The Power of the Outdoors

Building courage, confidence, and character that lasts a lifetime

Some will say that today’s girls are so different than in generations past. Sure, that is true with new technologies, learning from past accomplishments and failures and a unique societal landscape. However, there are similarities that all Girl Scouts share – the biggest, a yearning to try new things, especially in the outdoors.

An outdoor experience helps girls learn new skills, overcome challenges and ultimately grow into a confident leader. This is Joan Wagnon’s Girl Scout story. A story she shares with thousands of other Girl Scout alumnae. Joan’s leadership journey began in her troop and the outdoor opportunities she experienced with other girls.

Joan Wagnon

She recalls her outdoor path fondly. The time the family pastor came to her home to help answer questions her father had about what she would be experiencing in the outdoors. How she felt when she built her first campfire. The fun she had in building a buddy burner using tuna fish cans. The badges she earned in astronomy, hiking and conservation. The laughs, stories and skill-building she experienced with her Girl Scout sisters. The outdoors became a part of Joan early, and it led her to want to take on even more adventure. No different, than what today’s Girl Scouts want – more adventure, the bigger, the better!

So for Joan, more adventure meant primitive camping and taking on challenges in the water. As part of an eight girl patrol, Joan headed to a great national GS primitive camp out in Kerrville, Texas. This was a true primitive experience down to the girls having to haul water to their campsite. In 1956, Joan was selected to attend another national experience in Pontiac, Michigan with 6,000 Girl Scouts camping together. Hiking, fishing, fire building and more challenges was giving Joan those critical skills that would serve her later in life.


Primitive camping was great, but Joan wanted more. She loved the water. At that time, girls could choose different focus areas called Mounted, Wing or Mariner Girl Scouts. Joan chose Mariner. She learned water safety, recanvased a canoe and enjoyed outings navigating the water.


As Joan became a Girl Scout alumna, she didn’t say goodbye to Girl Scouts. She mentored a whole new generation as a Mariner troop leader in the places she resided, Columbia, Missouri, Little Rock, Arkansas and Topeka, Kansas. As she led her troop in Topeka, she supported girls as they built a sailboat and eventually supported an every other year trip to the Boundary Waters.

Joan continues to pay it forward leading the charge for national and local outdoor opportunities for girls. It is such an honor for us to have a past Girl Scout National Board member and outdoors expert like Joan lead our new Outdoor Experiences Task Force. The work of this Task Force is exciting as it will help bring bold outdoor experiences to girls across our 47 counties and hopefully beyond. Just imagine what is possible, our council’s outdoor experiences could be a destination for girls around the country!

Getting outdoors is healthy! It is important for girls to go unplugged! The outdoors builds self-reliance, teamwork and of course courage, confidence, and character!

There are incredible outdoor stories across our council. Maybe it is taking a hike for the first time, learning about the wonders of water, ziplining, horseback riding or… Share your story with us. You may be a future blog feature of spotlighted through our social media sites.


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