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Gold Award Girl Scout: Kaitlyn Barto, Colorado Springs, “Map It Out: Fun and Facts with our F

What did you do for your Gold Award project?

My project addressed the issue that not enough children are educated on geography due to a lack of exciting and engaging educational activities. The root cause of this issue is there aren’t enough resources to make learning geography fun and engaging. I addressed this by giving Peyton Elementary School a resource that can be utilized in many different ways. I painted a large, colorful (16’ x 27’) map of the United States on the asphalt near their playground area. I then created multiple lesson plans for each grade level (K-6) as well as eight games that allow the map to be used in a fun and interactive way to learn geography. The impact I wanted to make was to create a fun and interactive way for an entire school to learn social studies. The result was that students were learning geography and improving their test scores when they thought they were just having fun!

How did you measure the impact your Gold Award project made on your target audience?

A direct impact could be seen through the increased scores on geography pre-tests and post-tests given to the students. The tests were given to four different classes before and after utilizing the games and the test score averages increased by 28-36 percentage points.

How is your project sustainable? How will your project continue to impact after your involvement?

This project will be sustained through the teachers using the lesson plans and games I provide. They will be able to take students out to the map to learn for many years to come. Thousands of students will reap the benefits of having a more interactive way to learn for many years. It will also be sustained physically with the help of the school maintenance director who will use the paint I left behind to touch up areas that may eventually fade or chip. The project will also be sustained by my sharing details with eight other rural schools in the area. I sent an email to each principal that included an extremely detailed summary of the map project (including stencil information, paint colors, amounts, day by day process, hints, lessons learned, and more) as well as the lesson plans and games that I created. I also asked the Peyton Elementary School principal to please pass the plans and games on to any teachers she thought could use them.

What is your project’s global and/or national connection?

The national and global link in my project is that these children are growing up more educated, and they will bring that knowledge with them throughout their entire life. Their growing enthusiasm and interest in U.S. geography will grow to include the rest of the world, which is certainly important in our increasingly interconnected global society.

What did you learn about yourself?

Over the course of this project, I learned I am capable of more than I realized. While teaching the kids, I learned to have more patience with a group of rowdy 5th graders. I also learned and experienced the feeling of satisfaction when you see what you’re doing is having a positive effect on young people’s lives. Through this project, I learned that I need to not stress and become frustrated over things that are out of my control. For example, when laying down the stencil, the wind became incredibly frustrating as it threatened to potentially tear and ruin the entire stencil. However, I realized the wind itself is out of my control, so there’s no need to become frustrated with it. Instead, I discovered that staying calm, finding ways to mitigate the problem, and remaining persistent paid off.

How will earning your Gold Award impact you in the future?

My leadership skills in the future will grow because now, I am not as hesitant to lead. This project has shown me that being a leader isn’t scary, so I will be much more likely to put myself in a position to lead. The more leadership roles I am cast into, the more I learn, the more confident I become, and the more determined I am to make a positive impact in the world. In addition, I can now list on applications that I am a Gold Award recipient. This will help open doors of opportunity especially if applying to selective programs or colleges that will help me make a difference in this world. Overall, my confidence has increased, so what may have seemed like a daunting challenge before will now seem much more achievable.

Why do you feel the Gold Award was an important part of your Girl Scout experience?

The Gold Award was an important part of my Girl Scout experience because it was almost like a test. Ever since I was a Daisy, I have been learning about kindness, leadership, giving back, and other positive values. The Gold Award journey was the time to apply everything I’ve been learning about and prove my skills. It allowed me to show everyone I’m capable, and it allowed me to give back to a community in a big way.

How did earning your Gold Award help you become a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?

Over the course of this project, I evolved into a better leader.  I developed leadership skills from working and coordinating with the project advisors, spending time teaching kids, and leading my friends and family.  While painting the map, I had to delegate jobs and make sure everyone was painting with the proper color in the proper area. During this project I have also become more of a go-getter. I am no longer afraid of challenging projects and tough leadership positions. In fact, now I search for them, because I know I can handle the pressure and work involved. This helped give me a strong sense of self and the confidence that I can tackle future challenges that I’ll face in the world.  I also came to realize that it’s very important to me to have a career that allows me to share my values and that positively impacts other people and the world.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: This blog represents only a small fraction of the hard work, dedication, and requirements that go into earning a Girl Scout Gold Award. It is simply a brief summary, which is meant to inspire Girl Scouts to Go Gold in the future. For more information on earning your Gold Award, please email highestawards@gscolorado.org

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