Thursday, November 12, 2015

Junior Girl Scouts badge: Camper

As first-year Junior Girl Scouts, our girls voted to go camping. While we were unable to make that happen for our troop last year, I knew our fifth graders would go camping with the other students in their class this fall.  A co-leader and I served as chaperones on the class camping trip last week.  When we returned home, I glanced through the Camper badge requirements and discovered the girls had completed the steps for the badge while they were away from home.  

STEP 1:  Start Planning Your Adventure.
Our fifth graders stayed two nights at Camp Campbell Gard, a YMCA camp in Hamilton, Ohio, near Cincinnati.  Almost two months prior to the trip, parents and students were invited to a meeting at the school with Sean "Squirrel" Brown, the Camp Program Director.  He presented a slide show that answered questions about the itinerary, sleeping arrangements, camp bed bug policy, menu, as well as what and how to pack luggage.  Parents and students left the meeting feeling confident about spending three days and two nights away from home. 

STEP 2:  Gain a New Camping Skill. 
Our last day at camp was devoted to the Amazing Race.  Trail groups competed in a race modeled after the popular television showThe first clue was revealed to everyone at the same time.  Each time a task was completed, we were given another clue.  Tasks ranged from building a fire, to deciphering a pictograph, to archery, to climbing a rock wall, to carrying a heavy log...and more!  All clues required the kids to work together as a team.  Occasionally the Amazing Race threatened to erupt into the "Amazing Argument," but our kids eventually worked it out, learning some valuable lessons along the way.

STEP 3:  Find Your Inner Camp Chef. 
To fulfill this step, it is suggested the girls make a one-pot meal, cook in foil, or cook a meal on a stick.  One night at camp, the kids were served beef stew.  Even though they did not participate in the preparation of this meal, it counted in my book.  Last year our girls earned the Junior Simple Meals badge, and they were asked to prepare a one-pot meal with adult supervision at home.  Step 3...check!

STEP 4:  Try a New Activity.  
During our three-day stay at camp, the kids had the opportunity to try many different activities.  There was an archery session.  They divided into groups of three and paddled down the river in a canoe.  They hiked to the dam and splashed through the water to find macro invertebrates crawling beneath the rocks.  

The second afternoon of the trip was devoted to pioneer bartering.  The kids were each given three laminated cards, and each card was labeled with an activity.  Some examples include:  apple crisp, ice cream, pioneer toys, candle making, weaving, and survivalFollowing some simple rules, the kids were given several minutes to trade cards with other students in the hopes of getting the activities they wanted.  When time was up, trading stopped.  Lines were formed for the first activity, and we set out for an afternoon of fun.

STEP 5:  Head Out on Your Trip--and Have Some Nighttime Fun!
We spent our first evening at camp by the campfire.  Camp Staff performed a skit about Tice Davids, a slave who escaped from his Master's plantation and disappeared on the Underground Railroad eventually earning his freedom.  Rules were reviewed for the Underground Railroad Program that was scheduled for the following evening.  Our time at the fire ended with the kids singing several "repeat" songs. 

This interactive experience was incredible for our group!  We were divided into trail groups, and each group began the program at a different location.  We rotated stations until everyone had completed the circuit.  Staff members played the parts of abolitionists, Quakers, bounty hunters, and  sheriffs.  Camp participants pretended to be slaves who escaped from a plantation.  During the weeks leading up to camp, students practiced songs, memorized a backstory, and learned answers to questions that would be asked during the program.  

Since we were making our way through the woods at night, one chaperone held a lantern.  If at any time a child felt scared, he or she could seek "safety" by the lantern.  At one point, 13 of our 16 kids were huddled behind our lantern.  As the evening progressed, they regained their composure and returned to the action.  Kids were scared.  Tears were shed.  Through this program, they were able to experience a fraction of the fear and uncertainty the slaves endured as they fled to freedom.  It is important to note that the other groups did not have the same experience.  There were kids who wanted a higher level of intensity but that level was not achieved.  Maybe that's because our group was so frightened that the staff dialed it down for the other groups?  In any case, this was a fabulous way to bring the lesson to life. 

Camp Campbell Gard offers overnight camps, day camps, summer camps, retreats, camp for those with disabilities, horse camp, family camp...The Staff was enthusiastic, our days were structured, and the kids (though exhausted by the time we left) were wishing we could stay another night.  Chaperones and staff debriefed on the last day, making notes of what worked, what didn't, what could be improved upon for next year's trip.  As a Girl Scout troop leader, I loved being part of the experience without having to plan and prepare for the trip.  Granted it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns (we are talking about fifth graders), but I LOVED it!  I've already promised to chaperone again when my younger daughter is in fifth grade.  If you are in the Cincinnati area, I recommend you check this place out!

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