Girl Guides in Nova Scotia have hiked with new purpose over the last two years.
A new hiker distance awards program challenges the girls and their leaders to log their kilometres as they pound the trails. The project is a success with the kids and a boon for Guide leaders, who might not have hit the paths as frequently.
“I thought it was great, because I’m not an outdoorsy type, other than what I have to do,” said Mary Louise Johnson, a leader with the 1st Aylesford Pathfinders. “I love camping. We always go camping two or three times, but I don’t always focus on that and I should. And I thought it was great because it gave us the excuse. Like, ‘OK girls, we really need to do this’.”
To earn the crest, girls aged five to eight must hike 15 kilometres, ages nine to 14 must accumulate 30 kms and those 15 and over must walk 45 kms. They must also do other activities related to the hikes, such as creating a scrapbook on the experience or completing a nature program. Some of the requirements can be used toward other badges in the Girl Guides program.
Three of her Pathfinders and two leaders earned the crest last year, said Johnson.
The Aylesford group geocached — a type of treasure hunt using GPS or smartphones — and roamed the Fundy shoreline to complete their distances.
Other units did night hikes with glow sticks or cooked on the trail to add interest to their outings.
The Hiker Distance Award program, coordinated by Hike Nova Scotia, also offers patches to youth outside the Girl Guides organization. Apart from the youth distances, pins are available for adults who hit the 150-, 250- and 500-km marks.
Johnson said recording the distance to earn the patch can motivate young people otherwise drawn to stay inside or hang out in malls with their friends.
The kids still get to talk with their friends, but with an added benefit.
“They are getting the reward of being outside,” said Johnson. “And at the end of it, there is the badge besides. They are getting two rewards.”
- Submitted by David Redwood. For more information on the Hiker Distance Award program, visit www.hikenovascotia.ca/projects.