I haven’t written in several weeks because I’ve been so busy with Girl Scout Camp! I volunteered to be a unit leader at 2 different camps, and aside from the sheer exhaustion following the experience, I learned some definite lessons.
- During the overnight, you need more food than you think you need. I found that the meals provided by organizers fell way short of myself and the capability of my little plague of locusts, um, I mean, girls. After being provided bready pizza, bagels, and subs that were mostly bread I felt like I’d been carb loading. We need protein!
- Don’t be surprised to hear multiple people talking about how “different” and how much “tougher” the boys in the boys unit are. (The camps I volunteered at allow sons of staff to have their own unit if they are over 5. Under 5’s are in the pixies unit, both boys and girls.) If I had a dollar for every time someone within Girl Scouts told me how much more brave, adventurous, and generally gross the boys are, I’d be rich. It’s definitely disheartening to see that type of sexism AT GIRL SCOUT CAMP. From my experience, girls come in all varieties and so do boys. I’ve met quiet boys who love to read, and I’ve met crazy boys who never stop making noise… and the same for girls. The group of children in front of you doesn’t represent ALL children. Stereotyping genders hurts both boys AND girls (but especially girls in so many ways). If you’re interested in more on this topic, here’s an article to start with; but always ask yourself if they behave that way because it’s who they are, or if that is what they have learned they are SUPPOSED to do?
- Don’t start a war with a kid at Girl Scout camp. OK, I know this sounds a little silly. I feel silly having written it, much less having gotten myself into that situation! But I encountered a pack of girls who would just flatly ignore me every time I asked them to do something. They had a leader they rallied around and talked about me and the whole nine yards. Drove me completely crazy! My initial instinct was to pushback and put a serious smackdown on that type of behavior, which got me nowhere. When I got home that evening (day camp), I was thinking and thinking about it. I realized I did not want to be in a battle of wills with this girl. We are at a 2 week day camp f’goodness sakes! Both of us just want to have fun. I decided I’d stop nagging, take ALL the pressure off, and start “catching her being good,” and it turned the whole thing around.
- On that note, 2 weeks is not enough time to deal with major behavior issues; nor do most of us really have the training to tackle those kinds of things, even if we did have more time (volunteers, remember?). So… distract, deflect, redirect, repeat.
- It’s hard; REALLY hard, for kids to be good listeners and focused when it is a zillion degrees outside. It’s hard for adults; it’s even harder for kids. So try to be understanding and patient if they are having a rough time.
- Even if you don’t think you have any girls who are trying not to drink water as a way to avoid the latrines, you do. (Yes, I did.)
- Air fresheners don’t fix the latrine situation, but they do help a tiny bit, and they surely can’t hurt. They get pretty rank!
- Girls will rise (or fall) to meet your expectations; if you expect them to be unable to do anything, and do everything for them, most of the time they will just accept that. Don’t do it! It’s more work for you and the truth is that most of the time THEY WANT TO DO this stuff for themselves. That is a large part of what they are DOING in Scouting. Even Daisies can be instructed on how to practice fire safety and put a small piece of wood in the fire safely, and the confidence they gain from that lasts a lifetime! This also fits perfectly with a progression of skills. Always focus on what the girls CAN do instead of on what they can’t.
- Bring more gimp and craft supplies than you think you need. Lots more.
- Have fun, and don’t take anything too seriously. (Aside from safety stuff, of course!) This is all meant to be fun for both volunteers and kids attending!
This isn’t everything, of course! Just a few things that are on my mind right now after finishing my first summer volunteering at Girl Scout camps. I had so much fun, and I love working with and getting to know the girls. They are all their own people in such amazing ways, even when they sometimes drive me bonkers! The hugs, smiles, and confidence they gain is worth all of it.