Exploring the great outdoors—even if the “great outdoors” is a section of your local park—instills a sense of adventure in your troop. When your girls’ first outdoor experience is a positive one, they’re more likely to seek out new challenges, which is key to developing their leadership skills.
Though your girls’ activities will vary by age group, our outdoorsy volunteer experts have some tips for kicking off your Girl Scout troop year as sweater weather gets underway.
Find out what excites your girls.
Start by asking the girls to share stories of their favorite outdoor spaces and what makes them special in the fall. You’ll not only get them psyched for upcoming fall adventures—you’ll get a sense of their abilities and comfort level and how you might gently nudge your girls to push past that comfort level.
As you keep your activities girl-led, ask your troop members how they might connect the badges or Journey they’ve selected to the fall outdoor activities they love. If your Daisies can’t get enough of jumping into piles of crunchy autumn leaves, for instance, you might pique their interest with leaf rubbing art as part of the Daisy Outdoor Art Maker badge. If your older girls need an adrenaline spike after their busy Monday–Friday routine, a weekend of rafting and camping can give them the adventure they seek as they earn their Senior Adventure Camper badge.
Discuss activities and set expectations.
Preparation fuels confidence, so ease into your outdoor activities by explaining to the girls—especially those who are less than enthusiastic about the outdoors—how they can get ready for, and what they can expect during, a given activity.
Although it’s generally important to help girls prepare, you don’t need to spend a ton of time preparing younger girls for introductory activities. Everything we have done outdoors is usually an hour or two at most.
For fall-specific activities, you may want to research—or encourage girls to research, depending on their age—local trails and parks that show peak fall colors and/or how to best layer clothing in cooler temperatures.
Adapt badge and Journey activities for the outdoors.
If your girls enjoy their outdoor badge work, ask them how other badges might be adapted for the outdoors and see what creative ideas they come up with!
Look for outdoor opportunities on your council’s turf.
Browse through our event calendar and see what outdoor activities the council has planed. This makes it easier for you (leaders) and your troop to try new things outside their comfort zones. From horseback riding to rock climbing, fishing to orienteering, camp is a great first experience in a variety of activities for most girls.
Be sure to keep troop parents and caregivers in the loop, especially if they’re also new to outdoor activities. Some worry about allergies, bugs, and poison ivy, so it’s important to educate the parents as it is the girls. Also, ask the parents to volunteer to come with you. Parents who enjoy the outdoors often happily volunteer.
And whether you love sleeping under the stars or get squeamish around anything with six legs or more, remember you don’t need to be an expert to lead your girls in outdoor activities. Both you and your girls have so much to gain by exploring the great wide open together, building confidence alongside one another.