Why do you love camp?

By Cathy Hirko

Brylea Starr is a 10th-grader who lives in Lycoming County, one of the 30 counties in our GSHPA footprint.

She is a Girl Scout in Troop 60041 and she loves to travel, sell Girl Scout cookies—she has a healthy competitiveness about her—and is a big fan of attending camp at Camp Small Valley in the summer.

older girl scout laughing while talking about camp.
Brylea Starr visits our GSHPA Harrisburg office to share why she loves camp.

She’s part of an elite group of GSHPA campers known as VICs: Very Involved Campers.

What’s a VIC, you ask? A VIC is a girl who participated in a GSHPA summer camp experience. You get the opportunity to earn VIC swag and provide feedback on camp themes, sign up with early registration, and get a snazzy VIC rocker for your Camp Small Valley patch.

Basically, you are kind of an insider camp expert.

Brylea and her mom visited the GSHPA Harrisburg office last year so Brylea could share her thoughts about camp and why she loves it. She had a ton of reasons, and wasn’t shy about expressing them. I loved talking to her for the recordings.

We captured this first one below. It’s short and sweet. Look for many more to come that feature Brylea.

And a big thank you to Brylea and her mom for helping us out. Your support and contribution to the Girl Scouts are the very reasons we love what we do here at GSHPA.

Get Creative! Girl Scouts shine as entrepreneurs

By Cathy Hirko

This time of year my social media feeds have been BLOWING UP with all things Girl Scouts. From customers looking to buy Girl Scout Cookies to members sharing their favorite Girl Scouts memories, the digital world is pulsing with Girl Scout life.

Our Girl Scout Entrepreneurs are also using online platforms to market their cookies and demonstrate the fun of our Cookie Program.

Take this gem of a video:

It 100 percent will make you smile. The music, the fun, the creativity — the cookie shopping!

It all resonates with anyone who is passionate about what they do. And as the days grow more hectic and busy, we need to remember to breathe, and remember that having fun should always be a part of our day.

If you know of a Girl Scout, or Girl Scouts who you think we should highlight on the blog, please reach out. We would love to share their story or stories, and their videos!

That’s it for this post. Short and sweet.

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend. Soon, you will be enjoying Girl Scout Cookies!

Experience the magic of camp

By Catherine Amoriello

Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) is gearing up for another action-packed season of summer camp adventure. With themes like Fairy Garden Discovery, She’s Crafty, Survival Games, and Vintage Girl Scout, there’s an activity for every girl of any age and interest.

The magic of camp does not manifest overnight, but is carefully crafted by the GSHPA Outdoor Program team all year long. Led by Outdoor Program Manager Sarah Baldwin, the camp staff works tirelessly to put all the pieces together to create a camp experience girls will never forget.

“The outdoor movement is all across Girl Scouts right now, [and] camp is a huge part of that,” Baldwin said. “Camp is the tradition that people hang on to. It’s what they think of when they think of going outdoors.”

This rings especially true for Baldwin, who was once herself a Girl Scout.

“I was lucky that both my troop leaders wanted to do programs outside of the meetings,” Baldwin said of her time as a scout. “I really enjoyed getting to do those camping trips and I’ve always loved the outdoors. Being able to have those experiences was amazing.”

Baldwin in her element during an outdoor escapade.

Shortly after graduating college, the Massachusetts native took her passion for the outdoors across the U.S. From a wolf conservation in Indiana to a 4-H camp in South Carolina, she has traveled the country working at a variety of outdoor education centers and camps. With the skills and experiences she has gained throughout her career, Baldwin breathes life into camp at GSHPA’s four camp properties.

“We’ve seen over and over again that a girl-only environment allows our Girl Scouts to reach higher and discover more about themselves.”

GSHPA Outdoor Program Manager Sarah Baldwin

Baldwin unites with a predominantly female camp staff, on par with GSHPA’s unique girl-only camps and events. She said being able to have a camp where girls can see adult women be successful and get to connect and learn with them is an invaluable experience for campers.

“We’ve seen over and over again that a girl-only environment allows our Girl Scouts to reach higher and discover more about themselves without that peer pressure,” Baldwin said. “They find they’re succeeding in activities they wouldn’t associate with girls as much.”

Baldwin teaches a group of girls outdoor skills during one of GSHPA’s camp programs.

Success is also found at camp by girls who may struggle with learning in a traditional classroom setting. With new themes like Mystery Investigation, where girls will travel to Harrisburg University’s new forensic science lab and solve a mock-crime scene, and Potions & Wands, where campers will learn about aquaponics and make their own “potions” at Commonwealth Charter Academy’s (CCA) AgWorks lab, girls can take an outside-the-box approach to learning something new.

“Those kids who can’t learn in a classroom environment thrive,” said Baldwin. “The person the teacher calls the ‘troubled kid’ is shining at camp. They’re learning outside with a different hands-on approach.”

Although summer camp only lasts a few weeks, the acquired skills, moments of triumph, and newfound friendships last well beyond when the last camper leaves the property for the season.

“I got a letter from a camper in 2019 that was from a Senior girl scout. Basically it was her journey of camp and how much she appreciated our camp,” Baldwin said. “Camp has always been her home away from home. I read the letter to staff every year to show the impact of camp on the girls.”

Baldwin supervises swimmers at Camp Archbald during a 2021 summer camp.

These success stories from GSHPA’s camp program are what energize staff to plan impactful adventures, give their full time and attention to campers, and brave the elements, year after year.

“We are not a five-star hotel. It’s hot. We’re in the down pouring rain half the time. And they’re handling it like pros,” Baldwin said. “Every day is exhausting, but every day is worth it.”

Camp registration opens to Very Involved Campers (VICs) this week and to the general public Feb. 1. Check out GSHPA’s four camp properties Camp Archbald, Camp Happy Valley, Camp Furnace Hills, and Camp Small Valley.

What “Various” means for a new day, a new year

By Cathy Hirko

A well-respected York editor that I used to work with would occasionally send the leadership team an email with very broad subject line: Various.

What that usually meant was an update for us, or wanting an update from us, on various loose ends. It was catch-all of sorts.

I’m going to steal that sentiment for this update. We have so many happenings as we start the new year, that I felt a “various” post fit the billing. Please, read on.

Last day to sign up for our Virtual Volunteer Conference

Today is the last day to sign up for our Virtual Volunteer Conference, (or VVC if you are in the know!). This event on Saturday is going to be a fantastic event filled with sessions that will help those who want to help our Girl Scouts thrive. New leaders, programs, support, outdoor, service units and product program workshop sessions are all a part of this jam-packed event.

Register here for more details.

I know some really great, hard-working members, staff and volunteers at GSHPA have been working hard to make this program a success and worthwhile for those wishing to attend and learn more. So, postpone that grocery-store trip, binge-watch your shows later in the afternoon and forget the gym until Mondayh. Join us tomorrow morning when doors open at 8:30 a.m.

Back to Girl Scout Camp

What? It’s time to register for camp? Soon, very soon.

Registration for the public begins on Feb. 1 and I know that summer sessions will fill up quickly. The GSHPA outdoor team is very excited about what our four properties will have to offer. We have day camp, family camp, resident camp, counselor-in-training camp and even more! I know, this is so, so exciting. 🙂

We have a great one-stop-informational page that guides you through the process. Check it out. Remember, public registration begins on Feb. 1, and that’s only a few weeks from now.

January programs? Yes, please

Our mix of virtual and in-person programming for January is hopping-busy (my fun term for super-fun busy). Check them out here. It’s a wonderful way to stay busy, try new activities and stay active during the heart of the winter season.

Cookies, Cookies, and more Cookies

Our popular season had a digital kickoff in December and in-person selling began on last week. Again, we make it super easy to find cookies, and if you need further help, please reach out to member services, memberservices@gshpa.org

Yum. That is all.

Tips and Tricks for 2022 Cookie Season

This time of year there are more ways than ever for girls to participate in Girl Scouts by learning new skills and reaching new goals. We have some tried and true tips to share with you to make this cookie season the best one yet! Use the tips on this blog post along with the following resources for a very successful season.

GSHPA Volunteer Resources

GSHPA Cookie Seller Resources

GSHPA Product Program Toolkit

Cookie Rookie and Cookie Captain Program

Girl Scouts marketing their booth during the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

2022 Booth Tips

We are always so proud of how creative our girls are and how well they think outside of the box when it comes to cookies. Check out these tips for COVID-19 safe cookie booths:

  1. Print a QR code to your Digital Cookie site on labels, and add those labels to every box sold, or on a thank you card included with each purchase. This way the customer knows how to order more!
  2. Set up a Cookie Drive Thru – work with a local business to secure a safe spot to set up such as a parking lot and offer a drive thru service
  3. Consider using the Digital Cookie App or a credit card processing app to accept payments in a no-contact way. If you collect cash, be sure to use gloves to retrieve the money to allow for minimal customer contact.
  4. Host a virtual booth via social media or Zoom. Be sure to have adult supervision during the booth, as well as a payment and delivery plan in place before the event!
  5.  Take advantage of holidays and bundling cookies. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to tie a bow around a couple of boxes as a fun holiday promotion, or run a 4 for $20 sale with boxes already grouped together for easy buying.
  6. Create social distance signage for your booth so customers can see from a distance exactly what you are selling. Use a creative booth setup to encourage packing of cookies happening in one spot while payment transactions can happen in another.
Girl Scouts collecting payment at their booth in the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

Extra Tips for Extra Sales

  • Dedicate a day of sales to Gift of Caring – call 10+ people and ask them to order cookies that can be delivered to essential workers, military or others.
  • Reach out to local businesses such as restaurants, car dealerships, etc. to buy cookies from your troop to give to employees or customers as a thank you!
  • Share recipes with your customers to show them all the delicious things they can do with their cookies, other than just eat them straight from the box!
  • Go back to the basics and fill a wagon with cookies and take a walk around your neighborhood
  • Create an order form station at your mailbox to encourage neighbors out for a walk or mailmen and delivery service employees to order cookies in an easy no contact way.

Start Selling Today!

Every girl in Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania benefits from the Cookie Program. From Girl Scout camp to programs to trips and activities with their troop, each girl gets an amazing Girl Scout experience as a result of the program. Not a Girl Scout yet? Join today!

New Year, New STEAM Activities

By Colleen Buck

Happy New Year Girl Scouts! With cold winter weather comes spending more time indoors. But time indoors doesn’t have to be boring! Try out these fun Winter Science Experiments to embrace the winter weather inside.

Create Fake Snow

You will need:

  • A deep baking dish or foil baking dish
  • 3 cups baking soda
  • ½ cup white conditioner

Instructions:

  1. Mix ½ cup conditioner with 3 cups baking soda
  2. Mix until well blended and moldable texture is achieved

Snowball Launchers

This project can be found on the Little Bins for Little Hands site, and is a great experiment in physics for girls of all ages. Girls will learn about Newton’s 3 laws of motion by creating force using the balloon, testing acceleration when different amounts of force are used, and finding that with our actions in this experiment there will be equal and opposite reaction.

Snow Volcano

You will need:

  • 2 spoonful’s of baking soda
  • 1 spoonful dish soap
  • A few drops of food coloring of your choice (red makes a good lava color)
  • 30 ml vinegar
  • Spoon
  • Snow
  • Small container

Instructions:

  1. Add everything except the vinegar to the container and stir well.
  2. Carefully shape a volcano around the container using snow – don’t forget to leave the opening of the volcano at the top!
  3. Add your vinegar through the opening and watch as the volcano erupts! For a larger eruption, add more dish soap, stir, then pour more vinegar.

How does this work?

Vinegar is an acid, and when mixed with baking soda (an alkali) they react together to neutralize each other. This reaction releases carbon dioxide, a gas, which is the bubbles that you see. The bubbles of gas make the dish soap bubble up to make a thick “lava”!

Reindeer Pipe Cleaner Circuit

Karyn at the Teach Beside Me blog shows readers how to create a reindeer circuit This electrical circuit project is perfect for the season, and teaches that an electrical circuit is made up of a source of electrical power, wires that can carry the current, and a light bulb. It is also a great way for girls to experiment with what happens when the circuit is intact versus broken.

Home Grown Crystals

You will need:

  • Borax, sugar or salt
  • Water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Wooden spoon
  • String
  • Tall glass or mason jar

Instructions:

  1. First use your pipe cleaners to make shapes. Simple shapes work best, such as hearts, spirals or circles. Tie your shape to a wooden spoon that is longer than the opening to the glass or jar you will use.
  2. Pick whether you will use borax, sugar or salt.
  3. Boil a couple cups of water (WITH ADULT SUPERVISION). Add your crystal substance (borax, salt or sugar) until it dissolves. Then add more….and more….and more! You will be making this a supersaturated solution, which means that you will keep adding your substance and letting it dissolve. You will know that you have added enough when a small bit remains at the bottom of the pot/jar that will not dissolve.
  4. Once your supersaturated solution is ready, pour it carefully into the glass or jar, leaving about an inch at the top. If you would like to add color you can add a few drops of food coloring.
  5. Add your wooden spoon to the top of the glass/jar with the pipe cleaner shapes hanging in the solution. Make sure the shape does not touch the bottom of the container.
  6. Borax will make the crystals grow quickly, sugar takes about a week to fully form, and salt will take a few days.

This project is a great way to develop an experiment to see how the different substances react and what other variables such as sunlight or fans blowing air might do to the crystal growing process!

Don’t forget to document your experiments with pictures and send them in to us as a Mission Moment!

Colleen is a Program Coordinator for GSHPA

Happy New Year from GSHPA!

We are so excited to be starting a new year at Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania!

We know that the past year has given us challenges and triumphs, fun, excitement and new beginnings.

We hope that you are ready to take on 2022 with the same enthusiasm and drive that makes our council so special.

Please enjoy this New Year message from our GSHPA President and CEO, Janet Donovan!

GSHPA Volunteer Conference Preview

By Colleen Buck

January is fast approaching, and with the new year comes the Virtual Volunteer Conference! GSHPA is excited to offer this virtual opportunity for volunteers across our 30 counties to learn, grow and network together. We connected with two staff members who are leading the team responsible for this event to learn more. Jess Mislinski, Regional Director, and Janelle Brewer, Volunteer Training Manager, have spent this year working with a team of other staff members to bring this event to fruition.

GSHPA: Why is it important for GSHPA to hold a Volunteer Conference?

Jess & Janelle: Holding a Volunteer Conference provides our volunteers the opportunity to learn more about how they can provide the best experience for our Girl Scouts, as well as the opportunity to network with fellow volunteers from across our council. Hosting the conference virtually arose out of necessity due to the pandemic, but we quickly saw the benefits of providing a virtual conference. It allows so much flexibility for our volunteers who already devote so much of their time to Girl Scouts and other activities. We wanted to make learning and networking as easy as possible for as many people as possible, regardless of geographic location.

GSHPA: What are some of the topics volunteers can look forward to from our conference speakers?

Jess & Janelle: This year we will be featuring specialized tracks on a variety of topics including Product Program, Outdoors, Service Unit, New Troop Leader, Girl Support, and Girl Programming. Each track has several sessions available for volunteers to choose from. There is something for everyone. And the best part is that all attendees will have access to recordings of all of the sessions! The learning can continue beyond the day of the conference!

Sharmi Albrechtsen, creator of SmartGurlz
Sharmi Albrechtsen, creator of SmartGurlz

GSHPA: Who is the featured speaker, and why did we choose them?

Jess & Janelle: We are so excited to feature Sharmi Albrechtsen as our Featured Speaker. While Sharmi may have closed on a deal on Shark Tank in 2017 for her creation of SmartGurlz, we are most excited about Sharmi’s journey as an entrepreneur, just like our Girl Scouts! Why did we choose Sharmi?  Sharmi is a female entrepreneur that founded a robotics company out of not having a toy that worked for her daughter.  After watching Sharmi speak on a Ted Talk, we knew she was the one!  Watch it here: https://youtu.be/zkK0TlJr8Co

GSHPA: What is the draw of this conference that volunteers can be excited for?

Jess & Janelle: We are so excited about so many aspects of this conference! This year we have Sharmi as our keynote speaker and we have no doubt she will inspire our volunteers! In addition to our keynote speaker, we have so many incredible presenters for this year’s conference. Our volunteers will get to learn directly from their peers, current volunteers who have years of Girl Scout experience. We even have some outside speakers who are experts in their field, such as Michelle Fox from Olivia’s house who will be presenting resources for Grief & Loss and Anne Norgren from Little Brownie Bakers, who is an expert on eBudde.

In addition to the learning opportunities this conference provides, our volunteers will get the opportunity to network with one another! We know how important it is for our volunteers to feel connected and this is a great opportunity to make new friends and share ideas!

The 2nd Virtual Volunteer Conference is on Saturday, January 15, 2022, 9am-2pm. Virtual doors will open at 8:30am, with Opening Remarks kicking things off at 9am. Registration closes January 8th, so register today: https://www.gshpa.org/en/sf-events-repository/2022/virtual-volunteer-conference.html

Comment below if we will see you there!

STEAM Saturday Robotics

At the beginning of December the GSHPA Program Team ran our STEAM Saturday Robotics program, and we had so much fun! Girls from across council joined us at Camp Small Valley and we got to not only learn about robots, but also design our own robots! Daisy through Junior Girl Scouts got to learn about coding with Botley the Robot, while older Girl Scouts had the chance to build and code their QScout Robots. If you missed our December STEAM Saturday Robotics, we would love to see you in February at Camp Happy Valley or Camp Archbald. We will have a morning and an afternoon session each day, and everyone is welcome to reserve time on property overnight or spend the day at camp!

In the New Year

Can you believe it is already the middle of December Girl Scouts? This year has flown by and we have had some incredible programs and events. Since October 1st we have had more than 53 programs with our Program and Outdoor team, and it has been so exciting to be able to add in-person events to that lineup! As we end 2021 and look to welcome in the New Year we have even more programs to share with you coming up in 2022.

The first event of the year is actually an ongoing one. 2022 will be spent celebrating the 110th anniversary of Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouts Donate to the Juliette Low Birthday Fund, 1946

Juliette Gordon Lowe began Girl Scouts with just 18 girls in 1912, and we have grown to 2.5 MILLION Girl Scouts today, and that is just in the USA! Keep an eye out for some exciting events to celebrate throughout next year on our event calendar.

To kickoff this celebratory year, we have a jam packed schedule coming up in January. We are so excited to host another Virtual Volunteer Conference on January 15th. This is open to all volunteers, and registration is live. This year we have many more sessions to enjoy and you will have access to ALL the recorded sessions afterwards.  In addition to a swag bag for conference participants, you will receive an exclusive code to use at the GSHPA Retail shop!

Girls can dive into the New Year by joining us for a number of great programs. Check out the exciting opportunities below:

Badge Days

January brings both in person and virtual badge opportunities, including Cookie Entrepreneur badges and Outdoor Experience badges. Take a look at all we are offering and register on our event calendar.

STEAM with the Program Team

Our fan favorite program continues! Join the Program Team every Wednesday for new and exciting STEAM activities, from Lego Masters to Pixel People and Master Chef, STEAM with the Program Team has something everyone will love.

STEAM Saturdays

Come get outdoors with the Program Team to get Wild with Animals! We will offer this program at two different camp properties in January, Camp Small Valley and Camp Furnace Hills. Each program will also offer a morning and afternoon session for girls to choose from. Register on our event calendar today, and come ready to get WILD!


We hope everyone has a wonderful December, and we cannot wait to see you all at programs in January to bring in 2022 with a bang! Take a look at the event calendar for more events, and let us know in the comments which programs you’re most looking forward to!