Gold Award Girl Scout: Charlotte Blish, Arvada, “Watering Communities”

What did you do for your Gold Award project?

Watering Communities started as an education platform for local elementary schools to discuss how the lack of clean water impacts socio-economic and education resources in parts of Africa while combining into the Jefferson curriculum of “how one person can make a difference.” I authored curriculum for the classroom setting, small workshops, large workshop venues, and an after-school club. In addition, I established a 501c3 nonprofit titled Watering Communities to extend the curriculum globally and to be able to send first-aid kits with water filters to countries experiencing natural disasters. I worked with international schools in Hong Kong and Taiwan, helping author STEM curriculum for their science, technology, and field-work courses; where students learned how to create various water filters, code a problem-solving game while learning how water impacts education and health, and compete a curriculum workshop so students could apply their knowledge in a field-type setting outside of the classroom.

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

Depending on the setting, it was measured by growth of knowledge either with a survey or group discussion. I measured if the students were able to apply the knowledge they had gained by recreating water experiments, building water filters, and applying the skills they had learned out in the field.

How is your project sustainable?

Watering Communities is sustainable two different ways:  As a 501c3 nonprofit with a board of directors and by a signed letter of commitment from Think International Primary. By establishing Watering Communities as a 501c3 with a board of directors, the board is able to proactively set goals on how to expand the educational components into additional overseas schools or organizations as well as monitoring water crises at the international level to send first-aid kits with water filters. Think International Primary enjoyed the custom-curriculum I wrote for them so much they are continuing to implement it at the fourth-grade level in their STEM classes. Students will learn about how water crisis can limit opportunities both physically and mentally, learn the science of water through an eight-week course, built prototype water filter models, and then apply the water filters into real world situations in a field setting. Think International Primary was inspired to also take on a fundraising component to help local children in their community.

What is your global or national connection?

Think International Primary of Hong Kong saw the webpage for Watering Communities and was curious about the curriculum specifically because it was oriented to towards elementary-age kids and was hands-on learning.  They reached out to me and we discussed what their needs were curriculum-wise, what additional resources I could help them with, and how the curriculum could apply to real life experiences outside of the classroom. Think International Primary asked me to custom-author a program to fit inside their eight-week STEM lesson plan based on learning about the scientific aspects of water, the properties of water, and how water affects people’s lives socially and economically. I built lesson plans to create water filtration systems, authored a software program to teach coding to students that emphasized the socio-economics of water in Africa, and planned workshop activities where the students could use all the skills they learned during a week-long camping expedition (think Outward Bound meets Outdoor Lab).  The students were so inspired by Watering Communities and working with me that they in turn wanted to help others. They hosted two fundraising events; one for recycling and one financial where the proceeds purchased water filters to be sent to a nonprofit in Thailand. It was during these additional events that Taipei Kuei Shan School heard about the program and adopted it in their curriculum as well. Taipei Kuei Shan School is also working with Watering Communities using the curriculum as a resource in their spring semester for 2020 and plans to again in 2021.

What did you learn about yourself?

When I began interviewing prospective candidates to be on the board of directors for Watering Communities, I felt confident and accomplished. I had taken every skill that I had learned throughout the years of Girl Scouts, from planning to problem solving, to delegating and taking the initiative, that I felt like the president of a company. I set out to educate my five local elementary schools about how something as simple as access to clean water can impact someone’s life and it grew beyond my wildest dreams to being a working 501c3, as well as making connections internationally in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. I initially thought I would run a couple of fun workshops and it grew into working hand-in-hand with our local teachers to supplement their curriculum, into authoring curriculum that is being used internationally in Hong Kong and Tawain, and into coding software for a game. Being able to see kids’ faces light up when they talk about their experiences with the curriculum was amazing.

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

By earning my Gold Award, I realized I can use a multitude of skills that will impact my future. I can choose from a variety of leadership skills like project management, delegating, training, and team collaboration. I can use soft skills like interviewing, giving positive feedback for reinforced behavior, and showing kindness to others. I know how to develop networks and how to build up those resources. I can author original curriculum and then customize it to be flexible in different learning environments. I know without a doubt I can take all these skills, and many, many more that I learned along the way while I earned my Gold Award, and apply them for the rest of my life.

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

I was very lucky that I had a leader who whole heartedly believed in Girl Scouts being a girl-led experience. She allowed us to plan. She allowed us to problem solve. She allowed us to be in charge. She encouraged us to see outside of the box and to travel; we camped almost every month of the year. Our troop did a group project for our Bronze Award by hosting a garage sale to raise money to purchase pet food and we also organized a blanket and towel donation program for the local pet shelter, and I loved it. I loved organizing and leading the other girls.  For our Silver Award, our troop decided we would earn our Silvers as individuals. When the Navy deploys a submarine for six months, families are allowed to send one shoebox of goodies to be opened at the mid-way point.  Because only 65% of families send shoeboxes, I organized a drive to collect paperback books, treats, snacks, card games, etc. for sailors who would not receive a box. I was able to send enough shoeboxes for two submarines and every sailor onboard also received a box of Thin Mints or Samoas. I knew I could work hard, plan a project from start to finish, and grow my leadership skills. When I worked on my Gold Award, I used all of the skills from making good eye contract during workshops (thank you cookie sales), learning about water as a resource (traveling to Costa Rica, Girl Scout Destinations), planning and organizing events (Father-Daughter dance with 200+ attendees per year, 2013-2018), being grateful (countless charitable experiences with Girl Scouts), and so many more experiences that I can’t list them all that I’ve had with Girl Scouts.  By earning my rank of Gold Award Girl Scout, I was proud of not just what I did to earn it, but of all the experiences that helped to make me the leader I am today.

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

I view myself as all of these things. Girl Scouting and the Gold Award helped me to become a well-rounded leader who has to be willing to take risks and be vulnerable. I could have simply run workshops and educated others about the impact of lack of access to clean water in rural Africa, and that would have been good enough to earn the Gold Award. I took a risk and authored curriculum for my local area schools and was inspired by the students’ questions and curiosity that I wanted to do more, so I set up and ran Watering Communities as a 501c3 nonprofit to try to get the word out. I had to innovate and custom-write curriculum for an international school in Hong Kong and then again in Taiwan. I had to be a go-getter when I was planning for how Watering Communities would continue function when I left for college.  Interviewing accomplished business leaders and selling them on the idea of being part of the dream so we could continue to work internationally was mind-blowing. The Gold Award process allowed me to use all my skills that I learned throughout scouting to accomplish the original goal and grow it into something grand.

**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.