By Meridith Orr, Program Executive
“All Girl Scouts like the out-of-doors and most of them enjoy it still more if they know something about the things they find there.” — From the Girl Scouts Handbook for the Intermediate Program, October 1940
“…camping is living in the out-of-doors, not just visiting it.” Worlds to Explore Handbook for Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts, 1977
I was never what anyone would call an “outdoorsy” kid growing up. And if I ever saw a bug, lizard, snake or other crawling thing, I would gasp and run away at warp speed.
Now, after working in the Girl Scout program for a few years, I am a different person.
For example, one evening as I saw something slither across my porch my only thought was, “Is that a lizard or a salamander?” while I turned my key in the front door.
THAT, my friends, is the power of Girl Scouting.
Not only do we help prepare girls to take on the world as future leaders, we build girls who can be comfortable with the outdoors and have fun experiences even if they hadn’t been a fan of nature before. We also help build adults’ outdoor confidence as well!
Take, for instance, a day at the office when we needed to set up a bunch of rain-soaked tents out in the sun to dry and asked our co-workers for some help. As we congratulated ourselves on a big task made easier by many generous hands, one staff member said she felt more accomplished having just learned how easy it is to put up a tent – something she might not have ever learned how to do had she not worked for Girl Scouts.
“It’s the magic of our movement,” I tell people. Just a few experiences have the power to transform everyone, because of our program’s emphasis on adventure and fun. There’s just something about this Girl Scout game of ours that makes people want to step out of their comfort zone and try something new, and we find ourselves better for it. It’s been going on for more than 100 years.
The early handbooks provide guidance on introducing girls to nature by prescribing skill development such as: knowing the flowers and growing a garden, learning what lives in fresh water and in the sea, identifying rocks and minerals, identifying land animals, birds and insects; to identifying stars and other objects in the sky.
In “The Out of Doors” instructions are provided for traveling by foot, what to wear and where to go, what to carry, taking the Girl Scout Law with you, reading trails and signs, making maps without a compass, and eating on the trail, with recipes.
And so it goes today. Our legacy Naturalist badges in the Girl’s Guide To Girl Scouting include: Bugs, Flowers, Trees and Sky (Girl Scout Brownie – Senior levels). The activities for these badges are virtually the same as in the early handbooks. And to help get troops started on these experiences, we connect them to events such as the Brownie Bug Out to get girls used to insects and other crawling things. Those events typically happen at museums and gardens throughout our 41-counties. Check our council event guide and program provider resource for opportunities near you.
Want to see more? There’s a Badge Explorer online at our national web site: http://www.girlscouts.org/en/our-program/badges/badge_explorer.html.
Here, you’ll be able search by topic and preview the activities for accomplishing all our Outdoor Education and Nature-themed badges. And soon, more Girls’ Choice badges will be added to include camping adventure activities and scientific exploration of the outdoors!
Transform your Girl Scouts and yourself, by taking a walk outside and trying some of these badges! And then share your stories with using the Story Submissions link!