As you know, I’m busy
sunning myself on a beach getting K-Bear outside this week! Outdoor time is incredibly important to our family, whether it be snorkeling with the fish, digging in the sand, or hiking a mountain trail. I got my start at an early age, thanks to outdoor-loving parents.
Even better than the family hikes they dragged me on was the week-long canoe camp they sent me to each summer when I was 13 and 14 (insert shout-out to Alton Jones!). It was such a young, impressionable and often-times awkward age, but I remember vividly the power of the friendships I built, the freedom I felt, and the connection to nature I established. It was a mighty feeling to canoe all day and set up camp each night, all while learning how to pee in the woods, cook a meal for a team and wash dishes with minimal water. I came home each summer feeling like I could conquer anything!
So it is with happy memories that I feature this guest post by Lauren Caselli, a guide at Alpengirl Camp, an overnight, outdoor summer adventure camp for girls ages 11-17 in Montana, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Norway. A Manhattan desk-jockey-turned-wilderness-junkie, she left her NYC apartment for the wide open valleys of Montana. After 22 years in the traditional education system, Lauren learned more about her passions, her values, and herself during 18 months of wilderness exploration than she ever did in the halls of her public school. An advocate of writing-as-self-discovery, she manages the Alpengirl blog.
Top 5 Reasons to Get Your Girl Outside
We are an indoor culture. As kids, we sit in schoolrooms for eight hours a day. As young adults, we go to college and sit in class or at desks for internships. And more often than not, as adults, we sit at desks, creating our livelihoods, and longingly stare out the window.
I mean, how nice is it to get outside at lunch to have a picnic in the park? Or even just go for a walk, listening to the sound of the snow crunching under your boots or the wind blowing through your hair?
There is more and more evidence that shows that getting your kids outside at a young age teaches them valuable life skills, connects them to the world on a more broad scale, and makes them more aware of how the choices they make affect other areas of their lives.
And while outdoor education is extremely valuable for all children, I’d say it needs to be more widely incorporated into the lives of our girls. I spent five years at a corporate law firm in Manhattan, and left it all to spend this past summer as a guide with Alpengirl for teenage girls in the Mountain West. As a self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” I’ve recently changed my tune and decided that we need to have more “outdoor girls.” Here are 5 reasons that our girls need to get outside:
- Trees don’t tell her what to wear. Our girls are growing up in a world of access. They have television and magazines and the internet telling them what to wear, who to follow on Twitter, and what they should grow up to be. Removing these influences, even for an afternoon, allows each girl to take less stock in our over saturated world of information and more stock in the present and what she feels is important to her.
- She can still be an outdoorsy girl and a girly girl. I confess: I wear makeup, straighten my hair, wear four-inch heels a few times a week, and have attended Fashion Week more than once in New York City. I can also tell you the pros and cons of white gas, how to pack a backpack for a six-week expedition, and why I only bring two pairs of underwear no matter how long I’m out in the backcountry. Girls, particularly teens, are sensitive to the idea that being an outdoorsy girl means rejecting other interests in their lives. I and many of my co-guides are prime examples of how being an outdoorsy girl is meant to complement, not restrict, our already busy and widely varied lifestyles.
- She learns teamwork in a very real way. At Alpengirl, we work together, all day long, on pretty much everything. We belay each other while rock climbing, we cook in teams, wash dishes together, and set up our tents with our tentmates. When we’re backpacking, we split our group gear between us, and we help each other identify a good place to set up camp. From helping each other decide what to wear in the morning to helping each other put on our backpacks, our days are structured around asking for and receiving help. And each girl learns that she can’t do everything herself.
- She learns how to problem solve. Because there are no distractions, girls get a better sense of how they feel. Whether it’s simply “I’m cold” or “I’m hungry” or “The ground is hard,” girls learn how to express their basic needs, and then figure out a solution to solve their problems. While we certainly help the girls come up with ideas about how to solve problems, by the end of the two weeks with us, they are figuring it out themselves and with far more creative solutions than I could ever come up with!
- Her communication skills skyrocket. One of the most important skills in both school and in the work force is the ability to communicate. At Alpengirl, we have a very tight-knit group of 10-12 girls for each session. And there’s a lot to do every day. Girls have to ask for help washing dishes or setting up their tent, they have to help read the map and cook meals. And we give them a lot of ownership, meaning that they are in charge of communicating our expectations to the rest of the group and motivating their group to get things accomplished. Instead of a traditional school setting where we, the educators, talk for seven hours a day, we talk for a few hours a day and then let the girls work together to delegate and complete all the tasks that need to be accomplished. This is much more indicative of how the real world works!
And that’s not all. We’re doing a giveaway!
We’ve decided to share the Alpengirl love by gifting one of you with an exclusive Alpengirl t-shirt and bumper sticker that says “This vehicle stops for Roadside Dance Parties.” To enter:
- “Like” the Alpengirl Facebook page.
- Leave a comment telling us you are entering our Soulicious Life giveaway .
- Deadline is February 14 and we will announce the winner on February 15.
What are your reasons for getting your girls outside?
Any other benefits that you have noticed that aren’t on this list?