The Girl Scouts' New Breed
by Jane Brooks
When Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft set out in November to become the first women to ski across Antarctica, kids from around the world will help track their expedition.
The journey will be especially exciting for young girls, who'll watch as the polar explorers plunge themselves into a field formerly dominated by men. But it won't be easy. The women will travel across 2,400 miles of ice and snow, pulling sleds that weigh more than 250 pounds each and facing wind gusts of up to 100 mph.
Independent and physically and emotionally strong, Bancroft and Arnesen represent the changing face of female role models. Nowhere is that paradigm shift more evident than in the uniquely female organization, the Girl Scouts of the USA.
While cookie sales are still a primary focus, today's Scouts can earn badges in car care, computer skills and architecture.
The scouts have teamed up with the Antarctic mission to offer a Girl Scouts/Bancroft Arnesen Expedition Patch, which will incorporate everything from learning cold weather survival to meal planning.
Dee Ebersole, sports and fitness consultant for the Girl Scouts and designer of the patch project, saw the expedition as an opportunity to highlight women who are risk takers.
"We feel that girls need inspiration to step outside the box, to be empowered to be capable beings and to take charge of their lives," Ebersole says. "Outdoor adventure, like this expedition, fosters those things."
For the explorers, knowing that the girls will be following their trek will be immensely inspirational. "I have a real strong sense that that is going to motivate me in a variety of ways," Arnesen said. "Number one, to communicate, and number two, just to push my ski one step further on those days when I don't want to."
Bancroft and Arnesen, both dedicated educators, will supplement the Girl Scouts' patch project with satellite phone calls, e-mails and online diary entries.
So if the mention of Girl Scouts makes your mouth water for thin mints and samoas, pull your head out of the cookie jar and take a fresh look. These days, there's a good chance your local scouts are out there learning how to start their own cookie company.