Common Threads is an All Ages Award from the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital.
"Every culture enriches our lives with it’s own unique beauty and wisdom. Yet, we all share the same hopes and dreams, the same need for love and home and kinship. These are the Common Threads that bind us together as one family in one world."
- —People to People International
To help girls become citizens with understanding, acceptance, appreciation and respect for other cultures in a global society by:
- giving them the opportunity to learn about prejudice, stereotyping and racism and the effects they can have on relationships.
- helping girls look forward to meeting people by learning to value their differences rather than prejudging them because of their differences.
- encouraging feelings of pride in a girl’s own heritage and background by giving her opportunities to learn more about herself.
People of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds share basic needs that are common to all of us. These include shelter, a sense of community, a desire for happiness, good health, love and acceptance, dreams and expectations, clean water to drink and air to breathe. These commonalties or Common Threads bind us together as a human family. Within each culture, however, there are different traditions of cuisine, arts, rituals, clothing, language and recreation.
After girls explore both common threads and different traditions, they will understand that people of different cultures share many needs but also express their traditions in a variety of ways.
In this patch program, you may find references to activities that are used by ethnic groups that may also reflect a religious observance or practice. Our purpose is not to promote a particular religion but to encourage girls to explore different varieties of cultural activities. Some of the material in this booklet has been distributed before in other programs but is included here for convenience in working with this patch program.
Suggestions for Troops Working on Common Threads
Girl Scout Brownies may be able to experience Common Threads by having families in their own troop or service unit do many of the activities together.
Girl Scout Juniors might go on field trips or ask people from cultural centers to share their "common threads."
Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors could focus more specifically on several cultures so that they might plan a cultural awareness day for a Service Unit or Association.
This patch program is designed for Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors. The requirements vary in degree of difficulty to accommodate this multi-level approach. They range from the simplest exercise for Brownies to a more complex service project for Senior Girl Scouts. However, the more difficult activities can be adjusted for younger girls and vice versa.
Girl Scout Brownies should do four activities including those that are starred (*). Girl Scout Juniors should do six activities including those that are starred (*). Girl Scout Cadettes should do eight activities including those that are starred (*). Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors should do eight activities including the ones that are starred (*) and #16.
- Write down your family traditions in foods, celebrations, music, handicrafts, recreation, language and clothing. Share these with girls in the troop. Add your favorite new traditions to your family list. Correspond with grandparents, other relatives and friends. Find out the way they have changed and the way they have stayed the same. Ask these individuals how traditions occurred when they were younger. Compare the old traditions with the present ones to see if you would make changes in how these traditions occur.
- * With the troop or family make your own calendar of family observances and celebrations. Now add some the observances and traditions of cultures other than the ones represented in your troop or family. What are other celebrations or observances going on at the same time as yours? Which of these other holidays or customs would you like to observe? Included in the resource list on page 5 is a calendar of practiced religious holidays celebrated in many other cultures.
- Share a list of the special observances in your family having to do with birth, baptism, coming of age, marriage, anniversaries and death. Compile this information into a troop list. Explain the rituals as they are listed. Which ones have you never heard of before? Which ones would you like to learn more about? Select one of interest to you and write a page describing the event, draw a picture or make a diorama. Learn how these events are celebrated in three cultures different from those represented in your troop.
- An appreciation and understanding of cultural differences can help to prevent embarrassment and anger. Find out about greetings in cultures other than your own. Act them out with members of your troop. How does it feel to greet people in an unfamiliar language or with a gesture that is unfamiliar? How do you think girls from cultures other than yours would feel about greeting people the way you do?
- Language is not only spoken. Body language can tell us a lot about people’s feelings even before we speak. With your troop mates, make a list of feelings you have had when meeting a group for the first time, meeting someone important or someone you didn’t really want to meet. Use body language to act out some of these feelings to prepare you and your troop for greeting strangers with kindness and understanding. See if you can guess what feelings are being expressed. How do you respond to people when they demonstrate friendship, anger, bossiness, shyness, fear? How would you respond to someone who greeted you in a strange way?
- * When statements are made like, "All girls are," "All boys are," or "All older people are," this is called stereotyping. A stereotype is an idea that all people who have some characteristic in common are the same way. Stereotypes are generalizations people sometimes make and attitudes that people have based on incomplete information. It is one basis for prejudice. These attitudes sometimes make “pictures in our heads” that are exaggerated. Such pictures can either be favorable or unfavorable. With your troop do the activity, "Girls, Boys and Older People," on page 6 of this booklet.
- Keep a Pluralism Journal. Record positive and negative stereotypes that are projected in newspapers or magazines and television. Pay special attention to the portrayal of women, minority groups, and people with disabilities. Bring your written records and clippings to a troop meeting to discuss your findings. Discuss ways to avoid stereotyping people.
- Women are changing the world. Interview three women in leadership positions from three different cultures or ethnic groups. Find out what their major accomplishments are, what they would change in their lives if they could and who their role models were.
- Use the Yellow Pages to see how many ethnic restaurants you can find. As a troop, visit various ethnic restaurants for the purpose of tasting foods from many countries or have a food tasting party where everyone in the troop brings her favorite ethnic recipe. Invite families and share what you have learned about cultures other than yours from this activity. Discuss what different ethnic groups have contributed.
- The surnames Smith, Brown and Jones are very common names in the United States. Since Smith is a name based upon an occupation it appears in many languages. Smith in French is Ferrier, in Spanish Herrero, in Hungarian Kovacs, in Polish Kowalczyk, in German Schmidt, in Dutch Smit and in Italian Ferraro. Find the most common names in your ethnic group and list them. Look at the white pages of your telephone directory and see which names are more common. Check the same names in telephone directories of other cities. Find out what they mean. Share what you have learned with your troop. Try your public library for directories of other cities.
- What customs are followed in your ethnic group when a child is given a name? Explain the custom of naming a child after a father, relative or friend. What other sources, such as the Bible and holy books, are used for names? Learn about how names for children are derived in three other cultures.
- What is the difference between emigration and immigration? Pretend that you are emigrating to America from a country in Asia or Africa. Pick a date for your emigration. How old are you at the time of your emigration? Pretend you are keeping a diary. When you arrive in America, record your first three days. Include your feelings and impressions, remembering that your age will make a big difference. Share your diary with your troopmates.
- Play the Take Refuge game on page 28.
- Invite a resource person from the community to demonstrate a holiday custom of a culture other than those represented by the members of your troop. For example, this may be a demonstration by a Ukrainian person of intricate egg painting called pysanky; it may be teaching a folk dance, a game or a holiday song such as the Hora or Dreidel game; it may be attending a performance by a cultural performing arts group.
- Learn which cultures are represented in your school or community. Invite people from at least two cultures to visit your troop meeting to share their customs. Make a list of questions that will teach you about how they live, what food crops they grow, what their main products are and how they dress and why.
- For many, ethnic and religious groups’ holidays are often the time when special games are played or certain toys are used. The Mexican piñata is used at Christmas, and the dreidel spinning top is used at Hanukkah. Is there such a game or toy in your family which is especially enjoyed at a holiday? Share this game with your troop. Play games from three cultures other than your own. Directions for making a dreidel and a piñata are on pages 9-12.
- What ethnic articles of clothing have names you have never heard before, such as fez, kilt, chador, jerkin, galabia, toque, dashiki, dhoti? What are these pieces of clothing and how are they worn? With a partner learn the names of these unfamiliar garments and in what part of the world they are worn. Work in teams to see how many of the mystery items on the flash cards each team can identify. See pages 13-18. Add your own flash cards to the game.
- Do the Chocolate Bar Activity on pages 19-21 of the booklet which shows how countries are dependent on each other.
- Try the interdependent/cooperation games in Silver Bullets or Cowstails and Cobras II to see what it is like to be dependent on someone else in order to achieve a common goal. Think of how countries need to cooperate when they provide important materials or parts to each other to advance technology around the world.
- People with disabilities are not different in an overall sense. For example blind people are not necessarily hard of hearing. With friends from your troop see what it would be like in surroundings where you would not be able to reach the telephone, drinking fountain, door handles, elevator buttons. How well can you get around without being able to see? Wear a blindfold for at least an hour. Try reading words by seeing them in the mirror? How long does it take to figure out what they are? Or write your name on a piece of paper held against your forehead. Can other girls recognize it as your name? For more activities see Focus on Abilities, GSUSA, available at the Girl Scout Shop or Service Unit Library.
- Promoting peace and understanding between cultures is not an easy task. What can you, your family, your Girl Scout troop, or your community do to help? Do one of the service projects listed in "Ways to Help" on page 23 or make up your own intercultural service project intercultural service project and include a description of it with your evaluation.