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Jul 28, 2020

The Digital Divide

Robotics Challenge Team
Robotics Challenge Team

City Shaper and Boomtown Build were the FIRST Lego League themes of the robotics competitions for the 2020 series.  Girls were challenged to envision the city of the future.  The girls and young women from the communities served by GSCM's Rockin' Robotics program had no difficulty in identifying issues in their neighborhoods.  They then were challenged to find solutions that were rooted in science, engineering and technology.  Girl Scouts from Baltimore City and Harford County each took different approaches to problem identification and problem solving.  One team designed a crane that became an elevator to address accessibility issues in their community.  Another team designed a new model of lift that became an entryway.  The imagination and creativity of the girls were equalled only by their tenacity and problem solving skills.  After the discovery and  challenge sessions were complete, and girls received awards for their robots and presentation boards, these young women asked to continue with Girl Scouts Robotics. Currently, GSCM has 53 girls participating in virtual robotics sessions during the summer, which has required us to revamp the materials, tools available, and delivery methods.  

The  challenges presented upon the onset of a worldwide pandemic required that GSCM find new ways to reach and inspire girls in STEM.  The primary challenge was that posed by the Digital Divide.  It was because of COVID19 that we all became aware of the disparity in access to technology throughout many areas in Central Maryland.  Families were sharing one computer that children needed for their school work.  Often, several children needed access to a computer for their synchronous virtual classwork at exactly the same time that a sibling needed access.  In many of our rural communities, there is no internet available.  In urban areas, the monthly fees for internet access are prohibitive, so families do not have internet in their homes.  Many families were also impacted by business closures and loss of employment in our community.  GSCM has witnessed a new and growing need among its families for resources to help their daughters remain connected and learning.  

GSCM has secured hardware through restricted gifts from local philanthropies and from a colleague non-profit organization, the Digital Harbor Foundation.  They are actively seeking computers (new and used) which they refurbish and provide to children and families at no cost. Computers help them help Girl Scouts.  Please cut and paste this url into your browser bar to access this opportunity to help. www.digitalequitybaltimore.org/donate-devices

GSCM is working to close this digital divide so that the most vulnerable families are supported in obtaining the hardware and broadband access needed to continue their academic and youth enrichment activities.  Access to internet is the next frontier.  Besides enrolling families in special broadband discount programs, GSCM is seeking support to provide hot spots to families.  Your support is needed now more than every to allow girls to experience some stability in their lives, some certainty that they can rely on and  stay connected to their mentors, troop leaders, and STEM teams. 

Design solution for Boomtown Build 2020
Design solution for Boomtown Build 2020
Jul 20, 2020

Resilience

For our mom
For our mom

The young women in Girl Scouts of Central Maryland's Beyond Bars and GIFT programs are isolated from their mothers and  family during a time that will go down in history as one of the most frightening periods in their lives. Most of us can relate to the feeling of loss of control that COVID19 has produced - and the vulnerability we all have to contracting a virus that can be life-changing. For these Girl Scout families, with mothers or daughters living in a confined environment, that vulnerability is compounded.  These settings, whether the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women or the Waxter Children's Center, have been shown to be an environment with higher risk for the spread of this virus. 

These mothers and daughters have built a strong sense of courage, confidence and character through Girl Scouts --to be resourceful and resilient.  This knowledge and set of skills have served them in ways they could not have imagined.  Girls and troop leaders have strengthened their bonds during this unprecedented time through activities designed to provide enriching experiences and respite.  

But there is more work to be done in the face of new challenges. These young women need our support and attention now more than ever. GSCM has worked to overcome new obstacles occasioned by the stay-at-home orders, and the prohibition of visitors, to keep girls and families connected in other ways.  Disposable cameras, materials and supplies have allowed girls to create photo journals for their mothers. They look forward to communicating with their moms, even amidst all the challenges they face of isolation from friends, school and family.   Zyan's note is so touching, telling her mom about what makes her happy and said.  Her questions to her mom are written with the hope that her mom will write back to her soon. The photos show that Girl Scouts can discover, connect and take action  no matter where they are.  

In an effort to help close the digital divide exposed in many communities as a result of COVID19, GSCM is raising funds and in-kind donations to provide computers with pre-installed software to many girls.  We hope that this can be another tool for girls to connect with their familes.

These opportunities would not be possible without the continued generosity of volunteers and donors. Girl Scout families extend their most heartfelt thanks for your continued interest in their success.

Apr 6, 2020

Girl Scouts Beyond Bars 2020

  

The young women who are Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) started 2020 with great hopes for a new year.  They had just concluded an impressive entrepreneurship program, selling Girl Scout Cookies to the workers and their moms at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW).  Girls were starting to plan the long-awaited annual overnight stay at MCIW with their mothers. In February, they joined with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world to celebrate “World Thinking Day,” a Girl Scout tradition, which had a theme this year of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.  After just participating in an historic Baltimore City Suffrage dedication, this theme was particularly meaningful to them. Girls produced creative tributes to equity, diversity and inclusion such as friendship bracelets.  During this time, there was also the joyful return of a former troop member, Amy, who had not been with Girl Scouts Beyond Bars for some time.  Amy was living with a family friend named Aunt Sophie since she started Girl Scouts with the GSBB troop as a Daisy in Kindergarten.   She is now a Junior, in fourth grade.  She loved to be helpful to troop leaders and to interact with the younger Girl Scouts at meetings and camping trips. Amy was a sweet girl, fun-loving and known for her appetite. Her troop leader is not sure exactly what happened, but the mother informed the troop in the fall that Amy would be moving to foster care and would not be returning to GSBB.   It was shared that destructive behaviors had caused Aunt Sophie to request this move to another home.  The troop leader hadn't noticed any of these behaviors in Amy.  As the news was shared with the other troop leaders; they were so saddened by the news that Amy couldn't attend future troop meetings; that they were bought to tears.  Happily, a few weeks after Amy was placed with a foster family she was able to come to meetings again!  The transition was difficult for Amy, her new family, and Amy's mother.  But the Girl Scout sisters and troop leaders were a welcoming safety net to help through this transition.  So 2020 was starting out as a great year, full of hope, for all the girls in Girl Scouts Beyond Bars.  And that was the last meeting before the CoVid-19 Pandemic. Girl Scouts is staying connected to the girls remotely, offering activities through the GSUSA Volunteer Toolkit.  Girl Scout troop leaders' connections to the girls’ guardians have become stronger, and GSCM is supporting these families with virtual enrichment activities and connectedness that adds a bit of normalcy in the face of extraordinary challenges.  Currently, there are needs for technology resources in the homes of these Girl Scouts, in order to stay connected with school and with GSBB.  We are trying to help fill extraordinary needs for these young women at an extraordinary time in their young lives. Over the next few months, using a transitional hybrid model  to reach and serve these Girl Scouts, the resiliency, flexibility and vibrancy of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars will be shown to prevail.   


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