Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is Camping a Thing of the Past?

In my last post, I made a lighthearted list of all the things I learned from my years at Girl Scout summer camp. All kidding aside, I truly do believe that camp, whether experienced through a weekend trip with your troop or a week away at resident camp, is a crucial part of the Girl Scout journey.

So statements like the following tend to give me pause:
"Camps will always be a part of our mission. But girls aren't living in the past - they're living in the future." - Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA via New York Daily News
I'm not here to criticize - she's already taken more than her fair share. I understand where she's coming from - and absolutely agree that the Girl Scouting organization must be open to change to better serve girls' needs. But I hate the perception that camping is some antiquated, outdated notion with no relevance to today's generation of girls and women. I think that's a very narrow view, to assume that the Girl Scout camp experience is only about teaching how to build a fire or tie a knot.

I think camp is just as valuable to today's young women as the girls of yesteryear. Maybe even more so, as camp provides a safe haven away from the noise of today's world - a place to develop valuable skills without pressure or analysis.

Hidden amongst the lanyards and S'mores and campfire songs, I feel girls gain so much more:

  • Planning and organization skills, the type that can only be gained through the existence of natural consequences. Just ask any girl who forgot to bring her spoon or her poncho (she'll be easy to spot - she's the one wearing a leftover garbage bag.)
  • Teamwork and accountability. Just ask any girl who dropped the ball with her kapers and got stuck cleaning the bathroom.
  • Independence. Just ask any girl who's suffered through waves of homesickness and ended the week smiling.
  • Willingness to learn. Just ask any girl who has picked up a bow and arrow or hopped on a horse.
  • Patience. Just ask any girl who had to get up for 3rd time in a night to go to the bathroom with a buddy.
  • Communication skills. Just ask any girl who's shared a canoe or served as an aide.
  • Problem-solving. Just ask any girl who's navigated her way along a trail or negotiated a cease-fire between two friends.
  • Confidence. Just ask any girl who's tackled the ropes course.
  • Courage. Just ask any girl who confronted a fear at camp, whether it's handling a pocketknife or braving a thunderstorm.
Maybe it's just me - but that list reads like the job requirements for today and tomorrow's leader. 

We can talk about self-esteem until we're blue in the face - or we can actually set up the building blocks for a healthy self-esteem.

Likewise, I feel like we spend a lot of time teaching girls about how to protect the environment. But how can we ever expect them to embrace the spirit of conservation and activism until they've had the opportunity to experience and appreciate nature?

Camping doesn't have to be the sole focus of Girl Scouting, but to look at it as an outdated thing of the past is doing a disservice to today's Girl Scouts (and future generations).

1 comment:

  1. I have to be honest, I dont love the latest direction of Girl Scouting. I wish we would go back to basics instead of focusing primarily on grooming girls to be (business) leaders. I agree that leadership skills can be learned in a camp setting, it doesn't all have to be in a business setting!