By: Georgia Gilbert, East Syracuse/Minoa Area Service Unit Manager
Camping in Girl Scouts is a legacy. Girls have been doing it since the day of Juliette Low. But they didn’t do it and cannot continue to do it without outdoor trained adults. Our council offers outdoor training a couple times a year in various locations for volunteers who want to take their troops camping. For some adults the reason for not taking the class is because the timing never seems right and for others the thought of spending an overnight outdoors is too much. I was one of those that could not imagine spending the night outside with strangers. The only camping I had ever done was in Girl Scouts when I was a kid. My strongest memories of Girl Scouting were those camping trips to Camp Near Wilderness and Camp Hoover. As an adult I wanted the girls in my troops to have similar memories. But spending the night outside with people I didn’t know really stopped me in my tracks. I did eventually sign up for my first outdoor training because my girls wanted to go camping and the only way they could do it is if an adult was trained to take them. My thought was, “Girl Scout camp – it is what we do.” I shared a tent with three women I didn’t know at Camp Near Wilderness. It was a cold night in September and we were bundled up tight in our sleeping bags that night! As nervous as I was it turned out that I had a good time! I survived the night, learned a lot and became acquainted with other volunteers who were from my service unit. So, come that spring I signed up for the class at Camp Hoover to do it all over again! Although I camped at both camps many times as a girl I had not seen them with adult eyes. I didn’t hesitate to sign up for the spring class so that I could explore another camp.
Flash forward many years later and I am now an outdoor facilitator. It is the only training I do for the council because it is what I like to do the most. And for the same reason why I took it twice when I was a new leader – the laid-back structure of the class, the camaraderie with other adult Girl Scouts and the networking. Sometimes you just need to talk to other adults about Girl Scouting! Because the class is 24 hours we don’t have to rush from activity to activity. This gives facilitators time to answer questions and tell stories of their experiences taking girls camping. Volunteers learn what they need to take girls camping – how to light and put out a fire, of course, sing a few Girl Scout songs. The ones you knew the words to but had no idea about the tune! But they also gain so much more from the experience.
For volunteers who are new to camping, taking the outdoor training gives them a chance to experience what it is like to cook, clean up and sleep outdoors before doing it with the girls. Their biggest fear is how do we take girls out to the woods when we have no idea what we are doing! They gain a lot of confidence after learning how to light a fire, feed a group, and calm a homesick girl. For those that have camped a lot with their families it is a chance to camp the Girl Scout way. It isn’t mom and dad’s doing all the planning, the girls are and should be involved so in turn they also gain confidence. If anything, they learn the Girl Scout lingo! Such as what “BIFFY” or “Scout’s Own” mean!
Yes, way back when I took my first class I could have had another adult take the class to become our Troop Camper but I wanted to know what was going on, too. Although you only need one Troop Camper it is a good idea to have more adults trained so that they understand and can support why things are dong a certain way. Makes for a more cohesive team, as well!
The outdoor training is just plain fun! There is no better way to learn than to have fun while doing it. And for outdoor facilitators the most satisfying thing to hear a volunteer say, after taking the outdoor course is, “I am ready to take my girls camping!”