Earlier this summer, from June 23-28, Alverno College was summer camp for 92 Girls Scouts of Southeast Wisconsin participating in Camp iGirl. Although the iconic image of Girl Scouts gathered around a campfire, roasting marshmallows or earning skills badges is still true today, the world is changing. “We want the girls to experience college life, and work hands-on with faculty in the latest technology,” said Crystal Polak, event pathway manager with a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Five full-time faculty members from Alverno, some who are former Girl Scouts, conducted labs working closely with girls, grades 7 through 10, in digital applications that cover photography, Web design, movie production, desktop publishing or “the dabbler,” as Polak called it. “Each girl can choose an area of interest or ‘the dabbler,’ which gives them an opportunity to experience every area.”
The Girl Scouts of Southeast Wisconsin has partnered with Alverno College for 13 years. The camp continues to gain popularity with both the scouts and their parents. “The parents appreciate the opportunity for their daughters to work with professors and mentors and have a valuable college experience,” Polak said.
The girls stayed in Austin Hall and started each day with the traditional flag ceremony, followed by breakfast in the cafeteria and a session in the computer labs. The girls are active and engaged as instructors walked them through digital applications resulting in creations of their own making. And yes, there was a healthy mix of giggling and curiosity. They participated in physical activities too. “We have Zumba, yoga and modern dance classes as part of the day,” Polak said.
The camp also gave the girls opportunities to see their college options. “We tour tech versus 4-year colleges and private versus public schools,” Polak said. For many girls, they would be the first in their families to attend college. “We have many girls who come back to this camp year after year; for some, it’s a first-time experience. Every girl has their own story and what draw them to the camp. This is a safe place to ask questions, to meet new people and network and to think about their futures.”
Both Alverno and the Girl Scouts have learning outcomes for the girls, which are completely aligned. “We want the girls to learn cooperation and team building, to be able to resolve conflict and to seek challenges,” Polak said. Alverno’s learning outcomes for the girls: developing stronger verbal and visual communication skills, problem solving, valuing and decision-making skills — add to a full experience. “The social interaction component gives the girls a safe place to have fun and learn to team build,” Polak said.
The week included the mentor’s luncheon, held in the Sister Joel Read Center, was another opportunity for the girls to learn and network. “Professional women with various careers in science, technology, engineering and math join us at the luncheon and talk about their rewarding work and the education it took for them to achieve it,” Polak said. “This gives the girls an opportunity to explore careers and ask questions.”
Camp is still camp. At week’s end the girls headed to Camp Silverbrook in West Bend to kayak, swim, build campfires, make s’mores and talk about how Girl Scout camp has changed — for the better.