Explore London with Girl Scouts

Explore London with Girl Scouts

Calling all Cadettes! Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana will be inviting 12 girls and 2 adults to join us next summer on a London adventure.

During this introduction to international travel, girls will plan where we go, how to get around, and where to eat. Is it Big Ben, Stonehenge, a Harry Potter tour, or the London Eye? Whether you’re a history buff, a Hogwarts fan, or just can’t wait to travel the world, this trip is for you!



Before the 2018 trip, you will meet on a monthly basis to practice the basics of planning a trip. You’ll have a budget to stick within, travel guides, and the trusty Internet to plan the adventure.

This adventure is open to Cadettes who are in grades 6-8 during the 2017-2018 school year and you must be 12 years old before the start of the trip. The trip will take place July 30-August 3, 2018, and cost is approximately $2,000 (inclusive of airfare, most meals, accommodations, sightseeing and transportation). Financial aid is available.


The application is now live for girls only. But don’t hesitate, the deadline to apply is June 1, 2017!

For more information, and to apply, click here.


Lessons Learned While Roaming Italy

Lessons Learned While Roaming Italy

While visiting Italy over the summer, our tour guide pointed our the difference in cultures in the various cities. Even Italian constants such as pasta differed from region to region! For example, Bologna was famous for inventing lasagna and tortellini, while I learned how to make ravioli in Rome.

Many of these cities also have different histories. Before Italy was a unified country, it was a collection of states — each with their own way of operating and separate governments. To this day, the different regions and cities boast their own history.


In Rome, the residents celebrate the Roman Empire and the days when all roads lead to Rome. In Florence, they show off all of the important works of art that originated there and the crucial role their country played in the Italian Renaissance. Meanwhile, Venice teaches tourists about the days when the doge, or chief magistrate, ruled and their world-class glass blowing. Despite all of this, every region comes together to share in the collective history of Italy.

Seeing all of the cultural differences in Italy made me think of how we view culture in America. For the most part, we celebrate our own culture, and cherish different familial traditions. Many Americans hold tightly to where their ancestors came from and what their heritage means to them. All of the different cultures in America contribute to a mixture of different traditions, which is expected since America is a nation of immigrants.

However, there is still hostility towards cultures that certain Americans view as different and wrong. Instead of celebrating our differences and how the influx of immigrants has always brought prosperity and growth to America, some of us tear each other down. In Italy, the difference between regions is melded together to create a united country. While regions do compete with each other, it is always friendly and many choose to focus on similarities rather than differences.


I think that Americans should learn to see different religions and cultures in a friendlier way, and we should celebrate the things that make America wonderful. Heritage is important to all of us, and we should still work hard to preserve our history and our culture. Many of the social problems that America is currently facing stems from the fact that we don’t respect each other ‘s differences. I believe that if we can learn to see each other as contributing something special and unique to the “American Melting Pot” culture, then we will have a much more accepting America. Italy showed me what it meant to truly love thy neighbor.

Nina Grotto is a Girl Scout Ambassador from Hinsdale, Illinois.

For more information about other Girl Scout Destinations, including  Our Cabaña in Cuernavaca, Mexico next year, click here.

Girl Scouts Embark on a Swiss Adventure

Girl Scouts Embark on a Swiss Adventure

Nearly a dozen girls from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana traveled to Switzerland this summer on a council-sponsored trip. Accompanied by five adults, the group arrived in Zurich after an eight-hour plane journey from the States. Once there, they hit the ground running on a walking tour of Altstadt, or Old Town, in the Swiss city of Zurich.

The next day, the Girl Scouts went to the Swiss National Museum and the Zurich Zoo, where they happened to see Beyoncé! Next up was Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The group enjoyed many free sites here, such as a bear pit, rose garden and botanical garden.

Girl Scouts in Bern, Switzerland

The following day, everyone participated in a walking tour of Bern and was luck enough to see Le Tour de France as the cyclists biked through the town.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the nine days the girls got to spend at Our Chalet, which is an international Girl Guide/Girl Scout centre and one of five World Centres of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, or WAGGS. While there, the girls met other groups from the U.S. and Canada, including their pen pals from Canada.

Girl Scouts white-water rafting at Our Chalet

While at Our Chalet, the girls also went zip-lining, abseiling into a gorge, white-water rafting, met a woodcarver and did a lot of hiking. The views of the country were phenomenal. Finishing up the trip was a day in Lauterbrunnen where the participants saw Trummelbach Falls, the only waterfalls in Europe you can see inside of a mountain.

This trip was a culmination of a year’s worth of planning. Once the girls applied in June 2015, they began discussing their itinerary. They also attended a panel with people who had either worked at Our Chalet or visited there to get a better sense of what to expect.

Girl Scouts at Trummelbach Falls in Switzerland

At the end of the trip, the girls agreed that Switzerland was one of the most beautiful places they had ever seen and they returned to the States with bags of cheese and chocolate for souvenirs.

To learn more about council-sponsored travel opportunities, click here. For more information about traveling as a Girl Scout, please email our senior program manager of arts, cultural awareness and travel programs at achristensen@girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

Girl Scouts Visit Mackinac Island

Girl Scouts Visit Mackinac Island

Curious about travel, but not ready to commit to a week away from home? Then Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan may be the perfect fit for you.

Recently, 23 Girl Scouts and their moms or grandmothers boarded a coach bus to the ferry. After a 40-minute smooth sail, the participants landed on Mackinac – an island with no cars and lots of fudge!

Island pano

Together, the Girl Scouts and their favorite female family members went on a horse-drawn carriage ride, explored the Butterfly Conservatory at the Wings of Mackinac, and explored Fort Mackinac.

Amanda Esposito

After some group fun, the girls and their moms and grandmas split up to spend some bonding time together. Some girls went horseback riding.

LoreAnn Sprouse

While others opted to rent bikes and pedal the 8.2 miles around the island.

“My experience encouraged me to ride my bike more instead of riding a car, which prevents pollution,” said Girl Scout Lore Ann Sprouse. “I was encouraged because my destination didn’t have any motorized vehicles and the air felt so clean. I now ride my bike more because I want where I live to feel that clean, too, for myself and others.”

A few of the girls even got dressed up to have a fancy meal at the Grand Hotel. The Girl Scouts also went hiking, shopping and made new friends in the process.

Karch 2

If you’re interested in how you can join next year’s trip, please email Ashley Christensen at achristensen@girlscoutsgcnwi.org. If you’re ready to sign up for your next adventure, you can register here. Space is limited, so sign up soon!

Girl Scout Adventures in Colorado

Girl Scout Adventures in Colorado

Fourteen of our Girl Scouts had the chance to visit Colorado this summer as part of our council’s travel experiences and explore the great outdoors! Learn more about their adventures from the girls themselves in the journal entries they sent home every night:

Day 1

Hello from Snow Mountain Ranch! We started off the day with our flight to Denver. Our pilot was hilarious and we enjoyed the free snacks. Once in Denver, we boarded our very own bus. Our bus driver was named Buffalo Bill and he had a very nice cowboy hat (by the way, it took Bill three years to become an official cowboy!). We drove through the mountains and our ears were popping as we slowly climbed the mountains. We even saw some buffalo and some snowy white caps!

Later, we checked into our rooms and ate dinner RIGHT AWAY (because we were starving). We then walked back to our rooms and enjoyed some free time. To finish off the night, we had a brief orientation meeting to plan our schedules for the week. We were overjoyed to hear that there ARE in fact llamas on property!

Day 2

Today was our first official day of doing activities. All of the girls doing the one-hour horseback riding had to get up early to eat breakfast at the mess hall. They served French toast sticks and salami along with fruits, yogurt, granola and cereals, etc. We were all assigned to different horses and some were not as cooperative as others! Don’t worry, we were all wearing helmets.

All of the girls that were also doing archery then took a rented car to the other side of camp, to be on time. For the session, we all got to shoot the arrows at targets in the hay stacks. After a tired morning, we all walked back to get lunch. The meal (tuna noodle casserole) was delicious!

The adventurous people of the group dared to then go to the high-ropes course. We had to use teamwork to make the dream work on the “Giants’ Ladder.” After working from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., many girls got tired and went back to their rooms before going to the cafeteria for dinner. We all had a little bit of time to roller skate and play dodge ball in the Kiva (activity area) before going to a meeting about tomorrow’s fun. Many went on a last-minute hike to see the sunset for beautiful pictures.

Day 3

Today, all of us had a lot of fun whitewater rafting. We made A LOT of fun memories that will last a lifetime. To start out our day, most of the girls went on a morning sunrise hike and got a lot of pictures. We quickly went back to our rooms to get ready for whitewater rafting. We had a quick breakfast before we loaded the buses to leave. We had a fun bus ride filled with laughter and song singing.

When we got the facility, we got fitted from our PFDs (personal flotation devices) and helmets, then we grabbed our paddles and took a few cute pictures. We hopped on the bus to get to the bank where we were loaded on to our rafts to begin our day of mad adventuring.

At the beginning, we did a lot of sightseeing, and one of the most beautiful things that we saw was a bald eagle. After about five minutes on the river, we hit our first batch of rapids. It was scary at first, but after a few good splashes, we realized how much fun we were going to have. We went through a few more rapids before we reached a small rock that we could jump off of. Most of the girls went without hesitation and were for sure shocked by the cold.

After jumping, we got back in to the raft and headed to the second section of rapids on our trip. On the second section, we got our first taste of what the Colorado River can dish out. It was a major adrenaline rush! After this, we stopped for a very hardy lunch and then cruised down the river. We got to jump out of the raft a couple times.

After dinner, some of the girls went on a beautiful hike where we got to see the sunset. We are excited to see what else Colorado has to offer!

Day 4

Today, we had a splendid time with our activities. When we woke up, we met up with beautiful horses that would take us to our delicious meal of pancakes, sausage and eggs. The cowboys were very kind and treated us to their stories of their many travels brought by their talent of horse wrangling (with the help of Mrs. Garlough’s ongoing questions).

Later, we hiked over to the Rowley Homestead, where we whittled away at our award-winning hiking sticks. It was hard work whittling and sanding them, but they will definitely come in handy on our many hikes. We then ate lunch and hurried over to the summer tubing hill, where a steep bumpy hill and a lot of fun awaited us. All of us really enjoyed the experience, and the mist that was sprayed at us as we rode down was very refreshing, since it was such a hot day.

Next, we split up and had a while to relax and enjoy the afternoon. Some of the campers rented bikes and rode on some of the beautiful trails hugging the mountains. There were highs and lows, but overall it was an activity not to be missed! Other campers just relaxed in their rooms, went to the craft cabin, or enjoyed a refreshing swim in the pool. After that, we all met up for a cookout, and enjoyed the many different options that met each lifestyle.

Then we played on the playground until a sandstorm rolled in, but this was not exactly a bad thing, since it led us to a special needs talent show. It brought tears to many of our eyes. Their courage showed us how foolish we are to worry about what other people think of our talents. When it ended some of us went over to the roller rink and got an awesome view of a double rainbow — it went right over our cabin, what a coincidence! Finally, after a long day, we all headed back to our cabin to rest up for another full day tomorrow.

Day 5

Today we had a busy, but exciting day. We woke up to a breakfast of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and French toast. Some of us went on a very early morning hike. Some took later hikes, but both were spectacular. There was also a few on a horseback ride. Six people, including Mrs. Baudhuin and Ashley, went on a beautiful scenic waterfall hike. We took tons of photos, and ended up exploring a cave. The horseback ride was two hours long and was very exciting.

Afterward, we headed over to lunch, which included Rice Krispy Treats. Then we went canoeing on a beautiful lake. We played fun games, such as retrieving tennis balls from the lake. There was lots of teamwork involved to win the competition! We also had fun playing with the minnows, but we didn’t catch any, although we tried hard. We splashed each other a ton, but luckily no canoes were tipped over. But one person did intentionally fall in! We headed back for a few hours of free time — some swimming, some drawing.

Whatever it was, our time was not wasted! However, we noticed some dark clouds overhead. It started raining, so we weren’t able to go zip lining. Dinner was delicious including a wide variety of desserts to choose from, including coconut crème pie, ice cream, and carrot cake. Despite the rain, we had plenty of excitement. We decided to lounge inside and play a game of spoons. Don’t worry, no serious injuries, but it was quite vicious! We sang songs, had laughs, and ended up playing even more games. As we get ready to go to bed, we can all agree it was a very adventurous day. We are now looking forward to more fun and amazement tomorrow!

Day 6

We had an exciting day today! We started our day off with getting on the bus to go to Rocky Mountain National Park. Once we got there we went to the Holzwarth Homestead. Our group took a tour of the homestead where we learned about the settlers that lived there. One of the groups worked on their tree badge and learned about the different trees in the area. At the end of our time at the homestead, we tried to lasso a wooden horse. All of us then got on the bus to go get lunch.

After lunch, we headed to the Continental Divide for a photo opp. Then our group went to the Alpine Visitor’s Center to go on a hike. The hike was to the highest point you could hike to. The elevation was 12,005 feet! While we were at the visitor’s center I (Molly) earned my junior ranger badge. On our way to Grand Lake we saw three moose and an elk.

Back in the town, we shopped for souvenirs. While we were there most of us got Dairy King. A little after we got back some of us went on hikes. One of the hikes was a waterfall hike. Once the girls made it to the waterfall, they took a picture in the waterfall. The water was really cold. While some girls were on the waterfall hike, a few other girls went on another hike nine mile mountain (it’s actually two miles). IMG_6839

Day 7 – Last Day

Hi there from our last day at Snow Mountain Ranch! We started off our day with a trip to the climbing wall. Several people got to hit the buzzer at the top of the wall. We think that the wall was at least 30 feet tall, but it certainly felt taller once you started to climb up it. We had very sore fingers by the end of our climbing trip. Then a small group of us went down to the craft cabin and participated in a glass fusion class.

After creating our works of art, we ran over to get photos done by our good friend Dill, a seasoned professional. After capturing our beautiful faces on to a digital screen we went on a trip down a 55-foot-high zip line! It was a thousand feet across. After this, our group split into doing a couple of activities. One was a three-mile hike up to a waterfall. We got a bit wet, but it was worth it in the end.

The others in our group went on a steak dinner horseback ride. The ride to our dinner spot was about an hour and a half long, and some of our horses were a bit temperamental. The steak was amazing and we had potatoes and beans as a side dish. We all also got to avoid the rain, which was nice! After our very busy day we ended it with a group campfire. Our trained CIT2s helped build it and the girls led camp songs throughout, ending it with their favorite song “On My Honor.” We’re going to miss our adventures in the Colorado Mountains, but we are excited to see our families and tell them all about our trip.

Do you want to travel with Girl Scouts? For more information on our council’s travel programs, click here or email Ashley Christensen at achristensen@girlscoutsgcnwi.org.


Four Girl Scouts Attend the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women

Four Girl Scouts Attend the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women

Imagine being on the forefront of change. Imagine being able to have your voice heard. Imagine standing up for a cause you believe in and making a difference.

For four local Girl Scouts, this was a reality. During the week of March 11-18, Mariel Boden, Nina Grotto, Laila Kassar and Eva Lewis represented Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana at the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women in New York City and joined thousands of delegates from around the world.

“The trip was truly amazing,” said Laila, an 18-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador. “I learned a lot about all the different types of feminism and other things related to it.”

The theme of this year’s two-week commission was the link between sustainable development and women’s empowerment, as well as preventing and ending all acts of violence against women and girls.

The delegates attended various discussions about these topics and two of the Girl Scouts – Mariel and Eva – were able to participate in panels, such as “Girls at the Table,” about girl activists and their efforts to address local challenges within the context of sustainable development goals.


“Speaking at the Girls at the Table event made me realize the power I have, as well as the impact of my voice, even though I’m only 17 years old. There were many important people in the room and a few walked up to me afterward to convey their reactions to to my speech and answers to my questions,” said Eva, a Girl Scout Ambassador.

“I left the panel feeling so much positive energy from the audience as well as the other incredible girls I shared the panel with. I spoke at the United Nations,” she continued. “And that’s such a blessing in itself. The experience only validated my efforts and affirmed that I can only go up from here.”

Laila was also inspired by the panelists.

“One of the girls on the panel had a project where she taught self-defense to girls in India so they’d be better able to defend themselves,” she said. “Her advice was to start with six people, then 60, then 600, then 6,000 and so on to make a big difference. It inspired me to start thinking doing my Gold Award project to help Syrian refugees.”

Nina was particularly touched about a panel regarding violence against women in Ireland.

“It was my favorite because they didn’t just have ideas about how to prevent violence, but they’d implemented a program they’re using with other countries and communities to change the culture around domestic violence,” said Nina, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador.

And she can’t wait to share what she learned with her classmates and other Girl Scouts.

“I want other girls to know that even though you’re still young, what you have to say is important and you can still be advocates,” said Nina. “The issues and problems you’re facing are valid and there are people in the government who care about your problems and are working to fix them. If you want things to change, you have the power to advocate for yourself, your friends and your community.”

For more information about programs available to Older Girls, please visit gsgcnwi.org.



What I Learned on a Girl Scout Destination to Costa Rica

What I Learned on a Girl Scout Destination to Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica, things ran very differently than they would at home. No electronics-no phone, no iPad, no music, and no TV. We didn’t even have clocks! But we had each other. Every night, we had a share circle. We sat with the entire group and went around saying what we appreciated and our highs and lows of the day.

Towards the end of the trip, our sharing circle began right before dinner as usual. But this night was different. By this point, everyone knew all thirty names and could even list where most were from. Approximately halfway through the circle, one of my Sister Girl Scouts began her appreciations. She said, “At school, I couldn’t even imagine half of you approaching me, much less wanting to learn more about me.”


She continued by saying how appreciative she was that we all took the time to get to know her, even though we may have had nothing in common. To hear something like that was so touching. Never before did I stop and realize that my being friendly or sharing a smile would mean so much to someone.

The rest of the trip was just as amazing as the first half. Most would expect that having thirty girls all together for ten days would lead to chaos and drama. These girls were different though; everyone wanted to learn about each other and we all shared a common interest in making an impact in the community we were staying in.


Not only did we work with sea turtles and see firsthand the circle of life, but we were also able to connect with local children through soccer games. On our fourth day at the beach site, we were invited to a 1st birthday party of a little local girl. The entire extended family was there, and they made us dinner, let us partake in the games, and danced with us! They enjoyed getting to see the “chicas.”

Since coming home, I have made it my objective to be as genuine as possible in my everyday life. It’s so easy to get swept up in a small friend group and to isolate yourself from the rest of your peers. Additionally, I have come to realize all the luxuries I have here at home. For example, hot showers and toilets you can actually flush toilet paper down! Several times during the trip we were able to discuss just how lucky we were to be apart of this adventure and to be able to explore a new country with a great group of new friends. I am still in contact with all of these girls, as we have started our own group chat.

Olivia Ottenfeld is a Girl Scout Ambassador from Chicago.

Want to join Girl Scouts on a fun-filled travel adventure? Learn more about our Destination to Our Cabaña in Cuernavaca, Mexico next year and apply today.