Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Richard King Mellon Foundation and Girl Scouts: Getting More Girls Outside More Often

Girl Scouts has always been known for its relationship to the outdoors. From hikes led by our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, in 1912, to the gatherings of thousands of girls who watched the eclipse in August 2017 and the latest outdoor adventures of troops nationwide, Girl Scout experiences celebrate, respect, and enjoy nature—it’s an important part of who we are.

To encourage girl members and Girl Scout volunteers to spend more time in the great outdoors, Girl Scouts of the USA’s grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation supports an important goal: get more girls outside more often. Through new functionality and outdoor program content that volunteers can access via GSUSA’s “Volunteer Toolkit” and the piloting of a partnership program with the Student Conservation Association (for two weeks in 2016, a group of Girl Scouts provided environmental conservation service in a national park, and through 2017, five Girl Scout councils are offering girls sustainable environmental internship programs), Girl Scouts has stepped up its game.

The councils participating in the pilot—Girl Scouts of Alaska, Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine, Girl Scouts of Greater New York, Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, and Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania—have used the grant funds for a range of pursuits, including providing basic outdoor skills training for volunteers and organizing stargazing events for girls with help from NASA. Across the board, the Richard King Mellon Foundation grant has supported the enhancement of outdoor activities that tie to the natural world as experienced by each unique council.

On recognizing that when younger girls first head outdoors, they have many questions about what they’re experiencing with their five senses, Girl Scouts of Alaska sought to help them answer these questions as well as spark new conversations. The council’s “Go Kits” highlighted activities to teach younger outdoor explorers about what they’ll find in the world around them.

The Get Out Challenge developed by Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine could be adapted for any environment. Working with Arizona State Parks and Trails, the council created a six-week-long competition, awarding points for participation in outdoor activities. Troops, individual girls, and families competed for the title of “most adventurous,” and Girl Scouts earned Outdoor badges and completed Journeys and Take Action projects.

“Take Action Fridays” gave Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors from Girl Scouts of Greater New York the opportunity to work with younger girls on environmental Take Action projects relevant to their communities. Among other things, the girls created a birdhouse for their local park and built a green space that stops runoff from a nearby river, in the process learning how they can improve the environment through hands-on experiences.

One of the highlights of summer 2017 was the Great American Eclipse on August 21. From coast to coast, people paused to experience the natural phenomenon. At Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, which had a boost from NASA, girls got to explore the stars courtesy of programming developed just for them: Star Explorers for Brownies, Star Detectives for Juniors, Extreme Night Owls for Cadettes, and Galaxy Investigations for Seniors and Ambassadors.

Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania realized that if volunteers aren’t comfortable in the outdoors, there’s a good chance troops won’t be either. To solve for this, and to provide every one of its volunteers with basic outdoor training, the council developed a two-day Outdoor Summit for volunteers, allowing them to practice new skills and refresh skills they already had, for girls’ and their own benefit.

Together, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Student Conservation Association, and Girl Scouts of the USA elevate outdoor (and outdoor conservation) activities, enhancing the Girl Scout experience for all.

Girls Scouts of the USA thanks the Richard King Mellon Foundation for its continued support and efforts to inspire girls to get outdoors and become lifelong stewards of the environment.

You'll find more advice with Get Girls Outdoors: Four Tips for Council Success.