Getting NYC Girls Outside

The premier leadership organization for girls in New York City uses summer camp to develop girls’ social-emotional learning skills.

Girl Scouts in Urban Day Camp learn to harvest, prepare, and cook vegetables at Randall’s Island Urban Farm. Photo Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

Girl Scouts of Greater New York serves as the premier leadership organization for girls in New York City. Outdoor programming has been historically, and continues to be, central to Girl Scouting. With 100% of girls served growing up in an urban environment, Girl Scouts of Greater New York feels a responsibility to support girls in making a connection with the natural world.

Established in 2016, Urban Day Camp is a key component of the first phase of the Girl Scouts’ purposeful Nature Acclimation Process.  This purposeful immersion process includes opportunities to learn about the outdoors in a city environment, explore nature at overnight camp, participate in girl-led overnight experiences, and become a camp counselor-in-training.

Facilitating Girls’ Discovery and Appreciation of the Natural World

Summer 2019 marked the fourth year of the Urban Day Camp, as well as the fourth evaluation of the program by Metis Associates. The full-day camp enrolls elementary school-age girls from across New York City and predominantly from economically disadvantaged families and operates in all five boroughs.

As campers, girls develop team-building, problem-solving, risk-taking, and critical thinking skills. Over the years of its development, the number of campsites and the age span for enrollment has increased. Programming has been enhanced to align with the initial stage of the Girl Scouts Nature Acclimation Process with the following core activities:

  • Outdoor and educational outings in and around New York City to connect what they learn to real-life spaces
  • Badge work and STEAM activities to support the exploration of the week’s environmental theme
  • Service projects based on the week’s theme to service the local community and practice leadership skills
  • Physical play and team-building
  • Healthy eating and habits

Assessing the Benefits of the Urban Day Camp

Metis’s evaluations over the past four summers have studied girls’ engagement in the program, benefits of participation, and satisfaction with the program. The assessment has incorporated observations of program activities, feedback from participants, staff, and parents, and analyses of enrollment and attendance data. Data collection has also been designed to inform on implementation, including effective practices and areas for improvement.

Among the findings from the most recent evaluation were positive improvements in girls’ risk-taking and persistence, self-confidence, problem-solving, and critical thinking, from the beginning to the end of summer 2019.

Metis’s findings underscore the effectiveness of the partnership, as recommendations for program improvement have been incorporated into the subsequent summer’s Urban Day Camp program since our first evaluation in 2016.