Since 1910, when Dr. Luther and Charlotte Gulick founded Camp Fire Girls (see video below), Camp Fire has focused on helping youth appreciate and experience the outdoors. In fact, Dr. Gulick was so convinced that outdoor skills were integral to the social and character development of young women and a major part of his vision for child development that he started or influenced many of the youth organizations in the early 1900s. Today, Outdoor and Environmental is one of three primary program areas for Camp Fire councils across the country. The outdoors permeates the organization, whether it’s a day or resident camp, an out-of-school-time program or a teen service and leadership effort.
And the kids and teens who participate appreciate that focus. Ninety-two percent of youth surveyed at Camp Fire believe that being in Camp Fire makes them want to take care of nature and the earth. In fact, many youth are so excited about the outdoors and their camping experience that they enroll in Counselor-in-Training programs to learn skills in leading other youth outdoors.

Being connected to nature isn’t just a fad at Camp Fire. Instead, it’s woven into the heart of all programs. Often we hear Camp Fire leaders talk about hearing youth comment that Camp Fire is the one place they can unplug, be free of technology, and immerse themselves in the natural world. At the same time, many Camp Fire camps are beginning to meld the technological and natural worlds via geocaching and investigations of natural elements via the use of microscopes. Camp Fire Wise Kids® Outdoors, a curriculum for elementary-aged youth, offers kids a focused opportunity to explore where food comes from and the critters and bugs in their own backyard.

No matter what the scenario, youth are taught to respect and appreciate the nature they have around them. Camp Fire has played and will continue to play a key role in connecting youth to the outdoors. It isn’t a declining fad. Rather, it is part of the fabric that weaves our 60 councils across the country together in providing exceptional experiences for youth.

Melissa Hanson, Vice President, Program Planning and Evaluation