‘Sew, Wood you like to Cook?’

Published Aug 7, 2013 at 6:48 am (Updated Aug 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm)

Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania recently presented Emma Kathleen Williams of Mt. Lebanon with the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest recognition for achievement in Girl Scouting.

As a Girl Scout member for 13 years, Emma is a Girl Scout ambassador of Troop 50249. She was supported in her Gold Award effort by Stephanie Brown, Anna Cooke, Becky DeMarco, Marianne Donley, Hanna Edvardsson, Vivian Feng, Sue Gold, Melissa Gorski, Brittney Harty, Camden Jennings, Emily Lackner, Jenny Lane, Bella Patak, Jean Pivetz, Carly Repcheck, Gwen Satterfield, Mira Shenouda, Katy Wahl, Tori Withum, Judy Williams, Genevieve Williams and Barbara Zasadil, all of Mt. Lebanon.

Her Gold Award project, which she worked on from January 2012 through September 2012, stemmed from what Williams found to be a lack of basic home economics skills among grade school age children in her community. To help fill this void, she designed and held basic cooking, sewing and woodshop classes at St. Bernard School in Mt. Lebanon during the last two weeks of September 2012. The title of Williams’ project was “Sew, Wood You Like to Cook?” All classes were held free of charge.

These classes taught third through fifth grade students, both boys and girls, how to sew a coin pouch and button, make an apple turnover and construct a bird feeder. Each class was conducted twice, for a total of six classes, and lasted up to two hours, depending on the session.

“I not only wanted to expose the students to these life skills, but also use the classes as a way to build confidence in their own abilities,” Williams said, adding that the sewing classes were the hardest to teach because the thread tangled easily and required well-developed, fine motor skills.

“In order to demonstrate the sewing process, I created a giant version of the coin pouch using poster-board and orange yarn. This made it much easier to show the students what to do.”

Williams admitted that the cooking and wood shop classes were easier to teach, but all classes were equally enjoyable. Overall, she deemed it a truly satisfying experience.

“I am inspired by all of the positive feedback I received from the students and their parents. Many of the kids are now cooking and sewing at home, and some even asked for their own tool set for Christmas,” Williams said. “I am especially excited to have sparked an interest in woodworking for girls and of sewing and cooking for boys. I believe we sometimes overlook the importance of creativity and hobbies, and their ability to foster personal pride and determination.”

Williams spent more than 80 hours over several months preparing for her classes. The volunteers she recruited also contributed several dozen hours helping to bring her ideas to realization. After deciding what type of classes to offer, Williams observed a kids’ woodworking class at Home Depot in Village Square, Bethel Park, then secured a donation from the store for the birdfeeder kits needed for the classes. She also spent several hours with her cooking and sewing advisors determining what food to make, the type of project to sew, and what ingredients/materials were needed to create the apple turnovers and coin pouches. Trips to Giant Eagle and JoAnn Fabrics were taken to determine the cost and availability of materials. Williams also consulted with a nutritionist to prepare a talk about healthy eating that was presented to the students at the cooking classes. For the sewing and woodworking session, she recruited two friends to set up a table of sewing implements (including a sewing machine) and wood shop tools to further educate the students on practices and techniques.

In January, Williams met with Fr. Dave, pastor of St. Bernard Church and Mr. Wagner, principal at St. Bernard School, to gain permission to hold her classes at the school. In March, she sent an introductory letter to the parents of the third through fifth grade students to gauge their interest in the classes she was planning. Over the summer, Emma made each project – apple turnover, coin pouch and bird feeder – to see how much time it would take to complete and to work out any glitches, then created lesson plans for each class. To prepare for the sewing classes, she cut out the material for each individual coin pouch.

Recruitment and training of volunteers was also conducted before school resumed. In early September, after school began, Williams spoke to the students in each grade to generate enthusiasm for the classes. She then borrowed cooking implements, hammers and safety goggles from family, friends, neighbors and teachers as a way to minimize the cost of the project.

“This project required an enormous amount of time and attention to detail, but I learned a great deal about how to plan a lesson and manage a classroom,” Williams said. “I know both skills will serve me well in the future.”

“The Girl Scout slogan is ‘Do a good turn daily,’ and Emma truly lives by this phrase. She is a very positive person, and her zest for life is infectious,” said her parents, John and Judy Williams. “We are extremely proud of her accomplishment.”

Williams recently graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School where she was co-president of the Mt. Lebanon High School History Club, member of the National Honor Society, and varsity member of the Mt. Lebanon High School Forensics Team. She is currently working as a camp counselor/unit leader at Girl Scout Camp Singing Hills in Oil City, Pa.

This fall, Williams will attend The Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a double major in elementary education/special education.

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