Rocking the Mall with the Girl Scouts and SWAPS

If you’re reading this on Saturday June 9 I am at the Rock the Mall event in Washington DC with Bill, our daughter Sophie, her Girl Scout troop and Girl Scouts from all over the US celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. We are trying to break the world’s record for the most people at a singalong and we’re probably doing the cast of thousands flash mob that Sophie and I have been rehearsing while watching the YouTube tutorial. Most likely I’ve already forgotten the moves because I’m not good at memorizing choreography. I don’t have “the moves like Jagger” sadly. But more than likely I’m having a very memorable day that will stick in our family’s memories for a long, long time. There’s a live webcast of the festivities if you want to see what’s going on.

For a number of reasons I never had the opportunity to join Girl Scouts as a child so it’s been fun to learn about their rituals and customs through our daughter. My favorite ritual is SWAPS. SWAPS stands for Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere. Troops often trade SWAPS with other troops but we have been preparing SWAPS for any girl scouts that we meet in DC. SWAPS are customarily handmade crafts that are supposed to be made with simple materials by the scout. Typically the SWAPS tell something about the troop but in this case, they can also commemorate this very special event. Usually they include a safety pin that the girl can pin on her vest.

Sophie and I reviewed Pinterest for ideas and discussed materials she could use. We have a 12 hr ride to DC so we’ve packed up a box of supplies that she can use in the van to assemble as many SWAPS as she has the energy for. Pony beads, ribbons and such are the mainstays of SWAPS but we decided ShrinkyDinks would be perfect because they are rigid and you can write words that remind the recipient of the event.

A few minutes with a Girl Scout green Sharpie, a hole punch, a corner round trimmer (oh such a useful tool) and a few minutes in the oven yielded a nice tray of medallions that she’ll attach with ribbon to the safety pins. She even made two to surprise the troop leaders with once we’re on the Mall.

Here’s why I love this whole idea. It’s about sharing yourself. SWAPS are about making something small to give to someone you don’t know. They are handmade of simple materials. There’s no technology involved and you have to use all of your fingers, not just your thumbs, which are the only fingers that get much use in the texting-gaming generations. I know that adults swap Artists’ Trading Cards and I have long wanted to participate in an exchange but as a designer there’s a little pressure to make it beautiful and different so as not to disappoint anyone. I can’t not put a lot of time and thought into it. These SWAPS have no ridiculous such baggage associated with them. Sophie drew quickly on the ShrinkyDinks and made 24 in 20 minutes. The etiquette is that if someone asks you to swap a SWAPS, you don’t refuse. Love that. It’s about sharing your craft and in turn a bit of yourself. Don’t all of us need a little bit more of that?

4 Comments

  1. Mary ann
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I can’t wait to see the photos. And such wonderful, happy family memories you are making together. Clever SWAPS idea, I háček always wanted to do the artist card swap too but am intimidated because I am not a designer and would struggle with where to start!

  2. Phoebe
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    What a fun idea! And it looks like yours were travel friendly too. Some friends and I are doing a “handmade” swap this year, and I’ve had fun planning what I would make for each person.

  3. holley
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Love the swaps. I also was ot a girl scout for a variety of reasons, but have enjoyedlearing about girl scouts with my daughter.

    I hope you had a great time today.

  4. wendy dixon
    Posted August 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just read this blog post of June 9th (catching up on Google Reader). I was a Michigan Girl Scout who went to the Round-Up in Button Bay Vermont celebrating Girl Scouting’s 50th anniversary. We made items to swap also and the making of them and the various items received are among my fondest memories. Like Sophie, I had a supportive mother who helped me to have the materials to create!


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