Monday, April 20, 2020

How We Earned the Girl Scout Senior Locavore Badge

One thing about all this time staying on my own property due to the pandemic is that I have been absolutely banging out some nagging projects. Like, long-term to-do list-type projects are getting done over here every day.

Cool, I guess? I'd still rather be able to go to the park every day and drive my kid to ballet class and check out more library books, but whatever.

Anyway, along with trimming back all the shrubs and brush on our property, washing all our LEGOs (I didn't say that these projects were all rational...), auditing my Girl Scout troop's bank account (once every six months is NOT an ideal schedule for this, yikes), deep cleaning the shower (same), and admitting to myself that there are publicist-sent books that I am simply never going to review and I should put them in our Little Free Library, I started organizing some of my digital photos and discovered that apparently I had so many adventures last year that I didn't even write about some of them!

Sigh... I mean, I'm having so few adventures right now that I'm seriously going to describe to you HOW I washed our LEGOs later, but cool, 2019 Julie Who Had So Many Adventures She Didn't Even Write about Them. Cool.

Anyway, this is the story of how my Girl Scout troop earned the Senior Locavore badge last year, when we could all meet together in person and do things in public. These particular plans do NOT lend themselves to being of a ton of use while sheltering in place, but if you've got internet access and a farmer's market that does curbside pickup, your own Scouts could earn this one individually at home.

The inspiration for my own Girl Scout troop earning this particular badge was a grant that our local farmer's market had won, allowing them to give youth groups who arranged a field trip to their market a $50 voucher to buy farmer's market products during their visit. How could you possibly pass up a generous deal like that?!? Even if there were NO relevant Girl Scout badges to earn at a farmer's market I still wouldn't pass up that deal, and I was even more stoked because, of course, Girl Scouts has LOADS of relevant badges to earn at a farmer's market.


Arranging the field trip with the farmer's market was the most important piece of prep work, obviously.

I also hit up AAA for as many maps of Indiana that they'd give me, which was four. I keep hold of these maps, and we've used them in different meetings to plan hiking and camping trips. I dug out a couple of compasses from the closet (my favorite is this compass, although I do not want to talk about how hard it was to reassemble after Will "accidentally" took it apart), and got troop parents to bring a couple more. 

At the time, I was already working on this large-format clipboard project for my own kids, so I cut the extra MDF to size to make a couple more large-format clipboard bases. I wanted the kids to have plenty of work space for those maps!

Since I wanted the kids to complete the entire badge in one meeting, and we'd be picking out food, anyway, I decided that after visiting the farmer's market, we'd walk a few blocks to the lawn in front of our city hall. The building is unlocked during farmer's market hours, so the kids could wash their hands (and the produce!), and there's a nice tiered grass and stone area where we could spread out. There, I planned to give each group a "cooking challenge" for the food they'd picked out at the farmer's market, so I packed knives, cutting boards, serving bowls and utensils, and asked other troop parents to bring food prep supplies, as well. I also announced that Step 4 of the badge would be on the kids' own to complete, but if a kid wanted to have completely earned the badge by the end of our meeting, they could bring a dish for Step 4 to the meeting to include in our post-cooking challenge potluck. The kids would have been perfectly happy eating just their cooking challenge creations for their potluck dinner, but I thought that it was nice to also have some baked goods and casseroles to mix in.

Along with that optional dish, I asked each kid to bring to the meeting their water bottle, a personal mess kit, and something to tie their hair back--with Girl Scouts, you have ALWAYS got to be making somebody tie their hair back! The kids in my troop don't all have their own phones, so I also noted that I'd be dividing the kids into groups of 2 or 3, and each group would need access to something that could take photos.

The  main thing that I prepared in advance, however, was a farmer's market scavenger hunt. I wanted a way not just to have the kids meet the badge requirements, but also to explore the farmer's market and engage with the sellers, so I wrote this scavenger hunt for the kids to do in their small groups:

You might think that all of my safety info at the beginning is a little weird... well, our local farmer's market was currently dealing with the fallout from the realization that one of their vendors was a white supremacist. There had been a lot of protests and counter-protests, at a previous farmer's market there'd been a bunch more white supremacists "guarding" their stand, and our field trip was going to be on the first farmer's market date after the whole event had been shut down for two weeks.

Also, the white supremacist was a former friend, not just of mine but of some of the other troop moms, too, and most of our kids had been friendly with her kids.

Good times, amiright? Fortunately, I have another friend who knows several farmer's market vendors, and while I was a couple of blocks away with my troop doing our intro and getting ready to walk over to the market, she was texting me that everything was looking peaceful, with no white supremacists selling their Nazi tomatoes anywhere to be seen.

BADGE ACTIVITY #1: What is a locavore?

To begin our meeting, the kids and I discussed the definition of "locavore." The kids brainstormed some reasons why it's good to eat locally, and decided that local food is good for your body because it's fresh, it's good for the economy because you're spending money on the people who live and work in your community, and it's good for the environment because you're not using resources to ship food to you from far away.

The kids got bogged down, though (as I'd hoped they would), when we tried to decide EXACTLY what "local" means. Is it ten miles? One hundred?

The reality is that there isn't really an exact standard; people generally have to decide for themselves their own range for eating locally. I told the kids that part of their task at the farmer's market would be to find out how far some of the producers had traveled to vend here, and to do that, they needed to annotate their maps.

The idea behind annotating the map is that the kids put our current location as the center, and then they used the compass to draw concentric circles that represented distance away from the center. We found the map scale and saw that it was 1 inch to 13 miles, so the kids decided to draw a new circle for every inch.

This was a challenging activity for some kids who'd never used a compass before, and for other kids who'd never practiced much map-reading, but I'd divided them into small teams of two to three kids first, and fortunately there was somebody in every group who knew how to do both. 

Most groups drew 4-5 concentric circles before they decided they'd done enough. Together, we tried to find a familiar place or two on the map for every circle, so the kids could better visualize the scale.

BADGE ACTIVITY #2: Tour the farmer's market, complete a scavenger hunt, and go shopping!

Normally, I'd only give the kids one activity to do at one time, but there was a lot that we needed to accomplish at the farmer's market. Fortunately, all the kids in the troop are good listeners!

Task #1: Complete a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt was designed to meet Steps 1 and 2 of the Locavore badge requirements. It involved interviewing someone involved in the food delivery chain (Step 1), learning when certain foods are in season (Step 2), and finding food sources on their food-radius map (Step 2). 

I added in some more fun activities to get the kids engaged with the food and the vendors, and I included directions for how I expected them to behave. Kids don't always have experience interacting with business owners and retail workers, so part of the learning experience was figuring out how to engage someone politely. It's easy to get so task-oriented that you don't realize you're interrupting, and it's sometimes hard to follow the social script of a new situation.

Matt made it pretty for me. It's good to have a graphic designer as a spouse!
 I told the kids that they didn't necessarily have to complete the entire scavenger hunt, but they all had a blast and so I ended up keeping us at the farmer's market long enough (a little too long, honestly, considering all the other activities we had planned) for them all to finish.

Task #2: Shop for a food preparation challenge. We had three teams of kids, so I gave each team of kids one of the following assignments:

  • Garden Salad
  • Fruit Salad
  • Crostini, or, Something Interesting to Put on Bread
Each team had a budget of $15, and I kept the last $5 to help out if a team went over. (Spoiler Alert: Team Fruit Salad needed that extra five bucks. Fruit is expensive!). 

As the kids worked on their scavenger hunts, they were also meant to be figuring out what they wanted to buy for their challenge. I do think it was nice that they had both the scavenger hunt and the food prep challenge, because this encouraged them to interact with and learn a lot more about the vendors than either activity alone would have done, and it was highly amusing to watch them busily going back and forth between vendors, talking through the pros and cons of various food items and agonizing over hard decisions. Whenever they reported back to pass off their haul, it was clear that some vendors were also being incredibly generous--those kids got a LOT of delicious food for their money!

After everyone had finished the scavenger hunt and spent all their money, we walked a few blocks over to that nice grassy area I'd scoped out, washed hands and produce, and then the kids got to work on Step 3 of the badge!


Here's part of Team Fruit Salad in action:

Here's one-third of Team Garden Salad:

And here's an example of the very creative stylings of Team Crostini!

If I had this to do over again, I'd encourage the teams to barter some of their ingredients. Wouldn't some blackberries and apple slices be lovely on bread? And I wouldn't mind some sweet peppers or cucumbers in my fruit salad!

BADGE ACTIVITY #4: Local Foods Potluck

The kids could have gone on happily chopping produce and putting it in bowls and on bread forever, but eventually I called time so that they could show off their creations. Then we washed hands again, laid out our feast, had the kids who'd brought dishes from home to meet Step 4 explain them, and the kids enjoyed a Local Foods Potluck as Step 5 of their badge. 

I'd brought some plastic baggies, so while the kids ate I packaged up their unused ingredients into a variety of bags, and when they'd finished eating, I also portioned out their uneaten food challenge creations while they ran around and played. I called them all back to clean up, and when the space looked as if nobody had ever completed a cooking challenge or held a potluck there ever before, I had the kids all line up, and then got to take turns choosing something from the leftovers, until everything was gone. 

This turned out to be a stellar Girl Scout troop meeting! I think the kids all really enjoyed themselves, and they got a change to practice some academic skills, some practical skills, and some real-world social skills while having fun. They got some exercise, they spent time outdoors, and they ate healthy food. They would have liked a lot more free time to socialize, so this would have been even better as a half-day meeting after the Saturday farmer's market, but for a Tuesday evening on a beautiful day in a summer with no pandemic, I'd say it was pretty perfect!

Four Years Ago: Pom-Pom Pals
Six Years Ago: The Best Way to Hike
Eight Years Ago: Homeschool Boot Camp
Nine Years Ago: On Daytona Beach
Twelve Years Ago: Finally, Clean Lockers

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