By making a communications board for a McHenry elementary school, one local Girl Scout troop hopes to show others they do more than just sell cookies, their leaders said.
The 18-member McHenry Troop 360 donated the two moveable boards Monday at Edgebrook Elementary School. Researched and designed by the girls in kindergarten through sixth grade, the boards are aimed at helping students who have problems communicating.
“There are key images they thought would be applicable” for students on a playground, said Lindsay Austin, one of three troop leaders.
Those images include swings and a bench; yes, no or stop; bathrooms; and hot, cold or thirsty.
“It is a way for nonverbal students to communicate, if they have an age-related speech delay or are not clear when they speak. They can feel included, not left out, and understood,” Austin added.
The boards were a Bronze Award project for the troop.
According to the Girl Scouts of America website, Bronze Awards are the highest recognition troops can earn at the Junior level. To earn it, “you and your team will identify a community issue you care about,” according to the website.
Working on projects such as this in the community can change the ways both the Scouts and that community think about the organization, Troop Leader Courtney DeRisi said.
“We aren’t just cookies and crafts,” DeRisi said.
Many girls drop out of Girl Scouts as they age out of elementary schools, both leaders said.
“It goes past elementary school,” DeRisi said. Projects such as the Silver Award, done by middle school-aged Scouts in groups of four, or the Gold Award, done individually by high school Scouts, give them goals to achieve as they mature.
“It helps to reel them in more, that there is an event for them,” DeRisi said.
The national Girl Scout organization has added more programs and badges to help keep girls involved, she said.
“They want these experiences,” DeRisi said.
It was DeRisi who had read a news report about communications boards in a Naperville playground. She suggested it to the troop, but it was the girls who decided what they wanted to do. DeRisi, Austin and third leader Sara Flowers led them through the research and design.
Abigail DeRisi, 11, is one of the troop members who helped research the project.
“I was really excited and it would be something for the community and that would help for a really long time for a lot of people,” Abigail said.
Mikenna Panos, 11, has a brother with speech delays who uses an iPad to help him communicate. By using a communications sign like the ones they made, he can leave his iPad behind. “This makes it simpler for him,” she said.
The two boards are on wheels and can be moved inside or out as needed. One will be placed at both of Edgebrook’s two playgrounds, Principal Michelle Reinhardt said.
The school has students who communicate with devices, and the boards will help them when they are playing outside, she said.
“We were proud that they chose Edgebrook to give back to the community. … to get these for our Edgebrook students on the playground and for students who are nonverbal,” Reinhardt said.