Building Grit at Summer Camp

We all want our children to be successful in life, and everyone has their own beliefs about what will help a child grow up to become a successful adult. One emerging theory is that children with grit, that is to say children who have developed courage and persistence of character, are more successful in their endeavors than those who are not given the opportunity to learn how to handle challenges or even failure. Sounds reasonable right? But the bigger question for parents, camp professionals, and teachers isn’t what is making children successful, it is how we can build those skills in the children under our care. For his blog “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” on science-based answers for how to lead an awesome life, Eric Barker interviewed Angela Lee Duckworth, an expert on the topic of grit, on the power of passion and perseverance, and how we can build grit in today’s youth to make them into more successful adults. (You can watch Angela’s TED Talk here) In the blog post, which you can read in its entirety here. Eric and Angela discuss five steps to build grit in the youth of today. Below you can read about these steps and how our Girl Scout Camps are specifically designed to promote passion, perseverance and grit in the campers we serve.

1. Pursue what interests you.

At camp girls have the opportunity to try new things and pursue new passions.  We do this through specialized programs, and taking a liberal arts education approach to camping by exposing girls to many different types of activities each week. This way girls can be inspired to learn what they love, and you never know if you’ll like something until you try it!

Girl Scouts also embraces a “girl led” approach to programming where girls drive the momentum of their schedule, whether that’s adding an extra session of boating, or spending more time at arts and crafts. We encourage camper involvement in selecting their programs, and doing more of what they enjoy. 

Not all girls will find their passion while at summer camp, but what they do find is the courage to try new things and be open to new experiences. So when the right thing comes along, our campers are more likely to seize the opportunity

2. Practice, practice, practice!

Practice has to come second to passion, our girls enjoy practicing things that they enjoy and believe they are good at, no one wants to continue to put effort into something if they feel like they are stagnating or not progressing. So, our staff take the time to celebrate success when they see it, and recognize that success looks different for every camper.

By bringing attention to these successes girls can see their progress, however small, and by being challenged with a next set of attainable goals we encourage practice and make failure an acceptable part of the learning process.

3. Find purpose.

Finding purpose involves seeing the bigger picture of how your passion impacts your community. A community can be anything from your family, friends, and household to your town, state or country. The final step in any badge earned with the Girl Scouts is to take action in your community.

Girl Scouts has always promoted the ability of girls to make a difference and impact in their environment and the world, and it is no different at summer camp. From service projects, to kapers, to camp skits and competitions, girls have the ability to make an impact on our community while they are with us at camp

4. Have Hope.

In the process of building grit, hope is defined as the belief that things will improve because YOU are going to work to make them improve. Our “girl led” philosophy demonstrates to girls the importance of their opinion in the outcome of our programs. Our staff team also practices and teaches “optimistic self talk.” You’ve probably heard the old adage (or read it on an inspirational poster) “success comes in cans,” which is an example of one of the phrases you can hear around camp. We encourage girls to believe that they are capable of greatness, and of achieving whatever goal they set their mind to.

Optimistic and positive self talk are key to the success of our campers. It is important to our staff and our Council leadership that girls believe in the power of themselves, and it is at the center of what we do in building girls of courage, confidence, and character through our summer programming

5. Join a gritty group.

We often think of peer pressure as something negative that we want to free our girls from, but positive peer pressure exists as well, and it is a powerful tool in teaching girls to trust themselves and their abilities. We’ve seen time and again that girls who have the support of their unit (new camp friends!) are more likely to try new things, and push themselves to succeed.

Our camper groups allow them to celebrate their successes with their peers, and make failure more bearable. It is much easier to climb our rock wall and climb that one extra foot if your peers are cheering you on and demonstrating that success is possible. It is also easier to walk away from the archery range knowing that you weren’t the only person in your group not to hit the bullseye.

As people, we often follow what is considered normative behavior. That is, we act in a way that is considered normal for our environment. We follow certain dress codes at work, we wait patiently in line at the grocery store, and when we are in an elevator we turn around to face the door while the elevator is moving. There aren’t explicit signs or rules that tell us that we need to face the door when we enter an elevator, but we do it in part because that’s what everyone does and we want to fit into normal behavior.

This same phenomenon exists when it comes to grit. Science has shown that if you are part of a group that works hard, believes in themselves, and preservers through challenges that you will naturally adopt this behavior for yourself. This is the type of culture we work very hard to create and maintain at camp. From hiring gritty staff, to training on optimistic self talk, to monitoring positive peer pressure, to encouraging success. Your girls are sure to feel the difference while they are with us this summer.

All three of the Girl Scout Peaks to Piedmont summer camps are currently enrolling campers for the 2018 season. Sign up today to give your girls the opportunity to grow and challenge themselves while having a great time at camp this summer!  

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