Burke Lake Park’s campgrounds filled up last week with hundreds of Girl Scouts and Brownies looking to fine-tune their outdoor survival skills.
The girls participated in the weeklong Burke Lake Adventures Day Camp. The camp rounds up Girl Scouts and Girl Scout Brownies from the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital (GSCNC) to teach them more specialized skills than what they learn within their troops, said Elizabeth Gulding, director of the camp. This summer’s camp was all about insects, fishing and Native American lore. The Girl Scouts volunteer as teachers to their younger Brownie sisters, providing the young girls with mentor roles throughout the week.
"I love helping out and being with the little girls because they’re so much fun," said Sarah Ummen, 13.
Ummen, a student at Washington Irving Middle School in Springfield, said it’s rewarding to be able to teach the younger girls new skills. The girls earn patches called "try-its," literally meaning they’ve tried something new. And the younger girls definitely picked up new skills.
On the last day of camp, several Brownies recalled some of the new information they picked up during the week. As Georgia cast her fishing line into Burke Lake, other Brownies recalled what they learned during the week.
"We learned about bugs," said Krista Brezynski, 6. "Some bugs have eight legs."
Julia Luce, 7, said she learned about the native dress that Indian children wear, but that her favorite part of the camp was the fishing. Gulding said it was the first year the GSCNC tried fishing at the camp. The girls are so young, so they were a little concerned about having fishhooks flying around. But with parent and Girl Scout volunteers, the fishing remained safe and fun for everyone, she said.
The Virginia Department of Games and Fish came in and spoke to the girls in the beginning of the week. The department loaned the camp fishing poles and taught them about the types of fish they could catch in Burke Lake.
The overall goal of the camp is to help the younger girls become more self-sufficient and confident, said Gulding. The camp provides a place for them to make new friends and learn things together.
"We want to provide them with new opportunities that they don’t get in other settings," said Gulding.
For the older Girl Scouts who volunteer, like Sarah, it’s a way to provide community service and mentor the girls. They lead them in songs, games and arts and crafts, all while earning some community service hours as Girl Scouts.
"It feels nice to help out the community," she said.