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Gold Award Girl Scout, Rebecca

Gold Award Girl Scout, Rebecca

Embracing Community Arts (ECA)

The Prudential Spirit of Community Award honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service. Rebecca was a recipient of this award in 2019 and knew she wanted to continue on her work for her Gold Award project. Rebecca discovered that students in her community do not have access to literature and the arts due to socioeconomic status and other limiting factors. She also quickly discovered that lack of access to literature and the arts had been further impeded by the effects of the pandemic and social distancing measures. Many students lost access to libraries inside and outside of school as well as their art classes and dance/theatrical productions, resulting in a decreased number of student participation in English Language Arts and other arts education.

Upon further investigation, Rebecca learned that when opportunities to participate in arts education is limited, students do not achieve as well on state assessments and lose creative thinking and problem-solving skills that are associated with the arts. Rebecca’s project, Embracing Community Arts (ECA), focuses on making resources for literature, dance lessons, and art supplies available for students in the community. ECA achieves this by delivering its art supplies alongside the Biddeford Schools' own food distribution and delivery network. Rebecca says “I was able to locate and distribute books and crafts in the low-income areas that needed it most. I was also able to provide these supplies in a timely manner” which has allowed for over 740 books and art kits to be distributed to kids who need them and allowed over 100 students to participate in virtual dance and art classes.

Rebecca’s project is sustaining her efforts to bring literature and arts to her community by having the resources distributed with the monthly free food distribution at the local kindergarten schools. At the beginning of her project art classes were not offered to remote learners, but now her school has embraced her program and is offering art and literature classes weekly. Additionally, Rebecca made her program and resources available to remote learners via weekly zoom dance lessons and art instructions.

One obstacle Rebecca encountered with her project was measuring the impact of her program. She had planned to compare Maine Educational Assessments (MEA) scores from the previous year with this year’s results, however since MEA testing was suspended she was unable to do so. However, she used her Girl Scout ingenuity and created a survey for participants and parents. Feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive and parents whose children participated in ECA, many responded positively, stating that their students read more and participated in art and dance when it would not have been possible either due to financial barriers or due to the pandemic. Parents also indicated that they would like their children to continue participating in and benefiting from ECA.

When asked about how the current pandemic has affected her project and efforts, Rebecca said “I believe when we share our passion with our community we can improve the lives of others when they are enduring difficult times. I had planned to meet in person with students in my community, but with the current social distancing instruction in place, I believe now more than ever the students in my community need the access to the feeling of connection that the arts and literature provides.”