I was a Girl Scout who was “into camping” myself, got my Gold Award, and became an adult volunteer and board member.
I am LOL at the idea that the organization should be “ashamed” because it is not as focused on the outdoor experience anymore. The fact is, the Girl Scouts moved away from camping and outdoor activities after about the 1970s because girl members simply weren’t as interested in those things anymore–and their parents weren’t as interested in volunteering to participate in creating those opportunities. Girl Scouts is led mostly by volunteers and the girls themselves.
Around 2010, the council I was in had only 7% of girls attending camp. Girl Scouts did investigation into this on a national level, and we held multiple town hall meetings on the local level to find out why. The answers we got were:
–Girls aren’t as interested in outdoorsy stuff anymore.
–Potential volunteers don’t want to lead outdoorsy stuff because they don’t feel “comfortable” or “safe” doing it, even when GS provided training and insurance.
–A large proportion of parents saying they didn’t feel safe letting their girls spend time in an outdoor/rustic setting of any kind, for any period of time.
–A large proportion of parents saying they didn’t feel comfortable with their daughters being away from their parents overnight until they were in their later teens.
Also, the intentions of donors have changed. The organization used to have a lot of donors who would give things for camps, like shelters and activity equipment. Most of those donors stopped giving gifts of that nature in our council. Donors want to support different aspects of Girl Scouts these days (often oriented toward social justice, STEM, female leadership). Our council wanted to add modern activities at its camps (like a ropes course, astronomy, etc.), but between rising property maintenance costs and declining donations for those activities, it wasn’t affordable. And it was a huge risk to invest in those things when girls and volunteers were not acting interested in outdoor activities in significant numbers.
Girl Scouts has never been entirely focused on the outdoors anyway. The organization views itself as a platform for girls to explore any interest they might have, so that girls can develop self-confidence and other leadership qualities.
So, what that means is, for young girls (under 11), you mostly get parents volunteering to lead, and they want to lead the kids to do “safe” activities like crafts and outings to entertainment and cultural events. Our council would have loved to have volunteers who would have led small children in outdoor activities, but even with training and insurance in place, we couldn’t find people willing to do that with any but their own children.
For the 11-18 group, it is hugely difficult to recruit volunteers to work with this age group at all. This is an age where children and parents are often at odds with one another and having parents trying to lead their own teen daughters and their friends is often counter-productive. It is easier to find volunteers who will mentor girls one-on-one around limited projects. And these days, a lot of the girls and volunteers in the teenage group are more interested in investigating career paths and planning for college than they are in camping or the outdoors.
Bottom line: Girls who want a rigorous outdoors experience probably should look at other organizations because girls and volunteers have decided that isn’t what Girl Scouts is anymore. I don’t see any need for the organization to feel “shame” over what has been a popular and rational decision made by the members and donors of the organization. Girls I know who are outdoors-oriented do Girl Scouts plus Venture Crew to get all of their interests met.