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Girl Scout volunteers learn outdoor living skills while camping

BOLS 4.2019
Girl Scout volunteers work together to put up tents for their outdoor training April 13-14 in Franklin, NH. (GSGWM photo)

Sue Berry of Northfield leads the weekend class, credits now-retired trainer Deb Wyman of Sanbornton for her decades as an outdoor expert

FRANKLIN, NH | Some intrepid Girl Scout volunteers participated in Basic Outdoor Living Skills training at the Veterans Memorial Recreation Ski Area in Franklin the weekend of April 13-14, in order to help girls learn to love the outdoors and become more confident in their own skills. These volunteers, both teachers and participants, are shining examples of the kind of people who make Girl Scouting possible, and are honored by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains this month, National Volunteer Recognition Month.

Getting girls outdoors is one of the four pillars of the Girl Scout program, along with life skills, entrepreneurship, and STEM. Hiking, swimming, camping, kayaking, archery, horseback-riding, and simply appreciating nature are a fundamental part of the Girl Scout experience.

During the Girl Scouts Own closing ceremony on Sunday, they had a chance to reflect on the experience.  Cathy Esmonde of Kensington could hardly wait to speak out about the weekend. “I just need to say that I appreciate all the preparation and work it takes to make an event like this happen. And how we walked through how we would prepare for a weekend of camping that I can apply to planning for camping with my Girl Scouts.”

Sarah Kelley of Concord agreed. “I learned so many new ways to present information and techniques to try with my Girl Scouts.”

What stood out to Jessica Fortier of Merrimack was how the group came together so quickly in training.

Karyn L. Martin, Assistant Director of Facilities and Outdoor Program for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, one of the trainers for this class, said, “The most powerful thing about our Girl Scout trainings is how volunteers from across two states connect and stay in touch after the training, working together to share skills with each other’s troops, plan camping trips together, and even plan for future trainings.”

For trainee Jeannette Towse of East Kingston, participating in the weekend training also involved conquering her own nerves about the outdoors. “Everyone was so supportive, and I have their emails and phone numbers to stay connected, and know I can rely on them to give me support or advice.”

Sue Berry, Outdoor Facilitator and Girl Scout volunteer from Northfield, said, “One of the reasons I teach this training is to connect with each volunteer and help them be successful. We model that so they model it for their Girl Scouts.”

Berry draws on her vast experience with camping and Girl Scouts to solve problems and prevent others, such as when girls won’t quiet down and go to sleep. She has solutions for everything, and gently asks “and when that doesn’t work?” to help the group think harder and deeper about what else they could try or if the situation isn’t resolved the first time.

One trainee wrote: “Overall, I was just impressed by the wealth of knowledge, and willingness to share the facilitators showed. They worked well together and were so enthusiastic about learning from each other - the tin can water sprinkler for putting out fires was something we hadn’t thought of until Sue showed us and now we can’t live without it!”

Berry credits her strong history of training Basic Outdoor Living Skills to Deb Wyman, for whom this training was to be her last. Announcing her retirement from outdoor trainings after many years, Wyman is the kind of trainer who has left her mark on hundreds of volunteers and thousands of Girl Scouts. Berry said she thinks she and Wyman have taught the BOLS training in the Franklin area more than 45 times, with as many as 26 volunteers in each class.

“We recently updated out BOLS training materials to a new format,” said Martin, “and linked it to the Girl Scout outdoor badges and online training videos. It is the strong commitment to training volunteers and the knowledge of Deb Wyman and trainers like her that preserves the long and strong training history, and allows Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains to make sure our training is strong, consistent and relevant for volunteers. Deb ensures that we remember why Girl Scouts camp, the importance of the experience and what our Girl Scouts learn gain from it - leadership, problem solving, relationship building. Anyone can take girls camping; but Girl Scouts lets girls lead their experiences, create their own activities, and practice and follow through with plans even when the weather isn’t perfect or dinner gets a little burnt.”

Charleen Osborne of Sunapee already has plans to attend the Advanced Outdoor Living Skills backpacking training this September, and for her, it was the experience of learning from each other that made the training work.

“The trainers have so much experience and even they learned from each other,” she said, “It opened the door for us to share our ideas and what happens with our girls. I am looking forward to taking my girls camping in the bunkhouse at Camp Farnsworth, and trying some new things with them.” 

Basic Outdoor Living Skills trainings teach Girl Scouts and volunteers to rely on each other, make connections and learn from each other and make a difference; and Girl Scouts ensures volunteers are trained and ready to make that camping experience safe, follow Girl Scout Safety Activity Checkpoints and ensure volunteers make it a girl-led experience.

To learn more or volunteer yourself, see

About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit