SWOOPE — Seated at a picnic table surrounded by lanky pine trees, rising sixth-grader Ginger Stewart wrinkled her nose. She appeared confused by the question: How are the boys treating you during your first week at camp?
“I mean — they treat us as they would a fellow Scout,” Ginger said in a tone that made it easy to imagine a “duh” tacked to the end of the sentence.
Other members of Troop 1138 seated around the table echoed the sentiment with equal skepticism about the question’s premise.
“Yeah, they treat us as equals,” said rising seventh-grader Sammie Curry.
Soon-to-be eighth-grader Allison Monfalcone spoke up with a clarification. The boys treat them as equals — except in the Gaga Pit, a dirt-floored ring where campers play a version of dodgeball.
“They’re like, ‘Take out the girl, take out the girl!’” said Allison, imitating the boys. “Then you beat them.”
Following the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to admit girls into its flagship program, Scouts of different genders are camping together this summer for the first time in Camp Shenandoah’s 69-year history. The membership change caused controversy nationwide, but Camp Shenandoah Scouts and staff say the transition has been easy.
“It’s great for female troops to be here,” said camp director Clint Long. “It’s really been no different. ... The first week, we had a female troop here. And in most of the events, they kicked all the male troops’ butts.”
Nothing at camp is different now that there are girls around — except that the shower and restroom facilities are separated, Long said.
Boys’ and girls’ troops set up their campsites in the same general areas with staff tents separating them and, so far, campers have followed the rule to stay out of others’ sleeping areas, he said.
Long, now 22, joined Tiger Scouts as a kindergartner. He’s passionate about the Boy Scouts of America’s mission of preparing youth to make good decisions and thought the decision to accept girls was “awesome.”
Long pointed out that BSA’s exploration-focused program for 14- to 21-year-olds has been co-ed since the 1960s. Now, girls who want to be a part of the organization don’t have to wait until they’re teenagers, he said.
“It’s an opportunity to teach more people to make moral and ethical decisions,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to show other people why we do what we do, why we love what we do.”
Troop 1138 was formed in Palmyra this year when Scouts BSA opened to girls. Several of them were in Girl Scouts at one point, and they said it’s a good program — just not a good fit for them.
They wanted to camp in tents, go swimming and learn skills like how to build a fire, they said. They felt Girl Scouts involved too much classroom time and too many restrictions.
“I think Scouts BSA has been a lot more outdoorsy for them,” said Troop 1138 leader Julie Curry, who also leads a Girl Scout troop. “Girl Scouts, from what I’ve noticed, is more entrepreneurial ... more business-oriented.”