Results tagged “camp” from GSSA Leader Blog: The Virtual Volunteer

karlyn_edmonds.jpg

A beautiful fall afternoon at Kamp Kiwanis is about as good as it gets. As a child, one of my favorite memories of Girl Scouting was our annual troop trip to KK.  And if you don't believe me, I have a picture of second-grader Karlyn with my troop in front of one of the Pioneer Unit tents sitting in my office!

I spent last Sunday at this special place watching girls sail, zip line, canoe, and generally have a fabulous time.  The weather was fine and the blue water of Lake Martin simply sparkled.  It reminded me of the precious times to be had at our four camp properties, each of which has its own charm and character.

I want to encourage you to seek out the beauty of Camp Scoutshire Woods in Citronelle, with its wild magnolias, pitcher plant bog, and spillway, which is the perfect place to play.  Camp Sid Edmonds in Bay Minette has a fabulous lake and great facilities, particularly for those who might be a little apprehensive about camping.  Meanwhile, Camp Humming Hills in Elba, our largest property, has miles of hiking trails and you can even climb to the highest point in Coffee County!

BrownieKarlyn.jpg

We are lucky to have such wonderful outdoor spaces for our girls, and I encourage you to use them - even if it's just for a day trip.  We work hard to keep the prices reasonable for troops and will continue to do so in the future.  However, we must balance this with an effort to make certain that the council is covering the rising costs of maintaining these properties.

Starting this week, we will have new pricing for day use and troop camping for our camp properties.   (Troops that made reservations before October 1 will use the previous rates.) These increases are quite modest, but will help us ensure that we are able to keep our properties in good condition and that they are safe for use by our girls and volunteers.   It has been many years since GSSA increased its camp usage fees, so we hope you will understand the need for us to make this change.

I hope you have a wonderful time in the outdoors this fall!

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to be up at Sail Away camp last week.   This camp is a specialty camp that is focused on sailing all week long.   Because it requires higher-level skills, such as swimming and good strength, it is intentionally a camp for older girls.   It isn't often that I get to observe our older girls in action.    But this was an especially gratifying experience.

When you sail you don't move to your destination in a straight line, you tack, which is back and forth, zigzagging, rather than directly.   You have to rely on the wind, or lack of wind to move you to your destination, so arrival is not necessarily in your hands solely.   You also have to work to get to your destination; sailing is an active sport, not passive.   You are always looking for the wind and determining your next move in relation to the shifts in the wind.

What I observed was a group of girls who were highly skilled.   There were a few younger ones, working with the Sunfish, which has only one sail, so in some ways it is harder to deal with.   They were doing a great job working their way along the edge of the cove to move out into the more intense wind of the length of the lake.

There was another larger group of more experienced girls, who were working on rigging the larger boats with two sails.   Once rigged, those girls quickly tacked out to get into the big air of the lake to sail.

It was amazing to watch.   These girls were skilled, self reliant, resilient, and knowledgeable.   They were good about listening how to rig the boat, then proceeded to rig their own.   From there they took action.   They were told what to do, watched, and then managed to take care of their own boat and they were on their way.    They illustrated their confidence, their ability to think in action, and make adjustments.

If you ever wonder about the quality of the leadership skills that being a Girl Scout imbues, watch these girls sail.   They exhibited many leadership qualities.   They were able to put together many leadership skills to hone a skill they will possess for a lifetime.   Although sailing might be a metaphor for later life, sometimes we can't take the direct route, our path is indirect and fraught with unanticipated challenges.   But after watching these girls, it is clear they have benefitted from honing their leadership skills and will have capabilities they can apply to life's challenges.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

As I sit here writing, there is a slight breeze off Lake Martin, although the humidity is pretty high today.   This is the best office in the world. I spent 30 years in higher education in a basement office with no windows, so you have no idea how much I have enjoyed my summer offices in the woods.

As I write this, I see girls standing on stand up paddleboards, kayaking in the slough, now with skills they did not possess when they arrived.  Some didn't want to try the stand up paddleboards, but summoned the courage to give it a try.   Now they can paddle around without ending up in the water, but seem to enjoy falling in, too.

There's another group in the Sawyer-Weil Pavilion, singing songs with different hand motions, while some are working on making lanyards.   The song floats across the water and through the woods.

There's the whirrrrrrr of the zip line running.   Girls are donning their helmet, putting on the harness, getting connected to the lanyard and experiencing a thrilling rides down the line.   Some are concerned about taking that step off the platform, but these girls have courage, so they will try it.

Away from where I sit, there are girls learning to swim.   Many come to camp and can't swim.   I learned to swim in a murky lake. It is hard to put your face in a body of water where you cannot see your feet, but they do it.   They learn how to swim, how to get out to the floating dock, and how to have confidence in the water.

These girls have slept with spiders in their tents, hiked around camp in the dark, lived with mosquitos and other bugs, and heard noises by sleeping in the outdoors they have never heard before.   They have cooked their own food in the outdoors, sat at a campfire, and learned songs to hike by.  They have become more independent.   They have done what a very small percentage of the population does, learned outdoor skills and how to live in the woods.   What a wonderful gift.   I'm fortunate to meet many older women who talk about how learning to camp and these experiences changed them.   They still value this experience at the end of their lives, so what seems to just be "a week at camp," will be a memory that will last a lifetime.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

It is week 2 of resident camp, and I am surrounded by giggles, learning lashing, watching swimming lessons, and the canoeing is about to begin.   Each year, I'm struck by the value of camp for girls.   We are emphasizing outdoor skills this year, so girls are learning to build fires, outdoor cooking, and other survival skills.   These skills will last a lifetime.

I'm always stunned and amazed at what they will try, given just a gentle nudge and watching kids do it.   This includes putting your face in the lake where you cannot see the bottom, working your way up on a stand up paddleboard, going down a zip line, or spending the night in a tent.   Although for us, some of these things seem like no big deal, facing your fears can be daunting at that age.   For some it is spiders, for others snakes (I'm still no real fan of snakes), and for others it is the dark of the night outside in a tent.   It is always amazing to see how they summon the courage to face down what scares them, confront it, and become a confident skilled leader.   It is good to never underestimate the power of confidence built at resident camp.


While others are spending their summer gaming, watching television, or texting, we have a large group of girls who have gone cold turkey from their electronics, and heard the bullfrogs and cricket frogs, cicadas, and birds instead.   They have hiked, learned about the outdoors, sung songs, and become tomorrow's leaders.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

It is spring time, and we are working hard to get ready for the summer camp season while having lots of large camporees and end-of-the-year spring events for troops.   It is always a delicate balancing act to get things done and accomplished between weekend visits from girls.

Since I've received a lot of feedback recently about camps, I want to go through some of what is going on at the different camp properties.   We are fortunate to have four wonderful camp properties, nicely spaced across the council footprint.   Some of our properties are used very heavily, while others are visited less than six times per year.   Usage and wear and tear on a property does dictate how much of the council's resources are spent on a property.   Please understand that we don't have endless financial resources to put into properties, so we have to be strategic about what we spend and where we spend it.

This is the year of our ACA (American Camp Association) accreditation.   This involves a notebook filled with requirements that have to be fulfilled for a camp property to be accredited.   We go through this process so parents are assured we hold ourselves to a high standard.   We do ACA accreditation on the two camp properties where we hold resident camp, Camp Scoutshire Woods and Kamp Kiwanis.   Accreditation automatically triggers certain maintenance and repairs on each of those properties so they are as well maintained as possible.

Just as a reminder, mowing, weed eating, and working on roads with our heavy rains is often where the ranger spends the most time.   This is always an ongoing issue and one that requires immediate attention.

Kamp Kiwanis - As you are aware if you have been to this property lately, we have a new ranger, Mike Breshears.   He is working to juggle several items that need to be addressed at that property that have accumulated over time.   Add to that, due to some bad storms, his first priority was addressing some very large pine trees that came down in the Mariner unit and around the property.  Mike has been juggling some items in the kitchen and dining hall that need attention, while getting the camp property in better shape in general.   His list includes addressing roof issues in the Ranger bathhouse and the staff house.   There are electrical issues he has to attend to, as well.   He also is working to make things easier for the sailing girls by finishing the sail loft started at the Pioneer Unit.   The Ranger's wood/repair shop (which is not accessible to the girls) needs to be seriously decluttered which will take some to clear.  The two-year-old banana boat for that property is not holding air, so we are discussing options, since that is a very expensive item that has not held up with little use.

Camp Scoutshire Woods - Currently, this camp property does not have a full-time ranger.   Jesse Malone has been covering this camp, as well as Camp Sid.   Scoutshire has had a number of issues that have come about this spring that we are working to get addressed as rapidly as possible.   There is a water leak in the line on the path between Echo Lake and the frog pond.   This necessitates running a trench to determine where the break is and replacing the line.   That work is about to commence.   The line is broken in two places, so we have been trying to juggle that with camporees on that property.   Recently, the dishwasher felt the need to simply die.   We have been nursing that piece of equipment along for many years, so we are discussing the installation of a replacement.   But the hot water heater that feeds that dishwasher also isn't functioning well, so it is a combination problem.   We need to replace the coils in the air conditioning unit in the dining hall, so that is scheduled.   We are working on electrical issues around the camp and doing a lot of scraping showers and bathrooms of the peeling paint and repainting, so lots of work going on there.   Yesterday we discovered the camp tractor is not working and in dire need of repair. That is an essential item.  We plan to hire a ranger for that property after resident camp is over.   We are discussing purchasing a couple of smaller stand up paddleboards for the girls to try at summer camp.

Camp Humming Hills - We have been experiencing a number of issues at this camp, which is a little unusual.   The field lines for the septic system have been dug up, and we are working with a contractor to replace the field lines.   We had an incident with someone going through a tent floor, so we are working to address that.  We aren't using the lake at Humming Hills because of its murkiness, and the unused swim dock was no longer safe, so we had it removed.  We dropped loads of rock to stabilize roads.  A pipe under the road washed out in the spring rains, so that needs to be stabilized.  That camp property is used the least of all the council properties.

Camp Sid Edmonds - Fortunately, we have had few maintenance issues at that property.   We installed a new air conditioning unit at the Scott House earlier in the year.   We have also done some other maintenance work around that property, but generally it is in good shape.   We had some concern about the size and health of the trees on the 69 acres we replanted, so we have been watching those closely.

So, if you ever ask yourself where does all that cookie money go, the list above is a pretty good description of where it goes.   Most of these items are expensive and require qualified electricians, HVAC, plumbers, and foresters.   The rangers can do many things, but often problems require professionals for at least part of the solution. 

Also, we had tried to supply toilet paper and paper towels for our camporees.   Sadly, we will no longer do that.   When it was clear that more than a case of paper towels was taken recently, it seems more prudent to ask each service unit to provide their own.

Thank you, Jesse Malone, for coming to the rescue to serve as the ranger for two camps for a few months.   We appreciate his commitment to the girls of this council.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

I'm writing this on a Monday morning, following events at most of our camp properties all weekend.   We had girls doing all sorts of things this weekend, but mostly they were learning while having fun.

It is simply amazing to see so many people outdoors, working with girls to learn about their environment and their world.   They honed their skills that will serve them for a lifetime and and got to experience new things.    There was zip lining, canoeing, archery, horseback riding, sailing, tie-die, starting fires, making a meal over an open campfire, s'mores, and a campfire to round out the evening.   The weather wasn't quite perfect. Although the sun was warm, the wind was brisk and the evenings chilly.   But the girls and their mentors integrated that into their weekend experience.

As we have talked to girls who shared this experience, whether it was Camp Scoutshire Woods, Camp Sid, or Kamp Kiwanis, everyone reported they had a great time.   In fact, some that we talked to were wildly enthusiastic about the weekend they had.   This is what fond memories are made of, and I have to think it was not only the girls who had a memorable weekend.

Thank you to all who went to a lot of work and effort to make that weekend so fantastic for so many.   We appreciate all you do to make the world a better place.

The sixties were an unusual period in the history of our country with civil rights, women's movement, Viet Nam, and the beginning of technical growth.

This might also be called the last series of a particular type of Girl Scout resident camp scouting, the long period resident summer camp. Over time competition would arise from camps for band, tennis, cheer leaders, computers and many other subjects coming to the interest of young people.

Amid this time frame there was Camelot, a magical name given to the camp sessions at Camp Scoutshire Woods.  Margaret Ellis was named camp director of Scoutshire Woods for a three year contract which in her own words meant, "the first year I won't know what to do, the second year will go well, and the third year I'll think I know everything and it will be time to leave."

While serving as assistant camp director under Barbara Phillips, Ellis was known to say, "lf l were king..." So when staff members returned for her first term as director, they said, "OK, now you are the king. What are you doing to do?" And thus her camp nickname became, The King.

At that time Scoutshire Woods had 120 camper spaces. Ellis promptly took more than 120 reservations. "I oversold each session," she said. "Having worked for an airline for 12 years, I knew there would be no shows." And it worked, every time, each session, three times a summer, camp was completely full. That hasn't happened since then. "One time we did end up with 121 campers," Ellis said, "But we found another bed in storage and set it up."

Each session began on Sunday afternoon and ran until the following week on Friday, lots of days and nights to make new friends, renew the old, and learn new skills. Church services were provided on the Sunday in the session. More about that later.

There were four units-Whispering Pines (Whispers) a cabin unit for the youngest of campers, Innisfree, also cabins, for the intermediate age. The cadets and senior campers were in tent units called Gypsy Glenn and Four Winds. And yes, there were nice bath houses with showers. Many activities were offered: swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, archery, crafts, overnighting away from the units, and overnight canoe trips on nearby rivers.

Three healthy and delicious meals were planned by dietician Marguerite George and served in the pleasant Dining Hall. Campers handled the table waiting chores and clean up.  Singing was always a big part of the meals. Flag raising and lowering took place every day, and a rest period after lunch as this was lower Alabama summer weather and there was no air conditioning. (Staff used to sneak into the walk in cooler in the kitchen.)

When Ellis took over, the Catholic girls were taken to Mass in Citronelle, clad in Sunday dresses. They did not like this return to civilization and a definite division with the other campers was created. Those left at camp would hold a devotional of some sorts. There was no unity of spirit. But Sundays became a highlight when Ellis arranged to have a priest from Spring Hill College in Mobile come and say a Folk Mass on the grounds of Scoutshire. Everyone was welcomed-in Girl Scout dress uniform-and no one was turned away from the communion table. (Jesuits at Spring Hill are known to be free thinking in such matters. Nobody asked and nobody told.)

This was the age of folk music and many of the counselors played guitars and banjos, and all of them sang. The sound of this music echoed through the clearing and rose above the pine trees which composed the "camp cathedral."  This folk mass continued every Sunday as long as Ellis was camp director and has proved to be one of the most memorable activities of those camp days.

The first year of Ellis' direction was the first time summer camp had ever been integrated. Five girls of Cadet age were registered and the staff placed them in the tents without any regard to the color of their skin. (Ellis, however, made sure her daughter was in one of the tents with a black girl.) After several days it was obvious things were not going well. A unit meeting was called and the campers were asked to discuss any problems. The Afro-American girls said they were unhappy because they had come to camp to be with their friends and they were separated in different tents. At their request they were all moved to one tent and camp proceeded happily the rest of the session.

Last night ceremonies stay in nostalgic remembrance as well. Half-pint milk cartons were collected from the dining room and the last night of camp as darkness fell, campers put birthday-size candles in the cartons and floated them off the swimming dock to sail into Echo Lake. Songs were sung and last times were spent together and good byes said often with tears. (The following morning the canoe instructor picked up the cartons from the lake in keeping with the Girl Scout philosophy of always leaving a site cleaner than it was found.)

Taps were played every night by Ellis' nephew, who was on staff as handy boy. The sound of the bugle over the lake at bedtime is another memory most campers and staff carry for a lifetime.

Older campers who had passed swimming and canoeing skill tests were permitted to go on the overnight canoe trips, about eight or ten canoes. Most of the boating and waterfront staff went along. The Styx River in Baldwin County, and the Escataba in Mississippi, with their calm water and sandy beaches for camping were among the favorites.

Ellis vetoed the Tombigbee River from the previous year when she was assistant camp director. They discovered that a large commercial river with its motor boats and barge wakes was no place for a canoe with no keel and teen age girls. The canoe trip groups took tents, sleeping bags, and food and supplies needed for over nights.

Have Girl Scouts and other youth programs made any progress through the years? With all the competition for the time of Girl Scouts, camp has been reduced to three day events or a week at the most with many of the activities eliminated entirely. And can you imagine today's camp director bringing along her husband who came up from work in Mobile every night, two dogs and a four-year old son, who now likes to brag he spent three summers at Girl Scout camp?  (Her two daughters were Girl Scouts and regular campers.) Or a priest allowing the Jewish campers to come to the communion table? Things don't always change for the better.

Most staff members returned year after year to spend ten weeks at Scoutshire Woods-one week of pre-camp training, and three sessions of two weeks. Some counselors remained for clean up after camp closed. (At that time Camp Seale Harris for diabetic children held a camp session at Scoutshire after the Girl Scouts finished their time.) The quality of the memories and friendships made during the three years of the reign of "The King" cannot be found today. Going on to nearly fifty years later, those girls of those summers continue to be the best of friends meeting again frequently. One of them still volunteers to do a program at camp every summer.

And why was it called Camelot? The time when John F. Kennedy was president before his untimely death was often referred to as Camelot. Some of the staff members picked up on this and compared the glorious days of summer at Scoutshire Woods to it.

 

Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.


Written by: Margaret B. Ellis
Camp Director, 1968-69-70

Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

Spring is in the air, and spring break is here or about to commence.   I enjoy seeing what many of you do during spring break.   Most everyone that I see photos of is enjoying the beauty of spring and the outdoors.   Funny, I wonder if there is a correlation between that and being a Girl Scout?   I suspect there is.   I'm also struck by how so many of you are people of action, not sitting on the couch much.   Most of you are out with your kids spending time investing in their fun.   It is good to watch and share in those memories.

We have some great spring programs for the end of the school year.   All look fun and like things I would want to do.   I want to remind you that the annual meeting is at Kamp Kiwanis on Saturday, April 9.   There will be an update of what went on last fiscal year with the audit results and the annual report.   We have a good day planned for girls and adults.

We continue to work to sell the excess cookie inventory.   As an appreciation gesture, we will sell cases of cookies for $25.   This includes mixed cases. If you have an interest or know of some businesses that would like to purchase them as thank you gifts, please send Teri Eversole or Amy Murray an e-mail.   They are teversole@girlscoutssa.org and amurray@girlscoutssa.org.

Camp information is on the website, and we are working on camp sign up.   As a reminder, for those who aren't quite ready for a night in a tent, we do offer day camp for those girls who want to come home.   I know each year we have some involved in softball and other sports activities, so for them day camp is a good option.   It should be a great year at resident camp.   We are going to work on teaching lots of basic camping skills in addition to the program the girls sign up for.   As always, there is financial assistance available, and that application can be found in the camp materials at www.girlscoutssa.org/camp.

As we think through the importance of this wonderful time of year, I want to let you know how much we appreciate the hard work and care you put into being a Girl Scout.   Thank you. Enjoy this beautiful spring!

liz-2015.jpg

The sun is shining through my office windows as I write this.   There's a squirrel sitting on the bird feeder eating something as the butterflies buzz around, summoning the beginnings of spring.   The breeze is nice, and you can start to see the tree buds as I drive around the council territory.   Clearly, spring is in the air and our thoughts are turning away from cookies and toward being in the outdoors.

This time of year I spend time with the rangers working through their needs, their priorities, and things to get their camps ready for girls to reappear.   They are always eager for the girls to return to camp.   Camp Sid Edmonds was replanted in loblollies in one day.  It's amazing how quick it was.   We had someone working on the stumps there, so it is looking different than the last time you saw it.   I have not been up there yet, but it is certainly on my short list of things to do.   We have had a number of volunteers and parents volunteer to do a workday at Kamp Kiwanis to get it ready for girls.

We welcome a new camp ranger to Kamp Kiwanis.   Mike Breshears might be familiar to you if you are around the Montgomery area.   He has two daughters who are Girl Scouts, and his wife, Caroline, is an active troop leader and ran our Montgomery cookie pantry.   We hope you will welcome him as he works to address the many issues at Kamp Kiwanis.  We have lost some very large pine trees recently in some inconvenient places there.   Kudos to our Camp Sid Edmonds ranger, Jesse Malone, for managing his camp and Kamp Kiwanis as we worked to hire a ranger. We had many wonderful applicants for the ranger position and appreciate those who applied.

The rangers always prefer having girls on their properties.   I have heard about some fun ideas for camporees planned this spring.   We also have a great camp program planned; Tinker Bell is going to be working to build camping skills while you attend resident camp.   These are skills you can use for a lifetime.   It is worth it to check out the materials online.   I have the opportunity to visit all our camp properties frequently.   If you like to camp, consider taking your troop to one of the other council properties, each property is beautiful in its own way and has something wonderful to teach girls.

Hopefully, after doing a lot of things with girls around financial literacy, you can turn your attention to the outdoors and have some fun exploring what all there is to offer.

liz-2015.jpg

It is always nice to be up close and personal with volunteers over a sustained period of time.   I have many opportunities to interact with volunteers, but not over days or weeks.   A shout out to the volunteers who were wonderful and worked at resident camp this summer, doing all sorts of great things and made camp that much better this year.   Rusty and Gwen Black, Caroline Breshears, Elizabeth Conner, Vivian Martin, Tina Savell, and Dana Jones were so very helpful during the camp season.   Thank you for sharing your gifts with the girls.

It is always interesting during the summer to listen to the girls talk about their troop experiences and Girl Scout experiences.   I am always amazed at the wide variety of experiences and adventures these girls have with your planning and assistance.   I found the girls at resident camp this summer to have a high sense of exploration, confidence to get out of their comfort zone, and knowledge about the natural world.   I listened to some girls talk about different types of bugs.   We had another girl who wore her cowboy boots because she was fearful of snakes.   Then when PANDA had a small chicken snake, she decided she would face her fears.   Later she told me she wanted to "kiss it" which we didn't let her do.   But the difference between hot boots to thinking the snake was really cool convinced me of the capacity for girls to grow and learn through these experiences.   Most of their Girl Scout experiences are within your trusty care.

As the summer winds down and we start to turn our attention to fall it is good to be reminded why working with girls pays such tremendous dividends.   The girls I saw all summer were curious, happy, brave, and inquisitive.   Thank you for all you do to make this possible for all the girls we have the privilege of serving.

liz-2015.jpg

We are on the other side of the hump on summer.  As in my youth, time seems to be relative, with summer waning faster than the rest of the year.   Where does the time go?   Where does the summer go?

I have returned to the four walls of my office to work, instead of my preferred office with no ceiling, walls, or windows -- simply a chair, my laptop, and the sounds of summer fun at camp; girls singing, laughing, playing, canoeing, swimming, zip lining, hiking and having fun.

As an educator, there is nothing more gratifying than watching girls have fun while learning.   The hands-on, experiential learning that camp provides is a great gift.   It is wonderful to watch older girls, who have been Girl Scouts throughout their lives work with younger girls to show them what they have learned.   They share their wisdom, knowledge, and gifts with others and it is a beautiful.   Some of the skills they have been part of Girl Scouts for more than 100 years.   New colors, new materials, and new ways of work have made other longtime skills pertinent for today's girls.   My neon-colored paracord neck lanyard for my glasses is evidence I'm cool.   The fun small kayaks the girls use quickly provide them with paddling experience in a buoyant boat that makes canoeing in a larger aluminum canoe so much easier.   The stand up paddleboards become an entre to windsurfing and other aquatic skills.

Some of what girls experience at camp will be remembered for a lifetime.   There are new friends, new songs, new skills and thrills that make summertime so special.

liz-2015.jpg

Some days at Camp were HOT.   The temperatures may have been soaring, but you couldn't tell by what was going on around me. From my "office" on a porch near Lake Martin, I saw so many girls growing and having fun.

I saw girls in the pavilion learning new songs.   Another group near the tetherball were playing something akin to Marco Polo on land.   Behind me the whir of the zip line continued as girls tested their mettle by giving it a try.   In the cove, there was a group taking out the sailboats for the first time.   The temperatures were high, but you could not tell by the girls I was surrounded by -- all making the best of their summer vacation having a ball.

Camp has been great this summer.   The camp staff has been excellent!   The food has been incredibly good.   One of the staff noted that the food is so good we have not seen hardly any homesickness, because there is a direct relationship between comfort food and feelings of home and safety.   Amanda, our new staff member who is running camp, has brought some fun new ideas and traditions to the experience.

We have worked hard to assure girls are learning skill building in all their activities.   They can play some, but canoe time is getting into the water, learning to swamp the canoe and developing others skills. Just in case you missed it on our social media, the girls had a contest at Camp Scoutshire Woods between two groups under the swamped canoes singing Crazy Moose. It is hilarious!   We were discussing how quickly girls pick up skills if provided the opportunity to give things a try.   We had the Sunfish out this afternoon, and the instructor was stunned how a couple of the girls were rapidly proficient by just watching and listening to the instructions.   Girls are simply amazing!

On one day, I was over at the swim dock taking some video of the girls in swim lessons.   The lifeguards said in a couple of cases they weren't sure one or two of the girls would progress.   But with sheer determination and hard work, one in particular is really becoming a proficient swimmer.   The staff was amazed and delighted.

We work very hard to return your camper as a girl who has become more independent, proficient, and confident.   They have had fun, but they have also established some skills that will stay with them the remainder of their lives.

liz-2015.jpg

My office has sunlight peeking through the pine, there are some bugs around, mostly ants.   As I write this, I can hear the girls behind me working on getting through a spider web exercise requiring communication, cooperation, and teamwork.   This is when being the CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama has maximum benefit.

So far the homesickness has been minimal, the giggles and singing constant, and the food pretty good.    The girls have been on horseback, racing around the island in their kayaks and canoes, and working on improving their swimming skills.

The girls who did the sampler camp have gone home, but many did not want to leave because they were having such a good time.    This is what we love to hear -- that the fun and some autonomy from their parents is welcome.   It is always good to have your daughter be confident and independent.

We have talked about whether Girl Scout families would like an opportunity to come up to camp and enjoy what the girls experience.   We discussed having a week or two each summer where we would have the waterfront and canoe area available and folks could come up with their families and have some fun.   That means you would have to manage your own cooking needs, but something we were discussing.   If you think you would like to do this, please send us an e-mail at communications@girlscoutssa.org.
liz_brent.jpg

As we say goodbye to one of our program staff, Amy Farrar (camp name "Sunny"), who has done a great job at summer resident camp and programs, we welcome Amanda Abercrombie. Amanda comes to us with program and camp experience from Girl Scout councils in Mississippi and Tennessee.  Our fantastic program staff has been developing camp programming throughout the cookie program, and Amanda has jumped right in!   We anticipate another fun summer this year!    Please check our website (www.girlscoutssa.org/camp) to learn more about our summer camp sessions.  

Amanda was happy to answer some questions so we can get to know more about her.

Amanda-3.jpg

What do you hope to bring to your role as STEM and Outdoor Program Manager?

I hope I can translate my love, knowledge, and appreciation for outdoors, camp, and STEM into fun and exciting programs that will capture the girls' interest and inspire them to want to continue to learn more. 

What's your favorite part of camp life?

My favorite part of camp is the camaraderie that is fostered in a camp environment.  Camp is a very unique environment that encourages fast friendships that can last a lifetime.  Additionally, I enjoy the comfortable atmosphere that comes with working at camp.  At camp you are encouraged to be a version of yourself that you don't always get to show in the seriousness of everyday life.  Camp is the only place I know where it is perfectly acceptable to  run around in a pirate hat, sing camp songs as loudly and off-key as possible, walk around all day smelling like campfire smoke, and still have the respect/admiration of your campers and fellow staff members.    

What do you want girls to take away from their camp or outdoor experience?

My main goal is to help girls grow on the inside by being outside.  Camp, as well as other programs, is a wonderful opportunity for girls, staff and volunteers to grow and expand, not just their knowledge of the outdoors, but their confidence, self-esteem, and comfort zones.   I feel that everyone who comes to camp or participates in a program takes something away from the experience and with each year they build on the foundation of the year before. 

Thanks, Amanda, and welcome to the GSSA team!

liz_brent.jpgWhy send my daughter to summer camp?   That's a great question, and one we're often asked.

There seem to be a couple of schools of thought in our Girl Scout family.   One is that all children should be sent to camp.   It provides skill development, enhances independence from parents, and builds confidence.   This is the traditional thought about camp -- that being outdoors, away from parents and siblings teaches kids to develop skills.   And it does.

The other school of thought is the prevailing one of more cautious parents.   They either didn't have a good camp experience or no camp experience, so they aren't comfortable allowing their daughter to attend camp without them.   They also worry she won't have a good time.   And because we don't allow cell phones, there isn't any contact, which may heighten their anxiety and worry.   I ask lots of girls whether they are going to camp.   I hear plenty of them respond because their parents don't want them to.

We have created a day program for those whose parents aren't comfortable with them being away from home with the day camps.   We take girls up to camp in the morning and return them each evening.   This proved to be a good experience for the girls who tried it last summer.   We learned some things through this experience, so we plan on that being a great opportunity for them.   We also have the shortened session for those younger girls who want to give camp a try, but a week is just too long.   Look for the Brownie Sampler as the one for your daughter who wants to give it a try.

Each summer I'm fortunate to watch girls learn how to ride a horse, learn to swim, hike on trails and identify parts of their world, and giggle and have a great time.   There's the occasional moment of homesickness, but we work to keep the girls busy so they don't have time for that.

Girls have fun at camp.   They learn they can do things they didn't believe they could, whether that is sleep in a tent or cabin, confront a spider, put their face in a murky lake, or navigate to the bath house after dark.   Girls build confidence at camp.   I watch it every year, whether that happens at the swim dock, on a zip line or in a tent it is simply amazing to watch.

Girls spend lots of time at camp talking to one another, making new friends, learning songs, and some days just being silly.   Because they don't have access to electronics they learn to savor the silence, listen to the sounds of the outdoors, and understand who they are without their parents readily available.   I'm always gratified and amazed to watch even the meekest girl exhibit the character she possesses in this context.   Last year one of the smallest of the girls I watched one day was the most intrepid.

It takes courage to send your daughter to camp and for her to go.   Last year we had a number of girls who had so much fun their first week that they returned for more, or went from Camp Scoutshire Woods to Kamp Kiwanis for another week in a different location.   Most earned badges and patches.   Many made some great crafts.   Almost all learned more about swimming and canoeing or tried a stand up paddle board.   Some mastered horsemanship, while others learned to survive in the woods.   I was at camp every day last summer, and it was only occasionally that I witnessed a girl not having a good time or homesick.

As you consider what you want your daughter to learn, offer her an opportunity to learn what happens in the great outdoors. It is simply amazing!

liz_brent.jpg

It seems hard to believe that it's already time to start planning for resident, but it certainly is.   We have reviewed the comments from girls, had some discussions, and now we are working on what to offer for next summer's resident camp sessions.   To remain aligned with GSUSA, we are continuing to focus on core outdoor skills.   It is a return to some of the long held and cherished values of the Girl Scout program.   Since we don't know what outdoor badges will be offered, we are working to focus on all those program opportunities girls voted on for the 2015 program.

To answer our most often asked question, yes, we will continue to offer the horse program.  We will also continue to offer swimming lessons, so girls can increase their confidence and abilities in and around the water.   In a state that has lots of water, it is important for girls to have swimming skills and confidence around those skills.   Day camp worked for a number of girls who didn't want to spend the night, or their parents weren't comfortable with it.   We had some great successes there with a number of girls returning for a resident camp session, so we will offer day camp again.  Brownie Sampler is another great way to introduce your daughter to camp if you are concerned about the length of a full session.   Leadership camp will also be returning as part of the program.

One of the interesting things I have learned the past few years is that girls who have attended camp for years don't necessarily possess some of the outdoors skills we might expect.   Few know how to build a campfire, for example.   Outdoor cooking skills are somewhat limited.   We have done a great job with survivor skills, so GPS, compass, and some of the outdoor hiking skills are good, but others have not been part of the program.   Our current thinking is we will work to integrate more of those into the program for all girls.

My own foray into Girl Scouts was serving as the assistant director of a summer resident camp, so I understand and resonate with the values camp provides.   Last summer Karlyn Edmonds, COO, and I were able to spend our summer at resident camp.   What a tremendous gift that was.   We were able to see on a daily basis girls who were not deterred by their size, their skill level, their anxiety, or their fear.   One day I watched one of the smallest girls in her group take on the task at hand, master it, do it well, and then show her friends how to do it.   It was simply amazing to watch.

As we work to shape the summer program, we are in search of girl input.   If your daughter or troop has thoughts about the camp program, please contact us at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

liz_brent.jpg

I spend a lot of time, as does COO Karlyn Edmonds, working with the rangers to make sure the camp properties are the best we can provide with our finite financial resources.

I was talking to one of them awhile back who said someone told him being a ranger must be the best job in the world, to have the views and the opportunities.   His response was that yes, he likes his job, but he doesn't get to enjoy it in the same way those of you who go up to camp do.   He looks around and sees nothing but work.   There's always more to do.   There's grass to be cut and trimmed.   There are building issues where the list is simply endless, even though he is working on it all the time.

One night when I was up at camp, I couldn't sleep and was thinking through how many buildings GSSA uses.   GSSA has 36 buildings and 36 bathhouses, for a total of 72 buildings.  This many buildings require a lot of maintenance.  Just think of the number of roofs when it comes to that.   We also have more than 700 acres to maintain.   This 700 acres has six lakes, five of which we care for.   

I want to introduce you to the new Camp Scoutshire ranger and his wife, Chuck and Leigh Norris.   They come to us from the Isaac Creek Campground where they have worked for more than five years.   They are in the process of moving into the house at Camp Scoutshire Woods. Leigh enjoys mowing, so I have seen her on the mower every time I have been up to camp.

I wanted to give kudos to Jesse Malone, the Camp Sid Edmonds ranger.   Jesse spent the entire summer at Camp Scoutshire Woods.   We have been struggling with a water leak from the winter months that would just not stop.   After hours of work and blown gaskets galore, we finally found out the water pressure at Camp Scoutshire Woods was double what it should have been.   No wonder we could not get the water to stop flowing.  

Jesse has spent the summer and now into the fall working diligently at Scoutshire almost daily with the ranger.   He has replaced toilet innards, showerheads, cleaned up the kitchen, and used a bulldozer to grade where we have chronic erosion issues.   They have really worked on the craft hut, grading the front entry, replacing all the screens and getting the sink to work.  Frankly, I have never seen Scoutshire look so good.   If you are up there in the near term and see Jesse, thank him because you can't pay people to care the way he has for the properties so girls can have a great time on them.

We also were up at Camp Humming Hills recently.   The pine forest is coming along nicely.   I was pleased that most of the trees planted are now over the top of my head.   They look very healthy and sturdy, which is always good given how much wind whips through that area on a regular basis.   I'm always awestruck at why someone would build a swim dock in the manner they did at Humming Hills.   I had always figured it was dilapidated instead of being built in a way that looks like something out of a Halloween distortion experience.

Finally, at Kamp Kiwanis we are about to build a small observatory up there.   We have a benefactor with some restricted funds who wanted the funds used to honor a deceased Girl Scout.   We will be working on that project through the winter.

If you are up at camp, do take the time to meet the ranger and thank him for all he does.   I recognize not everything works all the time, however, it isn't because these staff members aren't doing their job.   And yes, they have great jobs, but never underestimate how much work maintaining those properties can be.

liz_brent.jpg

My view is of girls learning skills with boats and paddleboards, learning to swim, singing new songs, hiking trails, making all sorts of crafts, and managing bugs and spiders in their living quarters.  

Last week, they had a Native American storyteller and were spellbound by the wonderful stories.   Another day, they heard a paleontologist speak.  Then there was a herpetologist from Auburn University, who brought her frogs and toads.   They knew a lot about frogs and toads already, but she let them see their spade feet, or the bumps on their back.   They learn so much while having fun.

One of the facets of Girl Scouts I appreciate most is that girls can learn by doing.   They can collect bugs and create their own living environment.   The things they see and experience can be applied when they return to school in the fall.   In the meantime, they have been outside listening to birds, seeing the fish, and experiencing a lake.   I've not heard one mention that she misses the television, a cell phone, or the Internet.   Music at camp is made from nature or the girls that inhabit it.   They do mention they miss their family, but only occasionally.

We are on a learning curve with the day campers.   My notion of victory here is that those girls will want to attend resident camp next year.   So far, we have had a number of them say they do.   At the end of the day as our drivers talk to them, they discuss the fun they had.   This was the first year for the day camp, and we had some early hiccups, but I believe we have determined it is worth offering again.   We have had a number of girls who had so much fun their first week that they returned for a second.   This is another victory.

Every day I take a photo of my new office and send it to my friends, calling it "my office today."   Every one of them expresses jealousy because they can see from the photos the fun the girls are having.   Please check out the fun at our Flickr.com account on line, share in the joy the girls are having in the outdoors.

liz_brent.jpg

One of the great things about what I do is getting to know some of the girls we have the privilege of serving.   Spending the summer at camp has provided me with a good opportunity to meet some of the great staff we have.   I spent 30 years working with college students at a university, so I was delighted to spend some time with the summer camp staff during their training.   Since then, I've been watching them interact with the campers, which is a beautiful thing.

Many of these girls have gone to camp in our council and are the product of your hard work and efforts.    They are leaders.   I see them teach, counsel, correct, nurture and work with their charges.   The girls, in return, follow them around, look up to them, and find role models to emulate.   It's something I wish you could all witness, because it proves the power of what a girl can do.   And the time you invested in these girls proves it was time well spent.

These girls laugh, sing, hike, swim, paddle, and eat with our camper girls.   And I can assure you they sweat with these girls.   Last week, I was sitting down from the rec hall at Scoutshire, trying to get some work done and someone I was with noticed there was a black snake at the steps of the building.   We checked it out, and decided it was a rat snake or maybe a black racer.   There was a group of Brownies just coming out of the water from boating, so we asked them if they wanted to see the snake.   They all said they did, so we let them walk where they could see it, but not too close.   No one shrieked, ran, or did anything that indicated they were afraid of it.   The whole interaction with the counselors, the girls, and watching the snake was amazing.   Girls in the woods who go to camp tend to appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounds them, soaking in all that the great outdoors has to offer.


liz_brent.jpg

From Scoutshire Woods...My office today overlooks Echo Lake, where one unit is kayaking, another is serenading me with camp songs from the rec hall, and yet another is out on the dock in the middle of the lake diving in.   What could be better?   The birds are singing; there's a bullfrog croaking in the frog pond; the occasional cricket frog tunes up; and there's a stunning monarch butterfly flitting near me.

This is the first time since I've been here that I felt that I could afford the time to be up here to enjoy summer camp. What a mistake.   I come up during breakfast, check on the girls and the staff, then come to my office on the edge of Echo Lake and turn on my laptop.   This is absolutely the best part of what I do -- listen to girls giggle as they fall from stand up paddle boards, probably intentionally, swim from the dock in the middle of the lake to the swim dock for the first time, or work on camp songs that they will remember for a lifetime.

This week of camp has been a great one.   Of the more the 80 girls here, I have seen only one who has a serious attitude problem.   She doesn't want to do anything.   She announced to the staff the first day she planned on not having a good time.   I'm sure if you plan not to have a good time, you won't.   The rest of the girls watched for the first half day, and then proceeded to go about trying everything camp has to offer.  

Some days it is hysterical to watch.   They are becoming more adept at actually sweeping the dining hall after they eat (rather than simply pushing the dust around!).   Many have tried the stand-up paddleboards, and their performance is pretty impressive.   Some who started afraid of the water can now put their face underwater, and some can swim. What a wonderful thing. The sound of giggling comes from all parts of camp.

I'm very pleased with the day camp option.   This week we have only had one girl, but she arrives early and tries to be away from her drivers at the end of the day so she won't have to leave.   That is a victory. We had hoped to attract some of those girls for resident camp to have the full experience.

Hopefully you and your daughter are having a great summer!

Monthly Archives

Tags