SCA and the Girl Scouts first teamed up in 2016 to create more outdoor experiences for girls. Last year, SCA-led programs in eight Girl Scout councils engaged more than 18,000 girls in nature-based programming. This year, the number of participating councils has doubled to 16 and the impact will grow exponentially.
The goal: get more girls outside. To achieve it, SCA “embeds” education and outreach interns in each council to facilitate outdoor activities, create outdoor programming, and build council capacities. Interns also work with Girl Scout supervisors and adult volunteer leaders to increase their comfort levels in nature and foster outdoor activity management skills.
Last week, the 17 participating interns convened for a week of training at the SCA National Conservation Center in Charlestown, NH. Topics ranged from Building Inclusive Communities to Risk Management; a representative of the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains Council also led a Girl Scouts 101 presentation. But there was no mistaking the main focus. Just ask Desiree Gunther.
Currently a college sophomore, Desiree joined the Girl Scouts while in first grade. She is now a lifetime member, a two-time national delegate for the Black Diamond (West Virginia) Council, and both a Silver and Gold Award winner. She is also returning for her second stint as an SCA education and outreach intern.
Back in the day, Desiree contends, “Girl Scouts were more outdoor-loving but it seems now they’re switching it up, focusing on more indoor things. I just want to help girls get back outdoors.”
“When I was in elementary and middle school,” adds 24-year old Madison Chán of Anchorage, “I was in a class with 50 guys and seven girls – and the girls were the only ones with access to science education, thanks to the Girl Scouts. Because of that, I’m very involved and engaged in wanting to stimulate interest in natural sciences among girls.”
Research shows girls who regularly spend time in nature excel in environmental stewardship, more readily seek challenges, and are better problem solvers – all important traits in 21st century leadership. Erin Tschida, a Wisconsinite who will serve in Maine for the next six months, says she cannot overstate the influence of the Girl Scout adventure programs she enjoyed as a child.
“They were so important for building my confidence, being in a group of girls and being able to say ‘Yes, we can all do this and be really good at it!’ Inspiring that in another generation is really awesome.”
Zach Harmon, 22, from western Pennsylvania, is the only male among the 17 interns assigned to Girl Scout Councils, yet he feels right at home. “Maybe because I’ve grown up as part of a more inclusive generation,” Zach says, “I want to be an ally for all the strong women here, and I want to help facilitate outdoor educational opportunities for girls, the types of opportunities that have been withheld from girls for so long.”
SCA interns this year will aid new entries Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains (New Hampshire and Vermont), Girl Scouts Hornet’s Nest (North Carolina), Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, Girl Scouts San Jacinto (Houston), Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, Girl Scouts of Western Washington and Girl Scouts of North Central Florida, plus returnees Girl Scouts of Alaska, Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming, Girl Scouts of Black Diamond (West Virginia), Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (hosting two interns), Girl Scouts of Arizona Cactus Pine, Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, Girl Scouts of Maine, and Girl Scouts of Greater New York.
The 2019 SCA-Girl Scout program also includes what is becoming an annual tradition: a two-week trail crew comprised of teenaged girls from participating councils, this time at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.