Fuel for Thought

Take Them Camping
by Sarah Loftus -- June 10th, 2015

The worrying started back in winter at a monthly meeting for Carteret County Girl Scout leaders, when another leader announced a spring camping trip. As a newly established troop, I had zero camping supplies and no funds to support such a trip. But this was an essential Girl Scout experience- I’d find a way.

After many to-do lists, Outdoor Skills and CPR/First Aid certification courses, advice from other leaders, profits from cookies sales, supply donations from parents/guardians and friends, and tending to logistical issues, I began to feel more comfortable about taking a group of 3rd graders camping…for 2 nights…outside…with bugs they weren’t used to…and plenty of instances to get hurt or homesick or be afraid of the dark. Most of them had never been camping before. I couldn’t stop thinking about their high energy levels and tendencies to do cartwheels whenever and wherever. Could I prevent total chaos?

My worries melted away last weekend as I witnessed the same group of girls having the time of their lives, while also helping to set up tents, collect firewood, cook, and clean. We camped at Flanners Beach in the Croatan National Forest, tucked off of Route 70 and about a 45 minute drive from Beaufort.

Where the forest meets the beach is the best of both worlds.

Where the forest meets the beach is the best of both worlds. Flanners Beach in New Bern, NC.

At troop meetings prior to the camping trip, the girls learned how to set up a tent and build a fire safely. I was proud to witness how much these lessons stuck with them, like when they tested sticks while we collected firewood to ensure they broke easily and were not alive or wet. We had our first campfire with s’mores on Friday night after setting up the campsite. The girls took turns telling “scary” stories around the fire with a flashlight held under their chin to illuminate their face.

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The most popular marshmallow roasting method was to catch the entire marshmallow on fire. It’s okay, they have years of practice ahead of them.

On Saturday we met girls from other Carteret County troops during outdoor skills activities. Knife Safety was a hit with our troop. Since the girls were Brownies (2nd and 3rd graders), they used paper pocket knives to practice. After the lesson they were each given a piece of sidewalk chalk to carve with a plastic knife. They spent almost an hour making different figurines and shapes from the chalk, thoroughly enthralled. During down time we walked around the campsite, where there are lush forested trails next to the shore. In the evening the fields twinkled with fireflies, and the girls would excitedly stop to hold one in their hands.

We explored beautiful forested trails that Beaufort lacks.

We explored beautiful forested trails, a refreshing change from coastal Beaufort.

Our final meal on Sunday morning included pancakes, which the girls were eager to help make. And I was happy to call the weekend a success- not that everything went smoothly all of the time, but because the girls thoroughly enjoyed themselves. No one had even wanted to go home. In fact, a couple girls started referring to our campsite as home. I know the trip encouraged future outdoor experiences for the girls, and was a step towards treating any possible cases of nature-deficit disorder. I will ensure those outdoor experiences continue happening with our troop- the experiences that discreetly instill a sense of appreciation and responsibility for the environment, through enjoying it.

Sunset over the Neuse estuary at Flanners Beach.

Sunset over the Neuse estuary at Flanners Beach.

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