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Personal Progress

Unique Value Project Idea: Presidential Active Lifestyle Award

1 July 2012

If you’re not familiar with the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge, it is worth your time to check it out. Geared for citizens of all ages, this is a great way to encourage physical fitness by setting and meeting goals appropriate for your current level of fitness.

A fantastic idea for the Young Women Knowledge Value Project.

Also not a bad idea for mom and dad, or younger and older siblings, or leaders, or… well, you get the idea.

Because it’s what I do, here’s a handy list of how this award can help children and youth fulfill requirements in other programs:

Webelos Athlete Activity Badge.

Cub Scout Physical Fitness Belt Loop or Pin, not to mention the multiple athletics-oriented cub scout belt loops and pins.

Boy Scout Personal Fitness Merit Badge, not to mention the multiple athletics-oriented merit badges, Varsity pins, and Venturing awards.

Deacon Duty to God For the Strength of Youth Physical Strength.

America Jane Gets Brave: My Adventurous Plein Air Painting Workshop

15 May 2012

I began full of vigor. Never mind that I’d never taken a painting workshop before. (Never mind that I’m not a painter!) Here was an opportunity to try something new, to feel adventurous, to seize the day! I had my canvas tote packed with soft paint brushes, untainted watercolors, a new watercolor pad full of promise – even snacks! Oh yes, I was prepared for a bold, new experience. Carpe diem!

As you may recall, I like to foster my fantasies about being an artist (see my posts here and here). So after the instructor (who I happen to know) encouraged me to take his two-day Plein Air Painting Workshop at Saguaro Lake Ranch (I also happen to know the family who manages the Ranch, one of my favorite places locally) I decided to go for it.

Did I mention I’m not an artist?

Well, you’ll want to take note of that.

Day One:

After the introductory formalities and opening instructional lecture, we were told to pick a location to paint. This was, after all, a Plein Air workshop. (Plein Air is the French term for painting outdoors. Of course, doing anything in French automatically makes it more adventurous, right? Carpe diem!)

I went right for the crown jewel of Saguaro Lake Ranch. I chose a scene with the famous ridge mountain (yeah, okay, I don’t know the actual name of said mountain), framed by a sweeping mesquite tree and rustic fence line.

Praise the gods I decided to leave out the horses.

The beginning stage went well. Frame out the underpainting with a quick sketch and wash of color. Blues, greens, and browns filled the paper with ease.

This isn’t going too badly.

I started to add detail: the black, twisted trunk of the mesquite tree; a few more shades of greens and yellows in the foliage to add interest. I kinda liked it.

Then came the hay bales.They weren’t coming out quite right. I decided to come back to it.

I painted in the fence. Looked a bit, urm, juvenile (even more so than the rest of this amateur’s painting). That’s okay. I’d fix it with some highlights later.

Then came the mountain. Such a beautiful, peace-inspiring mountain. Unless you’re trying to paint it. Then it becomes the bane of your existence, the blob of lifeless brown on your formerly pristine watercolor paper.

The instructor came over to check on me. He liked the tree too. He gave me some guidance regarding the mountain. At first he wanted to demonstrate right on my painting! Oh no. This was my painting. So he humored his inexperienced, A-type personality of a student and demonstrated on a spare piece of paper. I marveled at his technique, tried to retain what he’d said and done, and went back to work.

Fast forward 20 minutes.

Those mountains were still a mess. This time, when the instructor came to have a look, I gladly handed over my brush and painting.

Paint on instruction...

He completed one section of the mountain, explaining as he went, and I tried to duplicate it elsewhere. It wasn’t great, but I learned something and had a better concept of what I could try.

The class took a break for lunch and the scenery went from a challenge to be mastered back to a source of serenity. I especially enjoyed visiting with Charles, a retired Navy man who never lost his taste for traveling (he’s been to Indochina, southeast Asia, the Caribbean, all over) but now he sometimes adds in his penchant for painting. He’s taken workshops all over the country, looking to paint “places I’ve never been.”

He reminded me why I was there. Here was a man full of adventure. I want my own adventures too.

After lunch we hauled our stuff down to the river and selected new scenes to paint, this time sheltered by the shade of the trees lining the banks. Having learned my lesson, I switched from a broad landscape to a smaller-scale water study.

Again, the drawing and under colors went on easily. This felt familiar and I didn’t take as much confidence from it this time around.

I painted in the rocks and a few reeds and decided I needed to darken the water. Big mistake. One bold stroke and it was way too dark. When I saw what I’d done, I didn’t know how to fix it. I was desperate for the instructor to come save me.

In due order, he did. He didn’t think it was a mistake at all, and carried the color through the central section. He gave me courage to be bold and add movement and color to the water, along with how to paint the reeds on the bank.

I was resisting the urge to say “Don’t you just want to finish it for me?” After all, he was doing such a good job.

But I didn’t say it and he left me, alone with my painting. I guess I’d have to finish it myself.

I sat down on a rock to get my brain back in the game. After a few quiet moments, I studied my painting from afar. I looked at the river and reminded myself what I originally liked about the scene I chose.

Isn't it lovely?

Despite my lack of developed skills, I still really wanted to try to capture what I saw.

I thought about what the instructor taught me. I focused on a corner of the painting and decided I could try to add a group of reeds there. I can do that much. So I did. And it was fun. I moved to the other side of the painting and added more reeds. I liked the top, but didn’t know what to do with the bottom. Some grass perhaps?

That was when I discovered (shock) that I don’t know how to paint grass.

I abandoned the blob – I mean grass – for the thing I knew. I pulled my leather journal and pen from my canvas bag, returned to the rock, and began writing about my day. Ahhh. What a relief! Maybe the instructor wouldn’t notice.

I got away with my truancy for a good 15 minutes before he came back, declared his pleasure at my improvement, said “It’s starting to look like a painting now,” and made me trade in my pen for a brush.

He turned my blob into grass and I decided the painting looked good just how it was. No further tinkering required from this girl!

He saw I was done – mentally at least – laughed, and dismissed me to my rock.

I sat for awhile, listening to the instructor talking quietly with Navy Charlie. The river was flowing soft that day, gently soothing away any agitation I’d felt. My little alcove under the shade of the trees shielded me from any thought of the outside world.

The painting called to me.

Perhaps a little more grass…

And Now, the America Jane Angle You’ve Been Waiting For:

Talk about a unique value project idea! For youth interested in art, workshops like these or ongoing classes offered at school or in the community, are a great way for youth to expand their knowledge. Painting, drawing, pottery, glass (oh, Boise has an amazing art glass center I’m so hoping I can afford one day!), sculpture, photography, fiber arts, or what have you. The arts are great! Even for those of us not necessarily gifted or looking to make a career out of it.

Creating art, even mediocre art, can be strangely fulfilling. I guess it’s that desire we all have to express ourselves.

So whether you’re a Young Woman looking for a unique Divine Nature or Knowledge value project idea, a Scout planning on earning one of the many arts-oriented awards (merit badges are offered in Art, Graphic Art, Photography, Pottery, Textile, and Wood Carving), a Venturer working on the Arts and Hobbies Bronze Award, or an adult just looking to be brave, go ahead! Gather your courage, and dive into the arts.

As for me, I’ll be diving in again this summer for a workshop at the Grand Canyon. Oh yeah.

Carpe diem, my friends.

Children-Led Family Home Evening Ideas

14 March 2012

My favorite FHE’s are the ones where one of my children taught the lesson. And not just because I got out of teaching for the week. :)

It’s sweet to see them sharing a thought or reading a story from The Friend with that serious, reverent demeanor they tend to have when they’re the ones in charge. Rather than resisting the idea of teaching a lesson, my children seem to love the opportunity.

In general, I let them pick their own topic and source of inspiration. On occasion I’ll suggest an idea that comes from their Faith in God booklet, or something along those lines.

If you sometimes like to do the same, this post is for you.

Below are all the requirements from the various LDS programs which require a child or youth to lead a Family Home Evening.

Faith in God

Learning and Living the Gospel, requirement #1 and #2

Personal Progress

Faith Value Requirement #3, Knowledge Value Requirement #4 and #7, and Good Works Value Requirement #4.

Duty to God

While there are no longer specific requirements for young men to teach a Family Home Evening in the new Duty to God program, most “Learn” and “Act” activities are followed by a “Share” activity, which can nearly always be fulfilled by teaching a Family Home Evening lesson about the topic the young man has been studying.

Journaling with a Heart: “Tap Tap” Journals for Charity

24 February 2012

"Tap Tap" Journals

There are many journaling requirements sprinkled throughout the LDS youth and Scouting programs (see below), so why not pick up one of these “Tap Tap” journals and do some good while you’re at it?

I came across these adorable journals when I discovered Project HOPE Art yesterday. They’re only $14.99 and $5 benefits Project HOPE Art and their work with Haitian orphans. How can I help but spread the word?

Also available are the “Tap Tap” Journals in white and the Haiti Mural Journal composed of mural art created by Haiti children:

That’s the one I ordered and I chose the blank page option (you can also get lined, dots, or planner pages). I think I’m going to use it to try some of Kathy Barbro’s projects, which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. She has some new projects at her website which look like fun.

LDS Youth and Scouting Program Requirements Involving Journaling:

Faith in God – Preparing for Young Women #3

Bear Scout – Family Requirement #8f and Jot It Down Requirement #18c.

Webelos – Scholar #5

Cub Scouts – Communicating Pin #2 and Reading and Writing Belt Loop #3.

Boy Scouts – Communications Merit Badge Requirements 1a or 1b and Personal Management Merit Badge Requirement 8c.

Duty to God requirements often encourage journaling, and a general requirement of the Personal Progress program is to keep a personal journal.

Venturing – Religious Life Bronze Award requirement 4b.

Unique Service or Value Project Idea: HOPE Art Handmade Dresses Project

23 February 2012

As one of the many service arms of Project HOPE Art, the Handmade Dresses Project benefits poorly-clothed orphan girls living in Haiti. This super easy sewing project is a great idea for Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, or Good Works value projects, depending upon your focus. A young woman could work on this project on her own or organize a service night for a Mutual activity.

The first batch of dresses was delivered in January, but more trips are planned for April and July.

HOPE Art Facepainting Project

Feel like being uplifted? Take a few moments and peruse the Project HOPE Art website, blog, and photos. If you’re going to spend time on the Internet, this site is a worthy candidate. I stumbled across it just a few minutes ago and knew I had to share. Enjoy!

Unique Value Project Idea: Blog Mania!

27 June 2011

I came across the fabulous blog, Mutual Insanity, ran by a young woman who’s been chronicling her journey through the Young Women program for over two years now.  Isn’t that a great title for a blog? Along with her blog she has tabs for mutual ideas, handout ideas, Girls’ Camp and more.

What a great project idea!

In fact, I think the initial set up of a blog (which can be pretty time-consuming depending on what you do) could count for a project in Knowledge, while running the blog for awhile could be a separate project for Individual Worth.

Lest the boys should feel neglected, this would be a creative way to fulfill some requirements for the Communications Merit Badge, which is required for Eagle, not to mention the Computers Merit Badge.

Another option for the boys is to create a blog to fulfill the hobby section of the Arts and Hobbies Bronze Award in the Venturing Program.

Gee, all this talk about blogging makes me want to start a blog!

Oh wait. I did that already. Nevermind.

Unique Service Project Idea: Ronald McDonald House

13 June 2011

What kid doesn’t love McDonald’s? Chicken McNuggets, Happy Meal toys, indoor playgrounds, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. What’s not to like?

Of course, your kids DO know about the Ronald McDonald House, right?

Come to think of it, I’m not sure my kids know about it. Hang on a minute…  Okay. Now they know. ;)

Anyway, there are lots of ways kids can help out their favorite clown and get in on the philanthropic action. Whether they want to serve from the security of their own home or make a trip to an actual House, there are lots of easy ways kids can get involved.

This is also a great way to fulfill service requirements (and a few extra requirements, depending on your chosen act of service) in the Faith in God, Personal Progress, Duty to God or Scouting programs. A handy list of links to those requirements is at the end of this post.

First, what can kids do to help?

* Collect or make greeting cards to donate to your local House. Homemade cards, new cards, or the fronts of used cards are all useful. Ronald McDonald House gives these to families, who can send them to their ill child or give them out as thank you notes.

* Collect pop tabs. Not all chapters participate in this program, so check first. Your local chapter will also be able to tell you if there are drop-off locations elsewhere in your community, or provide you with pop tab collection containers to place in new areas. This is a great way to help Houses raise much-needed funds.

* Provide service at the House. Contact your local House to see what they need. You can help serve meals, plant flowers or do some cleaning.

* Sponsor a food drive to help stock their pantry with non-perishable goods.

* Collect items for a community yard sale and donate the proceeds.

* Help prepare and serve dinner at the House.

* Plan an activity for the children living at the house, like a face-painting party or story hour.

* Bake homemade cookies, decorate them, and donate them to families staying at your local House.

* Wash the cars of the families staying at the House.

* Make quilts for the beds. Check with the House first to see what’s needed. Some Houses have nicely decorated, themed rooms (often donated to the House by individuals or groups) and so may not be in need of this.  Other Houses have worn bedding and would greatly appreciate something new and fresh!

The needs of these Houses is huge and varied. You’re bound to find something of interest to your son or daughter. For more information about Ronald McDonald House Charities or to find a local House, go to the official website right HERE.

Related LDS Youth Program and Scouting Program Requirements:

Faith in God – Serving Others requirement 1, 4, 7 and 8.

Tiger Cub Scout - Elective 11 and 12.

Wolf Cub Scout – Elective 9b/c.

Bear Cub Scout – Requirement 9a and Elective 21b.

All Cub Scouts – Citizenship belt loop requirement 3 and Reading and Writing pin requirement 2.

 

Personal Progress – Good Works requirement 6, or complete a 10-hour service project for the House to complete the Individual Worth Value Project or Good Works Value Project.

Boy Scouts – Second class rank requirement 5, Star rank requirement 4, and Life rank requirement 4.

This is a good idea for the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project if you turn it into something significant, perhaps raising funds in order to redecorate and update rooms at the Ronald McDonald House.

Citizenship in the Community merit badge requirement 7, which includes learning about a community service organization and donating at least 8 hours serving that organization.

Do service at the Ronald McDonald House as part of the requirements to earn the Boy Scout Special Award in honor of the late, great Jimmy Stewart, the James M. Stewart Good Citizenship award.

Venturing – Religious Life Bronze Award requirement 3, or choose Ronald McDonald House Charities as your organization to serve as part of the Venturing TRUST Award requirements.

Duty to God – Serve the Ronald McDonald House as part of the “Serve Others” requirements.

  1. While a Star Scout, take part in service projects totaling at least 6 hours of work. These projects must be approved by your Scoutmaster.

Unique Value Project Idea: The Sketchbook Project

24 July 2010

If you’re looking for a unique Value Project idea, check out The Sketchbook Project. Whether you’re an established artist or a working mom with scant artistic ability (ahem) or a young woman looking for a fun way to complete a Personal Progress requirement, I’m telling you, this is a fantastic idea.

Here’s how it works. You pick a theme and order a sketchbook. They mail it to you. You fill it with art, doodles or what have you. You send it back (usually by January 15 each year) and your super duper fantastic sketchbook becomes part of a literal (and sometimes traveling) library of sketchbooks.

Your sketchbook will go on tour.

Your sketchbook can be checked out at the sketchbook library.

Your sketchbook gets its own bar code so you can see who’s looking at it.

Now, how is that not completely awesome?

You don’t have to be an “artist” to participate. Your sketchbook will not be juried. This is just a way to express your thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and love for chocolate (or whatever) in a creative way.

I’m thinking this would make for a great Divine Nature or Individual Worth Value Project idea. Not to exclude the boys (or moms, ahem) this is a great idea for anyone. For a smaller-scale challenge, the same organization offers monthly sketchbook projects (with monthly themes).

Here’s a sampling of past sketchbook art:

everything is the same, by Wendy Cook

And Suddenly…#23, by Nicolas Healy  (see, boys can do it too!)

Solvent Transfer and Ink, by thermion7

From a million little, by Ashley Ivey.

What would you put in your sketchbook?

Gardening with Kids

12 April 2010

Naturally when I find a site with simple, straightforward tips for gardening with kids, the thing that appeals to me most is not the carrots and bush beans, but rather the sunflowers.

Two feet of growth in one month. That’s my kind of gardening.

Maybe that’s because my previous attempts at gardening have been consumed by brutal desert heat, hungry birds and a persistent gopher.

Oh yeah. And neglect. I’ve decided that the things which are allowed to grow in my yard are those things which can survive without any attention from me at all.

This includes the rose bushes strategically placed near the water runoff from my washer.

Along with the bougainvillea bush which apparently needs no more water than our Southwestern location naturally provides. It’s positively thriving, but with no help from me, I assure you.

Vegetative casualties include multiple vegetable gardens, three grapevines (soon to be four), plum trees and countless rose bushes planted in more unfortunate parts of our yard. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but you get the idea.

All of this is to say that part of me cringes every time I see a cub scout requirement for gardening. I sing praises of hallelujah whenever these requirements are done in the den. You gotta love those den leaders. If my children learn anything about gardening, it most likely won’t be from me.

So it’s not surprising that I found this short and encouraging tidbit on gardening with children so appealing.

I have visions of blooming sunflowers lining my back fence. Radishes and snow peas don’t do anything for me, but I was intrigued by their description of potatoes as a “never-fail” crop.

Are you sure? Have you seen my list of casualties?

Well, no matter. Perhaps it’s worth a try. If nothing else, the gopher will have something new to snack on.

Related LDS Youth and Scouting Program Requirements:

Tiger Cub Scout elective 30: “Plant a seed, pit or greens from something you have eaten.”

The first four (out of five) options for the Wolf Cub Scout elective 15 are: “Plant and raise a box garden; plant and raise a flower bed; grow a plant indoors; and plant and raise vegetables.” Completing all of elective 15, Grow Something, also counts toward the Cub Scout World Conservation Award (or “the Panda badge” as it’s known around my house).

Bear Cub Scout elective 12e: “Collect eight kinds of plant seeds and label them.” [My kind of gardening project. Ahem.]

Bear Cub Scout elective 14a: “With an adult, help take care of your lawn or flower beds or help take care of the lawn or flower beds of a public building, school, or church. Seed bare spots. Get rid of weeds. Pick up litter. Agree ahead of time on what you will do.”

Bear Cub Scout elective 14d: “Build a greenhouse and grow twenty plants from seed. You can use a package of garden seeds, or use beans, pumpkin seeds, or watermelon seeds.”

Personal Progress Faith Value Project idea: “Read Alma 32:28-43. Think of faith as a seed as you help plant, care for, and harvest a vegetable garden. Record in your journal how you can nourish, care for, and strengthen your family.”

Finally, the Gardening Merit Badge includes (you guessed it) gardening.

General Conference Packets and an Easter Treat

29 March 2010

Looking for General Conference packets for your kids?

The Church has a new website with a packet, bingo cards, coloring page and fun online matching games kids can play (one for the apostles and one for latter-day prophets). There’s also a handy topical guide to the previous conference as well as a quick link for leader biographies.

Magnify or Simplify is the originator of fabulous packets that spread through the email chains like wildfire. Her packets are pretty extensive and have lots of activities for children of all ages. She always updates to include the most current apostles as well. I’ll go ahead and say this is my favorite packet. ;)

Sugardoodle, naturally, has her own conference packet which (amazingly) is also available in Spanish or Portuguese.

For a cute, little preschool-aged packet, try here.

Now, you’re wondering about those delectable-looking rolls, aren’t you? Aren’t you?

Of course you are.

These rolls are a treat and an Easter lesson all rolled into one, with a little “magic” added in for good measure. We plan on making these Resurrection Rolls on Easter between sessions.

I. Can’t. Wait.

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t give you a little heads up about the following:

Faith in God Learning and Living the Gospel requirement 4: “Read [or watch] a recent conference address given by the prophet. Decide what you can do to follow the prophet, and do it.”

Personal Progress Faith requirement 1: “The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Learn about faith from the scriptures and living prophets. Read Hebrews 11, Alma 32:17–43, Ether 12:6–22, and Joseph Smith—History 1:11–20. Read two general conference talks on faith. Exercise your own faith by establishing a habit of prayer in your life. Begin by saying your morning and evening prayers regularly. After three weeks of following this pattern, discuss with a parent or leader what you have learned about faith and how daily personal prayer has strengthened your faith. In your journal express your feelings about faith and prayer.”

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