Brownie Troop 20299 has a distinctly Maplewood feel of positive political action. Looking at world events and the recent election, and wanting to do something to stand up for women’s rights, troop moms decided to create a badge for their eight and nine-year-old Brownie girls called “Activist for Equality.” And now, other troops from around the United States want to follow Troop 20299’s example.
The activism bent and related badge came as a direct result of the troop’s anger over Girl Scouts of the United States of America supporting the presidential inauguration. “A few of us were very upset over putting our daughters in a sash, and parading them around selling cookies, when [they were] representing an organization that we no longer believed in 100%,” explained Elizabeth Zenobi, a troop mom. “Rather than boycotting cookie sales, or quitting Girl Scouts, we chose to do something positive to counteract what we believed was negative and a potentially harmful message to young girls.”
Troop 20299 leaders Nancy Cook and Sandra Medina Kopytek, with fellow troop moms Zenobi and Emilie Zaslow, worked with their girls – who are all third graders at Tuscan Elementary School – to create required steps towards earning the activist badge.
All Girl Scout badges require certain actions be done in order to receive the badge, and this one involved Zenobi read two inspiring books to the girls about equality, “A Sweet Smell of Roses,” and “Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909.” Then, they created a Post-it project with messages of hope, strength, and equality, similar to the spontaneous Post-it display on a New York City subway wall, which occurred after the election.
“Part of learning about activism came from reading a couple of great books. They were captivated by these two, and I highly recommend them both,” Zenobi said.
“I liked learning about all the challenges people have faced over the years, and that all lives matter,” said Scarlet Wurster, a troop member. “Also, the many ways people can use their voices. Our Girl Scout troop made a Post-it project with important sayings such as “love is love” and “women’s rights””, she added. “Next, I am sending a postcard to say how I feel.”
Another troop member, Zenobi’s daughter Sonia, chimed in. “I was mad that the Girl Scouts marched in the inauguration, and I thought that this was a good way to make it better.”
Troop 20299’s Post-it project is displayed in the Tuscan School library. In addition, for homework, as Scarlet Wurster noted, the girls will each be writing a postcard to an elected official or corporation that is doing something they don’t agree with. “The kids are our future. It’s not about forcing our politics on them, it’s about encouraging them to use their voices to fight for basic rights like equality and justice, wherever they are lacking,” Zenobi said.
“I learned that not only are people of color being treated unfairly, but women are being treated more unfairly than I thought,” realized Sofia Kopytek, another troop member. “I would like to learn more about how females are treated unfairly. And, ways we can improve that,” she concluded.
Sensing the national relevance of the project, Zenobi posted about the girls’ integration of activism in their Girl Scout program to two Facebook groups, “Kids’ Books for a Better World” (which she runs), and “Parenting During a Trump Presidency”, of which she is a member.
“I received requests from seven other troops, within hours of posting — from locations as varied as Kentucky and Minnesota — to share the steps we’re taking, so that they can offer the same badge to their girls,” Zenobi told Village Green. “This is social media at its best.”