In support of our daughter’s experience at a local Girl Scout camp, we agreed to help rewrite the curriculum for their “Rainbow progression” program of outdoor skills to ensure kids can be prepared.
The program teaches girls from 6 to 18 outdoor skills of increasing difficulty and complexity based on their age. For example, the youngest learn to safely use a plastic knife to cut a banana and by the time they graduate the program, they are able to use Spyderco Delica pocket knives to whittle and create fire starters. The instruction is provided by the oldest girl scouts, after being trained in each topic by an adult. This is the classic Special Forces model of training a small group to be a force multiplier for good and train many more.
Initially, despite the Girl Scout motto of “Be Prepared,” the camp program lacked a mission statement. For those who have taken my classes, you know that a mission statement is critical: if you don’t know where you are going or what the goal is, how will you measure success? Therefore, we created a mission statement for this very mixed audience:
By the time the girls have completed the curriculum, they should be comfortable and helpful during a weekend camping trip, be prepared to survive outside overnight if caught unexpectedly, and have individual resiliency to deal with common and possible emergencies (eg earthquake, small fire, getting lost on a hike).
With that in mind, each outdoor skill station1 was given a list of tasks, taken from Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Frontier Girls, NASAR, Smokey the Bear, Red Cross, Peter Kummerfeldt…Pretty much anywhere we could find information on teaching kids age-appropriate skills. What we found was many programs are underestimating our kids, teaching skills below their abilities, and failing to teach them important life skills.
For the First Aid curriculum, we wanted to change the current paradigm of coddling kids: We know kids can learn to stop massive hemorrhage. So we built that into the curriculum.
For the youngest girls, we began by ensuring they knew the buddy system – because you never leave your Ranger buddy behind, nor outrun your support element. They learned how to get help in an emergency, calling 911 when in town, and using a whistle when in the woods. (The GS leaders who had to lead 20 1st graders in a whistle drill were not happy with us, but the girls were delighted and learned a valuable skill – you can, in fact, hear their whistle all the way from the other side of camp).
We taught them the basics of a first aid kit, where the large camp first aid kit is, and how to care for basic cuts and scrapes. Each girl created a Be Prepared kit by the time she was in the fourth grade, including small items from each of the stations. By fifth grade, the girls learned how to tell if someone is badly injured, how to use direct pressure, bandages, pressure dressings, and how to use commercially available tourniquets. After tourniquets, the girls practiced putting each other in the recovery position and learned the signs and symptoms of shock.
Interestingly, while the girls were game to self-apply the tourniquets, several leaders had what can only be described as mini-freakouts, worrying the girls would hurt themselves. They won’t. They wore the tourniquets for a few minutes, complained they were really tight or pinched and learned a valuable life skill. Similarly, since the curriculum is taught by high school students under the watch of trained adults, some leaders tried to train the girls to periodically loosen the tourniquets. NO! Old myths die hard, and we put many to rest at this camp that included 350 girls age 6-18 and volunteers numbering over one hundred.
Training at Home
Not sure where to start getting prepared with your own kids? Try the Hug a Tree program for handling getting lost outdoors, and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife production with Peter Kummerfeldt for another. For high quality, tactical first aid training, of course, you could sign up for Tactical Casualty Care with Crisis Medicine to learn the skills to teach your kids to be prepared for emergencies.*
1 The outdoor skills stations are: First Aid, Knives, Fire, Outdoor Cooking, Navigation, Knots,
*Note, this program is not designed for kids. By the time my daughter was 13, she had seen the entire class, but not at all one time. There are graphic photographs of injuries in the course.
Interested in the entire skill set and progression? Download the program pdf here.
Other highly recommended resources to check out: