The Girl Scout Camp Difference: a conversation with Jill Joswiak

Jill Joswiak: troop leader, parent of a Girl Scout, and big-time Camp Advocate!

She didn’t go to camp when she was younger, but she’s let her daughter, Helen, go back every summer for the last 10 years. Why?

“The opportunity for experiential learning. There is nothing you can’t try or learn to do. The counselors provide a safe environment, encouragement and enough guidance to help the campers not get frustrated, while letting the scouts figure out the task by having to problem solve, and ultimately have success. My favorite example of this is learning to sail at Camp Black Hawk.

“I think that having this opportunity in a single-gender environment allows them to try, and fail, and try again and succeed and then ultimately lead. At camp, they learn and do with a greater comfort level that translates into more confidence and success. Knowing that they have tested out new skills (including leadership skills) in this environment, they can go out into the world and have success. Finally, Girl Scout camp is built around the promise and law, which is the foundation of the movement.”

As a parent, what was it like sending her to camp for the first time, versus sending her off last summer?  “There was a great sense of pride in that what she knew she wanted to do after the very first summer (attend leadership camp in a journey to become a counselor) was actually happening.”

What would you say to a parent who’s just not quite sure they’re ready to send her off to resident camp yet?  “Attend a Me and My Guy or Me and My Gal Session with your scout. Meet the staff that will be leading your scout. Get the feel for the camp, and the activities and the facilities. That way, you will have a good idea of what it will be like for your scout. The comfort that I gained as a parent from meeting the staff was what made it so easy to send her the next year. The anxious parent in me knew that she would be safe, and the Girl Scout Leader in me knew that she would have an opportunity to learn and grow that was separate and distinct from her Troop experience. She would make new friends, and gain independence.”

What sort of growth have you seen in your daughter that you’d credit camp with?  “Courage – Her choice of location for her solo overnight amazed me, and she is a hammock camper, something she learned at Black Hawk. She is braver than I was at that age, and even in some sense, now. Problem Solving – the opportunities to have to make things up on the fly due to changing weather conditions, or changing schedules, the mood of the campers or equipment and supply needs, abound and is one of the great things that you gain from Girl Scouting. Compassion for younger Scouts when they are homesick. Leadership – Leading younger scouts, volunteering to help. Confidence in her outdoor skills and the ability to lead. For example, she went to resident horse camp, and when she returned for Me and My Gal, her and some of her fellow resident campers volunteered to help get the horses ready for the Me and My Gal campers so more scouts could experience horseback riding. I was amazed at the skills she learned in such a short time. Always open to trying new things in the Girl Scouting environment. Tradition­- carrying on those ever important camp traditions and especially the songs.”

Anything other general information you’d like to share? “As an adult, I found my a-ha moment in Girl Scouting at Girl Scout camp with my daughter. Lying in a tent, while being serenaded to sleep, I realized I had a gigantic smile on my face and was truly happy. I would encourage parents or grandparents to share in that experience of Me and My Gal or Guy. I am humbled by the fact that Helen wanted to attend Me and My Gal with me last summer, regardless of where it was held. She suggested and insisted because she knew how much it meant to me. I am so very grateful for all that camp has brought to our lives, including a lifelong family of friends.”

Why I Send My Girls to Girl Scout Camp

What Send Girls to Camp

By: Peggy Duellman, Badgerland Girl Scout Mom, Volunteer, and Alum

It’s so important for girls to try new things, and that’s exactly what Girl Scout camp is about – stepping outside their comfort zone and taking risks – all while surrounded by peers and adults who are rooting for them to succeed.

Not only have my girls tried outdoor activities they might not have if it weren’t for camp (archery, water sports, and ropes courses) but they’re building confidence and character while doing it.

I see growth in my girls every time they come home from camp. Even after the post-camp excitement wears off, the fun they had, challenges they overcame and the friends they made come up in conversations almost daily.

Just hearing them talk about camp brings back memories of my Girl Scout years at Camp Black Hawk. I can appreciate their passion for it, and it means so much to hear them talk so fondly about something that was important to me as a girl.

Another big reason I chose to send my girls to camp is my confidence in the staff and the safety precautions and protocols they follow. Having been a member of the camp staff before, I can attest to the level and thoroughness of trainings, and as a parent, I’m assured my girls will be safe.

By allowing them to try new things in a fun, supportive environment, camp has helped Kate, Elizabeth, Suzanne, and Hilary discover their strengths. And the Girl Scouts organization has empowered the girls to use these traits to create positive change within themselves, their school and in the community.

Be a G.I.R.L. at Badgerland Programs

By: Allison Sauer, Cadette Troop 2279 Co-Leader

Have you ever signed up for one of the many overnight events that are offered through Badgerland Girl Scouts? If you have, chances are you’ve received a packing list. I know you’ve seen something on your packing list and thought, “This is surely a suggestion, knee socks… seriously? Sturdy shoes…come on! My kicks will be just fine.” At one time or another, I’ve not only thought those thoughts, I’ve said then to my daughter.

And I will never ever do that again! EVER!

My troop loves getting the PathFinder. Our ritual is to go through and highlight all of the programs we’re interested in. Last year, the Be Prepared, Search and Rescue program really stood out, and my girls were so excited to attend. After we secured our spots, I printed out the packing list for everyone. And when the time came, with the aforementioned mindset, we packed and set out for our adventure.

Getting to Camp Brandenburg was so easy. If you’ve never been, you are missing out on an absolutely gorgeous piece of property that we are truly lucky, as a council, to own. The rolling hills, thick woods and lake make for a beautiful setting for just about any Girl Scout event.

As we entered the camp and headed towards check-in, everything looked normal. I could hear Courtney, Troops and Resources Program Manager, asking the girls if they were dressed in what they would be wearing for the program, and making sure that everyone would be warm and comfy for when the program began. My girls and I were ready to go, or so we thought.

At check-in, Courtney asked if Bella would be comfortable working on a “special project” for the night. She agreed, and off she went. A little while later, she joined back up with us at Hilltop, her “special project” a secret to everyone.

When I walked into Hilltop the atmosphere changed a bit. There were several military-looking people scattered around the room. Courtney introduced us to a man named Eddie and his team, who are not only first responders, they are the team that is normally deployed first when a disaster hits somewhere in the U.S.

I immediately thought of the packing list and panicked a bit because of my flippant attitude toward it. Clearly, Eddie took his packing list seriously. He was dressed in all-black combat gear, sturdy black boots and a thick, black belt chocked full of pouches. To say he was intimidating would be an understatement.

I wore my skinny jeans, ankle socks, comfort-sole Candie’s, a Girl Scout tee layered under my black Columbia, and I just had a pedi. After seeing Eddie’s “outfit” my mantra became, “I’ll be fine, it’s a Girl Scout event… it’ll be easy”

Was I ever wrong.

That evening’s mission was truly literal. Eddie and his team set the stage for a search and rescue of a grandmother with Alzheimer’s, who was lost in the woods with her autistic grandson. We were split into groups and partnered with rescue workers from across the country. They shared great information with our girls; from how and why they set a grid map, to why being quiet and listening is important.

Next, we were inserted into our search grid, which was located above Hilltop. The lay of the land is steep and thick with trees, dead leaves and underbrush. It was around that time I realized what Bella’s special project was. Eddie and his team had applied makeup to her leg to make it look bruised, and asked her to pretend to fall and injure herself. When Bella “fell” the entire search stopped until additional rescue workers found us, assessed the situation, strapped Bella to backboard and began hiking their way up a steep incline. No path, no markers, just ankle-twisting underbrush, small trees slapping at your face, and plants with thorns grabbing at your skin.

Why do I remember these specific roadblocks? Well, prior to Bella’s injury there were some girls whining about these obstacles. “My feet hurt.” “The branches are cutting me.” “This is too hard.” etc. Three amazing rescue workers and I carried Bella up through the woods. Keep in mind, Bella is 5’5”, 140lbs and strapped to a backboard!

What I didn’t know was that our group of girls didn’t stay behind to continue searching for the original victims. Instead, they tearfully followed their fellow Girl Scout, whom they had only met hours earlier. Not only that, they insisted on carrying Bella down steep terrain to the emergency vehicle waiting for us.

This was amazing to behold. Seeing their focus shift from complaining about the bugs flying around to worrying about their fellow Girl Scout was life changing. Once the girls loaded Bella into the emergency vehicle, they complained no more. Their focus was finding the two victims, all the while, worrying about Bella’s “injury.”

As night fell we were at the tail end of our grid, which connected with base camp. It was at that point when Eddie met us. He explained to our group that Bella had pretended to be injured, and she had joined another group to continue the search. As he walked away, I was met with 10 girls that were happy, crying and confused. “I was so worried about her,” and “I couldn’t stop thinking of her,” were some comments I heard.

At that moment, I couldn’t have been more proud to be part of Girl Scouts. The girls accepted each other not just because they were told to or because they were grouped together. They accepted each other because they are sisters. I watched the girls show compassion and kindness, patience and resilience. I have never experienced the unconditional love that these girls showed each other. I was rejuvenating as a human and I was close to tears many times that day.

It was later in the evening when the last group of girls used the information they learned to safely carry a “hurt” 9-year-old boy up an incline so steep, a rope pulley needed to be secured to ensure safety for all. When they reached the top, a thunderous round of applause echoed around us. I will never forget the words Eddie spoke next. He pointed to all the girls and said, “You did this.”

Yes they did.

From start to finish we were met with challenges that required us to push ourselves mentally and physically, and they each crushed it! The weekend’s program was not just about Search and Rescue; it was about like-minded strangers coming together and building relationships through unique opportunities like this and leaving as friends.

Our daughters pulled together for a mission, little did we all know the mission was not exclusively about finding two lost victims, it was about finding strength to do things we never thought we would or could do. It was about supporting each other through encouragement. I know Bella will never forget that weekend, and neither will I.

On a side note: if “sturdy shoes” is on the packing list, it’s not a suggestion!

2017 Girls’ Choice Badges

Troop Camping Badges

By Cody Huston, Customer Service Associate

The girls have spoken and the winning Girls’ Choice badge topic for 2017 is Troop Camping!

The requirements for these badges are now available to download. What a great way to start the summer! Incorporate the badge into your summer outdoor adventures, and you will be ready when the badges arrive in the shops in August.

If that wasn’t enough excitement, Daisies can join the outdoor fun with their first Girls’ Choice badge.

Troop Camping badges offer a progression through camping and outdoor education:

  • Daisy – Buddy Camper
  • Brownie – Cabin Camper
  • Junior – Eco Camper
  • Cadette – Primitive Camper
  • Senior – Adventure Camper
  • Ambassador – Survival Camper

At each level, girls help plan a camping trip and explore new camp skills, while learning how to “Leave No Trace,” because a Girl Scout always leaves a place better than she found it.

Download the requirements and start planning your camping adventure today. Don’t forget, Badgerland has a variety of program kits and troop supplies you can borrow to help in your camping adventures, like marshmallow sticks, pudgie pie irons, compasses, binoculars, a geocaching kit and more. Contact your local Shop for more information.

Remember, camp life is the best life!

Not Sure About this Whole Troop Camping Thing? We’ve got you covered!

Girls camping

By: Katie Ravich, Adult Learning Specialist

There’s nothing that bonds a group of Girls Scouts  more than a camping trip. These are the memories you and your girls will remember the most.

Not sure how to even get started with a troop overnighter? We can help.

Badgerland offers two outdoor training certifications.

Troop Overnight Certification 1 (TOC 1) is a home study course that’s completed online. This training is for adult volunteers who want to take their girls on an overnight to a place with full indoor facilities  – in other words to a destination where the cooking, sleeping and bathrooms are inside. A great starter place for troops with a TOC 1 certified adult is Hawk’s Nest at Camp Brandenburg. If you’re looking at other destination for Hawk’s Nest is booked up, here are some other ideas for a TOC 1 overnight experience:

  • Campgrounds with cabins. Many public and private campgrounds have cabins for rental.
  • Community Centers with an overnight space.
  • Nature Centers. Many nature centers offer an overnight space.
  • Boys and Girls Clubs.
  • YMCAs.
  • Churches. Tons of churches around Badgerland offer overnight space.
  • School Forests: Does your school district have a forest? Check to see if you can rent the site!

Troop Overnight Certification 2 (TOC 2) can be done as a home study course, but we also offer a fun one-day in-person training at a Badgerland property in spring and early summer. Adult volunteers who want to take their girls on an overnight to a place without full indoor facilities (cooking outside, sleeping in tents, bathrooms outside) needs to complete TOC 2.

Want to take TOC 2 in person? Badgerland has three TOC 2 in-person trainings lined up for the 2017 camping season. Space is limited, so get registered early.

Once you’ve completed TOC 2 you can take your troop on an outdoor camping adventure.  Badgerland properties are popular and fill up fast, so here are some other ideas for a TOC 2 overnight experience:

  • State Park CampgroundsFind a State Park your troop wants to visit and check for camping accommodations.
  • County Park Campgrounds. Many counties maintain campgrounds. For instance, Dane County has five Dane County Camp Grounds.
  • County Fair Grounds
  • City Park Campground
  • School Forests: Does your School District have a forest? Check to see if you can rent the site.
  • Private Campgrounds. If the state, county or city parks are full consider checking in with r private campgrounds in the area you want to camp.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure your Girl Scouts get outside this year and explore the great outdoors the Girl Scout way!