Wilderness Inquiry Helps Scouts be More Inclusive

Girl Scouts and Wilderness Inquiry partner to bring more opportunties It seems like a perfect match. Between the Girl Scout’s […]

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Girl Scouts and Wilderness Inquiry partner to bring more opportunties

It seems like a perfect match. Between the Girl Scout’s goal to reach every girl everywhere and Wilderness Inquiry’s (WI) goal to bring the great outdoors to everyone, opportunities for partnership abound.

Among the collaborations between these two groups, the most prominent is Beyond Special Populations, which focuses on “helping to increase and improve the inclusion and integration of girls who bring a wide range of abilities and backgrounds to Girl Scouting activities,” said Brian Steines, associate program director with WI. That includes all girls, of all cultures and economic backgrounds, as well as all physical, cognitive and mental abilities.

Since 2005, the Girl Scout Council of St. Croix Valley (GSC) and WI have served hundreds of girls, Girl Scout leaders, staff and volunteers through workshops, trainings, and multi-day trips throughout Minnesota and the U.S.

Wanda Rice, a Girl Scout volunteer who recently attended the Attention All Abilities training seminar, said that it “taught us how to make all we do in Girl Scouting fully accessible to all girls.” She plans to share her newly obtained knowledge with her troop. Attention All Abilities provides hands-on, interactive training that gives volunteers the knowledge, skills, activities and tools to help girls of all abilities.

WI also provides training through the Discovery Seminar series, which gives volunteers and the council staff opportunities to learn how to adapt activities to include all girls, understand different types of disabilities, and help others increase their comfort level.

“For the remainder of 2007, WI hopes to expand these trainings to other councils around the U.S. while working with the Girl Scout Council of the St. Croix Valley to improve the overall model and its effectiveness,” said Steines.

WI has also developed a Girl Scout page on their Web site to educate groups about specific disabilities and supply regional and national information resources.

With the foundation and training for adults in place, the next step was to incorporate the girls. In summer of 2006, WI and Girl Scouts took girls from GSC’s special initiatives groups—Beta Gamma Girl Scouts (BGGS), Hmong Women’s Circle (HWC), and Latina Unidas—canoeing and camping on the Namekagon River in Wisconsin. For a majority of the girls, it was their first camping experience.

“The Namekagon River trip was the best adventure ever,” said a Latinas Unidas Girl Scout. “I experienced new things, got to meet new people, and learned about new cultures. The trip was really fun because we played games, cooked our own food, [learned how to] steer the canoe, [made new] friends and, most importantly, had fun.”

Every girl in Girl Scouts wants to participate, to achieve her best, and to have fun. Wilderness Inquiry helps open doors to make that happen for all girls. Through GSC’s relationship with WI, more girls will be able experience the great outdoors and everything that Girl Scouts has to offer.

Dawn M. Short is Communications Specialist for the Girl Scout Council of St. Croix Valley.

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