If somebody asks you the important question, WHY do we need an Outdoor Journey in Girl Scouting?... you can say:
10 REASONS WE NEED MORE OFFICIAL OUTDOOR PROGRAM IN GSUSA - version 1.
1. We need more official program support for the Camp Pathway in Girl Scouting as part of the GSLE: Girl Scout Leadership Experience. It is an important part of Girl Scouting today. The reason: Girls naturally learn about leadership when camping and doing outdoor activities. They also learn important life skills, how to relate to others, conflict resolution, group living, courage, and confidence. Plus, when troops are in the outdoors camping, they do so for more than a few hours at a time, camping for weekends or longer, which is so good for girls. But by not being official, it is not offering what girls and leaders need: direction, focus, instruction, and support.
2. New leaders may not have gone camping as girls, so they need a good official Program to follow when camping with their girls. Good direction from National plus an informative Journey book about it will help a lot with this. New leaders need structure, and they need step-by-step instructions. The current Journeys' limited focus on the outdoors will lead to less and less troops going outdoors at all. And to less and less girls enrolling in Girl Scouting too. The outdoors are part of what makes Girl Scouting special. New leaders need direction from National. An official Outdoor Journey would provide that. In fact, I think it would be very popular, and the Journey books for this would be hard to keep in stock! GSUSA would find a great opportunity to get needed funds because of this. Adding Outdoor Badges would also be a plus. Demand for outdoor equipment would mean a return of these items to the National Catalog as well.
3. Girl Scout camps are a wonderful resource for girls. They provide a safe, sheltered place in which to learn about science, the importance of conservation, animals, history, plants, trees, nature, self-reliance, working in a group, and so much more. Not having enough outdoor program for these camps will result in losing precious Girl Scout resources for the girls of the future. I believe that this process of losing camps has already begun.
4. Girl Scout traditions are important. They link Girl Scouts to all their sisters who were in the movement before, and to all the Girl Scouts of the future. Many Girl Scout traditions can take place in the outdoors, such as Scout's Owns, singing around the campfire, hiking, Wide Games, and more. Participating in these important traditions help girls feel accepted and part of the group.
5. Volunteers are important in Girl Scouting. They help girls with troops, special events, and trainings. Taking away official Outdoor Program is already having negative consequences. I believe that unless a new Outdoor Journey is offered soon, the situation will lead to more volunteers leaving to start other organizations for girls, (which many have already done) or they may just quit, which will lead to less volunteer help for GSUSA as well. Many volunteers grew up with official Girl Scout program. They like it, and will support it.
6. Official Outdoor Program can help girls who are from the city be able to experience nature. True, a nearby park has trees in it too. But a Girl Scout camp is generally lots bigger, and allows for a personal experience and connection with nature too. That connection can only happen when a girl can experience nature up close. Also, girls can look forward to more and more adventure and the excitement of advancing their skills and becoming more self-reliant with each new outdoor experience. Girls who come from low-income and middle-income families need Girl Scouting to offer all kinds of outdoor experiences, including day and established camps. Official Program will support this more, because it is needed. Private camps are thriving and growing. Girl Scout camps can thrive and grow too, with enough official GSUSA support.
7. The activities of the existing Journeys do not include more than one skill-building series (one badge per grade level) for Girl Scout girls. When you compare this to the many choices that used to be available for Girl Scout girls in earlier times, you will see that something very important is now missing in official Program. Think: hiking, canoeing, nature studies, star gazing/astronomy, animals and nature, nature crafts, Native American lore and studies, archaeology and anthropology, horses, outdoor creativity, swimming, history, Girl Scout traditions, weather studies, plant study, outdoor surroundings, sailing, Earth Science, outdoor living, camping and troop camping, storytelling, outdoor cooking, and more no longer offered for girls, it is easy to see that these things are missing. They need to be offered as choices for girls again. This was an oversight that can now be fixed.
8. Girls like awards. If given a chance, they want to excel and do whatever they can to learn and grow. Outdoor activities with real, official rewards are very limited now. Due to this, there will be less and less girls and leaders who want to even try being in the outdoors. There needs to be a chance for girls and troops who like the outdoors (and I think most do) to apply their skills and learning towards the highest honors in Girl Scouting, the Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards. Right now, this option is quite limited.
9. Councils across the country will be able to show success in their programming and retention numbers because girls will not need to leave Girl Scouting to join Venturing, which offers lots of outdoor program and awards for girls. Having more outdoor program will be more fun for girls, and also provide excitement and High Adventure, which many girls want.
10. Good health comes from being outdoors. There are many studies, and new groups that recognize this. Check the files section at the Outdoor Journey Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/outdoor.journey/files/ to see all the new research happening that support what Juliette Gordon Low, our Founder, knew from the beginning. Boy Scouts still realize this too. But we need more support and guidance for what we believe, to help new Girl Scouts get healthy. Obesity, ADHD, these things are improved when young people get outdoors. Physical and mental health improvement happens in the out of doors. So we need to help Girl Scout girls – all girls - get there. We did in the past, so we can again, using our wonderful past resources (updated for safety) that Girl Scouts used with great results. We have the infrastructure; we can use it more often, and wisely. Many Councils use their own resources still today. This needs to be National too.
What makes Girl Scouting special? It’s the Girl Scout Camps. It’s the Sisterhood of all Girl Scouts. It’s the listening to each other with respect and caring. It’s the special spirit that comes from knowing that our group is special and worth supporting.
Girl Scouting is not about changing just to change things. It’s about keeping what is tried and true.
Yes, sometimes it’s good to tweak things a bit. But we must not forget what Juliette Low, our Founder, wanted Girl Scouting to be. It was to be the group that included every girl. The group that allowed girls of all walks of life to experience the wonders of the outdoors. The group that welcomed new thoughts, all races and religions. The group that cherished the last wild places, and helped to introduce nature and the camping life to girls from all over, from the country, and from the city.
This group has been in the forefront of change, justice and environmental activism for a long time.
Let’s not let the Girl Scouting fire go out, and our wonderful Girl Scouting Movement fade away with it.
A new, official Outdoor Journey will help to fix what is broken right now, and support girls, now and in the future.
Let’s TAKE ACTION and get this message out there today.
- E. Sheppard
IMPORTANT: Invite your Girl Scout friends to join in letting YOUR Council, your Board of Directors, your CEO, and your 2014 National Council Delegates and Alternates know that an Outdoor Journey should be added to the National Girl Scout Program by GSUSA.