Geocaching and Letterboxing: Earn Girl Scout Badges and Find Hidden Treasurers in Medford

geocachingBoth Letterboxing and Geocaching are free, worldwide hobbies that are open to anyone. For Girl Scouts who want to get in on the action, Brownies can earn the Letterboxer badge and Juniors can earn the Geocacher badge.  Both badges give girls the opportunity to find boxes (and other types of containers) hidden all over the place.  Its a great way to get outdoors and explore a forest or the city streets.  Girls can earn these badges on their own but it is also fun to earn them as a troop.

Letterboxer Brownie Badge – Click here for requirements

Atlas Quest describes letterboxing as combining “artistic ability with ‘treasure-hunts’ in parks, forests, and cities around the world. Participants seek out hidden letterboxes by cracking codes and following clues. The prize: an image from a miniature piece of art known as a rubber stamp—usually a unique, hand-carved creation.”  In order to find the letterboxes near you go to Atlas Quest and register for a free account.

LetterboxingTo earn the Letterboxer badge, Brownies must complete the following steps:

  1. Learn about the letterboxing by learning the special terms letterboxers use and/or practicing hiding objects and coming up with clues to find them.  A list of letterboxing lingo is available on the Glossary on the Atlas Quest website.
  2. Find a rubber stamp to use to identify yourself.  If you don’t already have a stamp, you can either make one or buy one.
  3. Practicing solving clues, such as word scrambles or number codes.  One way to complete this step by solving the puzzle that is a part of The Poppies of Flanders letterbox, in preparation for going out to find it.  After you decode the clue you can find this letterbox near the corner of Playstead Road and Winthrop St. (Note: this is a puzzle that Brownies could decode themselves, once you explain how it works.)
  4. Search for a letterbox.  Happily, Medford is chalk-a-block full of hidden letterboxes just waiting to be discovered.  Here are a few suggested ones to get you started:
    • Remembering Jumbo is located on the campus of Tufts University.  It is an ideal box to look for as a troop because the girls can run all over the campus without crossing roads or getting lost.
    • That Wise Old Owl is located in the Robbins Library in Arlington Center, so it is accessible in all seasons.
    • The Cave of the Unpeppered Leopard is located at the Panther Cave in the Fells.
  5. Make a letterbox.  For this final step, girls can simply make a letterbox for their friends or family to find, or they can plant a public letterbox and add it to Atlas Quest for the general public to find.  Check out the Flying Unicorn Power letterbox for an example of one that a Brownie troop in Wilmington planted.

Many of the letterboxes in the Medford area (including most of the ones referenced above) were carved and planted by “Parhelia,” a local librarian.  If you are looking for an expert, she willing to come and speak with Medford Brownie troops to introduce them to letterboxing.  Click here to link to her profile page and send her a message.

Geocacher Junior Badge – Click here for requirements

What is Geocaching?  It is like letterboxing but, instead of following clues to find the hidden object, you follow the GPS coordinates.  Geocaching is a bit more difficult than letterboxing because some of the caches are tricky to find, so it makes sense that this badge is aimed at Juniors (that said, there are lots of easy geocaches that Brownies, or even Daisies, could find.)  To get started, go to Geocaching.com and set up a free account.  You will also need to download the Geocaching app to your smart phone, or use a separate GSP receiver.  There is a basic geocaching app for free but, if you get into it, you have the option of paying for a premium membership and the premium app.  The premium membership will allow you to see more caches and the premium app allows you to save the GPS instructions so you can use them offline.

Here are the steps required for Juniors to earn the Geocacher badge:

  1. Learn about geocaching.  The easiest way to do this is to watch the cute instructional videos on the Geocaching 101 website.  Another fun way to learn about geocaching is to watch some of the videos by the Geocaching Vlogger on YouTube.
  2. Learn how to use the GPS receiver or Geocaching app.  You can complete this step by figuring out the GPS coordinates for various objects in your neighborhood.  To take it to the next level, find an object in your neighborhood, note the GPS coordinates, and then give the coordinates to a friend or family member and tell them to find the object using the GPS coordinates.
  3. Make a trade item.  When geocaches are large enough, you may find small trinkets in them.  Geocaching etiquette states that you can trade for these items with something of equal or greater value, watch this 2-minute video for more info.  Get ready to trade by making some small items.  Simple crafts such as rainbow loom, friendship bracelets, or fuse beads work perfectly, but you can make anything.  Here’s a video made by little kids about how to make friendship pins on safety pins, for example.
  4. Find a geocache!  Here are some fun ones in the Medford area to get you started:
    • Big Rock on Pine Hill is near Wright’s Tower in the Fells.  It is a great example of a cleverly disguised geocache.  It is large enough for tradables.
    • This one is called Ship Yard Way right in Medford Square.  It’s too small for tradables but it is a good example of an urban cache.  If you get stuck, look at the hint, the previous logs, and the photos for clues.
    • Here’s one called Parked on the east side of Medford, in Logan Park near Washington St.  Once again, this one is too small for tradables but it is another common example of a very small cache.
    • In West Medford, there’s a cache called Guinea Pig that is large enough to hold tradables.
  5. 11178191_675076752598495_5999965966447068243_nCreate a Travel Bug and release it into the world.  Travel bugs are small items that get picked up and dropped off from cache-to-cache.  For a more comprehensive explanation, watch this 3-minute video from Geocaching.com.  The picture to the right is of a Girl Scout themed Travel Bug that was launched by Medford Junior Troop 75198 earlier this year.

Going to Canada? Earn Girl Guide patches, eh!

GGCanadaindexGirl Scouts vacationing in Canada this summer can earn Canadian Girl Guide Challenge Crests while they are there.  Each province has different patches and you can click here to learn more about the different crests offered by each provincial council.  Patches can be ordered by mail or you may be able to buy them from the provincial council office.

Some of the highlights include the Geocaching Challenge from the British Columbia council, the Hiker Distance Award Challenge from Nova Scotia, and the Québec, c’est la fête (Quebec, it’s a celebration) crest, which you can earn by attending any of Quebec’s many festivals, such as the Montreal International Jazz Festival, or the Just for Laughs Festival, for example.

A number of different provinces offer camping crests/patches:

For your reference, here are the ages for the different groups that make up Girl Guides in Canada.  Most of the challenges have modified requirements for each of the different levels to make them accessible to girls of all ages.

  • Sparks – 5-6 years
  • Brownies – 7-8 years
  • Guides – 9-12 years
  • Pathfinders – 12-14 years
  • Rangers – 15-17 years

Heading to Washington, DC for Spring Break or Summer Vacation? Earn a Patch While You Are There.

Nations Capital PatchEach Girl Scout Council in the U.S. has it own special patches and specific steps to earn them.  If you are planning a trip to Washington, D.C., the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital invites you to earn their Discover the Nation’s Capital patch.  This patch encourages girls to explore a variety of different sites in an around, D.C., with a special focus on women’s history.

In order to earn the patch, girls must visit one of the sites in each of the following categories:  monuments and memorials, museums, arts, and government.  The sites that qualify are listed in the program guide. In addition, they must visit two of the sites from the “women” category.  The program guide also contains reflection questions for girls to answer after they visit the sites.  When they return home, the girls must “take action” by sharing what they have learned with their troop, family, or another group.

In addition to the center patch, girls can also earn one, or more, of the three segment patches that surround the patch  The themes for the additional segments are:  gardens, transportation, and statuary.  The program patch guide is attached to this post, or you can read more on the Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital website.

Once you have completed the patch program, you can stop by the Girl Scout store in Washington, DC to purchase it in person, or you can order it online.  The store is located at:

Nation’s Capital Main Shop
4301 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
202-274-3312 or 800-523-7898 x212
Mon – Fri:  9:00am – 5:00pm
Thurs:  9:00am – 8:00pm
Open Saturdays (Sept-Jun):  10:00am – 4:00pm

When you are in Washington, D.C., you can line-up for a tour of the U.S. Capitol, or you can contact Medford’s representative, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, who represents Massachusetts’ 5th District.  Her website also has information about how to request a tour of the White House, Library of Congress, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the Supreme Court.  Her website lets her constituents know that, “all tickets are provided to my constituents on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to the large number of visitors, please request them as early as possible in order to maximize your chances.”

While you are there, why don’t you see if you can make an appointment to meet Congresswoman Clark in person?   She is one of only 84 women who are elected representatives, out of a total of 435.  You could talk to her about aspects of life in Medford which could be improved and you could ask her if she was a Girl Scout, too.

Click here to download the Nation’s Capital patch program instructions.

Drawing and Painting and Pottery, oh my!

003Girl Scouts of all ages have the opportunity to earn badges while exploring their creative side.  Brownies on up can earn a variety of different artistic badges, such as:

  • Potter (Brownies)
  • Painting (Brownies)
  • Drawing (Juniors)
  • Comic Artist (Cadette)
  • Textile Artist (Senior)
  • Photographer (Ambassador)

002A great local resource is the Arlington Center for the Arts. Located at 41 Foster Street in East Arlington, the center is open to arranging for specific workshops for local troops who are interesting in working on these badges or other artistic pursuits.  For more information, contact Pam Shanley at 617-872-5143 or pam@acarts.org.

Another local studio which will organize special pottery workshops for Girl Scouts is Mud Flat Studio at 81 Broadway St. in East Somerville.  For information about to book a pottery workshop for a troop, call Mud Flat at 617-628-0589 and speak to Gabrielle.

Encourage Girls to Lead with the Ban Bossy program materials

Ban Bossy is a new program from Girl Scouts and LeanIn.org that encourages girls to BanBossy-Patchaspire to be leaders and to learn leadership skills.  If you are looking for some programming ideas for your troop, the Ban Bossy site has suggested activities for girls aged 7 and up.  For example, the “G.I.R.L.” decision making process helps girls learn effective decision making skills and there is another activity that gives girls an opportunity to practice using “I-Statements,” a great tool for resolving conflicts.

Check out the “For Troop Leaders” section of the website http://www.banbossy.com to download the “Leadership Tips for Troop Leaders” guide, which includes information about how to lead these, and other, activities.