Monday, June 6, 2016

Girl Scout Camping Excursion

I ended my second year as an official Girl Scout troop leader at camp. Camp o' the Hills in Brooklyn, MI to be exact. Nine scouts, aged six-nine came with me and one other parent to play at camp. Throughout the day we did row boating, archery, made Girl Scout cookie smore's by the fire, did crafts, and explored the area on foot. As much as being in Girl Scouts is a learning experience for the girls, it's also a huge learning experience for me. 

I've learned a lot from my co-leader and friend Katie Mashio. From her guidance, my other work in program design and facilitation, and my numerous public speaking engagements I feel I've grown into a great troop leader in two years. Just in time to move on...

What I've learned
-Children (as well as adults) need precise, clear, and step-by-step instructions for what you want them to do. I've saved myself a lot of chaos induced headaches if I begin anything with a little breakdown of what to expect, and give broken down steps in a digestible amount. 
 -Even though something may take longer or be harder, let the girls do it. For example, at camp we were waiting in line to get four of us in a rowboat. Now, the water was quite choppy due to a windy pre-storm day, so most of the girls (and adults) paddling were hardly making it out of the dock area. I was determined I was going to row our boat (would have been my first time) so that the "strong" among us could get the job done. However, then I had a come to Jesus moment and thought this is the girls' experience, who am I to take this opportunity away from them.  We had plenty enough time to let the girls get thrashed around by waves. The boats were solid and stable, everyone had life jackets on, and I knew that even though we wouldn't be making it far, letting them do it would be worth more than distance. Also at breakfast time I had the girls assist me with mixing pancake batter and insisted they washed their own plate when finished, even though it would have been faster just to let the adults do it. 

-Always assume children are smarter than they may actually be. I never talk baby talk to a child and aside from not using too big of words, I try and talk to children the same as if I would talk to an adult friend. If they don't understand a word or concept I break it down to their level. I like to start with high expectations of their intellect and bring it down if needed, rather than go the other way. This also means that I don't like to shield them from the world's realities if instinct tells me that they are old enough to handle the truth. Example being, my phone set off an Amber Alert once when I was working with third graders at Ella Sharp Museum. All of them wondered what the sound was and though the subject of kidnapping may be frightening to a child I tried to explain it in a matter of fact, but non-scary fashion. This even left the kids to be on the prowl for a red Ford truck even though it had been last spotted far from Jackson! 
 -Let girls work it out on their own. In Girl Scout land we are no strangers to tattletales. And as annoying as it can be to an adult it's also doing nothing for the girl's development. Once I hear a story of something going on, instead of trying to solve the problem for the girl, I instead try to empower her to solve it for herself by giving her behind the scenes tips for dealing with issues based on my own experience. It also takes self-control on my part to not step in when I see someone's feelings getting hurt or someone is experiencing an issue. Of course I am going to step in if some serious mediation is necessary, but as third graders the girls are more than capable of working petty issues out themselves. 

-Treat every situation as a life lesson. Girl Scouting is about building girls with courage, confidence, and character. Rowing a boat, washing a plate, solving an issue with a friend, reading a map, measuring pancake batter, or consoling a homesick troop mate are only some of the few life lessons that can be learned at camp. Many are nothing but mundane daily things but when learned are responsible for building girls with the three above mentioned characteristics. I revel in these opportunities to let these girls discover them in themselves.  
-Play with the girls. The girls want to see you play. And the play may be better for you than it is for them. Take the opportunity to get on the floor with them, participate in the the lesson when they play school, and go to that imaginative place that you used to tap into daily when you were a kid. As adults we sometimes put the breaks on play, but in Girl Scouts we pull out all the stops!