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  • Outdoors

    Why isn't the Outdoors central to the GSA program?

  • #2
    I don't know about GSA, but GSUSA has gutted the outdoor program for a few reasons:

    1) There are no "methods" to Girl Scouting. National lives in NYC and is trapped in the NYC liberal bubble. They have little connection with actual Girl Scouts or leaders/advisors other than to get flaming e-mail about program materials or ugly stuff in the catalogue.

    2) In the 80s, when I was a youth member, I noticed a swing towards career exploration and women's rights/empowerment. This was just after the defeat of the ERA and the rise of the Reagan Revolution. Girl Scouts seemed to become a feminist place of retreat. Apparently, uber-feminists (since most of us are actually feminist and don't know it) don't camp, kayak, sail, climb, hike, cave, canoe, etc.

    3) As a country, this was also the time when more women were going to work full time and who wants to take a vacation where you cook, clean, and live rough? We started vacationing at cabins, resorts, and beach houses with maids. We've lost a generation of women with outdoor skills and successfully scared the beejeebers out of dads, who might be willing to help, with highly anti-male rules and regulations.

    4) Don't mention a pit-latrine around most girls. They are absolutely committed to hot showers every day. Our GS leaders gave in to hair dryers and makeup on campouts. Spa parties are very popular. Because we recruited warm bodies and didn't have any expectations, program, or even methods, we got warm bodies with lukewarm skills who created lukewarm troops with lukewarm activities and lukewarm connections to the outdoors. Our membership also skews young with the big bulge at 2nd and 3rd grade. Many of our leaders in that age group have told me they are just so unsure of their abilities and don't want any of the girls to get hurt. Our camping training is laughable.

    5) Girl Scouts has been higgledy-piggledy, flip-flopping trying to attract girls who would never be Girl Scouts instead of actually serving the wants and needs of registered Girl Scouts. Many events are indoor oriented because careers are generally indoor oriented. I got so sick of career exploration. If it's outdoors it's probably an environmental event because you can't go outdoors for the fun of it.

    6) Our councils are not user friendly and many were in financial distress before the last round of mergers. We're in an administrative mess. Camps and gear are the first to go and last to be replaced.

    7) Outdoor adventure is something many councils simply can't deliver because they don't have anyone working there who knows what to do and what to look for in establishing an outdoor adventure program.

    8) Lastly, National got sick of hearing that the top three words associated with Girl Scouts were: cookies, crafts, and camping. They set about purposely to change that association. However, every little girl I talk to about being a Girl Scout wants to do three things: sell cookies, do cool crafts (pottery wheels come up often), and go camping. So, bit of a disconnect there.


    • #3
      When I was at college, I noticed a big dichotomy between two groups I noticed: One group of girls who'd been in Girl Scouts "loved it." "We canoed and went bike camping, went rock climbing and hiking. " The other group
      : "it was okay. We made crafts and talked about being women."
      I thought "What gives?" I got married, and immediately had a step-daughter. I took her to a Girl Scout recruiting event. She asked about camping, and got such a lame answer, that she never wanted to join. So, anyway, how does it get "fixed?"


      • #4
        I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately myself. My sister-in-law was a Girl Scout through the Silver Award and went camping and did ropes courses, etc. But my wife didn't do anything outdoors as a Girl Scout. It seems that the Troops just folded right and left because no one was recruiting or providing an exciting program for the girls.

        If GSUSA instated a training program for adults leaders that incorporated something similar to the BSA's intro to Outdoor Leadship Skills that wasn't "lame," I think more troops would recognize the fun in camping, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, etc. Also, restrictions on male participation (particularly fathers!) should be relaxed. I realize that GSUSA doesn't control this and that some troops have decided to exclude men from outings on a local level. Dads want to do things with their daughters and many dads were Boy Scouts and enjoyed camping and have outdoors experience.

        I'm not familiar with advancement within GSUSA but if there were equivalents to the Camping, Wilderness Survival, Hiking, Cycling Merit Badges, Girl Scouts might be more motivated to go outside and go camping. Female Venturers like high adventure. Women like to go outdoors. Why aren't these women Girl Scouts leaders? Is it an image thing?


        • #5
          Advancement in GSUSA? Doesn't exist anymore. They just got rid of all the IPs, Junior Badges, Try-Its and the like. Replaced everything with "Journeys" and some associated badges that are nowhere near the breadth and scope of previous ones. My daughter is 12 (with a twin brother in Boy Scouts) and can't wait to get into Venturing since the program materials put out by GS National are so soft and "girly". Lots of chatting and group-think but no real goals or milestones AT ALL. The only thing close are the Silver and Gold Awards which are akin to the Eagle project (and in the Gold case, maybe even harder).

          IMHO, the only way to get a fulfulling GS experience for a girl who enoys the outdoors is luck upon a GS leader who has the same focus and tailors the troop experience that way. There is NOTHING in the GSUSA program that encourages or promotes a real outdoor experience that I can tell.

          In my daughter's troop, I lead hikes that follow the local BSA Council's hiking series and the girls eat them up...get consistent 50+% turnout on 6-10 mile hikes with 1500-2250 ft. of gain. We throw in geocaching, some trail food prep, and it's a blast. As I say though...nothing in the program to encourage it.

          We're also lucky that we're 2 hours from the Sierras and there are some GS camps up there that really do a great summer program. My daughter did 3 days of backpacking last year with bear bags, water purification and sleeping under the stars...loved it. But again, you've got to be lucky to have self-motivated volunteers to do these types of things.


          • #6
            Not in GS but I have a trainer that does training for both BS & GS.. I am surprised about the training issue, because she tells me the training is much more encompassing in GS.. She does the medical training, and talks about some survival course where they have to survive on what they find in the woods.. Berries & roots & create a make-shift shelter from nature etc.. Somewhere in it she does a first aid course that is like 5 times better then the time we allot her to cover first aid in IOLS..

            I do have a feeling though that while the training covers a large territory (maybe like a council training rather then a district training).. The participant registration is small.. But, it sounded like if the GS took advantage of it, there was better training then offered in the BS.. Just many don't take advantage of it..


            • #7
              You get the training that the trainers are qualified to give. Do not ask for the national syllabus to any sort of training. A bare bones one is created then the councils have an enourmous amount of leeway in what they can add. There are not even nationwide titles for the training.

              As for how to fix your daughter's troop, I can only say that if your daughter wants a more fulfilling GS experience, you have to be willing to make it happen and probably drag along some naysayers for a while. You also have to be willing to make things happen at the neighborhood level and go to bat at Council.

              For middle school and up, GS now has the Travel and Series pathway, limited time groups that focus on a single trip or type of activity--kind of like a Council crew for one of the HA bases. These are mandated by National, but most councils are at a loss of how to consistently implement these two pathways outside the career development model. If you are a backpacker, and your daughter wants to backpack with GS, volunteer to run a backpacking series pathway. Lack of personal outdoor experience/skill is the number one reason leaders don't do things with the girls.


              • #8
                What are some things that Cub Scout and Boy Scouts could learn from GS?

                I keep hearing about GS emphasis on learning about different careers --- perhaps Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts should do more of that outside of the Merit Badge program --- just as one example.


                • #9
                  Seattle.. BITE YOUR TONGUE !!! now let go, and then bite it again!!!

                  Horrid idea!! There is already too much of a preference for some Packs & Troops to be more school oriented and less outdoors and fun oriented.. Those types of troops are boring the scouts out..

                  The GS are failing due to the emphisis on work, and the lack of outdoor fun.. Girls want to be Boy Scouts, because Girl Scouts don't do what they do..

                  The Merit Badges are plenty sufficient to explore possible career opportunities..


                  • #10
                    GS are just like the BS....the value of the program is greatly dependent on the leader. The GS (at least in our Council) have outdoor programs that rival anything the BS have locally. Horses, backpacking, ocean sailing to name a few of the interest groups that the girls can join and participate in outside their troops. If a boy belongs to troop that does little backpacking he can not simply join a council wide backpacking club. I do not understand the bashing that GS receive. If your daughter's troop is not doing what you think that girls want to do then get involved and change it. On the flip side I do have to agree that National has morphed way too many times!!!


                    • #11
                      Just for the heck of it I did a search on the local GS council in my area:

                      It looks like they had a "Troop Camp" with activities much like our BSA district fall camporee back in September. Also, there's a "Girls Vs Wild" event coming up in November. Apparently, it used to be called "Badgerland Trekkers: Outdoor Skills." So what I'm gleaning from this 2 minute research is that the GSUSA council offers outings just like my BSA council counterpart.

                      It's up to the individual troops to push for extra-council outings (i.e., camping, hiking, etc.).


                      • #12
                        That's what I'm saying, Dichotomy from one side to the other. No National Outdoor policy that I can see.


                        • #13
                          My daughter's troop camps about once a quarter and this past summer she went on a two week camp that included 5 days backpacking into the Sylvania Wildness carrying their gear with them.

                          So the opportunity is there, but is the emphasis? Hard to say. As has been said here before, all scouting is local.

                          But I will echo the comments about the continually morphing curriculum. I don't understand what GSUSA stands for, as a national organization.


                          • #14
                            Girl Scouts USA stands for, and has always stood for, expanding oppurtunities for girls and women in our society. At the international level the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) promotes the safety, human rights, education, and civic empowerment of girls and women around the world.

                            Our US current vision statement is "Building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place."

                            At the international level, Girl Guides and Scouts are active in clean water campaigns, AIDS awareness/education/prevention, endemic disease abatement, local environmental issues, and a host of other things no one in America has to even dream about anymore.

                            For more:


                            • #15
                              My daughter has no interest in girl scouts because she said they don't do any fun outdoor and camping events like the Boy Scouts. It depends on the Girl Scouts Troop - Some camp and some don't. In my area, the girl scout troops are not that visible and I see little to no promotion of their program.

                              When I recruited at an elementary school for my Pack, the table next to me for girl scouts had no one present. The only thing on the table were information flyers but no leader/volunteer to talk to and connect with.

                              At my local level, it seems to be a dying program.