Guest Post from Vicki Wright, GSUSA Outdoor Initiative Lead, Lifetime Girl Scout, Former CEO of multiple Girl Scout Councils
This year, on its 103rd Anniversary, Girl Scouts is celebrating our commitment to providing fun and beneficial outdoor experiences for girls with the launch of a new series of outdoor badges, chosen by Girl Scouts themselves.
Outdoor experiences are an integral part of Girl Scouts and are woven into Girl Scout program in such a way that girls feel comfortable trying new things and testing their limits, and gain confidence and acquire new skills in a safe and supportive all-girl environment. From a relaxed nature hike through the forests to teaming up on a wildlife conservation project to high-adventure rock-climbing, Girl Scouts offers girls a variety of opportunities to learn and grow inside and out.
My first experience with Girl Scouts was in an outdoor setting where I learned to become comfortable in the outdoors and with myself. I did not understand at the time all that I was learning while having so much fun. I can honestly say that my love for the outdoors came from those experiences and truly molded the person I became.
In the month of November, GSUSA began the polling process for the Girls’ Choice Outdoor Badges by inviting girls to vote on a diverse option of outdoor badge themes. Outdoor Explorer emerged as the overall theme, with five age specific Badge offerings: Outdoor Adventurer, Horseback Riding, Archery, Paddling and Ultimate Recreation Challenge.
But why is this so important to us?
According to our research (Girl Scout Research Institute’s study, More Than S’mores), girls benefit immensely from time outdoors. Girls who spend time outdoors eclipse their peers in environmental stewardship, more readily seek challenges, and are better problem solvers, all of which are traits needed for 21st century leadership.
Outdoor experiences through Girl Scouting, such as camp, are beneficial to girl leadership development across ethnicities. Latina (38 percent) and African American (40 percent) girls are more likely than their peers (28 percent) to say they overcame a fear of the outdoors through Girl Scouting; seventy-nine percent of Latina girls say they first tried an outdoor activity in Girl Scouts, and an overwhelming 59 percent of Latina girls say Girl Scouts has offered them outdoor activities they would not have otherwise had access to.
Simply put, this is important to us because it is important to girls. Once exposed to the outdoors, girls love it. And, now more than ever, research shows us that getting outdoors is so important to the physical, social and psychological development of our girls and the health of our planet.
We want to get more girls outdoors, more often and in varied ways. Please join us in this effort.