New Girl Scout Camps Turn Out Tough Cookies

PHOTO: Girl Scouts of the USA are developing new camp programs to educate young girls about protective services and homesteading.

Girl Scouts of the USA may be best known for selling delicious cookies door to door each year, but when it comes to summertime activities the organization is thinking way outside the box these days.

And we're not talking about s'mores.

At new Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) camps around the country, such as CampHERO and Homesteading Camp, young girls are empowered to explore typically male-dominated career paths including protective services and farming.

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“It’s no secret that there are few women in the protective services, especially fire and police," said Jen Roman, a Madison Fire Department Captain and founder of the CampHERO program. "The reasons for that extend beyond failed recruitment efforts or moves to prevent women from being hired in the industry. Research shows us that children are socialized to believe gender stereotypes as it relates to employment."

In response to this data, CampHERO was designed to give the young girls the opportunity to think of themselves as firefighters or police officers as easily as dancers or hairdressers, "and the older girls the support to pursue those careers if they so choose,” said Roman.

Located in Madison, Wis., CampHERO accepts 190 scouts from around the country, ranging from kindergartners to the 12th grade. Maddie Flanders, 15, participated in the camp this summer with her best friend and considers it "the best week of our life."

"Your first full day of camp, they send you right into fun things like foot pursuit and rappelling," said Flanders. "You use your radio skills you learned the night before to communicate where a subject is running while you are still chasing them."

Other skills include self-defense, search and rescue, rig/squad tours, tours of the jail, court house and morgue, deploy hoses, fire attack, distracted driving, triage, report writing, first aid, CPR/CCR and airway management.

”The most interesting thing I learned at camp was extrication," she said. "They took us over to the fire grounds and showed us an old beat up Ford Focus. Then they had two volunteers climb inside. We were taught how to use the Jaws of Life and the car scissors. By the end of the day the car was a convertible.”

Meanwhile, in Denver, Colo., scouts who signed up for the Homesteading Camp, spent their time focusing on simple living, sustainability and farming. "This year, girls at Homesteading Camp had the chance to care for barnyard animals, milk cows and goats, harvest honey, can food, and harvest fresh vegetables and herbs, among other activities," said a spokeswoman for GSUSA.

In addition to exposure to a new industry, the girl campers also benefit from exposure to the outdoors.

According to a recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute, girls with more frequent and longer-in-duration outdoor experiences are more likely to seek challenges and better at solving problems.

“Girl Scout camps transform a girl’s understanding of and appreciation for nature, while helping her build a unique set of skills and boosting her confidence in ways few experiences can match,” says Anna Maria Chàvez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA in a statement. “Camping has always been one of the cornerstones of Girl Scouting, and the research is clearly showing that there is a connection between the camp experience and girls’ understanding of their leadership potential.”

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