Thursday, June 15, 2017

8 Stages of Getting Girls Outdoors

It's hard to know when the best time to introduce girls to the great outdoors is. Parents may wonder whether their daughters are ready to go to camp, go on a group hike, learn to cook-out and other great ways girls can get in-tune with nature.

Girl Scouts have always understood the importance of nature in a child's development. We know how powerful experiences in the natural world are because we have seen the impact on our girls, and ourselves. We believe in the power of the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader)™. Exposure to nature can improve all children's cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses.

Get your girls outside in the following stages. While this is an abbreviated version, make sure to judge whether a girl is experienced enough for each activity to ensure they are prepared for a full camping experience. View this video for further instructions.

Look Out
Inexperienced campers may wonder, what is this world like that starts at the doorstep? Talk about the outdoors with them. You can introduce your own happy memories, talk about your surroundings, introduce Leave No Trace principles and how we can enjoy nature while protecting it.

Meet Out
Look, Listen, Feel, Smell, Observe. Take her outside to observe the world. This can be at your local park or in your own backyard. Ask her if she can see trees, birds or buildings, and get her to notice and discern the world around her. Listen to nature and city sounds. One way to help her enjoy nature is through games and songs.

Walk Out
Walk around the block and help her see what she can see. In this stage, it's a great time to start teaching girls about their ecosystem, food chains and photosynthesis. Have her look up and watch for sky spectaculars such as stars, distant planets and the moon. Teach her about how it is possible to use the stars to navigate on dark nights. You can also teach her about how to examine a micro-habitat, trace neighborhood scents, look for animal tracks, trails and traces of living things. Finally, teach her about pollution. Now that she is aware of how complex nature can be, help her pinpoint things that interrupt it.

Hike Out
Walk with a purpose or go on hike. There are many kinds of hikes. You can take girls on a hike to pick up trash, a trail hike, a hike to find different leaves, a hike to find different birds and you can even go on a scent hike to see what you can smell. Take a leap on a compass hike and begin teaching her intermediate compass skills she'll need for more advanced outdoor activities later. This is also the time to teach girls how to identify poisonous plants, insects and reptiles. This subject can introduce appropriate outdoor behavior and protective clothing. For longer hikes, begin teaching her map reading and she'll be prepared for anything.

Cook Out
Now that she is ready to look out, meet out, walk out and hike out, help her develop the skills to cook out. For this, you'll want to teach her about fire safety: how to start a fire and especially how to put a fire out safely. During this step, girls can have a lot of fun learning cook-out recipes, but ensure they know how to properly use sharp utensils and other food safety must-knows such as food safety and sanitation.

Sleep Over
Prepare for an overnight (this could be a slumber party). This is great preparation for an outdoor camp-out. To do this you can make an equipment bedroll, pack a duffel bag and pack a toiletry kit. For a great overnight, sleepover activity, you can learn to tie knots. This is an essential outdoor activity for girls, and there are many kinds of knots: square knot, clove hitch, bowline, half hitch and many more. For this stage, you can also plan what to take, what to eat and never forget to plan for weather changes.

Camp Out 
She has mastered the essential preparatory skills and is finally ready for her first camping experience. For more basic camping, plan what to wear and what to take. Teach her safety rules and first aid. It may also be necessary to make outdoor and housekeeping equipment, and knowledge of tools, such as fire starters and fire extinguishers are essential for fire safety. Another unknown danger can occur in food poisoning. Make sure she understands how to handle outdoor dish washing, garbage and grease disposal correctly. Teach her proper tent care and how to use latrines.

For more advanced camping, teach her how to select a site that protects the environment. Practice minimum impact camping. You can also teach her how to designate campsite spaces with caches, sleeping and kitchen areas. Other important skills she may want to learn are how to build cat hole latrines, make lash table and washstands, how to purify water and pitch and strike a tent.

Trip Out
Now we will use everything we have learned to plan a trip that offers interest and worthwhile program opportunities. During this step she will learn to plan meals, menus, select places to eat, purchase and provide storage of food. Teach her to plan routes, transportation and necessary other arrangements. Other useful skills look like learning to use road maps, city maps, geological survey maps, charts, timetables and compass. Show her how to select, set up and dismantle a campsite, and determine trip cost, make a budget and keep financial records. Finally, select, pack and transport minimum personal and group equipment needed for personal use, shelter, cooking, eating and sanitary needs.

With a little help and guidance, she'll be well on her way to discovering the outdoors, becoming an expert camper and a great G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader)™. For more information on how to raise great girls and outdoor Girl Scout activities, visit www.gssjc.org