Friday, April 26, 2013

Girl Scout Camp Builds Character

By Amanda Block and Anne Gore

When you were a kid, did you go to camp?  If so, you probably remember having lots of fun, making new friends, sleeping in a tent or cabin, swimming or canoeing, performing silly skits, singing songs, and telling stories around a campfire at night.  

Girls enjoying s'mores at Camp Togowoods near Wasilla.


There's no question, camp is fun.   

But, for girls who attend Girl Scout camp in Alaska, there's also important work happening – the work of character development. 

Although program activities like canoeing, conquering the climbing wall, and learning to build a fire certainly contribute to a camper’s confidence and growth, often it is the small, seemingly insignificant events that can most impact a child's development.  

At Camp Togowoods, girls not only learn how to paddle but also how to right an overturned canoe.


Through free play and daily chores for example, girls build character of the type that is vital to future success.  

Helping plant a garden during a Day Camp session in Angoon.

Christopher Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, identified seven critical character traits that children need to develop into successful adults. 

·      A sense of wonder/curiosity about the world:  Our natural, inborn fascination with the world that makes us want to explore, learn and discover all we can about it; The delight we take in seeing the wonders of the world revealed to us.

·      Social intelligence: The ability to read other people’s emotions and connect with them in meaningful ways; Our awareness of others; Knowing when and how to negotiate, collaborate and compromise with others. 

·      Zest/love of life: An exuberance or upbeat feeling about life and the opportunity to witness the wonders of the world; Zest is key to a positive outlook on life.

·      Optimism:  The ability to see the positive opportunity in situations; Optimism is key to self-confidence and a positive outlook on life. 

·      Grit:  The ability to hang in there, to tough it out, persevere and recover from a setback.

·      Self-control:  The ability to regulate feelings and impulses; to recognize and manage them, edit them, and not be run by them.

·     Gratitude:  An essential feeling of recognizing and being appreciative of what we have been given; Gratitude is key to a positive outlook on life. 
At Girl Scout camp, counselors are specially trained to help girls develop and recognize these character traits.  

For example, when girls live together at resident camp or spend all day together at day camp, character issues are bound to arise.  Imagine the grit it takes a camper to face a 35-foot-tall climbing tower for the first time. Picture the self-control a camper develops when trying to light a fire in the rain. Consider the zest/love of life a camper experiences when she canoes across the lake and sees a loon with babies riding on its back. 

How girls experience these situations (with the support of their counselors), is how character is built.

A new friendship develops at Girl Scout's Camp Togowoods.


Girl Scout camp counselors not only point out when girls express one of the seven traits but also spend time reflecting on them at the end of each day. For example, girls may be asked to think about one thing they are grateful for, or give an example of a time they or another camper showed self-control.

Here are some examples of how campers have expressed their character growth:


“I learned that I can stay strong even when times are hard.”  A 7th grader expressing grit.

“Never juje [judge] somwon [someone].”  A 4th grader expressing self-control and social intelligence.

“I think when our group was the happiest was rock clim[b]ing because we all were cheering each other on and encouraging [each] other to climb higher” A 5th grader expressing social intelligence and gratitude.

At Girl Scout camp, we are committed to the highest levels of excellence in health, safety, and programming.  We hire staff that are great with kids and know how to make camp fun. But, we also work hard to ensure that in the course of each day, girls experience opportunities for the kind of character development that is essential for children.  We want girls to leave our camps having had not just fun, but having developed the character traits that will help her succeed in life, and do great things!

A young camper on a hiking trip during Girl Scout camp on Prince of Wales Island.


The mission of Girl Scouts is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.  Through our series, events, camps, and troop activities, we promise every girl the chance to discover the leader she can be.
  

To register your daughter for Girl Scout camp go to www.girlscoutsalaska.org/programs/camps to view the camp catalog and register online.  

To find out about other ways to participate in Girl Scouts, call 907-248-2250, 800-478-7448, or visit www.girlscoutsalaska.org.

Girl Scouts is available to any girl in Kindergarten through High School. Scholarships and financial assistance is available.

Amanda Block, Girl Scouts of Alaska Camp Director, is an American Camp Association certified camp director with fifteen years experience working with American Camp Association camps, mostly Girl Scout camps.  Amanda recently completed her Master’s Degree in Camp Administration.  Anne Gore is Communications Director at Girl Scouts of Alaska.  Anne experienced grit when she attended her first sleep away camp and survived a serious case of homesickness.  

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