Gold Award project refined by COVID-19

Brooke ConnerOur Town Teens, West Knox

Kathryn “Katie” Bush exemplified leadership and resilience as she planned and completed her Girl Scout Gold Award project during a global pandemic. Katie knew that now more than ever, children needed activities to keep them active and engaged. With the goal to address mental and physical health during summer break and the coronavirus, she created stay-at-home, safer-at-home camp kits.

Having gone to and seen the benefits of day camp, Katie planned in February 2020 to partner with her beloved Girl Scout day camp that she attended as both a camper and counselor to create guidelines for future leaders. COVID-19 then hit the nation the following month, shaking every aspect of day-to-day life, including her Gold Award project plan. With summer camp canceled, she pivoted and decided on an online camp – including creating a website with tutorial videos and camp kits for at-home fun.

Katie Bush

Katie chose activities that encouraged learning new skills, creativity, physical exercise and more: building bird houses, making butter and cajeta (a Mexican caramel), a compass activity, basket weaving, along with additional gaming and song videos. She applied and was accepted for the Joyce Maienschein Leadership Grant to pay for materials to include in the kits.

She didn’t expect the outpour of interest in her project. Offering the take-home kits to Daisies, Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes in her service unit in West Knoxville, there were overwhelming requests. Her website with the activity tutorials has received over 700 hits from all over the world.

“She was a great example of being an innovator because so quickly after [the shutdowns] happened, Katie was very ready to revamp her project,” said Sarah Hinton Miazza, programs manager at GSCSA. “And I know that she provided a huge service to parents who were scrambling for things for their kids to do because the response was so huge. She’s a go-getter; sees something that needs to happen and does it.”

Quarantine made gathering supplies and asking for donations difficult. Plans to work with other female leaders in her community were not possible. But seeing the faces of the girls during their Zoom calls and during kit drop-offs made the efforts and the changes worth it. Katie, now a junior in high school, says that during the project, she learned how to take charge and listen to and incorporate people’s ideas.

“This whole project was a plan B,” she says, “but it turned out amazing. I learned how to be flexible and more of a problem solver.”

Katie was put to the test when earning her Gold Award – the highest award a Girl Scout can earn – and came out stronger than ever, with skills and confidence to take with her wherever she goes.

Brooke Conner is social media and content coordinator for Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians.

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