Parenting · Sports

Raising Rippers: The Girl Scouts are incorporating adventure sports into their next generation programs

rippers1How do you raise rippers? This week, OUTSIDE releases an all-female May issue with a report from Contributor Florence Williams on Girl Scouts and Raising Rippers.

Today’s Girl Scouts bring in $800 million from all those Tagalongs and Thin Mints.

And thanks to a renewed emphasis on the outdoors, more and more of them are taking risks, having adventures, and building the self-confidence that comes from getting outside.

OUTSIDE Contributor Florence Williams embeds in troops in Colorado and Maryland. How are the Girl Scouts incorporating adventure sports and more into their next generation programs to help millennial girls survive 21st Century adolescence? Florence can discuss:

·        The Issue: Scouting—and its historic, gender-defying reach into the  outdoors—faces challenges worth noting if you care about the future of girls and the future of adventure. In the U.S., participation in outdoor activities among girls ages 6 to 12 dropped about 15 percent between 2006 and 2014, when it was 7 percent lower among girls 13 to 17, according to the Outdoor Foundation, the nonprofit research arm of the Outdoor Industry Association.

·        The gender gap and adolescence: As little kids, boys are 4 percent more likely to do things like cycling, running, fishing, camping, and hiking. Among teens the gender gap widens to 12 points. And while more girls than ever play sports, they receive plenty of mixed messages when it comes to physical pursuits.

We know millennial girls are more likely to be cyberbullied and to suffer from depression and anxiety than boys. Suicide is increasing at a faster rate among girls 10-14 than any other group. Behind the outdoor-sports discrepancy lurks a worrisome chasm: the bravery gap. A 2014 survey of more than 1,000 girls by the Oakland, Calif., nonprofit Girls Leadership showed that half identified as brave, compared with 63% of boys.

·        The good news: a solid decade of research has revealed that outdoor adventure programs for girls promote friendship, perseverance, self-confidence, leadership and general badassery linked to happiness and success. Always evolving, Girl Scouts is adding new programs in adventure sports and robotics.

·        The Challenges: Girl Scouts must be a Girl Paradise, right? Not quite. Given the well-studied benefits of unleashing girls in nature, the Girl Scouts still put up pretty deplorable statistics when it comes to actually getting girls outside. In Florence’s neighborhood in Washington, D.C., she says the local Boy Scout troop goes camping once a month and the Girl Scouts go three times a year. Chalk one up for the boys.

Only 40 percent of Girl Scouts, in fact, do any kind of outdoor activity on a monthly basis. Although half of all Girl Scouts rate camping as a favorite activity, only 3 percent go camping every month. Four percent go hiking monthly, and 19 percent go walking, an activity that sets a pretty low bar. Those figures plummet even further for Scouts of color.

·        The bottom line: If we accept the evidence that taking physical risks is related to psychological health, emotional resilience, and the self-confidence that girls need to navigate a complicated and sometimes unfriendly world, then it matters that we close the bravery gap, for all girls. Pain and rejection will happen; being in nature can help girls find solace, strength, and inspiration.


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