Houston, We Have Dream Liftoff!

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Girl Scout destination to Space Camp – Amanda M.

Ever since Cadette Girl Scout Amanda M. visited the Cosmosphere with her Girl Scout troop in 3rd grade, she has dreamed of being an astronaut.

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By attending The Barstow School, Amanda has also taken classes with Mr. Beier, who happens to also work for NASA studying black holes.

You might see a natural progression and growth of her desire to be an astronaut here.

This summer, Amanda’s dream came true in a big way. Through Girl Scout destinations, Amanda got to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama with 11 other Girl Scouts from around the county.

When the opportunity to go to Space Camp with Girl Scout destinations arose, it was a no-brainer for her mom, Terri Munsell. In fact, when Terri was a Girl Scout in the 70’s and 80’s she traveled with Girl Scouts through a similar program!

For six days, Amanda got to eat, sleep and breathe space!  Included in those days were two special simulated missions, one involving the International Space Station (ISS) and another a lunar mission to Mars. Both experiences gave girls the chance to play different roles such as commander, mission specialists, pilot, capsule communicator and more!

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On their first mission the girls got to work in the movie prop and simulator from “A Smile as Big as the Moon.”

Their first mission also happened to have a movie-type ending.

With five minutes to spare, Amanda and her team ran into a little snafu trying landing their spacecraft. The instructions said to ‘please see landing booklet,’ a very important book that they couldn’t locate. On approach, they realized that they were going to have to forget the landing booklet and land the aircraft manually! Now following verbal commands, they were to engage the landing gears. Once again they were unable to locate the switch!

“With one second left to go, we got the landing gear engaged!” Amanda said.

Not knowing if the gear had engaged in time, they asked if they had indeed survived this simulated mission. As baffled as they were, Houston informed them that they had in fact survived!

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Each morning at Space Camp started with a briefing – just like real NASA training. Then they would go to a training that involved hands-on science experiments with outer space and then eat lunch. For lunch, they were served space food from countries that have sent people to the International Space Station. Dishes were from Japan, Russia, the United States and several other countries.

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One afternoon during Space Camp, Amanda got to hear a special guest speaker, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. Dottie is a former Girl Scout and the first Space Camp alumni to actually travel into space! Originally a teacher, she was recruited by NASA in 2010 for a 15 day mission in order to bring supplies to the ISS and repair the air conditioner.

“She actually had to stay an extra day in space,” Amanda explained. “Oh you know, the heartbreak!”

Clearly she sees no problem with extending one’s time in space!

Dottie explained to the group how every space mission gets to design their own patch that they wear on their space suite. Keeping the similarities between Space Camp and actual NASA missions, each of the teams designed their own patch and Amanda’s team won for best design!

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Before she headed to Huntsville, Amanda watched the movie “Space Camp” to try and get an idea of what to expect.

“After [Space Camp] I wanted to be able to tell myself ‘ok Amanda you can do this.’ I wanted to be inspired; I wanted to learn how it all works. I didn’t want to just learn that [space missions] were a thing; I wanted to learn what issues it could have and how to fix those issues. And I did,” Amanda said.  I got all of my wishes fulfilled.”

To say that Amanda learned a lot at Space Camp is a bit of an understatement. Her and her team successfully completed two missions, which is impressive in itself.

“There are so many girls and people around the country who are interested in space. I’ve never met anyone, other than Mr. Beier, who is into space like I am,” she said. “When I went to Space Camp I got to meet people who will probably be my lifelong friends. Hopefully I’ll be able to go on missions with them one day if I’m an astronaut, no WHEN I’m an astronaut.”

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Ironically enough, virtually every female that’s gone into space is a Girl Scout alumna.

Although she’s only in eighth grade, Amanda knows that big dreams take big plans. Her sights are currently set on MIT or Stanford and after college she plans to gain experience being a fighter pilot before she becomes an astronaut.

We have no doubt that Amanda will achieve her dreams and continue the Girl Scouts in space legacy.

Destination locations for 2016 have just been announced on GSUSA’s website. Head over there and see how you could help your Girl Scout achieve her own lifelong dream!

Hollywood Dreamin’

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When you have a love of Girl Scouts, a desire to travel and a deep passion for the arts, choosing to go to Los Angeles, California with Girl Scout destinations is a no-brainer. At least it was for Ambassador Girl Scout Amanda Johnson!

Amanda will be a senior at Raytown South High School and has been in Girl Scouts since she was a Daisy. When she found out about the destination opportunity through Girl Scouts of the USA, she started looking into where she wanted to go! As an aspiring YouTube personality, a film camp-type of experience in Hollywood was the perfect fit!

In July, Amanda packed her bags and jetted of to California for a week of experiences that would end up changing her life.

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Flying into LAX was an experience in itself.  Worried about celebrity encounters, a lot of thought and planning went into her outfit! “I actually wore sunglasses so I could scope things out. You know, you have to play it cool!”

As she was celebrity-spotting, Amanda was also looking for her fellow Girl Scout sisters and quickly learned that the easiest way to identify them is to look for a friendship circle.

“Once I saw a couple girls sitting in a circle together, I was like ‘those are the Girl Scouts!’”

As each Girl Scout landed at LAX, that friendship circle grew bigger and bigger until all 12 had arrived.

Duffle bags, pillows and cell phones in hand, the girls headed to California State University with their leaders to get settled into the campus apartments that they would call home for the next seven days.

The girls spent the evening getting to know each other and their group leaders as well as learning more about what they could expect out of the trip. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever experienced a college campus!

The objective of the “Hollywood Dreamin’” destination in Los Angeles was to give Girl Scouts a real life experience of producing a short film.

amanda 5Filled to the brim with French Vanilla Cappuccino from the cafeteria, the girls got right to work learning about the film industry from the three professionals that they would work with throughout the week. They were instructed that they would divide into two groups to create a 3-2-1 film: 3 page script, with 2 actors in 1 setting. After discussing the prompts given, both groups elected to do a comedy.

Amanda’s group talked through a story line of a young adult male throwing himself a birthday party but the only person to show up is the pizza delivery girl. One they got their idea firmed up, they got to work on their script!

The next morning Amanda and the other girls got to tour Warner Bros. Studios and learn about “film magic”. They toured some popular TV sets including that of Pretty Little Liars. Amanda  loved touring the different pieces of the set and seeing how the show works. She made sure to share her experience with fellow show fans through snapchat!

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After the tour each group took their script into pre-production with a team of cinematographers. This is where Amanda learned the most about the industry. Professionals walked through the script with her group, blocking the actor’s movements and talking about the types of shots they wanted. They became familiar with industry terms and learned how various shot types impact what the audience feels!

“You have to take your time, there are details that will make or break it,” Amanda said.

While filming, Amanda got to do a little bit of everything. She directed, ran sound, operated the boom mic and various other tasks!

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“It was neat to see how the actors interpreted our work,” she said.

While their film was only 4 minutes, it took a full day of filming to get everything captured. Amanda learned about little details that you have to pay attention to, such as clocks that are on the set!

Their last full day was spent editing the video, touring LA and concluding with a screening party that night.

“Everyone was very impressed with each other’s work,” Amanda said

Amanda and her team’s work was so impressive that the professionals recommended they submit it with their college applications if they apply to film school.

“Basically I have a new passion. I now understand film more,” she said.

In just six short days these Girl Scouts did it all. They created 2 short films, toured Warner Brothers Studios, explored LA and built friendships with other Girl Scouts that will last a lifetime.

The whole destination experience was memorable for Amanda.

“Film is the production, the writing, thinking, creating, communicating, and advertising. It’s everything. I I’ll definitely use all the skills I learned in whatever career I choose.”

The group has plans to visit each other in the future, but for now they’ll keep their group chat active!

Be on the lookout for an Amanda Johnson YouTube Channel in the future!

We have no doubt that Amanda will be a sensation in whatever she chooses to pursue!

Check out Amanda’s video “Cry if You Want to” here!

There are domestic and international destinations for Girl Scouts who are 11 years old and up. Maybe your girl will fuel her passion on a trip of a lifetime, like Amanda. Destination locations for 2016 will be posted on the GSUSA webpage on August 15!

An International Trip of a Lifetime: Anna Vogts

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– All Because She is a Girl Scout!

Anna Vogts will tell you that she was born into Girl Scouts and that her passion for the organization has only grown as she has.

This summer, Anna, who is from Overland Park, Kansas took her very first international trip as part of the Girl Scout destinations’ program. She explored Central America and studied sea turtles.

On June 20, Anna and eight other high school Girl Scouts from around the country left home to explore Panama and Costa Rica and observe and study the habitats of sea turtles. Two weeks later, she returned home with an incredible story and 7 new friends. Enjoy a few excerpts from Anna’s travel journal.

Day 1

On the first day of my trip I traveled from Kansas City to San Jose, Costa Rica. I was nervous because it was the first time I flew internationally and by myself. I got into San Jose in the mid-afternoon and then met up with Outward Bound Costa Rica. Once we got to base camp, I started to get to know the girls who were going on the course with me.

Day 2

This morning we drove to the Panama/Costa Rica border. The six hour car ride included a trip through immigration and concluded with a boat ride to the beach and our arrival in San San Pons Sack where the sea turtle conservation area is.

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Once we got to the beach we started to learn about the type of conservation work we would be doing there. After touring the property, we began our conservation work by making covers for the sea turtle nest in the compound. My group was a little slow because none of us knew how to sew, but it all worked out! While working on the covers, the other girls and I got to know each other a lot more.

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Later that night, we got to work on a nightly patrol to try to find Leatherback Sea Turtles. The goal was to bring eggs that had just been laid to the compound where they would be safe from predators and increase their survival rate. Amazingly, within the first few minutes of patrol we found a turtle that was just beginning the laying process. We took measurements and checked for any injuries to guess age of the turtle and estimate number of eggs that will be laid. After taking the measurements for the turtle, I was picked to hold the bag that the turtle eggs dropped into. I was literally only inches away from the turtle, which I thought was amazing. Little did I know that the next day I would get to have an even more up close and personal experience with the Leatherback Sea Turtles.

 

Day 3

Today was our first full day in San San Ponsak. We started off with exhumation of sea turtle eggs that hadn’t developed and were left over in the nest in the hatchery. After digging them up from the ground, we had to and sort the undeveloped eggs to help the conservation workers know what the problem was. Although I really didn’t like smell of the eggs, I thought it was really interesting to see the amount of eggs that didn’t develop. When added to the number of turtles that hatched from the nest, it was 50-80 eggs total. The mothers know that not all the eggs will survive so they lay a lot, which just shows you how amazing the Leatherback Sea Turtles are.

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Next, we got exciting news that there was a batch of baby turtles that were ready to be released. I was super excited to get to hold the baby turtles. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and it really made me feel like I was making a difference in the world.

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Our sea turtle adventure continued that night when four other girls and I went on a night patrol. We spent most of the time walking the beach with no sight of a turtle; but, as we were on the way back to the nursery we spotted one. As done the night before, we worked together to gather the data needed to track the turtle and we successfully got the eggs to put in the nursery.

Day 4

Today we visited the pineapple plantation that is in San San Pond Sack. I found it really interesting to see how pineapples grow because we don’t have anything like that where I’m from.

 

After the eventful morning at the pineapple plantation, we packed up everything and took a boat back to the mainland to our journey to Bocas del Toro. Bocas del Toro was breathtaking; there is ocean for miles and giant looking mountains that tower over the vibrant city that would become my home for the next nine days.

Upon arrival to our hut we all got into our swimsuits and grabbed our scuba mask and started to explore the new underwater surroundings. The underwater life near our hut was amazing to interact with. The creatures were harmless and we could touch most of the wildlife we encountered! My personal favorite was the moon jellies and the starfish because I wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity to see these animals, let alone hold them.

 

Day 5

Today we went into the city of Bocas del Toro and took a biking tour of the city. The city had lots of vibrant colors and amazing architecture. My favorite part was biking on the beach and taking in the amazing scenery.

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After the biking tour, we stopped at a local beach where I got to boogie board for the first time.

 

When we got back to the hut, we went wakeboarding. At first, I had a difficult time because I couldn’t standup and ended up face planting more than I would have liked to, but I got the concept after about bazillion times! To my devastation, I face planted right after that.

Day 6

The first thing we did today was zip line at a local resort in the canopy of the rainforest. It was amazing how far away you could see; I could see the ocean, the mountains, and the rainforest. This helped me truly see the beauty of Panama.

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After our zip lining adventure, we went to the resort’s beach and hung out there for the afternoon. I boogie boarded again and I actually caught some real waves! While at the beach we also saw a sloth, this was one of the animals that I really wanted to see while on my destination!

 

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Day 7

On the seventh day of the destination we went into the city to shop and take a tour of the artisan area of Bocas del Toro. Bocas is very vibrant and colorful, which really reflected the chill vibes there. When we got back to our hut we geared-up and went snorkeling in the open water. It was so awesome because I got a closer look at what we would be seeing while scuba diving.

 

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Day 8

Today our instructors surprised us with a kayaking trip around the island on which we were staying. I was excited because I kayak all the time at home. We had seen a lot of Bocas del Toro, but little of the island we were staying on. My partner and I started out strong, but it began to feel like lunch was never going to come. I definitely learned that sea kayaking is for pros and lake kayaking is for me! Despite the hard work, I enjoyed myself and felt very accomplished for the day!  Once our instructors finally told us that we were stopping for lunch, we were overjoyed. For lunch we had PB&Js, but with guava and pineapple jelly, which was surprisingly really good! On our trip we saw everything, from the harbors of Bocas to the vibrant colors on the island. It was beautiful and amazing and definitely an image I will remember forever.  Right before we made it back home, the waves started to get rough and even white capping. We made it back to the hut and rested for the long days ahead of diving into the underwater world.

Day 9

Today was one of the most exciting days on our trip; it was the first day of scuba diving! Personally, I was a little nervous because I had a hard time snorkeling, but then again it was a challenge I knew I could concur. After getting all strapped into our gear, we got into the ocean and went over basic diving procedures. Once we had mastered the skills needed to be successful divers, we ventured under the water and practiced our skills again and again so we could past the skills test at the end of the week. While practicing, we toured some of the nearby coral. The underwater world was amazing to see for the first time and made me super excited for the rest of the week.

 

Day 10

No rest for the weary! We started of the morning with scuba diving skills practice  and took another coral tour  – but this time we went to about 40ft allowing us to get much closer to the coral. We even got to hold a moon jelly, a shrimp and a starfish, touch an amenamy, and see a lion fish and a sting ray!

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After scuba diving, we went wakeboarding again. Surprisingly, I actually got up on the wakeboard every time and had some pretty long rides. To me this was a major accomplishment because this is something I’ve never done before and I got to learn how to do it in Panama.

 

Day 11

Today was probably my favorite day of the whole trip because I made huge progress in my scuba diving. I passed the skills portion of the test and then got to do a shipwreck dive. The wreck dive is one of my best memories of the trip because it was something I was not expecting to do and was a lot different than the coral we had been exploring.

 

Later that night, we went on a night dive in a coral area of the ocean. The luminescence of the coral was really neat to see and we found a coral shark, which was a little terrifying at the time. However, now I can say I swam with a shark! For dinner that night we made empanadas, which is basically fried dough with cheese and beans in the middle. This ended up being my favorite meal and I’m pretty sure I had four or five. It was bittersweet because it was our last night, so we all slept outside our tents and fell asleep to the sounds of the ocean.

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Day 12

Today was our final day in Panama and was the day of the big scuba diving test. I was again nervous about the test because I really wanted to come home with my certification. After doing some last minute cramming, the beginner scuba divers took the NAUI scuba diving exam and the advanced divers went for a 90 ft. dive. I passed the test and am now a certified scuba diver!!!!!  After testing was over, we took in our surroundings one last time, in the hope of remembering the beauty of Bocas del Toro forever.

 

Right before we left, we sadly said goodbye to the family who owns the hut we stayed in.

 

After all the goodbyes, we left by boat. I was so sad to leave because my time in Bocas had taught me a lot about myself and about the world around me. I truly left a changed person. We journeyed back to base camp and continued to try to soak up as much Latin American culture before the end of the trip.

 

 Day 13

This was the final full day of our time together and our instructor surprised us with a trip into San Jose.

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We took a local city bus into the downtown area of San Jose and got to experience the city life.

 

We headed to a local market to do some shopping. The best thing I got was a wooden mug that has a sea turtle painted on it.  After that, we went to a local café and had lunch, including a traditional Costa Rican drink that is similar to a milkshake. Next, we went on a tour of downtown San Jose.

We ended the tour at an ice cream shop that had homemade ice cream that was amazing.

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The San Jose tour was a wonderful way to end the trip because it really showed how close our group had become and how hard the next day would be.

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Day 14

This day was the hardest day of our trip, the day I had to leave the place I was starting to consider a second home. It was hard for me to leave, I had really learned a lot about myself and the impact I can make on the world. The best part of the trip was the amazing friendships I had created with girls all throughout the country.

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Is your Girl Scout ready for an adventure of a lifetime just like Anna? There are many kinds of Girl Scout destination trips, both local and international. Learn more about the travel opportunities that you can give your Girl Scout today!

Oh, the Places She’ll Go with Girl Scout Destinations

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Did you know that you can travel with Girl Scouts?! If you want to swim with dolphins, explore the desert, scuba dive with sea turtles, rock climb in Ireland or see Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace, we’ve got a trip for you! Traveling with Girl Scouts isn’t your typical vacation, on these trips you’ll make friends from all over the country while experiencing the Girl Scout leadership keys to Discover, Connect, and Take Action.

Girl Scouts of the USA released their list of 38 destination opportunities for the coming year including both domestic and abroad trips for Cadette Girl Scouts and older.

In addition to GSUSA destinations, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri is sponsoring trips to St. Louis and Savannah, as well as a European excursion for troops and individual Girl Scouts over the next three years.

Courtney Cooper, Girl Scout Alumna, just wrapped up her eighth and final Girl Scout destination trip this summer to Morocco before heading off to the University of Arkansas. She credits her multiple travel experiences with Girl Scouts for her chosen career path.

One of Courtney’s eight destination experiences included a trip to Peru when she was in high school. During that trip, she visited a local health clinic where a majority of the patients were being treated for malnutrition. “I always thought of nutrition being connected to the United States with obesity and junk food, not in a lack of food to eat.”

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Courtney Cooper has been on eight Girl Scout destination trips!

That one experience sparked Courtney’s fascination with health and nutrition so for her Gold Award project, she developed a health curriculum for Kindergarteners in Lawrence and created cookbooks for their families.

As a freshman at the University of Arkansas, Courtney is majoring in horticulture and public health. When she graduates, her dream is to work for a nonprofit that develops and manages community gardens.

Rachel Zimmerli from Overland Park, Kansas is 12 years old and want to be an astrophysicist when she grows up. When her mom, Jennifer, saw the opportunity for her to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, they jumped on it.

“My experience with Girl Scouts helped me feel comfortable with the program to be well monitored and be safe. It’s easier as a parent to make me let go. The opportunities that were available were established trips and I liked the fact that she would be with other Girl Scouts.”

While at Space Camp, Rachel got to bunk with other girls and make friends with the other nine members of her “Boeing” team. She served as Base Commander for a lunar base mission, rebuilt a satellite which had been hit by an asteroid, built and tested heat shields, flew in 1/6 gravity chairs, designed a modular lunar base, and visited Mission Control for the ISS at Redstone Arsenal…just to name a few things.

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Rachel Zimmerli enjoying her time at Space Camp

“[Destinations] really helps you open your eyes to the world. I‘ve never been to the east or west coast, I had never been to Alabama before and I finally got to go there. It gets you going places that you wouldn’t get to experience,” Rachel said.

According to Jennifer, “this experience has made an impact on Rachel’s life because it motivated her to sign up for pre-engineering and computers at school this year.  This is a pivotal year for her to start making her own class choices, and she had the confidence to take her first step toward a STEM track because of Space Camp.”

Applications are now being accepted for Girl Scout destinations and the deadline for applications is November 15 and there are rolling deadlines for council-sponsored trips.

 

“I would not be who I am without destinations, so I try to pay it back as much as possible because Girl Scouts has got me where I am and is who I am. I can’t imagine my life without traveling.”

-Courtney Cooper, Girl Scout Alumna