Planning an outdoor activity with your troop can be intimidating, especially if nature isn’t really your thing. There are countless ways to get your troop outside and get a dose of vitamin N(ature)! Whether it’s meeting outdoors for a troop meeting or going on a hike, you may be surprised just how much your girls grow and learn from being in nature, and how much you might too!
In Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, Louv shares new research that shows the necessity of children’s direct experience in nature for healthy development. You don’t have to take your troop “out there”—you know, into the wilderness—to reap these benefits either. You can find it in your own back yard, at summer camp, and even in the city.
Here’s how one of our rock star leaders, Kitty Harris of Troop 54049, got her toes wet in getting her troop (and herself) more comfortable with outdoor activities.
What got you first excited or motivated to help your troop have outdoor experiences?
KH: I wouldn’t call it excited or motivated, but I would say what helps me keep the girls outdoors is my desire to make sure they have fun at camp and in Girl Scouts. We find outdoor fun mostly through troop camp, encampments, or special badge days. If I can get the girls exposed to a combination of all three, then I count it a win. As they get older, it is important to offer these types of choices. I’m glad that our service unit and council do a great job of keeping it interesting!
What outdoor activity was most intimidating to dive into?
KH: The most intimidating activities were waterfront options, like canoeing and kayaking. I am not fond of water, but I was able to overcome my fears and learn to be comfortable taking the girls out. Now that they are Cadettes and all great swimmers, they can go out on the water without me, but I am always a watchful eye away.
How has your troop benefited from outdoor activities?
KH: The girls enjoy being outside together and having fun. With the water activities, I have seen them evolve from needing us leaders out with them, to wanting to kayak solo. There is also bravery and independence involved in stepping on a waterlog or riding a horse on the trail for the first time. And, they are very fearless when it comes to archery and the low ropes courses.
What is your troop’s favorite outdoor Girl Scout event or activity?
KH: My troop loves to participate in fall encampment through our Eagan service unit. They look forward to the themed activities as well as archery and waterfront whenever we go camping. Over the past few years, we have had the opportunity to visit Camp Elk River and have access to the horses, which is another favorite.
What advice would you give other troop leaders who are trying to get their girls outdoors more (or who are not as comfortable with outdoor activities themselves)?
- Remove all electronics from the group. It allows the girls to focus on the task at hand.
- Encourage everyone in the group to try the outdoor adventure if only for a minute or two.
- Remind the girls that it’s okay to get it wrong. Sometimes there is a tendency to want to be perfect. Being outside is about having fun while you learn this new thing or have an adventure.
So, put down those phones, tablets, and laptops, and start planning your next troop activity outside! Start out small by going to a park or completing an outdoor badge. Just know that getting outdoors is a progression and you and your girls will learn along the way.
Sara Gove – Sara is the communications manager at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She has a background in writing, non-profit communications and development, and photography. She holds a B.A. in communication studies and an M.A. in writing and publishing. Sara loves to write and read quirky fiction, photograph portraits and nature, solve word puzzles, practice yoga, and can’t get enough of hiking and camping in our spectacular northern woods.