Jodi Kearns 2014-02-10 10:53:25
Are you game for earning a scouting badge? To co-celebrate American Archives Month and the one-hundredth anniversary of Girl Scouts USA last October, the staff and graduate students at Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) at the University of Akron in Ohio designed a program called Night at the Archives! For local Junior Girl Scouts. The program provided CHP with an opportunity to revitalize its advocacy efforts and to teach the value of archives to a much younger—and arguably more impressionable—crowd. How to Earn a Badge The program—a first for CHP—drew twenty-seven Junior Girl Scouts and their leaders from three troops of fourth and fifth graders from throughout northeast Ohio. The CHP staff is always eager to find ways to engage the Akron community with primary sources, and this event was no exception. The Night at the Archives! Program was designed to show the girls historical documents and to engage them in activities and games from the history of psychology. Like so many of our patrons, the girls were surprised to find how much of psychology’s history relates to aspects of education and entertainment with which they’re already familiar. Girls who participated earned a “Playing the Past” Girl Scout badge. The badge asks girls to pick a female historical figure, learn about her life and legacy, and learn some of the games she played, songs she sang, or skills she had. CHP staff reinterpreted the badge requirements, and instead asked the girls to step back in time via five stations that explored psychology’s history and Accommodated groups in a round-robin schedule. Straight from the Source At one station in the stacks, the girls read a letter that Lou Henry Hoover wrote (on letterhead from The Edith Macy Training Camp for Girl Scout Leaders) on September 16, 1927, to psychologist Dr. Walter Miles, asking for his expert advice about writing handbooks for girls. The girls became familiar with Hoover’s contributions during the early years of the Girl Scouts while also learning how to read a letter as a primary source in search of evidence of the past. Art and Poetry The second station engaged girls in the 1890s game Gobolinks, which looks a lot like homemade Rorschach test inkblots with a Balderdash twist. Players create inkblots, and then interpret each other’s images by writing poems about the inkblots and judging whose poem is best. (Because it is not okay to paint in the Reading Room or Museum Gallery, this event was held in the break room. The CHP staff never turns away an opportunity to teach visitors about the proper handling and care of historical materials!) To learn more about Gobolinks, read a CHP blog about the game at http://centerhistorypsychology .wordpress.com/2012/10/05/ its-friday-who-wants-to-play-gobolinks/. Reading Emotions At the third station, the girls read about a 1942 leadership program designed by the National Council of Women Psychologists. It’s likely that these leadership courses helped shape modern Girl Scout programming. From this seventy-year-old program, the girls learned that to be an effective leader, one must become proficient at noticing, analyzing, and facing emotional reactions. The girls then used our interactive “How Easy Is it to Read a Face?” exhibit to take turns acting out emotional reactions for each other. They also learned about the proper handling of photographs while investigating Feelings and Emotions: Judgments of Mental State from Pictures, a 1914 test by Antoinette M. Feleky that presents twenty four photographs (that are now nearly one hundred years old) depicting various mental states, including “interest in a child,” “agreeable surprise,” and “faint suspicion.” Girls of a Different Time For the fourth station in the gallery, the girls used a 1939 Handwriting Scale to compare their own handwriting against the Scale to see how their vocational aptitudes and personalities might have been assessed in the 1930s. They also had the chance to compete with each other in Henry Goddard’s 1917 form board puzzle for the quickest time, and to examine a 1930s home economics test for fifth-grade girls designed by Edna M. Engle and John L. Stenquist. The test assessed girls’ knowledge of clothing and textiles, foods and cookery, And household management. The girls seemed amused by questions that are now seemingly irrelevant in their lives eighty years after the test was published. Take these fill-in-the-blank entries, for example: • After doilies are ironed, they should never be _______ . • A spot of tar on a crepe de chine dress may be removed by _______ . • The best steak to buy for Hamburg steak is _______ . • A girl’s party dress should be protected in the wardrobe with a _______ . Taking a Stand In the Reading Room, the fifth station gave Girl Scouts the chance to learn about the education opportunities for nineteenth century girls while handling and reading from antique and rare books. One book the girls handled was Elements of Mental and Moral Philosophy by Catharine E. Beecher, which historians consider to be the first book of psychology written by an American woman. The book as An artifact has a fascinating history: It was printed in 1831, and Beecher etched her name and identifying information out of the book before its distribution. Beecher is thought to be the founder of home economics, an area of study that, until recently, was reserved for girls. After learning about the discrimination girls have gone through, the Night at the Archives! Participants wrote letters to the all-male U.S. Congress of 1895, protesting this unfair treatment and demanding the same privileges and advantages as their male counterparts regarding education and public programs. Assessment and Looking Ahead The Night at the Archives! Event came to a close with a healthy snack and presentation of the earned program badge to each girl. By all accounts, the event was a success. This first program had a waitlist, and additional troops in the region expressed interest in attending a future program. The CHP is considering hosting the program twice annually: Once in October as an American Archives Month event, and once in March as a special event to celebrate National Girl Scout Week. CHP strongly encourages other archivists to partner with younger audiences. Our advice is to keep groups small (about five individuals), keep sessions short (no more than twenty minutes), engage in interactive activities as much as possible, and teach relevant content while including lessons about properly handling materials and archival organization. Molly Bagatto, a guest CHP blogger and a fifth-grade Junior Girl Scout, best captured the event when she wrote: “I learned so much about how similar I am to strong women of the past who fought for education and programs for girls.” You can read more about the Night at the Archives! From a girl’s perspective on the CHP blog at http://centerhistorypsychology.wordpress.com/. The Inkblot Poems Homemade inkblots aren’t the most traditional muse, but the Girl Scouts managed to be quite creative in their poems. Here are two selected poems about these inkblots. Can you decide which blot goes with which poem? “The elephant just sits there, mocking me. It gets fed so much that I can’t bear! Let’s hope I leave the zoo so we can see If this elephant mocks you!” “My butterfly queen has unique wings. Its pattern astounds many other things. Its eyes stick out when it flutters about. Its antennas are chic and her movements are sleek.”
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