Sunday, November 4, 2012

Program: American Girl Club

Back in September, I introduced you to our newest series of programs, Adventure Club. I mentioned there that we would be alternating Adventure Club with American Girl Club, beginning in September. That means that October brought on our first installment of American Girl Club and I'm happy to report that it was a success! In fact, I think it's the most fun I've had at a program thus far. Here's what we did!

We decided to focus on one doll each time we met and started out with Molly. We initially chose Molly because the program was in October and she was the only girl we could remember who touched on Halloween. Eventually, our plans involved to not include the holiday at all, but I think Molly was a good starting point. For those who don't know, Molly is an American Girl growing up in 1944. Her father is off fighting the war and she is learning about what needs to be done on the home front to help our troops be victorious.

We started our program with a short historical slideshow. We wanted the kids (okay, we only had girls) to understand the context of the story. We went back and forth on exactly what we would tell them about the war but, as our program was aimed at ages 7 and up, we realized that many of these kids already have personal connections to war. We didn't go into all the details (it was just a short presentation after all) but we explained a bit about the war, talking about rationing and women in the workplace, and showed them some examples of popular culture at the time. We even had a staff member who had her aunt's ration book - she loaned it to us and we showed it to the girls. The presentation lasted about 10 minutes and we moved on to our next activity.

Since we introduced the concept of rationing, we decided to plant miniature victory gardens in mason jars. Each girl was given a jar and the supplies and we explained how to put them together (rocks on the bottom, moss next for drainage, and then the soil). Then our volunteers came around with seeds. Each girl got one or two (or possibly more, the seeds were tiny!) of each herb - we chose garlic chives, oregano, and rosemary. Then the girls could choose decorative elements for inside their jars (we had small animal and bird figurines as well as seashells) and decorate the outside with stickers if they wanted.

After everyone planted their victory garden, we moved on to our next activity - learning the jitterbug! I love to dance, especially ballroom and I thought it would be an easy and fun way to teach the girls about entertainment during the time period. We showed them a video of modern kids dancing the jitterbug (complete with crazy lifts and aerial tricks) and then paired them off to show them how to get started. Oh friends, they were TERRIBLE dancers! BUT - they were having so much fun! It was wonderful. We showed them the basic step, taught them a simple spin, and then taught them how to do the cuddle. They practiced with their partners and laughed and spun and some fell over - it was a very delightful sight!

When everyone got tired of dancing, they all got to choose a paper doll to take home. Amy (my colleague) had found these amazing Ziegfeld girl paper dolls, something that Molly might actually have played with. The girls loved them! As they sat around admiring and cutting out their new paper dolls, I passed out homemade applesauce cupcakes (made by me, from a traditional 1940s recipe), which the girls devoured. Then we did a drawing for some prizes and, once they all finished their snack, everyone headed home. The girls were enthusiastic about every aspect of the program and were already asking who our next girl would be in December (we kept it a secret!). They all promised to return and many were happily showing off their wares to their moms.

We had over twenty girls show up and, like I said, they seemed engrossed in every aspect of the program. Amy and I had a blast planning and executing the program and I can't wait for our next meeting in December!

Also, a note: though we didn't ask them to, many of the girls brought their own dolls from home to the program. We let them keep them during the presentation, but once we got started on the activities, I asked the girls to put their dolls in a special seating area so they could have their hands free for the crafts and dancing. It was delightful to see the dolls all lined up, waiting for their girls.

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