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Austin Girl Scout troop's video teaches other troops how to camp

The girls of Troop 570 have continued to meet mostly by Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic. They held a socially distanced bridging ceremony while wearing masks to move to the next level of Girl Scouts.

The sixth grade girls in Girl Scout Troop 570 wanted to share their love of camping with fellow Girl Scouts.

"A lot of us love the outdoors," says troop member Sofia Hernandez. "We wanted to try camping, and we loved it."

Her troopmates agreed. "A lot of us really enjoyed playing around outside," Maggie Cohen says.

For their Bronze Award project, the Austin-based troop decided to host a campout at Jim Hogg Park in Georgetown last April. Then the pandemic happened. It was clear they needed to switch gears.

Now they are sharing their love of camping and tips in a YouTube video. Troop co-leader Lynne Parker says they just didn't see a lot when they researched what else was out there teaching troops how to camp.

Maggie Cohen eats a s'more by the campfire. Making their own food is one of the things the girls of Troop 570 like about camping.

The Bronze Award is the highest service award for Girl Scouts in elementary school. It's typically earned as a troop by the end of fifth grade and helps prepare girls for higher awards: the Silver Award, which is earned in middle school as an individual or smaller group of girls, and the Gold Award, which is earned as an individual girl in high school. The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn.

More:How Girl Scouts are going for the Gold Award

Troop 570's YouTube video includes guides for what to pack, what forms you need to fill out as a Girl Scout, creating a budget, choosing activities and themes, what to eat, and how to make reservations for a campsite.

In the video, each of the girls talks viewers through a different section. They each used phones to shoot their section of the video and then sent footage to co-leader Parker to put together. She didn't do much except for follow their instructions. 

More:What being a Girl Scout leader has taught me

"We each had our own part and made a script to put it all together," Maggie said.

The experience taught them how to create a budget, how to storyboard, how to deliver important information and how to work as a group. 

Maggie talks through a packing list that includes a warning to pay attention to what the weather is. The girls are familiar with wild weather swings. In one camping trip, it went from 96 degrees to sleeting in the same day. That meant going from wearing shorts and a T-shirt to wearing all their clothes at once to stay warm because of the cold front. Sofia recommends bringing one extra set of clothes for the number of days you're going to be camping in case something gets wet. Maggie always brings extra socks, extra pants and a jacket.

More:Turn your backyard into a campground

Sofia Hernandez and the girls of Troop 570 like to go hiking and be in nature.

Each girl always has her own first aid kit. A general kit for the whole troop, kept by an adult on the trip, includes items such as Benadryl and bandages for sprains. 

They also make sure they each have a flashlight, a water bottle and a mess kit. The mess kit includes a reusable plate, bowl and utensils in a mesh bag that can all be washed and hung up to dry between meals. 

Many of the girls' families have camping gear that they have borrowed, but the girls remind that troops can borrow gear from fellow troops and from Girl Scouts of Central Texas, or even REI. 

The girls have camping stories about that weird weather swing, as well as the time Evelyn Parker forgot her clothes and the time they encountered way too many daddy longlegs in the shower. "Someone always forgets their toothbrush," Maggie says. That's OK, she says, because they just brush their teeth using a finger. 

Some of the things the girls have loved about camping is setting up the campfire and learning to make their own food. They've also learned archery, fishing and how to use a slingshot while camping. 

"If I hadn't been in Girl Scouts, there is no way I could pitch a tent," Maggie says. That's come in handy during the pandemic. In between classes, she has pitched a tent in her backyard and hung out there. She's slept out there, too.

Part of their video teaches troops how they could have a socially distanced campout. They recommend girls pitch their own tents in their backyards and join each other by Zoom for campfire songs and storytelling at night and again at breakfast time. Members of a troop also could go to the same campground, with each in their own tent, wearing masks, staying socially distanced and using hand sanitizer to stay safe.

Camping has taught these girls important things, they and their leaders say.

"It's taught me to love the outdoors," Sofia says. 

"Yes, I appreciate nature more," Maggie says. "... I once saw a fox."

"It's taught me to see the wild," Evelyn says. She loves to go hiking, and she also loves to look up at the stars at night. 

The girls hope that they encourage other Girl Scout troops to go camping and that the video helps them not to be afraid of it. They started in first grade by camping in a backyard and have worked their way up to setting up their own tents and starting campfires. 

Many Girl Scout troops are just like troop 570 and camp regularly. The girls want people to know it's not just a Boy Scout thing.

"It's girl-led," says Lynne Parker. "There are troops that don't prefer camping, but in our (local area), quite a few girls go camping."

"The girls don't see it," she says, but she and her co-leader Kirby Hernandez "definitely see that they are self-reliant, in charge of their own packing and getting stuff there. They have to clean their own dishes. They learn everything from fire safety to first aid."

Evelyn has been camping with her family five times since the pandemic began. "It's amazing to get away from my computer screen." 

The new Toast-Yay! Girl Scout cookies.

Girl Scout Cookie Season is coming

Cookie season is Jan. 20-Feb. 28.It's going to be a very different year. 

First, there's a new cookie: The Toast-Yay is inspired by French toast. It replaces the Thanks-a-lot shortbread dipped in chocolate. Cookies are still $4, with gluten-free cookies selling for $5. 

This year, Girl Scouts of Central Texas has increased girls' ability to offer contactless payment and hand-delivered cookies for friends and family. You can order online from your local Girl Scout and she will deliver them to you.

Girls will be doing fewer booths at businesses because of safety reasons. In Austin and Travis County, booths can be only drive-thru or curbside. Scouts can sell cookies in their driveways or create drive-thru booths. They also can do door-to-door sales in their neighborhoods.

Girl Scouts is also working on a delivery service that would work much like a meal delivery service or grocery delivery.  

Look for more information at gsctx.org.