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Connecting Girls with the Outdoors Through Camp
by Wendy Fachon
For a parent evaluating summer camps for a daughter, the Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England (GSSNE) offers an empowering experience, with activities designed especially for girls. The camp environment is positive, inclusive and courage-building, which supports leadership development. The camp is accredited by the American Camp Association and is a safe place for girls to be themselves while they discover and grow together.
GSSNE summer camp’s friendly environment makes it the ideal way to get started in Girl Scouting. Girls pledge themselves to be a sister to every other girl, and they honor that pledge. When a new girl registers for camp, she becomes a Girl Scout member and a sister. When she attends camp, she meets girls from all over the region and from different backgrounds. The first day of camp is like the first day of school, and camp leaders focus on initiating the bonds of friendship. Relationships strengthen throughout the duration of camp and later in the school year as girls reconnect with camp friends at other council events.
The Girl Scouts day camp and overnight camp programs offer a wide choice of experiences. Meghan Kampper, GSSNE staff member and mother of two Girl Scouts, explains, “When girls choose their camp experiences, they find themselves with girls that have common interests.” Themes range from Iron Chefs campout cooking and Pottermore magical adventures to Challengers ropes course traversing and Tribute Training survival skill-development and alliance-building. Among the program choices are many opportunities to master outdoor skills, such as fire building, camouflage, archery, shelter building, outdoor art, rock climbing, paddling, sailing and more. Specific programs are listed and described in the 2018 Camp Guide, which available on the GSSNE website.
Girl Scouting continues to provide programs for outdoor and leadership learning throughout the school year. Troops of all age levels can participate in the Outdoor Journey series, in which the girls earn badges and complete a Take Action service project to benefit the environment. Through these activities girls learn how to embrace the part of the Girl Scout Law that states: “use resources wisely, make the world a better place.”
By sixth grade, when most Girl Scouts have gained sufficient outdoor skills, the council invites troops to engage in a weekend competition camping event called T.R.E.C., which stands for Teens Reaching Extraordinary Challenges. Teams compete in a number of activities, such as fire-building, lashing, orienteering, cooking on a vagabond stove, knot tying, sawing and campsite inspections.” Participants are judged on speed, accuracy and other requirements. Team members learn how to play up the strengths of their team mates. Troop Leader Karen King explains, “T.R.E.C. helps the girls develop comradery, sportsmanship, team-building and problem-solving skills, which are all leadership development.”
Girl Scouts has a successful history of getting girls outdoors, and many of them express that camping is the highlight of their Girl Scouting experience. Connecting with nature in a girl-led setting is a big part of belonging to Girl Scouts, where members learn an ethic of care as environmental stewards. GSSNE has five beautiful camp properties (Camp Cookie in Chepachet; Camp Hoffman and Camp Green Forest in West Kingston; Camp Promising Acres in Swansea; and Camp Rocky Farm in Newport) that afford the opportunity to make lifelong memories. Day camp bus transportation is arranged for most towns and is included in the camp fee. Parents can find more information and register online at gssne.org. Families new to Girl Scouts are encouraged to attend the Open House at Camp Hoffman, located at 2850 Ministerial Road, in West Kingston, at 2 p.m., May 20.
Wendy Fachon is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings.