percent) and do not want to seem bossy (29 percent). And, while 92 percent of girls believe that anyone can acquire the skills of leadership, only 21 percent feel that they currently have most of those key qualities.

Girls need opportunities to take on leadership roles in a safe and comfortable environment. They need the support of caring adults who can broaden their views of leadership and help girls develop important leadership skills, such as conflict resolution, communication and problem solving. The girl-led experience of Girl Scouts is one way that girls can gain the support and opportunities that are key to developing leadership skills.

This fall, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast has partnered with Thomas Nelson Community College, the Virginia Beach Branch of the American Association of University Women and Bon Secours Health System to host two forums in order to bring to light these key issues that girls face, as well as discuss solutions to improving the quality of life for girls in the United States.

View more information about the September 10 forum here and the September 30 forum here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cubing at Camp

Two local Rubik’s Cube top competitors, known as cubers, demonstrated their skills at A Place for Girls for Girl Scout campers. Maggie Jordan, a student at James Blair Middle School in Norfolk, and Ankush Hommerich-Dutt, a high school student from Hampton, performed what seemed magic at an afternoon session. In 18 seconds, Ankush twisted and turned the cube and “voila” it returned to its original pattern. The cubers brought out an assortment of cubes and had members from the audience mix up the square panels on each cube until it was a mix of colors. Then each cuber clocked themselves while solving the cube’s puzzle. When Ankush solved a cube puzzle blindfolded, the girls were in awe and the question “how do you do that” came from several in the room.

There’s no quick answer, Ankush said. “It takes time and practice.” He recommends watching skill-building videos on YouTube and investing in quality cubes. As a cuber who competes in speed cubing regularly, he is constantly on the lookout for new cubes and ways to become better.

Aditi Dutt, a parent educator and mother of Ankush, says the time her son spends on the Rubik Cube is time well spent.

“It helps with geometry, algebra, direction-following, memorization and perseverance, just to name a few,” she said. “It also gave him a sense of accomplishment and he is rewarded every time he solves a hard puzzle. And I love to watch him perform!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sertoma Club Appreciation Luncheon

On Wednesday, August 19, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast hosted their annual appreciation luncheon for the Norfolk Sertoma Club at Camp Apasus. The Norfolk Sertoma Club is a long-time supporter of the camp, and Girl Scouts host the club annually to thank members for their contributions and support of the camp.

During the luncheon program, members of the Sertoma Club presented Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast with a check for $6,000 to make further improvements to the camp. Using this donation, Girl Scouts will replace the roof on the picnic shelter and make repairs an Adirondack shelter that was damaged in a storm. Girl Scouts will also use a portion of the funds to purchase new chairs and mattresses for girls to use in the program center at the camp.

Girls attending day camp at Camp Apasus sang camp songs and presented Sertoma Club members with handmade crafts to show their appreciation. Following the luncheon program, Sertoma Club President Scott Taylor, who is also a member of the board of directors for Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, led fellow Sertoma members on a tour of the camp to show the impact their club has on the property.

Sertoma Club members take a look at their next project
“We have renovated an outhouse, built fire pits and purchased a new pool, just to name a few projects,” Taylor said. “Our next projects are much needed to help maintain the camp, and it’s all for a good cause—to give girls a safe place to be outdoors.”

Girl Scouts have been attending Camp Apasus since the 1930s, and the luncheon was also an opportunity for Girl Scout alumnae to visit the camp and reconnect with one another. Norfolk resident Elizabeth Seyller, who camped at Camp Apasus with her daughters as a Girl Scout leader and also as a girl member of the organization while growing up in Norfolk, was one of the alumnae who attended.

For decades, girls at Camp Apasus have been building campfires, swimming and making friends, but they have also been learning how to work as a team, develop leadership skills and gain a sense of self-confidence as they try new things. Thanks to the generous support of the Sertoma Club and other community organizations, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast can continue to serve girls, building courage, confidence and character among them, one girl at a time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Gold Award Spotlight: Spreading the Green Thumb

Girl Scout Ambassador Trysta from Yorktown  has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor and achievement a girl can earn in Girl Scouting.

Trysta learned that some trees that had been cut down illegally by a local resident in an attempt to widen a pathway on York County Parks and Recreation land along Colonial Parkway. After hearing about this, Trysta decided that she wanted to help minimize the impact that this would have on the environment by replanting trees on the property. With the help of a volunteer team that she organized, Trysta replanted eight trees that are expected to grow to be at least 30 feet tall.

In addition to replacing the trees, Trysta also set out to teach elementary school students about her project and why trees are important. She visited local schools to share tips with children on how they can make a difference on the environment by recycling, picking up trash and conserving energy and water. She also engaged the children in conversations about why it is important to protect the environment.

“I chose to do this project because I wanted to show the younger generation that they can do little things, or even big things, each day to help make the world a better place for everyone,” Trysta said.

The Gold Award requires girls to identify an issue in their community and carry out a Take Action project to address the matter through leadership work. Nationwide, less than 6 percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award, which adds Trysta to an elite group of female leaders across the country with the honor.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Second Annual "Duck" Tape Regatta

Nearly 80 Girl Scouts gathered at Girl Scout Camp Skimino in Williamsburg on August 15 for the second annual “Duck” Tape Regatta, hosted by The Wild Things, a Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast outdoor adventure group. Eighteen teams of Girl Scouts spent the morning designing and building boats— using just cardboard and duct tape— that could hold at least one team member long enough for a race across the camp pool. The teams were also given two pieces of PVC pipe to use to make paddles.

Each team took a unique and creative approach to their design. There were high-sided boxy boats, long and narrow raft-like crafts and everything in between. One of the winning teams taped together small boxes to create a stabilizing platform as the base for their boat. After a few hours for construction, teams raced in heats based on age-level with the goal of staying afloat to make it from one end of the pool to the other, all vying for a coveted rubber duck trophy. At the end of the races, awards were given out for best times and best design.

“We thought this would be a great way for girls to have fun while participating in a hands-on engineering activity,” Bonnie Taylor, a Girl Scout volunteer who helped plan the event, said. “It was fun to watch all of their ideas come to life and put to the test.”

Girl Scouts has a long history of getting girls outdoors to participate in fun and enriching activities that allow them to take risks, try new things and build confidence. Girls who are interested in engineering and design can attend Design Divas, a workshop hosted by experts from Booz Allen Hamilton, on October 17. The next activity for this outdoor adventure group will be a backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park next month. For more information about these activities and joining Girl Scouts, visit

Monday, August 10, 2015

National S'mores Day Celebration

Spacey s’mores were on the menu at A Place for Girls today as day campers made the traditional campfire treats using solar ovens created from pizza boxes. Becky Jaramillo, a senior educator at the National Institute of Aerospace and a Girl Scout alumna, was invited as a guest speaker to talk about the science behind making the gooey, but oh so delicious, camper delicacy in celebration of National S’mores Day.

Jaramillo came armed with baskets full of what looked like craft supplies, but in reality were the makings for experiments. The girls made their own lenses and used filters to bend and spilt light into wavelengths, which allowed them to see the colors that make up white light. Being a cool and cloudy morning, the girls were able to see more ultraviolet than infrared rays through their filters, so they decided to set up their solar ovens to reflect the ultraviolet light rays onto their baking s’mores, rather than rely on infrared heat from the sun for cooking.

“At NASA, we are always looking at sunlight and how it travels through the atmosphere,” Jaramillo told the girls. “Being able to understand the sun and light makes it possible for us to stay safe while making new discoveries.”

The girls also made bracelets with ultraviolet color changing beads so that they have a visual reminder of when they are exposed to harmful rays of light and need to protect themselves from the sun. After their lesson in science, the girls had the opportunity to make and enjoy their own s’mores.

The first printed recipe for s’mores dates back to a Girl Scout handbook published in 1927 and is credited to Loretta Scott Crew, who reportedly made s’mores by a campfire for a group of Girl Scouts. Originally, the treats were called “some mores.” It is unknown when the name was shortened to “s’mores,” but recipes using the longer name can be found in various Girl Scout publications through 1971.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Suffolk Girl Scouts Learn their Way around the Kitchen

This summer, 15 Suffolk Girl Scouts had the opportunity to learn their way around the kitchen thanks to a grant from the Suffolk Foundation. The girls gathered for four weekly meetings with experts from Young Chefs Academy to develop their cooking skills, test some recipes in the kitchen and learn about healthy living.

During the series, girls made a wide variety of dishes, including bean burgers, carrot and sweet potato fries, chicken soup and quesadillas with fresh salsa. In addition to honing their cooking skills, the girls also learned about kitchen safety, menu planning, dining etiquette and table setting.

On the final evening of the series, girls put all of their new skills to the test to prepare an Italian feast. They made tomato sauce from scratch, kneaded dough to make focaccia bread and made their own spinach noodles. The girls enjoyed the process of running their dough through the pasta machine to create thin noodles. They also put together a strawberry, basil and balsamic salad to complement the meal. After the tables were set and the food was plated, girls had the opportunity to enjoy the mea they had prepared.

“Many of the recipes have incorporated vegetables in fun and unique ways,” Girl Scout volunteer Dina Crewe said. “That’s great because we have a couple of picky eaters in the group, but they have sampled everything they’ve made and liked most of it.”

Through the series, the staff from Young Chefs Academy taught girls that cooking is a lifelong skill that can be infused with creativity and fun. Although the girls had recipes to follow, they also had the chance to be creative and make their own culinary discoveries. The girls also learned about how meal planning can lead to healthier food choices, talked about keeping their body fueled with good nutrition and looked at how their diet affects their energy levels.

Girl Scouts recognizes that healthy lifestyles are part of the foundation that girls need to become strong leaders. From the youngest Girl Scout Daisies who may learn to create healthy snacks to the oldest Girl Scout Ambassadors who are empowered to advocate for healthier food choices at their schools, Girl Scouts of all ages are engaged in activities to help them attain practical life skills related to healthy living.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Volunteers Make Improvements at Elizabeth City Field Center

On Thursday, July 23 and Friday, July 24, a group of volunteers from Piedmont Natural Gas gave a helping hands to Girl Scouts. The volunteers spent time at the Girl Scout program center and office in Elizabeth City to make improvements to the property.

The volunteers painted the exterior trim of the program center, and they also made repairs along the roofline. These improvements are essential to helping Girl Scouts maintain a safe and comfortable environment for the girls and volunteers who use the Elizabeth City Field Center.

Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast relies on volunteers all year long to not only serve as mentors and guides for nearly 14,000 girls across the region, but also to help maintain camp properties and program facilities. For more information about volunteering with Girl Scouts, visit

Girl Scouts Explore STEM

A group of Girl Scouts have been spending the summer discovering and exploring in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields as part of a series offered by Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast for girls attending the Norfolk United for Children Summer Enrichment Program. During the series, the girls have had the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of STEM activities, including making electromagnets and building rockets.

Earlier this week, girls at P.B. Young, Sr. Elementary School welcomed a special guest to their series, Dr. Shamina Aubuchon, who works as an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Hampton University. Dr. Aubuchon shared with the first and second graders what she does as a biomedical research scientist and talked to them about the wide variety of careers in science.

“When I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut, and then I wanted to be a doctor, but I always loved science,” Dr. Aubuchon told the girls. “Scientists are always asking questions about the world and trying to figure out how things work.”

After hearing from Dr. Aubuchon, the girls explored the world of electrical engineering with snap circuit kits. Using the prewired connectors, the girls snapped together a variety of circuits to power a lightbulb and a speaker.

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study, Generation STEM: What Girls Say About Science, 81 percent of girls see themselves as smart enough to have a career in STEM, many do not consider it to be their number-one career option. In fact, in today’s world, women hold only about 25 percent of the STEM careers. Girl Scouts is working to fill the gap by engaging girls in opportunities to learn from women in STEM who inspire them to envision themselves in similar careers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

VIP Day at Camp Skimino

Guests at VIP Day included Delegate Brenda Pogge, representatives from the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula and Thomas Nelson Community College, as well as Girl Scout alumnae and volunteers.

On July 28, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast hosted local leaders and Girl Scout alumnae at Camp Skimino in Williamsburg for VIP Day. For this special day at camp, guests were invited to tour the camp, have lunch with the girls in the dining hall and talk to the campers about their community involvement.

After arriving at camp and learning about its history from Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast CEO Tracy Keller, guests were led on a tour of the property. They saw where girls stay at camp, both the platform tents and cabins, walked past the camp lake and pool and visited with campers inside the arts and crafts cabin. They ended the tour in the dining hall, where they ate lunch and enjoyed songs with campers.

Following lunch, Delegate Pogge spoke with a group of girls who were attending a counselors in training session at Camp Skimino. These girls are the oldest campers at Skimino and get to help plan activities for younger girls, as well as enjoy traditional camp activities, including canoeing and archery.

Pogge talked to the girls about her background and how important it is for her to be able to represent the voices and opinions of her in the many offices of the state government. She shared some insight about why she thinks that it is important for women to take on leadership roles in government.

"Out of the 100 members in the Virginia House of Delegates, there are only 15 women," Delegate Pogge told the girls. "We have to do better, don't you think? Women outnumber men in the population, and we need more proportionality in our representation. Women tend to look at things to be fair, honest and just. Those are qualities that we need in government officials."

Pogge also talked to the girls about ways that they can get involved in government, starting with the page program, which allows teens to develop a deeper understanding of the legislative process by participating in floor sessions and committee meetings while the House of Delegates is in session.

By the end of the afternoon, it was clear to the camp visitors that Girl Scouts are building more campfires at Camp Skimino. Camp is a place where girls have the opportunity to learn to new things and develop leadership skills that will last them well beyond the summer.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Join the Fun!

As families start thinking about children returning to school, we are inviting girls to join the fun and register for Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts provides girls with countless opportunities to make new friends, try new things and exercise leadership skills through activities such as building robots, playing sports and participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

National studies from the Girl Scout Research Institute show that it’s not just what girls do, but how they do it that makes Girl Scouts so beneficial. Girl Scouts is unique because girls get to learn by doing, and they do so in a girl-led environment. That means that in addition to girls learning in a hands-on and active way, they are encouraged to choose their activities, decide which topics to explore and determine how they want to go about exploring them.

The Girl Scout Research Institute reports that at least 75 percent of girls who experience the fun of learning by doing and are part of a girl-led program become better at conflict resolution, problem solving, team building and developing self-confidence. These girls say that because of Girl Scouts, they’ve become a leader in more activities with their friends and classmates, as well as in their community.

“In Girl Scouts, we make sure that girls are taking charge of their own future,” Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast CEO Tracy Keller said. “Girls benefit greatly from opportunities to delve into their interests. When girls are participating in activities that interest them, they are engaged in the topic and determined to learn more.”

Hands-on learning opportunities and girl-led experiences within Girl Scouts supplement the academic learning girls receive in school. These fun and empowering experiences have been shown to boost girls’ social and emotional skills, which are not generally part of a school curriculum, as well as improve academic performance. Girls who experience learning by doing and who are part of a girl-led program learn not to avoid things that are hard for them, but rather to take these challenges head on, practice creative problem solving and learn from mistakes— all skills that will help girls succeed throughout school and life.

For more information, visit