Thursday, December 7, 2017

Richard King Mellon Foundation and Girl Scout Interns Get Passionate About the Outdoors

With generous support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Student Conservation Association (SCA), and Girl Scouts of the USA piloted an internship program with five Girl Scout councils to elevate outdoor and environmental conservation activities, build the capacity of local councils to provide volunteer support and get more girls outdoors, and preserve natural resources.

College-age interns from the SCA have been bringing their energy, enthusiasm, and experience to select councils, and Girl Scouts is benefiting in big ways. From astronomy programming in Missouri to outdoor training in Pennsylvania, these interns are planning, taking action, and leading while protecting our nation’s natural and cultural resources.

To learn more about what it means to be an SCA intern, we talked with Lynda Jones, who worked with Girl Scouts of Alaska on its 2017 outdoor programs for girls and volunteers.

What is your background and expertise in outdoors?

I didn’t actually start going outdoors until I graduated from high school. When I was younger, I did a lot of fishing with my family and played sports that were usually outdoors, but I never really made a connection with nature until I started college in Juneau at University of Alaska Southeast. I met a lot of likeminded, outdoorsy-type friends who showed me where to hike and explore the outdoors. I began hiking more and eventually started camping in the backcountry, and that led to backpacking into the wilderness. This last summer, as a part of my internship, I portaged a canoe with a group of campers for the first time. I had lots of firsts in the outdoors during my internship learning alongside the girls!

What led you to love the outdoors and get involved in conservation?

Going to school in Juneau, I was working towards my biology degree, and a lot of the classes went on field trips or held class outdoors. I took a class about marine herpetology and ornithology, and we went on a field trip with Bob Armstrong (a celebrity naturalist in Southeast Alaska) to the Mendenhall Wetlands to look at birds and learn about the importance of the wetland areas. It was such an eye-opening experience to learn more about where I lived as well as the importance of conserving these areas for wildlife.

Why did you decide to become an SCA intern and work with Girl Scouts?

When I was younger, I was in a troop, and we didn’t do a whole lot of things outdoors. I wanted to go outside and go camping and hiking, but I never really had the opportunity to do those activities. So when I saw this position, I was excited to have the opportunity to work with other women who are not only encouraging, helpful, and caring but also able to get girls outdoors who may not have otherwise had the chance.

How did you create programs for the SCA/Girl Scouts internship program? Did you learn any new skills?

By collaborating with coworkers and experts in the field, I learned a lot of the programming I helped teach. For example, I didn’t really know how to use a map and compass, so I taught myself and showed others what I learned.

I learned an incredible amount of skills working as an intern with Girl Scouts. I was able to bring my biological conservation knowledge and passion to help Girl Scouts, and at the same time learn many new skills. I have worked in positions with children and youth for a few years before working here and never really received any specific training for serving youth. I learned how to talk to girls, how to manage behavior, meals to bring on trail, backpacking skills, water sport skills, navigation skills, how to read a map, how to mitigate risk, the list goes on. Working here for one year, I have probably learned more than I have at previous organizations.

What advice would you give a girl who is interested in the outdoors but doesn’t know how to follow that passion?

I would say to start out with something small. I started out with birding, which can be done by just looking out the window. A lot of times, I think people get overwhelmed with trying to become a master at backpacking or canoeing and wanting to go right onto the Pacific Crest Trail! I was intimidated by all the things I thought I should know in order to just go outside. I learned that by just starting out small, you can make exploring the outdoors whatever you want it to be for you.

What has been your greatest accomplishment working as an SCA intern at Girl Scouts of Alaska?

I'm proud to have been able to help create and facilitate so many learning and growing experiences in the outdoors for girls. Girl Scouts taught me how to be patient when working with youth and also showed me that even the small things a girl does can be a really big deal for her. From striking a match for a stove to climbing a rock wall to even noticing a cool-looking bug, girls can gain confidence, character, and courage no matter how big or small.

Why do you give back through conservation?

Really, conserving nature is just something that makes me happy. I enjoy being in the outdoors, and there are a lot of others who do too. I also think growing up in Alaska has given me a unique perspective of nature that a lot of people don’t understand when they grow up in urban areas.

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.

Read more about the program in in previous blog posts: Getting More Girls Outside More Often and Want More Girls Outdoors? Train the Adults! You'll find more advice with Get Girls Outdoors: Four Tips for Council Success.