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6 Amazing Overnight Experiences!

Sleeping bags and giggling girls…there’s just something special about a troop overnight that you can’t get anywhere else. Maybe it’s bonding as you sneak by the adult during a 2 am snack run or the silly stories whispered among friends but whatever it is, it’s essential to Girl Scouts! And we’ve got some great suggestions to take your troop overnight to the next level.

  1. Sleep With the Fishes: Or as close as you can get with Sharks After Dark at Newport Aquarium. Or take a walk on the wild side with one of our zoo partners, with options like Safari Overnight (Toledo), Sleep With the Manatees (Cincinnati), and Night Owl (Columbus) you’re sure to have a wild night! Contact the education department at your zoo of choice for more information.
  2. Rat Basketball and Explosion Shows: Only at COSI. Always bringing fun and science together, the camp-ins here are a long standing Girl Scout tradition. Girls 14 and up can even go behind the scenes as Program Assistants. For science, technology, and teamwork programming this place is hard to beat. If Columbus seems too far, Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta also does awesome overnights and Imagination Station in Toledo has some excellent badge related science workshops so check them out as well.
  3. Cowboy Up: saddle up with the wranglers at Camp Willson as you explore the countryside on horseback. You’ll ride to a primitive campsite,  spend the night, and hop back in the saddle for several more hours of riding before your adventure ends. Not quite ready for primitive camping? Test your riding skills at Marmon Valley Farm. Take a trail ride, spend the day on the farm, and sleep in the bunkhouse for a less primitive but still memorable overnight adventure.  GSports14_EasternPA_-389
  4. Explore the River: Spend a day (and a night) on the water with Little Miami Canoe Rental. They’ll pick you up at Camp Whip Poor Will, teach you the basics, and then let you wander the byways of the Little Miami. Camp out in Oregonia on the river and then paddle down to Morrow in the morning. At the end of the trip, they’ll return you to Whip Poor Will.
  5. Sleep Underground: Everybody loves camping when there’s no fear of rain. For those willing to travel for adventure, the Blue Springs Caverns Overnight in Bedford, IN or Caveman Camp Outs at Cumberland Caverns-TN  are the perfect overnight to explore the natural wonders of the cave without giving up modern conveniences like restrooms. Not ready to sleep in the cave but still want to explore? Try out the Waterfall Crawl at  Marengo Cave in IN for muddy adventures and then spend the night at their bunkhouse or join our outdoor staff for our Caving Trip April 30-May 1, 2016 for more underground adventure. Contact Tori Houck ( for more information on our trip.
  6. Backpack through the Wilderness: Explore the outdoors and sleep under the stars as you load up your backpack and take a hike to the perfect overnight location. First timers can learn all about the basics at one of our Backpacking Workshops, then try it out during our Backpacking Overnight at Van Buren State Park. Ready for a lengthier trip? Join our council-wide Backpacking Trip and help us plan the entire trip. Contact Vicki Proctor ( or Tori Houck ( for more information on these events.

What are you waiting for? Start planning your next troop overnight today! Don’t forget to check Safety Activity Checkpoints before your go and use the Travel and Troop Trip Overnight Planning Manual from our Required Trainings to make sure you’re ready for your overnight.

8 Favorite Campfire Recipes from Campers Who Know!

It’s almost fall-time to stop and smell the campfire! Summer’s heat and humidity will soon give way to cooler temperatures and autumn’s colors. This is the perfect time of year to introduce girls to another Girl Scout tradition: cooking outdoors. So grab (or borrow) a dutch oven, some roasting forks, and test out a few of our tried and true campfire delights on your next outdoor cooking adventure! Here are a few of our favorite recipes to get you started.

  1. S’moresalways a Girl Scout favorite. There’s a reason these tasty treats have their own national day-they’re delicious! But if you’re looking for some variety, try swapping out the chocolate for a Reese’s cup or sandwiching your marshmallow between trefoil cookies. You could even grab some foil and a banana and try Banana Boat S’mores. The fruit makes it almost healthy, right?

    Banana Boat S’mores

  2. Chicken Hobo-wrapped in foil with potatoes and carrots and cooked to perfection this is one of the simplest and tastiest main dishes. We love to change the portion size to individual so each girl can choose her vegetables and make it her own. Plus the minimal clean-up makes this a keeper!
  3. Campfire Cones-another tasty dessert that’s easy enough even your Daisies will be able to assemble them with some adult supervision. These prove ice cream cones have so many more uses than just to hold ice cream.
  4. Dutch Oven Pizzawho says pizza must come in a cardboard box? You can make this kid-friendly favorite over the fire using charcoal or wood with this easy recipe.
  5. Walking Tacos-this recipe gives you a taco in a bag. A favorite for those who believe plates at campfires are unnecessary supplies.
  6. Brown Bears-for simple and sugary it’s hard to beat these doughy sweets. Roast them till they’re golden brown and you’ve got a tasty dessert.

    Brown Bears

  7. Dutch Oven Coca Cola Chicken-heat up some coals and pull out the dutch oven for this crowd pleasing main dish. Guaranteed to make any soda loving camper’s day!
  8. Camper’s Breakfast Hash-make tired campers roll out of their sleeping bags and wander out for breakfast, this skillet recipe is a great way to start the day outdoors.

Can you think of more outdoor cooking favorites? Need help building your outdoor cooking skills? Learn more from our outdoor staff-come to Camping 101 this fall or save the dates for Campfire Cooking and Campin’ Fever in the spring (look in our Program Event Guide-spring event registration on Ebiz opens in November). The great outdoors are calling, grab your roasting forks and answer the call!

Starting Your New Troop-Tips From Veteran Leaders

You’re on your way. You’ve followed our 6 tips for new leaders as best you could and you’re starting to plan the year with your girls and your team of committed adults. Now for that next important question. How are we going to pay for all of this stuff? The troop needs markers, crayons, paper supplies, craft supplies, and so much more. What about their books and uniforms-should the troop or parents buy them? Insignia and badges? The questions and supply lists go on and on and while we promise that Fall Product and Cookie Sales will soon be a big help,  your troop needs a plan for the basics now.

We hear you and we’ve got some great tips from volunteers who’ve done it. So take a deep breath, scroll through, and learn from Girl Scout volunteers who survived their first year without breaking the bank as they advise you how to make it all work on a shoestring budget.

  1. Ask for donations. You can send a basic supply list to troop parents and ask them to donate items to the troop (glue, scissors, crayons, markers) or even specific needs for crafts like extra fabric, pony beads, or things of that nature to help get you started. Encourage parents to pass it to their friends and family members or businesses that they have personal ties to in your area to widen the reach.
  2. Make uniforms optional! The minimum Girl Scout uniform is the membership pin. While sashes, vests, and insignia are iconic (and adorable) many troops allow parents to choose if they want to buy their daughter a sash or a vest and the basic insignia (including the pin) for their first year. For trips and activities some troops buy/make Girl Scout t-shirts to make spotting their girls easier in large groups. After your first year, revisit this with your girls and parents, show them the costs, and see if they want to use troop funds from product sales to purchase uniforms or save those funds for activities, supplies, and badges.
  3. Explore your community. There are free programs in most communities if you just know where to look or who to ask. Will the firehouse let your troop tour them as they work on their Safety Award? Does the local park have nature programs for children that can help with the Bugs badge? Seasoned troop leaders in the area are a great resource for finding these gems, so connect with them at a Service Unit meeting or on the GSWO Volunteer Support page to find fun (free) things in your area for your first activities.
  4. Agree on troop dues. Troop dues are a specific sum that parents or the girls themselves contribute to the troop. They are entirely optional and each troop chooses to have dues and what those dues will be. Talk with your troop (parents and girls) and make an agreement about what dues will be collected and what they’ll be used for so that everyone is on the same page and has ownership of the decision. It can be as simple as collecting $1 per meeting from every girl or asking for a specific amount from each family at the beginning of the troop year (usually between $20-40). One troop that charged $40 in dues every year had a Mother state at their meeting “where else do we get an entire year of activities and good lessons for only $55 ($15 membership, $40 dues)?”
  5. Share ownership of troop finances. When parents and girls are included in the troop’s finances and understand the income/expenses of the troop, they make better decisions about spending. So let parents/girls know how much badges cost, the amount the troop will make off each cookie box sold, and that if their daughter signs up for the Spookwalk event but doesn’t attend the troop is not refunded the registration fee. The more they know, the better choices everyone can make, and the easier it will be to handle the troop’s finances.
  6. Borrow key resources (or go digital). Before you buy every girl her very own Daisy Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting ask around. Is there a copy in the local library or at the Girl Scout center you can borrow? Would a bridging Brownie troop let you borrow/have their Daisy 3 Cheers for Animals Journey Adult Guide? Can you access all of the needed information digitally through the Volunteer Toolkit? While we cherish our Junior Girl Guide from when we were 10, buying all of the books can quickly deplete a first year troop account. If a girl wants one, send her to the council shop to buy her very own.

Does this help with  first year money-worries? We hope so! If a member of the troop has financial barriers, remember Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we want every girl to be able to find her wow with us. We offer financial assistance for membership as well as for camps and program events because money should never be what stops a girl from finding her courage, growing her confidence, and building her character!


5 Signs You Were A Girl Scout!

Growing up in Girl Scouts, we discovered a world full of fun experiences, made a whole bunch of new friends, built our confidence, and made our world a little better along the way. And those are just a few of the benefits! Our alumnae say Girl Scouting was positive and rewarding for them and they rate their Girl Scout experiences very highly (Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study). While no list could show the entire collection of activities and experiences we had earning badges, selling cookies, going on exciting trips, outdoor exploring, making a difference in our community, and more for your Labor Day fun we’ve made a list of 5 signs you were a Girl Scout. Is your favorite on this list?

  1. You were giving three-fingered salutes as part of your Girl Scout Sign way before Katniss made it cool! And you can still recite the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Those words were branded into your brain at every meeting and will likely still be there 20 years from now when you’ve forgotten your 2nd grade teacher’s name. 
  2. You were making deals and honing your people skills while running your own business before most kids even got their first jobs. Those Five Skills the Girl Scout cookie program talks about? Yeah, you’ve got them, and you’re not afraid to show them off! 
  3. You upcycled before upcycling was cool. After making a bag out of an old t-shirt and a bird feeder out of a plastic bottle at camp you feel compelled to find a use for useless things. Throwing things away shows a serious lack of creativity! 
  4. You have at least one lifelong hobby that you discovered because of Girl Scouts. After all, you put a lot of effort into those badges-why wouldn’t you keep learning and improving your skills!
  5. You know with a little help from friends you can solve any problem. Remember that time your troop had to set up tents and cook dinner over the fire in the middle of a rainstorm? You figured that out and you’ll figure out whatever else the world throws at you. Bring on the challenges world, you’ve got this!

With Girl Scouts, you did more than you ever thought you could, dreamed bigger dreams than you ever imagined, and — oh, yeah — changed our world. Bet your 10 year old self didn’t realize paddling a canoe or selling thin mints would help her do all that, did she? 

Want to reconnect with Girl Scouts as an alumnae or get updates about what’s new along with inspiring stories of girls and volunteers who are changing our world with Girl Scouts? Join the Alumnae Association today!


6 Reasons to Love the Volunteer Toolkit

Girls have more fun when they can shape their own experience, do hands-on activities, and work together as teams. Girl Scout volunteers have more fun when they have easy access to resources that help them spend less time planning/coordinating and more time with their girls trying new things, making friends, and exploring the world of opportunities available to Girl Scouts!

Our Volunteer Toolkit (more information here) launched last spring by GSUSA is one of those critical resources. It allows girls and leaders to explore meeting topics and program activities together, and follow the fun as they plan their Girl Scout year. A digital planning tool, it gives volunteers (and girls) resources and program content to get the year started—and keep it going smoothly! But it can do so much more than that and we love its versatility. Here are some of our favorite reasons to love this new resource:

  1. It’s Everywhere– as a digital resource volunteers can plan and prepare practically anywhere their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer are! Stuck in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and need to email the troop a quick reminder not to forget their rain boots for Saturday’s creek stomping trip? Pull out your smart phone, click on the My Troop tab, and send out your reminder.
  2. It’s Evolving: GSUSA is updating content, adding functions, and improving this tool based on feedback from the councils and volunteers using this resource.  The My Troop tab went live this fall, a parent view and a Finance tab were added in early September, and new badge content was added for Brownies (Computer Expert, Brownie Sense, Outdoor Adventurer) and Juniors (Entertainment Technology, Social Butterfly, Horseback Riding). As the years go by, more content will be added and features will be upgraded/altered based on input from volunteers across the nation.
  3. It’s Customizable: K-5 troop leaders can choose from pre-populated (out-of-the-box) year plans from the Year Plan Library or create your own customized plan by dragging and dropping meetings into your customized Year Plan track. All leaders (K-12) can use the “Create Your Own” Year Plan to add custom activities, trips, and council activities/events to their Year Plan.
  4. It Tracks Important Things: Through the  My Troop and Meeting Plan tabs you can keep track of who’s registered in your troop, their meeting attendance and achievements like badges/Journey awards earned, and their guardian’s contact information. Then in the Finance tab, you can track troop income and expenses. You can even use it to electronically submit your finance report. All of these things, in one digital resource!
  5. It Keeps Parents Informed- Primary caregiver have the ability to view their girls’ troop year. Features include: read only views of My Troop Tab (no contact info), Year Plan, Meeting Plan, and Financial Tab. For tech savvy parents that means less need to call troop leaders to ask what’s on the packing list for the annual camp out, when the next meeting is, or what the troop spent their money on this year. It’s like a digital Girl Scout parent planner/calendar that instantly updates when changes are made. 
  6. It’s Green: This resource will replace the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and the Journeys as the primary resource for Girl Scout volunteers for badge and Journey requirements. While girls can still enjoy having their own Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and the Journey girl books, volunteers will be able to find the content in those resources through this digital resource. Less books to buy, store, and lug around with your troop materials! Let the trees rejoice!

So now that you know our favorite things about the Volunteer Toolkit, what are you waiting for? Try it out yourself and join the digital Girl Scout age!

The Girl Scout Way: Take Action Weekend

Girl Scouts have been offering a helping hand to those in need and working together to improve their corner of the world for over 100 years. Our legacy of service goes all the way back to our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, who had a clear vision of what she wanted Girl Scouting to be and made sure that service to others was embedded in our mission. To honor the spirit of service that Juliette placed at the heart of our organization, we’re inviting troops across Western Ohio to join your sister Girl Scouts on October 9-11, 2015 in honoring Juliette’s legacy by completing a Take Action Project, while working on your Girl Scout Way badge (available for brownies and up).

Brownie Girl Scout Way BadgeThis is our second Girl Scout Way: Take Action Weekend and we’re so excited to hear about the amazing projects that girls across Western Ohio will participate in to make their corner of the world a better place. This is for all grade levels council-wide! Girls can work with their troop and/or service unit to plan a project in their community that addresses a community need. Don’t forget to identify other organizations and individuals who can help the girls accomplish their goals and then put their plan into action. When girls take the lead with the support of the community, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish! Don’t forget to register your project before you start. T-shirts will be available for purchase before the weekend, the order for the shirts must be received no later than Friday, September 18. Questions? Contact! So what will you be doing October 9-11th? We’ll be making a difference in our community-come join us!

More Than a Walk- 7 Hiking Activities for Girl Scouts

Exploring the outdoors on a hike with young girls is an amazing experience. The sound of wind in the trees, the smell of dirt beneath boots, a chipmunk scurrying for cover as six girls give chase-these are the moments that build lifelong memories. But sometimes on a long trail nature needs a little help to keep the “are we there yet?” or “I’m bored” comments at bay. To make hikes an even more fun and engaging experience, so much more than just a walk, here are some of our favorite activities and games that’ll keep girls occupied as they mosey down the trail.

  1. ABC Hike: particularly useful for Daisies or young hikers, ask girls to start at the beginning of the alphabet and identify something on the trail that begins with “A” then work through all the letters in the alphabet. If girls get stuck on a hard letter (like X or Z) see if they can find trees whose trunks make an X or sticks that fell in a Z pattern.
  2. Girl with magnifying glass outdoorsNature Detective: turn the girls into amateur sleuths by asking them to find a strange geological or biological feature (tree bending around another tree, a rock shaped like a face, or a cave-like rotting log). Have them approach it, touch it, and see if they can figure out what it is or why it is as it is. This is a quick activity to get girls to engage their reasoning skills as they use as many of the senses as possible for investigating the world around them. Many trail maps have fun names for these odd formations like the Devil’s Bathtub at Hocking Hills State Park but if they don’t, the girls can always make up their own nickname too.
  3. The Never Ending Story: help girls create a unique story as they hike. One person begins to tell a story and then passes it along to another person to continue the plot and so on. The rules can vary, with one version where each girl gets to add one sentence to the story or another where a girl must stop in mid-sentence and another girl has to finish the sentence. This is a great way to keep groups of girls hiking together, laughing, and being creative. Plus the stories are always hilarious!
  4. Scavenger Hunt: this one can be planned ahead where girls get a list of things to find (but not always keep) as they begin the hike or the leader can keep it as a back up for when energy starts to lag. The directions can be as simple as challenging the girls to find things that are fuzzy, small, rough, bumpy, smooth, big, soft, sticky, squishy, lumpy, wet, living, growing, round, triangular, moving, make noise, hard, smelly, etc. Or if the leader is familiar with the trail she can make a list of landmarks on the trail itself.GSports14_VaSkyline_-1609
  5. Rainbow Colors: ask girls to try to identify things along the trail by the colors of the rainbow. Once the girls start looking closely for each color they’ll be amazed at how many colors are found in nature.
  6. Blindfold Hike: a more challenging idea for older girls this activity has the girls pair off. The first girl will be blindfolded (to explore and discover things in a new manner) and the other will be the guide (responsible for the safety of the blindfolded person). Lead the group over different types of terrain asking girls to guess where they are going. Have them study a tree and tell all they can about it by using all their senses but sight, or ask them which direction they are traveling. Have the girls switch roles. Best on a well-maintained trail where the leader is familiar with upcoming obstacles and hazards.
  7. Night Hike: if your girls are masters of day time hiking, change it up by taking them on a favorite trail after dark. For a first try pick a night with some natural light from the moon, leave the flashlights at home (they destroy night vision), and learn to see the world through night’s eyes!

If you’re still a bit nervous about trekking off with your troop or want a guide for your first hike, contact your local parks department to see if they have guided hikes coming up soon. Or come out to one of our properties for a program event like Junior-Habitat ExploringAdventuring with Maps-Brownie/CSA/Junior or Brownie Hiker and explore with us. What are you waiting for? Tuck a few of these ideas into your backpack and turn a walk into an outdoor adventure!


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