Built by G.I.R.L.s for G.I.R.L.s: A Look Inside the “Magical” Camp Prairie Schooner

Frolicking with the Prairie Fairy and adventures out in Farmer’s Field – those are experiences that Girl Scouts who call Camp Prairie Schooner home are very familiar with. For more than 70 years, Girl Scouts have taken pride and ownership in this beautiful camp located near the Little Blue River in Kansas City, MO. It’s also the location of our upcoming Alumnae Reunion Weekend, Lifetime Member Picnic and Trefoil Society Pinning Ceremony on Sept 23 – 24! Today we’ll take a look how this camp came to be and the women whose tenacity made it a reality.

Camp Prairie Schooner patch (left); Flag ceremony and patches (center) and early sign (right).

In the early 1940s, the Independence Council of Girl Scouts decided they wanted a camp for Kansas City Girl Scouts. A leader in that initiative was Mrs. Dewitt, who was active in the community and knew about a war time fund that had unallocated money. During World War II, the War Chest fund had been active in raising funds and by 1945, the remaining money was in limbo, ready to be reorganized.

Mrs. Dewitt, advocating for girls, approached the War Chest Board about the funds before they reorganized and the leadership wasn’t sure if they could trust ladies to establish and run a camp. As we know, G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM can do anything, and the Girl Scout Council knew they could achieve their goal, even if the Board doubted them.

The Council found the land where Camp Prairie Schooner currently sits and decided it was an ideal location. With a train stop just a short hike away, wooded areas and space for camp, they advocated for the funds. Despite pushback from the War Chest Board, Mrs. Dewitt was a hard woman to say “no” to and the Board sent the Jackson County Planning Commission to look at the land and make a recommendation. They had planned to use this as a stalling technique, hoping the women would give up before getting the funds.

Jerry Manning was sent to inspect the site and as he visited, he met the team behind the camp plan. It included community leaders and strong women who knew this would be a success. He realized this was a project backed by serious people wanting to create a better world for girls, not a whim that ladies had. He made the recommendation that the War Chest

Camp Prairie Schooner staff from 1988 (left) and approx. late 1970s (right).

funds should be given to Girl Scouts, and they were. After they acquired the land, the Council asked Mr. Manning to become the Camp Chairman, which started many years of service he gave to Girl Scouts, including serving as President of the Pioneer Trails Council!

Cookie money and funds from the War Chest paid the $4,000 for 127 acres of land that is now Camp Prairie Schooner. Still having reservations about the project, the War Chest Board held the title to Camp Prairie Schooner until the Council proved the camp was successful. After the installation of a pool and successful management of the property, they realized that these G.I.R.L.s meant business and the title was officially given to Girl Scouts.

Camp Prairie Schooner philanthropy! Girl Scouts from SU 638 & 639 built a Gaga Pit in 2015 (left) and Burns & McDonnell host annual work days at camp (right).

Today, Camp Prairie Schooner stands as a living testament to the power of G.I.R.L.s who wanted to make the world better for young women. We thank those early pioneers for their vision and tenacity that brought that camp to life as well as the current day donors who add to camp each year! Businesses, donors, and girls have added new facilities and games to camp, creating more opportunities and adventures (read our blog post about girl donated projects). Thank you!

We invite you to join us at Camp Prairie Schooner for our Alumnae Reunion! Registration closes SOON, so register today at www.gsksmo.org/reunion! See you at camp!

A New Home for the Oakledge Ish-Ki-Ti-Ni

The most recognizable symbol from Camp Oakledge was the totem pole (or “Ish-ki-ti-ni” for more recent Girl Scouts) that stood near the dining hall. Its image was on badges and shirts, serving as a friendly face for campers. When Camp Oakledge was decommissioned, the Ish-ki-ti-ni was moved to Camp Prairie Schooner. Now renamed the “Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni,” the rebuilt totem pole will be rededicated during the Alumnae Reunion and Picnic on Sept 23 -24, 2017 at Camp Prairie Schooner. We wanted to share the story of this symbol of camp history and celebrate its new life!

The name Ish-ki-ti-ni comes from a Native American mythology of the owl. While the whole totem pole has come to be known as the “Ish-ki-ti-ni,” it is started as the name of the owl that symbolically sits at the top of the totem. According to Oakledge camp legend, you can sometimes see Ish-ki-ti-ni flying over camp at night, watching over Girl Scouts.

Below the Ish-ki-ti-ni are symbols – the Girl Scout Trefoil, the frog, the turtle, the butterfly and the gnomies (pronounced “ga-no-me” for this totem). Each represents a part of the camping experience.

 

For alumnae and younger Girl Scouts alike, the Ish-ki-ti-ni serves as an important part of childhood. “In 2013, we pretended it was a time traveling machine. We wrote a song and we would hold onto it while singing it and it would take us to different summers. Kind of like a ride down memory lane. The song went: ‘Ishkitini Ishkitini take us way back when / Show us all the memories that you hold within,’” Girl Scout camper, Olivia (AKA Puffy) said.

Marley Parsons (AKA Ferris), resident camp director and alumna, feels the Ish-ki-ti-ni is a symbol of her Girl Scouting life. “The Ish-ki-ti-ni was a huge representation of my childhood. From whispering in the Green Gnomie’s ear to help find lost times, to peeping in the hole in the back to try to see the Red Gnomie, it was all part of my camping experience,” Ferris said.

Since the Ish-ki-ti-ni is made of wood, it needs to be remade about every 10-15 years, meaning a new group of Girl Scouts gets to give new life to the totem. Currently, the Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni is being rebuilt for the 2017 Alumnae Reunion, retaining as much of the original as possible.

“In 2004, the totem pole I grew up with fell into disrepair. While I was heartbroken that we had to build a new one, I loved that Bean and Beaner had us write wishes on the back of the new feathers [on the owl at the top]. It made it really special. Part of me was now a part of the Ish-ki-ti-ni. It makes me really happy to know that I am also here now, in 2017, helping rebuild it for another generation of campers,” Ferris said. She’s also part of the rebuilding team that’s preserving the memories of the totem.

In the process of being rebuilt, the Ish-ki-ti-ni is also finding a new home at Camp Prairie Schooner. “I’m happy it is being rededicated to Prairie Schooner because, for me, that’s where it all started. My very first camp was Schooner. So because the journey to camping at Oakledge started [at Camp Prairie Schooner] for me, it’s giving me a sense of closure,” Puffy said.

We hope you’ll join us on Sept 23 -24, 2017 at Camp Prairie Schooner where we will rededicate the Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni at Camp Prairie Schooner and create a time capsule with it! Registration closes on September 8th, so get registered today at www.gsksmo.org/reunion.

 

Total Solar Eclipse of the Girl Scout Heart

August 21, 2017 the date of the first total solar eclipse to be visible in the continental United States in 99 years. It was hyped up to be a natural phenomenon, one that had everyone preparing and planning for the day well in advance of the actual eclipse. According to four of our Girl Scouts who experienced totality while on a Girl Scout destination, it far exceeded the hype!

Girl Scout Cadettes Ashleigh Beabout from Gardner KS and Belle Reed from Blue Springs made the trip to Total Eclipse of the Heartland in Carbondale, IL for Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois’ five day destination. They stayed at council property but ventured into St. Louis, MO for some unique learning opportunities then watched the eclipse on the football field at Southern Illinois University.

Left: Belle waiting to see the shadowbands on the white tarp. Center: Ashleigh with her Girl Scout sisters and NASA staff. Right: Ashleigh waiting to see the shadowbands on the tarp.

The second destination location was in Columbia, MO with Girl Scouts of Missouri Heartland (GSMH). Katie Blankenship from Gardner, KS and Emilie Sula-Goff from Lee’s Summit spent 3 days learning about astronomy, touring the University of Missouri and experiencing total solar eclipse at GSMH’s Silver Meadows Program Center with their families!

All four girls were extremely interested in astronomy going into their destination. Katie has talked with an astronaut in outer space and Emilie is fascinated with supernovas! But, an eclipse was something entirely new to them since there had yet to be one in the United States during their lifetime.

“I didn’t know what to expect because nobody here has experienced it before,” Ashleigh said.

This natural phenomena united adults and children, scientists and educators and the entire country. It was an experience that can truly be once in a lifetime. For Emilie her eclipse destination reunited her with her Girl Scout sister Alexandria who lives in California, where Emilie is originally from.

They had been waiting for the time when they were old enough and could agree on a location and apply together. The Great Eclipse Adventure with GSHM was the perfect fit for these astronomy and mythology loving Girl Scouts.

“It was so neat that they got to go on this destination together; then I got to bring their brothers and experience the actual eclipse with them.” Emilie’s mother, Erin said.

Left: Emilie (far right) with Alexandria and other Girl Scout sisters. Center: Katie & Becky Blankenship. Right: Emilie, Alexandria and their brothers during the eclipse.

While the total eclipse itself was only about 2 minutes, it left a lasting impression on each of them.

“I felt very lucky that I got to experience this at age 11 when other people don’t get to experience their entire life,” Belle said.

There are so many environmental factors that play into a person actually being able to see a total solar eclipse, which is why they’re considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And, while it’s been 99 years since the United States saw a total solar eclipse, it’ll only be 7 more years until we experience it again and these Girl Scouts are already thinking about where and how they’ll see it…when most of them are seniors in High School.

Girl Scouts of the USA is rolling out their destination programs for the 2017-2018 year. To have an experience like Katie, Emilie, Ashleigh and Belle, check out the GSUSA Destination page. The first deadline to apply is in November!

G.I.R.L.ing in the Rocky Mountains

Go-getters. Innovators. Risk-takers. Leaders. The 15 Girl Scout Cadettes who went on our Rocky Mountain Park Excursion are truly G.I.R.L.s. They hiked over 15 miles in three days, summited a mountain, restored a trail in the National Park, camped in black bear country while using the skills they learned through Girl Scouting.

“Try new things, work hard, and always help out are things I’ve learned in Girl Scouts,” Leah Perila said.

That’s exactly what Leah and 14 other Girl Scouts did during their six days in the Rocky Mountains!

A week in the Rocky Mountains is challenging for anyone, Girl Scout or not. You have to be prepared physically and mentally for this kind of experience; prepared to be away from home with others you’ve only just met and without cell service for unknown periods of time, prepared to contribute to the group at all times and prepared to trust in adults who are committed to the safety and enjoyable experience of all involved.

As a Girl Scout, Paige Hwang feels ready for anything to happen and was totally prepared for a week in the Rocky Mountains. “This trip exceeded my expectations. We got to climb a mountain, meet cool people, do trail work and make food over a fire,” she said.

For many of the girls, the afternoon spent doing trail restoration in the Rocky Mountain National Park was their favorite part of the trip. The group met two National Park Service Rangers, Ben and Marika (a Girl Scout alumna!), and hiked a quarter of a mile up the mountain with shovels, pick axes, crow bars and tarps to narrow a trail that had grown too large. The work process involved prying large rocks out of the side of the mountain and rolling them down to the trail to create a natural barrier on the trail that was popular for equestrian rides. Holes had to be dug for the large rocks in the trail and smaller rocks placed and crushed around it to keep it in place. Then girls gathered tuff, a combination of pine needles, twigs and dirt to scatter on the outer part of the new trail to make it look as naturally occurring as possible. At the end of the afternoon, they were asking if there was more work to be done! Ben and Marika had nothing but the highest praise for the amount of work that our Girl Scouts did!

The group collectively felt challenged during their three major hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park; the first at Bear Lake, the second to The Pool and the final one to the summit of Deer Mountain. Each hike a little more difficult than the previous one. They talked about how discouraged they felt during the long ascents, but how they were inspired by the scenery and thought of accomplishment that they were able to empower themselves to keep moving forward.

“I was challenged mentally by thinking I couldn’t do it, but once I thought positive I did better,” Zoey Christensen said.

The views at the end of the hikes did not disappoint!

“The beauty and wonder of the mountains met my expectations, but the wonderful friends I made exceeded them. Girl Scouts has taught me to socialize and talk to new people. Without Girl Scouts, I would be one of the most lonely and socially-awkward people on the face of the Earth!” Cassidy Freeman

We are excited to challenge, inspired and have girls make new friends at our next council-led excursion to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota in July 2019! Stay tuned to our social media for registration details!

 

Girl Scouts Give Their Heart to Camp!

“We are always looking for places to help, but sometimes the person or place we need to help is right next to us. We have a tendency to look globally, which is great, but sometimes you need to learn to look locally for who you can help.” -Liz Gregoire, Girl Scout Junior Troop 173.

Girl Scout camps are places of adventure and opportunity. Thanks to the work of countless individuals, generous gifts from donors and members of Daisy’s Circle, and Girl Scouts, camps continue to grow to meet the needs of the girls they serve. This effort to keep improving camps has inspired girls to find ways to give back themselves. Check out these three inspiring stories about new opportunities added to camps for girls by girls!

GAGA BALL PIT

It all started with the GaGa Ball Pit! In 2015, Service Units 638 & 639 added a GaGa Pit to Camp Prairie Schooner as a Day Camp service project. Girl Scout dad, Bill Schneider worked with Site Manager, Zac Sibert, to plan the project and coordinated the teens on build day. While Bill handled all the cutting of the wood, girls helped assemble, stain and drill on the project to make it come to life.

“We wanted another experience for the girls…[a GaGa Pit] is competition, fun and not too physically demanding while still getting your heart pumping,” Mr. Schneider said. The GaGa Pit has since been a place where girls can go for free-form fun. It’s organic play that the girls can do during down time and where girls meet new people. This project has since inspired two troops to give back to camp and complete their Bronze Award projects!

9 SQUARE GAME

Junior Troop 173 from Lee’s Summit, MO gave back by building a 9 Square game in Farmer’s Field for their Bronze Award. The troop knew they wanted to give back to Girl Scouts, so they walked around Camp Prairie Schooner and made note of their favorite things and the GaGa Pit was the top option.

“What our girls love about the GaGa Pit is that they get to meet other girls, so we built something in Farmer’s Field that could do the same thing,” Liz Gregoire, Troop 173 leader said. Part of the appeal of 9 Square was that it was a structure the girls could build without a lot of adult help and they could be creative.

Through the process, the girls learned to write donation request letters and how to build the structure. They printed rules that hang by the game and can see the result of their work every time they visit camp. “By seeing an activity you did within Girl Scouting, you will see it year after year and how it gets utilized by your troop and other girls. While service projects for other organizations are great, you don’t get to see the lasting results like you do giving back to Girl Scouts,” said Liz.

OUTDOOR JENGA

Gaming fun! An outdoor Jenga set was added by Junior Troop 1963 from Shawnee Mission, KS, also as a Bronze Award project. The troop got supplies donated and with the help of parents, they measured, cut and stained the game. While the actual cuts were done by adults, the girls did all the measuring, wore all the safety gear and were taught about the tools that were being used for the project.

“Giving back makes their experience better and gives them ownership in the camp. They see immediately value in their service by seeing other girls enjoying their project,” said Barb Janssen, Troop 1963 leader.

While they originally planned to go to several stores to inquire about donations, they only needed to make one stop – Home Depot! Melissa from that store donated the wood, stain and sandpaper to make this project a reality. We love it when the community comes out to help girls.

“My favorite thing about the project was getting to build something that every girl in Kansas and Missouri is going to be able to use,” said Jessica Janssen, one of the Girl Scouts who built the Jenga set. The troop donated the game just before their Day Camp, so the Girl Scouts got to see other girls using the game right away. Thanks for this awesome addition to camp!

What an inspiring set of projects! These girls are giving back and making camp better than ever – thank you! Together, we are making camp an absolutely incredible place to be.

Do you love our beloved camps as much as our featured Girl Scouts? You can join us in continuing to support these awesome experiences. Right now, your gift has double the power to help girls get the outdoor experiences they need! The Feist Charitable Foundation is offering a matching investment of $10,000 to underwrite Outdoor Adventure Programming at Camp Prairie Schooner and enable program to develop and grow. Now is a great time to make your gift have twice the impact! You can give now by visiting www.gsksmo.org/Donate

Have you tried out one of these awesome girl-inspired and created activities? Share your experience using the comments below.

The Great European Adventure

Switzerland – Part 3

Read Part 1 – London here and Part 2 – Paris here!

What. An. Adventure. Our first council-sponsored international trip is a wrap!

Girls said au revoir to Paris and hit the (long) road to Adelboden, Switzerland on Day 8! It was an 8+ hour bus ride to Our Chalet, another of the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Centers! With the travel time, they wouldn’t make it to Our Chalet by dinner, so they stopped at a French supermarket on their way out of France. It was a cultural experience, for sure! The girls navigated the aisles and utilized their French speaking Girl Scout sister, Ruby J.! When they arrived in the Swiss Alps, they had a little GSKSMO potluck! It didn’t take long for them to fall in love with Switzerland!

The cool air, mountain views and slow pace were a welcomed change from the hustle and bustle of London and Paris! Our Chalet put together a great day of programming for the group. Everyone received their pewter Our Chalet pin that can only be received by visiting in person, toured the grounds and had the opportunity to do fire building or Swiss crafts. In the afternoon, they hiked nearly 4 miles round trip to Wanderfall in the Swiss Alps! They also got a chance to use all that rain gear they were told to bring (finally). The weather fluctuates so much in the mountains; the sun is shining one minute then the clouds roll in and there are chilly little rain showers! “I didn’t think Switzerland would be as beautiful as it is and that I would like it as much I do,” Katie W. said.

Their programming for the evening was a “Swiss Night” and there was a little concert by Alphorn players followed by Swiss Quiz Bowl game (the GSKSMO team won!) and fondue – one of the traditional foods of Switzerland!

The time at the two World Centers has been a once in a lifetime experience for our Girl Scouts. These Seniors and Ambassadors have participated in World Thinking Days year after year, researching and presenting what Girl Scouts looks like in others countries. Now, they have experienced it. Visiting the WAGGGS Centers has given them a whole new appreciation of the Girl Scout/Girl Guide sisterhood and some are considering working or volunteering at a WAGGGS Center now!

The next day, was their last full day in Europe. They left Our Chalet and had a two hour bus ride into Lucerne. After a visit to the monument dedicated to the Swiss soldiers who protected the Royal family during the French Revolution, a brief walking tour around the city square and a trip across the world’s oldest wooden bridge (built in 1365), they had their final excursion opportunity – a visit to Mt. Pilatus! A boat ride on Lake Lucerne brought them to the base of the mountain and the Cog Railway brought them up to the summit. It was fairly cloudy and rainy which made pictures difficult, but they were met with a rainbow on the cable car down! They ended the night, and trip with a traditional Swiss Folk Lore night complete with Alphorn playing, yodeling and dancing by our Girl Scouts!

It’s no surprise that GSKSMO girls made friends with other Girl Scout Sisters on this EF Tours trip from Silver Sage, Utah, NY Penn and Nation’s Capitol councils and were sad to part ways with them! Not only did they make friends with sister councils’ girls, but they made friends with each other. “It’s the people that are in Girl Scouts that made this trip memorable,” Kaitlin G. said. “The [Girl Scout] journeys teach you how to be a good person, so all the people here are nice!”

This wasn’t an overseas vacation for our Girl Scouts. It was an adventure that challenged, engaged and excited them. Girl Scout Senior Katie W. has always dreamed of living in Europe and this trip just validated those dreams. For Skylar, this was her first time visiting major a major city! “I don’t go a lot of places and I’ve never been a massive city. I feel like I adapted to every place easily,” Skylar said!

For all our Girl Scouts, this was a first good experience to ease into international travel, learning how to navigate the city and the different cultures.

“My favorite part of this trip was realizing that I can apply what I have learned from school and my French class and use it in real life.” Ruby J. said.  “This experience has helped prepare me for bigger adventures in the future.”

We are excited to announce that our next council-sponsored trip for Seniors and Ambassadors will be to Belize in the summer of 2019! Details will be posted to our website early next week so you plan your trip and travel like a Girl Scout!

The Great European Adventure – Girl Scout Style

Part 2 – Paris, France

Read Part -1 here!

Leaving London, you wouldn’t know that the group of 11 girls had only just met a few days before!

The group left London on the Eurostar bright and early on Day 5 and rode on the Chunnel under the English Channel. They arrived in Paris, France, the city of lights and the city of love just a few hours later and hit the ground running!

LOUVRE PHOTO

The bus dropped them off at the Louvre, the largest museum in the world, and the first one to ever open to the public. Among the 35,000 pieces in the museum are some of the world’s most famous such as the Mona Lisa, Venus di Milo and Winged Victory. Girls broke up into small groups and explored the museum hitting the highlights. To see every piece in the museum would take hundreds of hours!

That evening dinner was at Flamm. A French-styled pizza place and was the girl’s favorite meal so far!

The next morning they boarded the bus and made the drive into the city from the B&B Disneyland Paris hotel and got their first taste of Paris traffic, which would continue to impact their travels for the next two days! They picked up the tour guide and spent the morning seeing the Paris sights, trying to spot all the sailboats they could. Did you know that a sailboat is the official symbol of Paris?!

In the afternoon girls had the opportunity to do an excursion to the Palace of Versailles, the Royal Palace that King Louis XIV had built because he didn’t like the Parisians. The Palace only lasted a century before it closed during the French Revolution. While some toured the grandiose building and grounds, others had the chance to go up into the Eiffel Tower and visit the city’s most famous macaroon shop!

That evening there was the option to go up into the tallest building in Paris as well as go on a sunset river cruise on the Seine. Those two activities did not disappoint!

Day 7, was just as jam-packed as the previous day and there wasn’t a single second to be wasted their final day in Paris! The morning started out in the Latin Quarter of Paris at Notre Dame where Andrea, our awesome tour guide gave a brief history of the church. During the French Revolution the French beheaded the saints on the church because they thought they represented the Royal family. It wasn’t until The Hunchback of Notre Dame that the perception of the church changed and the statues were repaired!

Andrea walked our group around the area showing them the narrowest street in the city, Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche (The Street of the Fishing Cat). Named after an Inn that was on the street, it’s just over five feet wide! Also in the area was Shakespeare and Company, the first and oldest English bookstore in Paris (Hemingway was known to visit here)!

The group had another excursion option that afternoon to go to Disneyland Paris, just minutes from the hotel. While some chose to visit the most magical place on earth, others continued exploring the city of lights shopping and visiting Pompidou Centre, the modern art museum and going to Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur!

For all of the girls, this was their first time being in a place where English wasn’t the primary language. On their last night they were chatting and comparing the two cities they had visited thus far; liking both London and Paris for the own unique reasons. “I was surprised at how easy it was to still communicate with people who didn’t speak English,” Kaitlin B. said.

The next day the group will take 8-hour bus ride to Adelboden, Switzerland where there will be three different languages spoken – French, German and Italian and spend time at another WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts)!

How have you traveled like a Girl Scout? Let us know in the comments below!

 

The Great European Adventure – Girl Scout Style

Part 1 – London, England

“Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on deep and permanent in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

Do you remember the first big trip of your adult life? The one where you were equal parts nerves and excitement because you were finally going somewhere that only existed in text books and movies? Were you worried that it wouldn’t live up to your expectations? Or maybe you left feeling personally challenged seeing things in all new ways and maybe wanting more?!

Girl Scouts from our council are having that experience. Right. Now.

For over two years we have been planning and preparing for our fist council-sponsored trip abroad with EF Tours. This trip was open to all Girl Scouts in high school and volunteers at the time of travel in our council and girls worked their Cookie and Candy, Nuts and Magazine businesses to supplement the cost of the trip using proceeds as well as Cookie Dough! Finally, on July 1, 11 Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors and two volunteers left the USA with two GSKSMO staff members for an 11 day adventure to three countries in Europe – England, France and Switzerland!

A slight delay in Atlanta didn’t dampen our spirits! Passports in hand, peace out USA!

After a full day of travel they landed at London Heathrow airport where they met their tour guide, Andrea, and Girl Scouts from three other councils and begun immersing themselves in the culture even before they left the airport! (When you order a coffee, you get espresso. When you order water, you have to specify tap water. And don’t expect to get ice with it!)

After checking into the hotel, Andrea explained how to navigate the Tube (mind the gap!) and they were off to Trafalgar Square, to dinner and then spent time in Leicester square where they were all captivated by a unique street performance!

Day 3 was their first full day in London and it was chalked full of information! The group met up with tour guide Keith, who was equally knowledgeable as he was hysterical. He spent the day showing everyone around London and spouting off fast facts, comical jokes and stopping at some of the notorious landmarks and activities like the Changing of the Guard, Westminster Abbey and touring Windsor Castle.

  • The city of London is actually only one square mile? Greater London surrounds it and is 600 square miles!
  • Most of London burnt down in 1666.
  • The Tower Bridge is the most photographed bridge in the world and is named after the Tower of London, which it sits next to.
  • The Queen of London doesn’t live at Buckingham Palace, but that is where she does 75% of her work.

Their final day in London began with an educational morning at Pax Lodge, one of Girl Scouts’ World Centers. Each girl received the official Pax Lodge Pin, a pin you can only get by personally visiting! They joined Girl Scouts from other councils and for special programming led by a Girl Guide from Nigeria!

In the afternoon they went on a river tour on the Thames, rode the London Eye and a double-decker bus (a bucket list item for many), had the traditional fish and chips dinner and then some revisited Leicester Square and Chinatown while others saw Wicked!

London was a whirlwind, but everyone had a great time and checked those “must-dos” off their travel bucket-list!

Next up, they’ll take the Eurostar, also known as the Chunnel, under the English Channel and head to France where they will spend three days in Paris!

For them, this trip is just getting started. These 11 girls didn’t know each other are now forming friendships among themselves, as well as with the Girl Scouts from three other councils who are travelling with them.

This is the first of a three part installment that we’ll bring you after each country! If you want to keep up with their trip along in real time, follow us at www.instagram.com/gsksmo for photos, InstaStories and LIVE videos (you’ll get a notification) or search #GSKSMOabroad2k17!

We want to know about your travel experiences, with or outside of Girl Scouts so let us know in the comments below!

For the Love of Girl Scout Camp

Spotlight on Resident Camp Director Marley Parsons

Girl Scout Camp. Where your girl gets to be the person she’s been taught to be. Where she tries new things, is curious, confident, embraces the unfamiliar and makes new friends. Friends that are as much different, as they are alike. Camp is where she has the opportunity to fall in love with something larger than herself.  Girl Scout camp is an experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

For Resident Camp Director, Marley Parsons (aka Ferris), camp was all of those things and more; which is why she is so passionate about providing Girl Scouts with those experiences at Camp Daisy Hindman each summer.

Marely joined Girl Scouts when she was in third grade. Something she had always wanted to do after hearing her mother share stories of Girl Scout camps, badges and pins. For her first Resident Camp experience, Marley had to convince her mom to let her go to Oakledge where the programming was more advanced, because she wanted to be at the same camp her mother had attended and worked!

That first summer was just the beginning for Marley. She was at camp every summer after that, often for multiple sessions. At camp, Marley completed all three Treks – Canoe, Pack and Sail, which was a remarkable accomplishment for any Girl Scout.

“Camp was the place where I went to be included and be successful. Where I was encouraged to be strong and challenge myself,” Marley said.

In 2002, she completed the Counselor in Training (CIT) program and was on staff the following two years and then returned to camp staff for a summer after college in 2012. In 2016, Marley’s passion for Girl Scout Camp brought her to Girl Scouts full-time, as the Resident Camp Director.

“I wouldn’t have been brave enough to do so many amazing things if it weren’t for the skills of resilience, self-reliance, self-rescue, and bravery that I learned at camp. I wanted to be a Camp Director to teach girls these skills. Teach them how to be courageous, show them their strength, and help them grow into people who will run the world in the future.”

Just like her mother, Marley is telling her own stories to campers and the camp staff, instilling a love for this organization and its experiences that will continue for generations to come.

“In my opinion there is nothing better for youth development than Resident Camp. It’s a structured environment for girls to try new things in a safe and accepting place. For most youth, camp is the first experience away from a familiar environment. It’s the first experience young children have with adults who are not relatives or teachers who take a genuine interest in their lives. I’m a grown adult now, and those staff who helped me grow as a child are still heroines in my mind’s eye.”

What memories do you have from Girl Scout Camp? How has Girl Scout camp impacted your Girl Scout? We would love to hear your stories in the comments below!

The Love of Camping Becomes a Career

Meet Lifetime Girl Scout & GSKSMO Staff Member “Willow”

Girl Scout camps are magical places and the weeks Girl Scouts get to spend in the great outdoors each summer are often the highlights of their year. For some special Girl Scouts, the love of camp and inspiring the next generation of G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM, can become a life mission. Meet GSKSMO’s Outdoor Experiences Manager – Alli Bearly (aka “Willow”)! This Girl Scout Alumna, Lifetime Member and experienced camper has turned her love of camp into a career helping girls.

Alli joined Girl Scouts as a 1st grader and stayed with the program through her senior year. She loved getting to know her Girl Scout sisters, doing service and getting outside. It wasn’t until later in her Girl Scouting career, the last summer she could in fact, that she experienced the magic of resident camp.  “When I was younger, I was very shy. I loved camping, but the idea of doing it for a week with people I didn’t know stressed me out. The summer after my junior year, however, my friend convinced me to do this canoe track and told me ‘don’t worry, they’ll teach you how to canoe,’ so we went,” Alli said.

That experience was a turning point for Alli. They slept under the stars, canoed over 90 miles and she had independence like she’d never experienced. Not only did that inspire Alli to get involved with Girl Scout camp as a counselor, it was a foundational experience that gave her the courage to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, during college. All because of Girl Scout camp and pushing her limits.

The summer of 2012 was Alli’s first summer on staff and she joined the Adventure Staff, teaching rappelling.  Rewind several years to Alli being a 4th grader who watched rappel and made the choice to not complete the activity with her troop – a decision Alli feels was right for her at the time. “I love the ‘challenge by choice’ philosophy that we use at camp. I remember as a girl being able to make the choice not to rappel and no one telling me I had to go. It’s something I still use in my personal life and I think it’s a great model for girls to realize they’re the ones that make those decisions for themselves, even if the decision is no,” Alli said.

For Alli, the reason she’s decided to have a career with Girl Scouts is because she’s getting to change the lives of girls every day, just like her counselors gave her the courage to be a G.I.R.L. when she was a girl. “Camp is a place where there are no limits placed on you. Girls get to do whatever and try anything and I wanted to give back to a place and organization that gave so much to me by letting me try. It’s awesome to see girls face scary challenges every day and decide what they want to do,” Alli said.

As the Outdoor Experiences Manager, Alli directly works with adventure staff and helps develop new programs. In particular, she’s excited about the Low Ropes course at Camp Prairie Schooner because “it’s a great opportunity for troops to learn how to work together and improve their relationships,” Alli said. While many of the programs encourage personal challenges, like rappelling and zipline, she loves the group challenge that Low Ropes provides.

While summer is the highlight for Alli’s team, she loves every aspect of working with girls on adventure programming year round. “I love my job because I can see differences being made in girls. As someone who’s been on the other side, as a girl, I know how much these little things can impact a girl’s life,” Alli said.

With summer in full swing, Alli and her staff are out at camp and helping girls become G.I.R.L.s! Thanks to all our dedicated staff who makes a difference for girls! If you’d like to learn more about our Council Properties and adventure programs, visit our Outdoor Experiences page!