Metro-East News

Girl Scouts find teamwork and leadership amid Duct Tape


Girl Scout officials see leaders in their troops, even when that future leader is in a sinking canoe.

“We talk about leadership,” said CEO Villie Appoo of the Girl Scouts, “and girls and their moms talk about fun.”

The latest bout of leadership-fun for area Girl Scouts ended Friday with a race of cardboard canoes. The week of “Camp Safari Survivor” at Freedom Farm in Freeburg included swimming, archery and plenty of time with new friends for about 175 girls and adult volunteers.

Seven units were teamed up at the start of camp on Monday, a move to separate girls from the same troops so that they might make new friends at camp.

“It’s not a troop activity,” said Melissa Carver, secretary and treasurer of the service unit, so individuals are teamed up and meet girls from other troops and from other schools about their own ages.

“When we say ‘Girl Scouts’ these days, we mean leadership, social-emotional health and teamwork,” said Appoo. “The goal for Girl Scouts in general is to teach leadership ... in whatever capacity the girl chooses.”

All of those goals were evident in and around the water during Friday’s cardboard canoe races. Each team designed and made a canoe to be paddled across a small shallow pond.

“That’s what we bring in,” Carver said, nodding to flattened cardboard boxes leaning against a wall. “It’s just cardboard and duct tape.”

“It took a lot of work and a lot of duct tape,” said Mikayla Williams, a Junior Girl Scout, of her team’s canoe. Team Yellow’s winning canoe was decorated with flecks of duct tape reminiscent of a giraffe after the team’s assigned animal.

Not far from Team Yellow on the pond’s bank was Team Pink, the cheetahs, cheering on “Bucket Head.”

“We’re not the Bucket Heads,” explained 12-year-old Caroline Geib. “But the girl in the boat wore a bucket on her head to her school’s hat day” and the moniker stuck.

Caroline was with the group as a Program Aide in Training (PAT) and had seen cardboard canoe races before and knew what to expect.

“They probably needed a kayak paddle because there’s only one person,” she said of another group’s foundering canoe.

“Usually a lot of people sink.”

One focus the organization has is on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Jay L. Strobel, chief communications officer, said even if engineering principals weren’t specifically taught, they’re still being used.

“There must have been some discussion,” he said, to achieve a pontoon versus a flat- or keel-bottomed boat.

An Ambassador-level Girl Scout, Caroline Stewart, 16, spent the mornings at her church’s vacation Bible school and her afternoons at the camp, where she helped the Pink Cheetahs with archery, songs and crafts.

“(Camp) gives the girls a chance to find something they’re good at, and to build their confidence at that activity,” Stewart said, and in the process become better leaders by working through failures together.

Appoo said Girl Scout activities, including STEM projects, “let them experience it, let them have fun, then let them choose what they want to pursue.”

Contact reporter Mary Cooley at or 618-239-2535. Follow her on Twitter: @MaryCooleyBND.