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Girl Scouts has a long history of getting girls outdoors. Being outside is invigorating, and helps girls connect with the world around them. It’s also a nice break from being stuck in a classroom or behind a desk all day. Girl Scouts are stewards of the environment, and twice as likely to take action to protect it, because the outdoors is at the core of all we do. From hiking through nature and field trips to the wilderness to volunteering for causes related to the environment, there are so many ways to get outside and explore the world around you.
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Getting outside doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I’ve heard it a million times from adults, “I’m not an outdoorsy person” or “I’m more of a hotel camper.” That’s okay, and trust me, you’ll likely change your opinion once you experience your first awesome hike with your group of girls. With the help of your energetic girls, you have a massive opportunity to reconnect with the outdoors as you experience the world through their eyes. And I’m here to help you get from where you are now to a memorable outdoor experience with your girls.
I’ve been camping with Girl Scouts since 1980. I started as a day camper, went to overnight camp, completed the Counselor-in-Training program, worked as seasonal camp staff, and then started my career as a camping professional in 1999. One lesson I’ve learned working with girls outdoors: if their first experience is a positive one, they’re hooked for life. If you’re thinking about going outside and picturing a three-day camping trip, I see why that may seem overwhelming—that’s a big first step. So to help you with the process, I’ll be writing a blog post about once a month on fun and easy ways to move through the Girl Scout Outdoor Progression Chart.
If you haven’t seen GSUSA’s Outdoor Progression Chart before, it’s a wicked awesome graphic that documents a helpful progression path of outdoor activities and skills, so you know what kinds of outdoor adventures you and your girls are ready for. Take a look at the chart and think about where you and your girls are on the chart now. What’s your current comfort level outside? Is it a little different when you’re outside with a group of girls? Once you find your place on the chart, take it step by step, and you’ll be getting outside with your girls in no time. The trick is to make sure your activity matches your comfort level and then reach beyond that level every so often to get outside of your comfort zone. Just remember, safety first, fun second, but always fun! With this chart in mind, let’s get outside together, one step at a time.
Pro Tip: There are some amazing tools to help you get outside with your girls on GSUSA’s website. From videos of how to put up at tent to songs to sing around the campfire, there is so much information on GSUSA’s Outdoor Resources section.
Step 1: Look Out!
What does that mean? It may seem simple, but looking at what’s outside is a very important step to going outside. Looking out will help you plan for going out and what to expect when you get there. What’s the weather like? What should I wear? What will I see? Who lives there? What does this outdoor place sound like? These are all important questions to explore before journeying outside.
Here are four easy ways for you to get your girls to Look Out:
Share past outdoor experiences.
Ask the girls to think back to a time when they had a lot of fun outside. Storytelling can be a great way for girls to share an outdoor experience. Maybe create a spot at your meeting that looks like a campfire, then have the girls sit around it and tell stories of a cool outdoor trip or activity they remember going on with their family or friends. Where was it? What did they do? Would they go back to this outdoor place again? If they could go back, what would they do different? Do they think the whole group would like to try this kind of outdoor experience?
Talk about favorite outdoor places and why they’re special.
An outdoor show-and-tell is another way to Look Out with your girls. Ask girls to bring an item or picture from their last outdoor experience or even family vacation and talk about it. Have each girl show what she has brought and tell the group how it relates to her favorite outdoor place.
Wonder what else can be seen in the outdoors.
If you have to be indoors and talking about the outdoors, a cool activity to try is creating animal masks. Before you meet up, gather some of the outdoors and bring it inside. Ask the girls to think of a specific environment or habitat, like an ocean, lake, desert, or maybe even the mountains. Then give the girls paper plates and some glue or tape to create a mask that would help them blend in or camouflage themselves in this environment. The best part is, this mask making activity can be elaborate with lots of time and materials or as simple as drawing on paper with markers or crayons.
Virtual Looking Out
Another way to Look Out is to look at picture of the world around you. Here in Northern California, there are lots of great outdoor organizations who post beautiful pictures of the local land. Checking out some of these sites with your girls may start a conversation or lead to an idea for the next step in outdoor progression…Meet Out!
Make sure you check out these sites and Instagram accounts for some breathtaking nature photos:
- GSNorCal’s Instagram
- Midpen Regional Open Space Instagram
- National Park Service’s Website
- California’s Department of Parks and Recreation’s Website
- Latino Outdoors’ Instagram
- Outdoor Afro’s Instagram
- American Hiking Society’s Instagram
Look Out is the perfect place to start on your journey outdoors. Hopefully, you found this information helpful and are now able to take the first step in getting your girls to explore the outdoors. Thank you for taking the time to step outside of your comfort zone and encouraging your girls to explore the world around them. If you have any great ways to Look Out or ideas for Meet Out, please share them in the comments section below—I’d love to hear them! Until next time, Happy Trails!
What to do next:
- The 2019 Camp Brochure is now available, find the program right for your girl on our camp website!
- Looking for related reads? Check out our other blog posts about getting outdoors with your Girl Scouts!
- From setting up a campsite to outdoor songs, GSUSA’s Outdoor Resources page has tons of helpful how-to videos.
- Don’t forget to share your favorite outdoor experience in the comments section below, and keep an eye out for my next blog post!
Mary-Jane Strom—Mary-Jane is the Senior Director of Camps & Adventure at Girl Scouts of Northern California as well as a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, joining as a Brownie and completing her Gold Award in 1991. Mary-Jane fell in love with the outdoors and camping at a young age after her aunt sent her to Girl Scout camp as a birthday present. Mary-Jane has spent every birthday since at camp, returning summer after summer after summer. When not at camp, Mary-Jane enjoys a variety of other outdoor activities, like open water swimming and running.