Girl Scout troop

Local Girl Scout Troop 6128 gave Harold W. Smith Elementary School’s staff lounge a fresh, “zen” look for a service project and as a thank-you for teachers’ work during the pandemic.

Tarrah Bernabe, the troop leader and principal for this project, said that while she didn’t influence them, she was glad they chose her school. She was impressed with the leadership and problem-solving skills the girls displayed.

“It was really their project. They’re the ones who developed the idea,” Bernabe said. “They basically only needed myself and our co-leader to drive them to places, because they’re in sixth and seventh grade. They did the painting, the arranging, made all the decisions, kept track of the money, spoke to the managers at the stores and wrote the emails. I just copied and pasted the emails. They did all that with our help, of course, just with things that adults are needed to do, but as an educator, seeing children take the lead, solve a problem and do such a beautiful job was inspiring.”

Ella Manchie, a troop member and seventh grader at Garden Lakes Elementary School, said they needed 60 hours of community service to earn their Silver Award. The girls were asked to think about problems in the community that they could contribute a sustainable solution to and landed on the topic of the stress of COVID-19 not just on students but on teachers.

“We realized that teachers didn’t really have the greatest year with COVID, so we decided we wanted to do something nice for the new school year,” Manchie said. “We chose Ms. Tarrah’s (school) because we could do it with her and because their teacher lounge was a little bit sad.”

The troops designed their own Google survey, with each member picking a question to ask, and sent it out to teachers. The overwhelming response was that teachers wanted more stocking and a “zen” or “spa” space, and that’s what the girl scouts gave them.

One of the first things they did was a massive reorganization of the supply closet, printer room and teacher work room.

“We felt that before, all the papers and everything in the workroom was crammed in random places. There was a whole drawer filled with one pen. So, we decided to do that because we figured it might be nice,” Manchie said. “The supply closet was somewhat organized, but we wanted to make it more than it was at the time. Then we sorted out all the supplies that the teachers asked for and delivered them to each classroom.”

To give teachers that relaxing “zen” space, the girls pooled their resources and reached out to the community. They called businesses and received donations of around $400 worth of supplies from Lowe’s and spray cans from ACE Hardware. The troops were charged with speaking to the business owners as well as collecting and handling the money. They thrifted furniture items, upcycled the existing furniture, repainted and added greenery to make the space more inviting and relaxing.

“They put everything together. They did some painting. They rearranged the furniture and the items that were in there,” Bernabe said. “Then they also created some things from scratch. One of the most memorable things that the teachers have commented on is the customized artwork that’s in the lounge. Each of the girls had their own canvas and they created a piece of artwork, and those are hung throughout the room.”

While the Girl Scouts couldn’t be present for the big reveal, Manchie said they received letters from the teachers thanking them for their work and saying that “they loved it.” She said it also felt rewarding for them to see their changes, and they were all happy with the outcome. The troops put in over 60 hours of work, and all received their Silver Cadet badge.

As for Bernabe, she is a happy principal and proud troop leader.

“This lounge has been a beautiful escape for (teachers) to come together and build community with one another. Being a teacher is hard. Working in education is hard work. It’s nice to be able to have a place where we can go to giggle or we can just sit down and breathe and have a few minutes in a room that was designed just for us to recharge. When I asked the girls why this was important, they said, ‘Because when teachers feel good, they’re nice to kids,’ and that’s well said. When teachers feel good, they’re a better version of themselves for the kids.”