Sunday, April 18, 2021

Homeschooling Girl Scouts: Earning the Uniting Members of Joint Ancestry Fun Patch

Even big kids like earning badges and patches, and well into her high school career, Will still gets a lot of value from incorporating Girl Scout badges and fun patches into her studies. 

The biggest advantage is the way that Girl Scout badges and fun patches add context by encouraging Will to explore in different directions than her curriculum might suggest, but as the homeschool mentor/mom I also appreciate the ability to customize all the requirements to earn each patch or badge. Most importantly, I can add academic rigor, but it's also nice to be able to substitute field trips or opportunities close to home, or to allow Will to engage with subjects that strike her fancy...

...as we did with this UMOJA fun patch, which turned Will into a Debbie Allen fan!

I got the Uniting Members of Joint Ancestry fun patch and requirements from Girl Scouts of Nassau County last year as something a little extra to do along with Will's African Studies class at our local university. She LOVED that class and everything about it, and it was a great time to add in some low-stakes, high-interest depth and breadth, as well as the types of hands-on enrichment that university Liberal Arts classes, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, don't have the infinite time for that I do.

Will's class took care of all the requirements related to studying the continent of Africa, so we concentrated on exploring African-American culture. 

For us, always and eternally, that means food! Here are some of the cookbooks we browsed through so Will could choose a few dishes to make:

I would have LOVED to take Will to Indy to my favorite Ethopian restaurant (one of my favorite Mac memories is the time he road-tripped to visit when the kids were super small. I answered the door looking, I imagined, wrecked as hell. Mac said, "Get your coat," I handed a shrieking toddler to a bemused Matt and did so, and Mac took me to eat Ethiopian food in Indianapolis), but, alas, coronavirus. 

To satisfy the requirement to learn more about Black History month in America, I had Will enter our city's Black History Month essay contest--and she won first prize!!! She worked very hard researching and writing her essay on The Chicago Defender, and had, I thought, some insightful comments about the importance of news media, especially media created by and serving BIPOC individuals. The city had a whole virtual ceremony for the award-winning kids, and a local bank donated a pretty awesome prize. As a homeschooler, I'm so super used to doing everything all by myself that when the community steps in to encourage my kid with interesting academic opportunities and then to reward her in fun ways for her effort... well, I find that actually overwhelming, it's so awesome.

Out of all the activities that Will completed to earn the UMOJA fun patch, though, she had the most fun with--surprisingly to me!--the ones that asked her to learn more about African-American dance and dancers. I have been wanting to get this kid interested in dance all her life! I've taken her to ballets and musicals and choreography projects and percussive dance shows and put her in creative moment and hip-hop classes, and never got a hit. 

My mistake was that I didn't have Debbie Allen dance for her! 

To be honest, I was mostly excited that Will was interested in Debbie Allen because I could manipulate her into watching a couple of episodes of Grey's Anatomy with me ("Oh, c'mon, Will! Debbie Allen is on the show ALL THE TIME! I mean, she's not dancing in it, but she's THERE!), and I almost ruined the whole thing because Will wanted to watch Debbie Allen in Fame but I didn't know what I was doing so I checked out the movie for us instead of the TV series, and the movie is absolutely, bafflingly odd and plot-less, but once I stopped being weird she and I had a fine old time binging all of Debbie Allen's best dance performances that YouTube had to offer.

Here are some of our favorites!

I think she choreographed this, as well as performing it?

How lucky we are that even in 1986, somehow people were managing to bootleg Broadway performances!

Here's the non-profit dance academy that she founded in 2001. It looks absolutely magical!

Ms. Allen isn't in this one, but since she produced and directed the first season, it was my excuse to re-watch a little bit of A Different World. I watched SO MUCH TV as a kid!

The Debbie Allen Dance Academy Nutcracker looks so freaking magical, too. Look at all the cool moves they get to do!

Here's Will's timeline of African-influenced dance in America:

All of these also make for good YouTube searches until live performances get back in gear. 

This fun patch turned out to be a really nice companion to Will's African Studies class. I can't not regret that we couldn't let it take us to museums and live performances and in-person workshops, but thank goodness for library cookbooks, city essay contests, and YouTube!

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