If your child loves the outdoors and appreciates working toward goals, a camp experience through Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts of America might be a perfect fit. The organizations are separate and both offer lots of camp options.
Girls Scouts welcomes girls ages 5–17 for day, sleep-away, or group camps. Boy Scouts of America also offers day and sleep-away camps, as well as venturing, exploring and sea-scouting programs for boys and girls ages 6–20.
At a few camps, such as Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, kids don’t have to be a scout in order to sign up, though they may be asked to join later. Parents should check with the camp to see what is required.
Discover a passion
Scout camp is an opportunity to experience new things, something Ed M., father to AJ, 15, Nick, 18, and Abigail, 10, appreciates. “They are exposed to many different things that can pique their interest,” says the Pennsburg, PA dad. “They may find new talents or get an opportunity to do things they wouldn’t normally do in their friend group.”
For AJ, that was metal works. “My passion really started out as a fascination with a couple of fantasy weapons, things like swords, shields and the like. I was just amazed that someone could turn some grungy hunk of metal into a beautiful piece of art,” says AJ, who teaches Handicraft Badges, which include wood carving, leatherwork, fingerprinting, sculpture and more, at Resica Falls Scout Reservation in East Stroudsburg, PA.
“Every week is a challenge, and that helps to bind the staff together,” he says of building relationships there. “Camp has taught me that leadership is about calm control. You can’t lead a class if you aren’t in control, and you can’t be in control if you aren’t prepared to teach.”
Boy Scouts of America
Along with typical camp activities — swimming, first aid, STEM, nature programs and field sports — as well as less typical programs — orienteering, sustainability and scout skills — scouts earn achievement credits through their activities.
Since February, girls are welcome to join Boy Scouts of America. “It’s really in response to what’s happening organically,” says Dan Templar, scout executive and CEO of the Cradle Liberty Council, Boy Scouts of America, which covers Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery counties. For families with boys and girls, “this provides another option for their children to participate in something together where it’s a one-stop shop.”
The program remains the same. “It’s been working for 108 years to develop character and instill the values, ethics and morals of the scout oath and scout law that are non-gender specific,” says Templar.
For Abigail, AJ’s sister, to join the boys was about comfort. “That’s what she knows,” her dad says. “She’s been alongside her brothers and has watched them do things but has never been able to earn the same recognition that the boys got.”
For some, however, an all-girl environment is more comfortable. “Girl Scout camp is a place where girls become leaders, risk takers and innovators,” says Beth Clemson, camp business manager of Girl Scouts of Central and Southern NJ. “We take 100 plus years of research and data and turn that into programs that are specifically run to make girls better leaders and ready for the world.”
Those lessons are taught through badge programs that girls earn by completing tasks. Swimming, STEM, equestrian, boating, paddle boarding, and outdoor-skill development are a sample of the activities offered. The BEAD (Better Every Awesome Day) program divides activities into milestones. For example, on the rock wall, a camper can earn her first Bead by being able to demonstrate how to put on a harness and helmet. Levels increase, until a timed, blind climb to the top.
“It’s about challenging the girls to take those next steps and make them safe risk takers so that they can take what they learned into their everyday lives,” says Clemson.
At camp, scouts also learn important life lessons, including resilience, independence, teamwork, collaboration and leadership.
“This is facilitated by our counselors, who engage the youth in both independent and group activities,” says Adrienne Wrona, director of Akridge Scout Reservation for the Del-Mar-Va Council, Boy Scouts of America, where girls and boys are welcome, as well as kids who don’t belong to a scout program.
“Independence from their families allows children to explore on their terms without fear of mistakes,” she adds. “Campers are encouraged to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things. They make new friends within their dens and begin to learn collaboration at a young age while having fun. Learning to collaborate and contribute as a member of a team is a skill that will benefit these children for the rest of their lives.”
Terri Akman is a Philadelphia-based contributing writer to MetroKids.￼