West Bolton woman honored for mentoring girls and teaching adults how to lead Girl Scouts
WEST BOLTON, VT | She goes by the nickname Flask. She gets excited when girls come to her with a bug or mushroom or mold for help identifying it. She can’t help getting involved when the need is there, like she’s done at Camp Twin Hills designing programs for the Girl Scouts at that day camp. She’s Pamela Gude of West Bolton, and she has been chosen by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains as its Volunteer of the Month for September.
“She has a wealth of knowledge about Girl Scouting and the natural world, and an inexhaustible curiosity to learn more both for her own education and so she can share the information with others,” said Lara Skinner, coordinator of outdoor programming for the Girl Scout council serving Vermont and New Hampshire. “There isn’t a week that goes by where she doesn’t share some new nature tidbit, from the social structure of turkeys, to one of a bear’s favorite snacks being the wild Jack in the Pulpit plant. She is happy to share her knowledge with staff and girls alike, and has inspired girls to notice the natural world in ways they may not have done before.”
Gude is a leader of Girl Scout Junior/Cadette Troop 13940 in South Burlington, and has earned her credentials as a Vermont Master Naturalist, an outdoor skills trainer, lifeguard, boater, and more. Learning and teaching come naturally – she spent decades as a music teacher for grades K-12.
She began her Girl Scout years as Brownie, and earned her First Class Girl Scout designation – now called the Girl Scout Gold Award – as a Girl Scout Cadette. As a Girl Scout Senior, she earned two service bars for education and volunteerism. Her teaching career then took over, but as an adult she was pulled back to volunteering. As a dedicated letterboxer and geocacher, she was happy to help a Brownie troop earning their Letterboxing badge. Letterboxers and geocachers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places like parks and others try to find them using clues or GPS locations. With that involvement, before she knew it she was a Girl Scout troop leader.
“I had done 20 years as a teacher, and it was a nice time to come back,” she said.
She’s particularly proud of an experience she found for her Girl Scouts, helping a friend of hers who was restoring an 1840 farmhouse. She brought the girls there for a day to do tuckpointing – brushing out loose masonry and applying new mortar. “They loved it!” she said. “I was kind of amazed how much they liked it. They wanted to stay later and do more. My friend was good at teaching them to use the tools and mix the mortar. We got to do meaningful work.”
As an avid outdoorswoman, she has taken her Girl Scouts camping, teaching them to cook outdoors. She brings them to Camp Twin Hills. “It’s just a beautiful property,” she said. The campers wanted more than hot dogs or s’mores, though. “One child thought a crepe pan was essential for camp!” She questioned the Girl Scout, to be sure it was understood that it meant getting up earlier than everyone else to make a fire and start cooking and other aspects of such a plan. The answer was yes. “There were fresh hot crepes, and this kid turns to me and says ‘This has been a dream of mine!’” The crepes, by the way, Gude said, were delicious.
Along with offering training in outdoor skills, Gude is happy to go with troops to the archery range at Twin Hills, teach girls useful knot-tying skills, and how to identify wildlife.
“The thing I love best is when the girls find a bug, or mushroom, or mold, and I love being the adult excited to see their bug! My favorite conversations are ‘Can we make a spore print?’” she said. She directs the child to get a buddy and they proceed to make a print from a mushroom. “Nothing makes my heart happier than watching a group of girls go off with my Forest Trees of Maine book. It’s important for children, girls in particular, to feel capability and mastery in the world. Because, when things are uncertain, when you’re unsure of what you can do, when you might be afraid, you can always fall back on ‘I can make a fire!’ It makes your world feel more manageable. When you teach a kid to use field guides, you’re teaching them to use information technology and think. Young men are always encouraged to take risks and explore. It’s just as critical for young women.”
When she realized that getting skills qualifications for Girl Scouts was taking too long for those who needed them, she became a certified Basic Outdoor Living Skills trainer, and holds certifications for small craft, archery, and lifeguarding. She’s planning to become certified for Advanced Outdoor Living Skills certification as well, to assist in the upper Vermont area. She has guided a canoe trip from Camp Farnsworth. And when she walked into Twin Hills on the first day of camp last summer, she ended up working the entire four-week season to develop programs and skills. When the opportunity arose to become a Vermont Master Naturalist, she took that on, and now offers workshops like Natural Tea Time and Rock Wall Wonders.
“She’s planning on working with her service team to provide more outdoor adventures to girls,” said Stephanie Romero, member support specialist for the council. “She cannot wait to provide more adventures to her Girl Scout community.”
Gude is most proud of having fulfilled her goal of providing programs for all four Girl Scout camps this summer. She guided her second canoe trip this year from Camp Farnsworth, as well as providing nature programs, knife skills, and orienteering at Camp Kettleford and Camp Seawood.
Her Glaciers to Girl Scouts program at Twin Hills this summer let girls learn how the camp’s land was formed by glaciers 13,000 years ago, how farmers changed the landscape, and investigate the glacial history. She has given more than 100 hours over the four weeks at Twin Hills day camp teaching plant and tree identification, how to protect nature, and teaching outdoor skills. She plans to lead naturalist programs at an alumnae weekend at Camp Farnsworth in September, and this fall will be teaching Girl Scout workshops on rock wall history, as well as the history of glaciers in the Richmond area.
Volunteering for Girl Scouts doesn’t just help girls. “I’m a nicer person when I’m working with children,” she said. “I’m often feeling upset and angry about the state of the world, and it helps me to put that away and be able to work with children, girls especially, on what it looks like to be engaged with the environment and what it means to be a good citizen. The Girl Scout Law is an excellent code for living. I’m a true believer in the program.”
Gude believes that the kind of adults you get in a society is dependent on the kind of attention and support you give children. “I want to live in a world where young women have the skills and confidence to do meaningful work and advocate effectively for themselves and others. I want them to have life experiences that they will enjoy and will make their lives richer. You don’t get that world unless you help build it!”
She urges anyone thinking of volunteering with Girl Scouts to give it a shot.
Oh, and that nickname? It comes from her childhood fascination with lab glass. She thought the Ehrlenmeyer flask – the container that fans out in a triangular shape to a flat bottom – was “cool, it has a science-y aspect to it.” So she uses Flask as her camp nickname and her letterboxing and geocaching handle.
Pamela Gude embodies the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ philosophy and shares it with the Girl Scouts and adult volunteers she works with. Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is proud to have such a dedicated and skilled volunteer on our team, and to name her our Volunteer of the Month for September.
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 www.girlscoutsgwm.org.