Girl Scouts Create Handbook To Get Residents Outdoors
They “brainstormed,” and “thought about needs,” and resources in town, while creating My Newtown Ranger Handbook, said eighth grade Girl Scout Jillian Hoag.
A Silver Award Project, the second highest Girl Scout award, took Jillian and Ashley Guerrera roughly a year-and-a half and 50 hours each of effort to complete. The project aims to “address a need in the community and should be sustainable,” explained Girl Scout leader Jennifer Hoag on March 12.
Electronic PDF handbooks are available at https://chboothlibrary.org/become-a-newtown-ranger-get-ready-for-the-outdoors-on-sunday-march-8/, and through the Bike and Trails Committee website at https://www.newtown-ct.gov/sites/newtownct/files/uploads/newtown_ranger_handbook_2020.pdf
“That’s the sustainable part,” Ashley said. Several public venues, temporarily closed, will make hard copies available once they reopen.
The Newtown Middle School students said the project should “solve a problem,” they agreed, as they spoke with The Newtown Bee, Friday, March 13.
“People are always on their electronics,” said Jillian. “The [handbook] is a motivator for fun things outside.”
Ashley said they made the handbook “so people would go outside and use trails.” Inside its ten pages are activities to do outside, she said. The young women like the idea of geocaching “because it’s fun,” Ashley said. Geocaching is “like hide-and-go-seek in the outdoors,” as stated in the handbook.
“People have hidden treasures for you to find,” states the book. With a mobile device, a phone app, and Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities, hikers can find a cache. “Now it’s your turn,” the handbook states. Use websites like geocaching.com “to get started!”
The Scouts created their handbook while using the National Parks Service materials for a reference.
Earlier this month on March 8, the Newtown Forest Association sponsored an event for the Girl Scout Troop 50127, when Jillian and Ashley launched their handbook.
After spending a year-and-a-half at work on the handbook, Ashley said, “The project helped me see that it’s important to plan ahead and not procrastinate and to work with someone you like to work with.”
She said she enjoyed seeing her project “make progress and at the end, saying, ‘Wow, we did that.’”
With “so many resources here in Newtown,” Jillian said, “it’s nice to see people get out and see them.” She hopes to take the things she has learned with the Silver Award project and continue to pursue the Gold Award.
Ashley said now that she has learned about trails, it will “be cool” to go out exploring.” After visiting different locations, she can “explore new places.”
The project was “fun,” Jillian said. “I would do it again.”
Page After Page
The handbook offers page after page of age-appropriate activities. Page one has a legend, where symbols indicate age groups. Jillian and Ashley had chosen a thumbprint of pine trees that indicates activities good for all ages, a sapling symbol is for ages 4-7 years old, a squirrel represents ages 8-12, and the fox is for 13-plus years old.
The handbook states, “…complete the pages that match your age range, or more if you would like.”
Just above the legend is the book’s first sentence: “Nature is a wonderful place to explore and enjoy!” The authors then hint, “Here are the pages you need to complete to earn your Newtown Ranger Badge.” Just 200 badges are available for non-Scouts and other Scouts to earn.
The first page notes what people should pack when going out for a hike. Below that instruction is a page filled with hand-drawn items, including a map, binoculars, a hair dryer, water, makeup, and more. The page asks participants to circle and color items to bring on a hike.
The next page is titled “My Newtown Trails Journal,” where readers can “use this page to describe… trail experiences.” It prompts: “Find a quiet place and write down everything you see and hear.”
“Where are you?” the instructions ask. “Do you like this place?”
The following page asks, “Do you have a favorite animal?” Or, readers can find something outside that interests them. The instructions state, “Draw it here!”
Another page offers a word search, and the page after that — hand drawn by the authors — is titled, “Hidden Beauty in Nature.”
A drawing below the title has hidden pictures that readers can find and color.
Touting a “Treasure Hunt,” the next page asks readers to find a geocache site and explain what they find there.
After the geocache page is a fill-in-the-missing-word activity, and one more page where readers can check off which of Newtown’s many hiking locations they have visited. The directions state, “If you visit a trail, park, or forest that is not on this list, fill it in at the bottom,” and of the listed locations, “Visit at least one!”
A last page says, “Thank you for participating and getting outdoors in Newtown...” Offering a few key words to use in a statement, the authors ask readers to “Write your own pledge about what you can do to protect our trails and outdoors...”
Jillian and Ashley ended the handbook with a footnote thanking the Newtown Forest Association, the C.H. Booth Library, and the Newtown Bike & Trails Committee. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.