This summer, we had the opportunity to launch an exciting new program in partnership with the STEM Institute at Preston Middle School called Girls in the Woods. This middle school summer camp focused on developing outdoor skills and appreciation for nature in a supportive, all-girls environment. But why is it important to get girls outside?
Girls and women feel a great deal of pressure to conform; to be a certain way or do certain things. Many girls also experience a decline in overall confidence starting in about 5th grade. Luckily, spending time in nature and with meaningful friends can help. Whereas time spent using technology is related to feelings of sadness and depression in girls, time spent in nature can reduce stress and anger. Women who spend at least an hour, on average, outside each day feel more confident in many areas of their lives and many women say that being in nature makes them feel free from the pressures of everyday life. Supportive friendships also help to reduce feelings of sadness and depression in girls.
Girls in the Woods is a special program that gives girls the opportunity to try new things in a supportive environment with their peers and adult female role models. The girls in this camp caught and identified insects, went hiking, learned to use a compass and set up bear bags, tents and tarps. During our overnight trip to the CSU Mountain Campus, we successfully lit a campfire with only one match, roasted s’mores, identified wildflowers and watched as researchers banded and released hummingbirds. We also got in touch with our artistic side with daily drawing and writing activities that connected us to nature in a more personal way.
Many of these girls accomplished things during the week that they thought were scary or difficult, and everyone’s confidence grew over the course of camp. At the end of the week, the campers noted that the girls-only environment helped them get to know each other better and develop friendships with people they had never met before. Programs like Girls in the Woods are key to helping girls increase their overall confidence, learn skills they might never have without these outdoor experiences and form positive, supportive relationships with other girls.
But the most important change happens at home; many women report that their mother was the most important female role model for their outdoor experiences as children. So, if you’re a parent, take your girls outside this weekend and cross something off the list of 100 Things to do Before You’re 12!