Lakeridge hosts Girl Scout summer camp

Brownie Girl Scouts learn how to place wood to build a camp fire. (From left to right) Anika Jansen, Brianna Buchmayer, Valentina Sakellaridis, Maya Groh, Maria Hoffman.  - Gretchen Jansen/Special to the Reporter
Brownie Girl Scouts learn how to place wood to build a camp fire. (From left to right) Anika Jansen, Brianna Buchmayer, Valentina Sakellaridis, Maya Groh, Maria Hoffman.
— image credit: Gretchen Jansen/Special to the Reporter

What do you get when you mix 149 girl scouts, 35 adult volunteers, a Medieval theme and an elementary school playground? “The best Girl Scout camp ever!”, according to one camper.

Two weeks ago, the Mercer Island and South Bellevue Girl Scout Service Units, which combined, represent 575 girls, held their annual day camp on the grounds of Lakeridge Elementary. Not only did the younger Girl Scouts play and learn scouting skills, 20 teenaged girls, who volunteered as Program Aides had the opportunity to develop their leadership skills by planning and teaching the day camp program.

Over the course of the week, campers also collected 327 pounds of non-perishable food for donation the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services food bank.

Girl Scout campers spent the week learning leadership and scouting skills — including outdoor cooking, knot tying, fire building and safe knife handling. They also sang songs, put on skits, worked on crafts, played games and made new friends. In keeping with the medieval theme, the scouts learned how to dip candles, learned contra dancing, jousting and made shields with crests that reflected their personal values.

While the days were filled with fun for the younger girls, the camp also provided 20 volunteer Program Aides with a valuable opportunity to learn and practice leadership, a primary tenet of the Girl Scout program. In preparation for camp these older Girl Scouts (ages 12-17) participated in extensive training in the spring, including a Program Aide Course and at least 25 hours in a leadership role. They spent over 35 hours planning how to teach skills to younger Girl Scouts within the camp theme, and during camp, they worked a full 40 hours, leading nearly all the camp activities, adapting their teaching to different ages, and keeping the campers girls excited and learning all week.

The work was hard, but rewarding. Program Aide Fiona Kraus said the girls are always happy to see her and she enjoyed teaching them new things – and seeing their faces when they get it.

“I’m definitely coming back next year!” she said.

The Program Aides also provided outstanding models of leadership to the younger girls. Asked what she liked best about camp, 7-year-old Brownie Anika Jansen unequivocally said she liked the “PA’s the best.

“I want to be one when I’m older,” she said.

The day camp was managed entirely by 35 adult volunteers, including Girl Scout troop leaders and mothers of Girl Scouts. They oversaw the Program Aides, led the small groups of campers, and helped with cooking, crafts and first aid. The Mercer Island and South Bellevue Service Units — which combined represent 575 Girl Scouts — have been jointly presenting a day camp for the community for about 15 years but this is the first time in many years that it has been held on Mercer Island.

The Mercer Island Girl Scouts will hold an open house for interested new members on Sunday, Sept. 13, 3-5 p.m., at Islander Middle School in the Multipurpose Room.

Girl Scouts Service Unit Manager Gretchen Jansen is the Island's new Girl Scouts leader. For more information about the Girl Scouts, call Membership Director Stacey Thompson at (206) 232-2979.

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