I was the director of the Camp Golden Pond for the Hemlock Council for a week in the early 1990s.

As director, I implemented an ‘eastern newt project’ to teach the campers the wonder, respect, and stewardship for the wildlife and natural environment. The girls learned about the life cycle of the eastern newt at the onset of the camp-week. Then, armed with a notebook and pen, they recorded the number of newts they observed throughout the week as well as the color of the newts and the newts’ locations (land or water). They were not to collect the newts. At the end of the week, the units presented their notes, we pooled the data, and discussed our findings. Also, I hoped that our program would promote the end of campers’ harvesting buckets of newts, a practice that I had observed previously at the camp.

We then held a sleep-over on a grassy hill out under the stars. Most of the girls had never sleep outside before. There was some resistance to the idea. “Boy Scouts do that, not Girl Scouts!” It was a growth experience for those who wished to try it. The early evening program included an amateur astronomer with his telescope as well as a campfire, cookout, and S’mores. As we stargazed I could hear girls in their sleeping bags oohing at the shooting stars. One large “star” blazed across 1/4 of sky’s expanse. The few girls uncomfortable with too much adventure transferred their sleeping bags to the lodge for the night. The next day, the number of stars was a major topic of conversation for everyone, and the outdoor-girls were proud their braving the night in the wilds. 

The camp’s caretaker at the time was a kind and wonderful man named “Russ.” I started a “tradition” at the start of the week that whenever the girls spied Russ, they would stop whatever they were doing, face Russ, give him a sweeping group-wave, and yell “Hi, Russ!” Russ surprised me by looking me up at the end of the week and thanking me. He said how much he enjoyed the “tradition,” that no one had ever done anything like that before, and that it made him feel very much appreciated. Sweet.

I also taught the girls the “we’re a little bit crazy-walk” to use as they trekked between locations. You could see and hear groups of girls chanting and crazy-walking every which way all over the camp all day.

It was a fantastic week that still makes me smile. I hope the girls have great memories of that week, too, and that the experiences had a lasting positive impact on their development into well-rounded young women.